One of the coolest things about 2K Sports’ NBA 2K series is its use of classic teams. Over the years, they’ve included countless teams from basketball’s history into the game, allowing you to match, say, the Magic Johnson-led Lakers against LeBron James’ Heat.
Part of what makes this work so well is that the NBA is full of legendary players and teams. People still talk about Michael Jordan today even though he won his last championship nearly two decades ago. Who wouldn’t want to see how modern teams might stack up against those unbeatable Celtics squads from the 1960s?
This is something EA Sports should straight up steal for its NHL franchise.
One of the things I’ve noticed about EA Sports’ NHL games over the years is that they don’t quite seem to realize how a lot of hardcore fans operate. The game’s franchise mode has never gotten enough love, and any dedicated NHL follower can tell you about how the games’ ratings make little sense. It’s a good hockey game, but one that doesn’t recognize how deep into the roster-building and culture fans can be. Increasingly, if you want to enjoy NHL, playing online with friends is the way to go.
There are a number of ways the franchise could address this, but adding classic teams into the game would be an extremely easy one. EA Sports already has the rights deals in place with the NHL, NHLPA, and various other professional leagues for its game. Presumably it could expand that to add retired players into the game.
Given the rich history of hockey, there are countless teams that would be a blast to include in the game, especially when you consider how the sport has changed over the years. Could the high-flying Oilers of the mid-’80s get stifled by the tough neutral zone play of the late-’90s Devils? Now you and your friends could try to answer that firsthand in the game. It’s just one possibility out of countless others.
With that in mind, here are 20 teams from NHL history that we’d love to see in an upcoming game from EA Sports. Maybe it’s too late to include this in NHL 18, which is set to be released Sept. 15, but it would make for an incredible patch or addition to a subsequent edition of the franchise. Feel free to offer other suggestions in the comments!
1951-52 Detroit Red Wings
One of NHL’s first great teams behind Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay in their primes. The team also included future Hall of Famers Sid Abel, Red Kelly, Alex Delvecchio, Marcel Pronovost, and Terry Sawchuk.
1955-56 Montreal Canadiens
A great example of those dominant Montreal teams of the era behind Jean Beliveau, Maurice “Rocket” Richard, Henri Richard, Doug Harvey, Bert Olmstead, Bernie Geoffrion, Jacques Plante, and Dickie Moore.
1969-70 Boston Bruins
Led by arguably the greatest defenseman of all-time, Bobby Orr, and an in-his-prime Phil Esposito, nobody could match Boston’s star power in the early ’70s.
1974-75 Philadelphia Flyers
The Broad Street Bullies were a force in the ’70s behind Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber, and Bernie Parent. This was the first of back-to-back seasons in which Clarke led the NHL in assists.
1976-77 Montreal Canadiens
One of the most dominant seasons ever, the Canadiens won 60 games, led the league in goals for and goals against, and swept the Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final. They had nine future Hall of Famers, including Guy Lafleur and Ken Dryden.
1981-82 New York Islanders
Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier, Clark Gillies, and Denis Potvin helped lead the Islanders to four straight Stanley Cups from 1980-83. This team was the best of the bunch, with Bobby and Trottier combining for 276 points.
1984-85 Edmonton Oilers
Voted the best team of all-time by fans earlier this year, the Oilers are a go-to example for why classic teams would be amazing. Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Glenn Anderson, and Paul Coffey? C’mon.
1985-86 Hartford Whalers
You can’t do classic teams without including one of the most classic name/logo combinations in history. The Whalers were never great, but this 1986 team led by Ron Francis, Kevin Dineen, Ray Ferraro, Dave Babych, and Sylvain Turgeon pushed Montreal to seven games in the second round after sweeping Quebec in the first round. “Brass Bonanza” time!
1988-89 Calgary Flames
One of the last great Canadian teams before the recent run of dominance by American franchises, the Flames rode Doug Gilmour, Joe Mullen, Joe Nieuwendyk, and Al MacInnis to 54 wins and a Stanley Cup.
1990-91 Minnesota North Stars
One of the weirdest teams in history, the North Stars were 12 games below .500 in the regular season, but reached Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Penguins. The season didn’t end in glory, but a young Mike Modano helped turn in one of the craziest seasons ever.
1991-92 Pittsburgh Penguins
You couldn’t have classic teams without including Mario Lemieux at least once. The 1992 team wasn’t good defensively, but it didn’t matter with Lemeiux, Joe Mullen, Larry Murphy, Mark Recchi, Jaromir Jagr, Paul Coffey, Ron Francis, Bryan Trottier, Rick Tocchet, and Kevin Stevens. I imagine this team would be rather popular.
1993-94 New York Rangers
The 1994 Rangers caught lightning in a bottle under coach Mike Keenan. Led on defense by Sergei Zubov and Brian Leetch, this was a tough team to score against. They also had some big-time veterans in Mark Messier, Steve Larmer, and Mike Gartner.
1994-95 Quebec Nordiques
The Nordiques were on the brink of something special in the team’s final season before moving to Colorado, where it won the Stanley Cup in 1996. Maybe fans from Quebec would prefer not to remember losing young Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg right before they’d take over the league, but they’d be a fun inclusion.
1998-99 Dallas Stars
Was Brett Hull’s foot in the crease? Who cares, being able to play with him, Mike Modano, and Joe Nieuwendyk with Ed Belfour in goal would be great. Now you could also play with young Modano and in-his-prime Modano, depending on your mood.
1999-00 New Jersey Devils
The Devils weren’t always thrilling to watch, but their system worked to perfection in 2000 en route to a Stanley Cup. You’d get young Patrik Elias, Scott Gomez, and Petr Sykora, although the main attraction would be Martin Brodeur between the pipes.
2000-01 Colorado Avalanche
The team that finally ended Ray Bourque’s Stanley Cup drought, the 2001 Avalanche were loaded. Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, and Patrick Roy were still in their primes, plus they had young versions of Milan Hejduk, Alex Tanguay, and Chris Drury.
2001-02 Detroit Red Wings
There were a lot of Red Wings teams in this era to choose from, but we’ll go with the 2002 team that was loaded with experienced future Hall of Famers. Detroit’s top eight scorers were all over 30 years old, but all eight are legends: Brendan Shanahan, Sergei Federov, Brett Hull, Nicklas Lidstrom, Luc Robitaille, Steve Yzerman, Igor Larionov, and Chris Chelios. Next on the list? A young Pavel Datsyuk. Oh, and the goalie was Dominik Hasek. Jeez.
2006-07 Anaheim Ducks
The 2007 Ducks were an incredible group. They had a Hall of Fame top defensive pairing with Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger, plus Teemu Selanne was still at the height of his powers. Toss in younger versions of Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, and you got quite the team.
2008-09 Pittsburgh Penguins
Yes, you can still play with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but it’d be fun to go back to the first great team of this era in Pittsburgh.
2009-10 Chicago Blackhawks
The team that ended Chicago’s 49-year Stanley Cup drought has gotta be on here. The Blackhawks were incredibly deep behind the young combination of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.
BONUS IDEAS: The 1980 United States and Soviet Union national teams
I have no idea if it would even be feasible to get the rights to Soviet jerseys and player likenesses, not to mention the amateurs on Team USA, but including the Miracle on Ice rosters would be extremely cool. The 1980 Soviet team is widely considered one of the greatest ever assembled, and its upset in those Olympics is arguably the biggest moment in hockey history.