If you think about it, sports games occupy a weird place between reality and fantasy. They mix the reality of real world professional sports teams with the fantasy of playing the game at an elite level. You may never know the feeling of hitting a 90 mph slap shot but you can rip one a virtual past a goalie. However there are times when the reality of the sports world can cause a disruption of the fantasy of the video game world.
When NHL 13 hits stores this week, fans of the Columbus Blue Jackets are going to have a difficult decision as the retail disc still has now traded super-star Rick Nash is still on the team's roster. Fans will then need to decide if they want to keep him on the roster or accept the reality of the trade.
I’ve been a big fan of Rick Nash since he was drafted by the team in 2002. Rick Nash was the first player that fans of the team could get excited about and he was the player who was destined to be the guy who would lead us to Stanley Cup glory. The fact that he wore the same jersey number as I did just made it all that much more exciting.
Of course things didn’t go as planned as the Jackets have been pretty awful since then The statistic that puts it best is that in the last decade Rick Nash has gone to five All-Star games while the Jackets have played in only four playoff games. There are a multitude of reasons why the Jackets have been terrible, ranging from inconsistent coaching, poor drafting, the inability to develop players, overpaying for under performing free-agents, and a management team that seems short on hockey experience.
Along the way the video game version of Nash was everything you wanted out of your superstar. He was the guy you wanted on the ice in the third period and going for that late go ahead goal. He was the guy that led the team in points virtual season after virtual season.
Nash was even a cover athlete for 2K Sports’s NHL 2K9 which was the first year the series appeared on the Wii. In hindsight, this probably should have been a warning sign but it was still a cool moment.
Through all the turmoil Rick Nash has soldiered on, saying the right things to the media, leading by example on the ice, and becoming a huge part of community office the ice. As good of a player as Nash was on the ice, he was a better person off it. He donated thousands upon thousands of dollars to local charities (usually anonymously) and represented the franchise and the sport with dignity and class.
So when it was revealed in February that he had asked for a trade, it was a bit of a shock. Unfortunately, it took nearly five months for the trade to happen and fans were dragged along the way but the saga was finally over in July as Nash was traded to the Rangers for a few players and a first round draft pick. Finally, the drama was over and we could all move on with our lives. Well, that is what I had hoped.
When we received our review copies of NHL 13 the first thing I did was to fire up the game and see if Nash was still a part of the team. I had hoped that he wouldn’t and that I wouldn't be forced to deal with a roster update that would once again take him from the team. Firing it up revealed the fact that I would have to relive all the trade drama again, but it would be me pulling the trigger instead of Blue Jacket GM Scott Howson.
The question now is when to install the roster update that will move Nash to the Rangers and send Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, and Tim Erixon to Columbus. There’s a weird fanboy part of me that wants to keep him here as the management of the virtual Blue Jackets is significantly better than the real life Jackets (There’s also no way the digital Blue Jackets make this trade without another prospect in the mix). There’s a strong part of me that will struggle with setting up lines that doesn't include that familiar number 61.
I know that within a month or so I will cave in and install it so that I can play the game online with friends who have already updated their rosters. Given the current state of the NHL, this may be the only hockey we see the rest of the year. Until then though I’m going to enjoy my last remaining moments with digital Nash and maybe win a few digital Stanley Cups for old time sake.
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