Players Admit to Playing as Their Virtual Counterparts

Answering the age-old question of whether or not hockey players play as themselves in video games.

While he spends most of his time in first-person shooters and real-time strategies, Jeremy Smith says that NHL 97 was one of his favorites when he was younger. (Sarah Fuqua)

As much as they would like to and as much as their coaches would like them to, hockey players cannot train 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week, 365-days-a-year. They need down time.

Several players use that down time polishing up their video gaming skills, with a large number of players admittedly addicted to Call of Duty: Black Ops.

Last week, EA Sports released it’s annual hockey installment, NHL 12, to much fanfare. The game features an upgraded physics engine, the Winter Classic, the ability to create a player and work your way up through a CHL career and more.

While many fans spend their time playing these games and trying to make the in-game experiences as close to real life as possible, do any of the players actually play the games?

“I have before,” Nashville Predators goaltending prospect Jeremy Smith said. “I’m god-awful at them. My little brother schools me on them all the time.”

Jon Blum stays loyal to the home team during his summers, playing as the Predators in online games. (Sarah Fuqua)

“I play more Call of Duty,” Predators defenseman Jon Blum said, “but when I go back home in the summers with my buddies, I play a lot of NHL and stuff like that online.”

“I played NHL 11 a little bit,” Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Mark Dekanich said. “I played with my brother.”

All three players appeared in NHL 11, so the question looms, did they actually play as themselves?

“You know what’s funny is that I have played as myself,” Smith said. “The last one they messed up on my hands. I was actually switched, so I got a couple of text messages from friends saying, ‘Hey, you’re backwards!'”

“I play as the Preds,” Blum said. “Always the Preds.”

“I always played as the (Milwaukee) Admirals when I’d play against (my brother),” Dekanich said.

So having confirmed that Blum, Dekanich and Smith all play as their virtual counterparts, what is it like actually having a virtual likeness in a video game?

“I think it’s pretty cool that you’re in a video game for real,” Blum said. “As a kid you play as these guys – Brendan Shanahan, Rob Blake – guys you’ve been watching all your life and now you’re in a video game. It’s pretty cool to think that a generation of boys could be playing as yourself. I know my nephew plays and he plays as me, so that’s pretty cool.”

These days, Mark Dekanich would rather have a 99 rating based on his real-life performance. (Sarah Fuqua)

 

“It’s pretty cool,” Dekanich said. “When I was a kid playing those sports games, I always did the Create-a-Player and made myself. Not having to do that is an added bonus.”

In Jeremy Smith’s case, his experience differs a little from Dekanich’s and Blum’s in that his virtual counterpart is a bizarro, wrong-handed Jeremy Smith.

“It’s fun to see yourself virtually in a video game,” Jeremy Smith said, “but mostly I play first person shooters or real-time strategies.”

However, only one player would admit to ever changing his stats when he played. While Dekanich said that he was only worried about changing his real life rating these days, he did admit to doing a little tweaking when he was younger.

“99 for sure,” Dekanich said. “99 overall. Best player in the game.”

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A native of Franklin, Tennessee, Patten Fuqua is the managing editor of PuckScene.com. He earned a Bachelor’s of Science from Belmont University in Journalism and Broadcasting.