Things were going pretty well for Steven Stamkos in 2011. His team had made it to the Eastern Conference Finals. He could drink legally in the United States. Most importantly, his face graced the cover of a video game.
At the 2011 NHL Awards in Las Vegas, EA Sports announced that Stamkos was going to be the cover boy of their upcoming hockey game, NHL 12. The young Lightning center posed on the red carpet before the award show modeling a mock-up of the game. This was a moment that was captured by Panini America, and enshrined in their 2011-12 Pinnacle Set.
Ever the pitchman, Stamkos told NHL.com, “I’ve grown up playing EA Sports NHL video games, so it’s an honor to be chosen for the cover this year. I love how authentic the game is and thought it was great when I scored a one-knee, one-timer goal as myself in NHL12!” He then went off to play some blackjack and drink a few adult beverages, a little different then a previous trip to Vegas where he had to be escorted through the gaming floor
He reiterated the “honor” comment when talking to Yahoo’s Puck Daddy blog a few days later: “It’s something that I’m obviously very excited about a game I grew up playing and still play to this day. To see myself on the cover is a tremendous honor.”
When asked if he was the best gamer on the team, he politely declined to give a straight answer, stating that “We’re probably all pretty even.”
EA even released a hype video for the cover reveal.
It’s nice to see Stamkos break the Blackhawks cover dynasty. While the Lightning might not have achieved the Stanley Cup, Stamkos did not suffer from a cover jinx, and went on to score 60 goals and collect his second Richard Trophy in three years.
He wasn’t the first Lightning player to be on the cover of a hockey game. Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier preceded him in that regard. Stamkos did have the most successful year while as a cover boy -- St. Louis’ game was released during the lockout, and Lecavalier, while having a strong year during the 2005-06 season, didn’t score 60 goals.
There were many upgrades to the game play for NHL 12, including more realistic game play highlighted by a “full contact physics engine” that allowed the players in the video game to act more like their real life counterparts.
This video highlights the new game play and is great for two reasons.
- The speaker is David Littman - proud member of the One and Done club.
- They show through the video game that Alex Ovechkin is as defensively irresponsible as real life Alex Ovechkin.
It was also the first video game to show the Lightning in their new uniforms.
As for the card, Pinnacle was a set that was originally released by Score back in the mid-to-late 1990s. Panini America revived it in 2010 and marketed it as a lower-end set that had some different tweaks in regards to some of the photos used and inserts included.
Other cards featured Tim Thomas posing with his Vezina and Conn Smythe trophies and St. Louis with the Lady Byng. David Backes is shown putting on his All Star jersey. It’s nice to see cards featuring different aspects of the league. Although the on-ice photos used were just as impressive.
It is quite the honor to be the face of a video game, to be chosen from all of the NHL players. Not bad for a 21-year-old kid.