The Best Hockey Game Ever

nhl_09_01 After “NHL 08” cemented EA in the driver’s seat among gamers, “NHL 09” continues to create a legacy that is sure to rekindle the fire the series had before the 2K series came on to the scene and stole the show. Simply put, “NHL 09” is as perfect a hockey game can be, finely straddling the line between arcade fun and authentic NHL gameplay.

Add in more fine-tuning to the skill stick feature and an amazing “Be a Pro” mode and you have the greatest hockey game ever created.

Graphically speaking, “NHL 09” absolutely trumps the competition, as it is by far the realest looking hockey game ever created. Everything from goaltenders’ masks to scars on players’ faces are there and look excellent in standard definition. In HD however, they are a feast for the eyes. With an ability to edit virtually anything you want as well, including how players wear their jerseys [for example, Doug Weight usually tucks his into his shorts, while Marc Staal prefers to have it out], the game has a long-lasting appeal that most sports games lack.

“NHL 09” is far from a super model with no substance however. With tons of gameplay modes, including exhibition, season, shootout, tournament, dynasty, practice and create a play modes, you’ll have way too much to do and not enough time to do it

Of all the modes however, it is the “Be a Pro” mode that shines the brightest. Combining great hockey gameplay with a bit of MMORPG style, the “Be a Pro” mode allows you to take one player through the minor leagues and if you’re good enough, eventually the NHL. It’s a different type of gameplay experience, as you can only control one player at a time, but granted you understand the finer points of the game, you’ll have an absolute blast with it.

Add in great online modes, where you can take your created player,  join a team and play against other created players, and you have what is likely to end up being the hockey version of “World of Warcraft.”

Be careful guys; it’s addictive.

While the “Be a Pro” mode itself makes this game a worthy investment, the updates to the “skill stick” allow you to perform nifty one-handed deke moves, which are extremely gratifying to pull off. On defense, you now have the ability to poke and sweep check your stick much easier than before as well. The way you can control your stick when you have the puck, is virtually the same way you can control it while fighting for it. Because of this, the defense has been kicked up a notch, allowing gamers to finally stop their showboating friends in a similar, yet unflashy and realistic way.

The new physics-based checking engine also takes away some of the brutal and at times unrealistic hitting in “NHL 08” and makes checking much more realistic. Hip checks are thrown far less often and as a result, the defense has to be much tighter positionally before they can deliver bone-crunching hits.

Ask any coach at any level of hockey and they’ll tell you that positioning is everything, especially in defense. To see that implemented so well in a video game, makes this title a must own in every sense of the word.

The only small problem the game has is its fighting system, which is not nearly as authentic as it could have been. Sure, it’s fun and has an arcade-like feel to it, but when a game strives its hardest to be realistic, this system feels a tad out of place. Most of the fights end much too quickly and there isn’t nearly enough grabbing and tugging to make it feel like a real hockey scrap.

Nevertheless, it isn’t enough of a deterrent to make you put your controller down.

With updates to an already strong control scheme, amazing graphics and a host of gameplay options, “NHL 09” is a hockey game that can be played for much longer than the one year that is mentioned in its name.

After years of trying different formulas to win back gamers, it seems the EA is back in business and hungry again.

About Patrick Hickey Jr. 13221 Articles
Patrick Hickey Jr. is the Founder, Editor-in-Chief, Master Jedi and Grand Pooh-bah of and is the author of the book, "The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews with Cult and Classic Video Game Developers," from leading academic and non-fiction publisher McFarland and Company. He is currently the Assistant Director of the Journalism Program at Kingsborough Community College and is a former News Editor at NBC Local Integrated Media and a National Video Games Writer at the late He has also had articles and photos published in The New York Times, The New York Daily News, Complex and The Syracuse Post-Standard. Love him. Read him.

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