VANCOUVER, B.C. - A highly-anticipated hockey video game that features realistic fighting scenarios and black eyes is a useful tool to teach children that brawls are part of the game and in some cases can help you win, says a former NHL captain.
Retired Vancouver Canucks player Trevor Linden, well-loved in the city and not known for getting into frequent dust-ups, endorsed "NHL 10" Monday prior to its next-day launch across North America.
"Fighting in hockey is not something you necessarily want to promote, but at the same time, you want to make children understand that it is part of the game and in the right circumstances is necessary," Linden said after taking the controls at a Vancouver Future Shop.
"That's part of the game, it's been part of the game for a long time. I think kids that are involved in the game learn to understand that as they grow and mature."
On its website, Burnaby-based Electronic Arts highlights the game's new first-person fighting engine: "Grab and tug an opponent's jersey to land a punch that ignites the fans and sparks your team to victory."
Linden said he thinks the feature is "very cool" because it nails the realism of that aspect of the sport.
"The best part, from my stand-point, is when you get hit it doesn't hurt," he said. "It's a very unique feature and like everything else, it makes you feel like you're right there."
Gamers were antsy with excitement for the release of the latest version in the popular series of games for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, and several huddled around Linden to watch him play.
Top-notch animation, paired with wild crowd noise, come together in the game with other new features like "Battle for the Cup" mode. It heightens the playoff drama by letting characters play with injuries, intimidate the opposing team and get hyped by frenzied, towel-waving crowds.
While several previous inceptions of the game featured a video game character of Linden, NHL 10 reflects the current-day roster and leaves him out.
Still, he's played previous versions with children at several of the many charities he supports, including Canuck Place and Ronald McDonald House.
"They love to say they laid a beat down on Trevor Linden," he laughed.
It's playing with those children that further increases his support for the game, he said, because he's seen it bring joy to children who are sick or have disabilities and can't necessarily play on an actual rink. For those who can, he believes the game won't replace the outdoors but will instead, get them raring to lace up their skates.
"They take what they see on the screen, and they can take it outside on the street hockey net and it really allows them to feel like they have a realistic chance to not only play the game, but be actually at the game," he said.
Ultimately, it's up to parents and coaches to educate youth about playing the game properly and honestly, he added.
"They need to be taught hockey is a game of respect," he said. "That comes from the people most important in their lives."
Linden, who was affectionately nicknamed "Captain Canuck," played 19 seasons in the NHL, mostly in Vancouver, but also with the Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders and Washington Capitals. He retired in June 2008.