Sunday, August 30, 2009

Snap your Fingers, Snap your neck

The Boston Bruins have stared down many an enemy in their 85 years in the National Hockey League. The hated Montreal Canadiens, a team the Bruins failed to beat in a playoff series for 44 years ending in 1988. Jeff Beukeboom and the Edmonton Oilers, who took a duet of dumps on the Hub’s hockeymen in the 1988 and 1990 Stanley Cup Finals. Sharky McTootherson, the angry mako who preyed upon children in Buzzards Bay during every hockey season from 1955 to 1973.

And Chris Pronger.

“What, Chris Pronger? Surely you jest,” you say. No, sir-ee. Chris Pronger, that native son of Dryden, Ontario who most recently played for the Anaheim Ducks, terrorized the Bruins on many a weekend afternoon with crushing checks, sadistic slapshots and hateful hockeyhair.

In NHL ’94 for Super Nintendo (also SEGA Genesis, hoser), that is.

That’s right – take it from this typist, a veteran of many an NHL ’94 quadruple-header (accompanied with generous amounts of Cheetos and Bubba Cola). Chris Pronger was a straight-up fucker in that game, in which he played defense for the woebegotten Hartford Whalers. You’d play as Adam Oates and the Bruins, breeze through a few games against, say, the Blackhawks and Sabres, and then you’d see the Whale on your schedule. “No sweat,” you’d say. “Not only do they play in the crap-pit that is the Insurance Capital of the World, but they also blow at hockey.”

That’s just what Chris Pronger, or at least his video representative, wanted you to think. The 1993-1994 NHL season was actually Pronger’s rookie campaign, and the game was released in April 1994, meaning the programmers at EA Sports (it’s in the game) had no reason to suspect Pronger would be a bastard on the ice. He did perform admirably that year, playing in 81 games, scoring 30 points and logging 113 penalty minutes. But NHL ’94 treats him like he’s Gordie Howe, surgically attached to Wayne Gretzky, with a bazooka grafted onto his right arm (Pronger is a lefty, meaning he’d need the other arm to shoot and score 700 times on you each period).

In real life, Pronger scored five goals in 1993-1994. He scored five goals the next year, and he’s never scored more than 14 in a single season, which isn’t surprising given that he plays defense. But in NHL ’94 he’s likely to score five goals before you bat an eyelash (in that time he’ll also permanently injure Ray Bourque and earn a five minute major for crafting a nuclear bomb out of Igor Chibirev’s missing teeth).

Don’t get me wrong. NHL ’94 is a great game, Chris Pronger is a pretty decent player and I harbor no ill will against the mid-90s Whalers. But if you want evidence that a video game can make a humble hockey player into a superhuman Satanic cyborg killing machine, NHL ’94 is your game. And Chris Pronger is your guy.

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