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David Littman's Blog: The truth about cliches, Pt. 2

David Littman played 10 pro seasons in the IHL, AHL and NHL, including stints with the Lightning and Sabres. (THN Archives)

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David Littman played 10 pro seasons in the IHL, AHL and NHL, including stints with the Lightning and Sabres. (THN Archives)

In December, NHL 10, the game I work on at Electronic Arts, won the Sports Video Game of the Year award on Spike TV.

I flew to Los Angeles and accepted the award on stage with former NHL player and Hall of Famer Luc Robitaille. Luc said a few words and got some big cheers from the Kings fans in the audience.

When it was my turn, I thanked my team and talked about what it took to put out such a successful game year after year. This was our second year in a row winning this award, beating out incredible competition in video games like Madden football and FIFA soccer.

When I sat down, it all struck me as very familiar. What I said on stage was almost exactly what I used to say to reporters after winning hockey games. The lessons I learned during my hockey career were the foundation for success for the rest of my life.

Many reporters will probably say hockey players are boring interviews, but there is a rhyme and reason to the cliches. So, here are some of the most boring hockey player quotes heard in the dressing room and what they mean in the real world. There’s a bunch of them, so we did half last week. Here’s the rest.

“No shot is a bad shot”
You’ve seen games where your favorite NHL team is trying to make the perfect pass and they lose a great scoring opportunity. Next thing you know, the opposing team comes down the ice and takes a soft shot from the point that goes off a player’s shin pad and into the net. The more shots you take, the more chances you have to score. As The Great One said, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” The NHL team took one of those chances last year with the first ever EA Sports arcade game. We called it 3 on 3 NHL Arcade. It was so successful that the Madden team just came out with a similar product called Madden Arcade.

“Let’s make some hay out there”
Being from New York and having never worked on a farm, I don’t understand this one very well, but almost all of my coaches said it. I have assumed it simply means go out and make something happen.

“Keep it simple stupid”
This is usually put on the white board in the dressing room as K.I.S.S. Don’t try to be too fancy. Get the puck in deep and get the puck out of your defensive zone. I’ve seen this with our video games as well. Sometimes we design features that are too fancy and end up being confusing to the consumer or just not fun to play. In those instances we should have stuck with K.I.S.S.

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“Stay out of the box”
Penalties can kill a team. Team discipline can separate the great teams from the good teams. In the business world, I liken penalties to cheating. When no one is looking…how do you act? There are many ways to cheat in business and sometimes you might even get away with it. But if you get caught in the real world, there is a higher price to pay than two minutes in the penalty box.

“We did whatever it took to win”
You win a hockey game by scoring more goals than your opponent. But, in reality, it is much more than that. You win games and you win championships by blocking shots, taking a hit to make a play and finishing a check. You need to sacrifice your body for the team. It’s the intangibles that separate champions from runner-ups. One good thing about the video game industry is I have way fewer bruises than I had when I was playing hockey. But, it’s still the less glamorous tasks that make teams successful. Fixing bugs, staying at the office until 3 a.m. to tune gameplay to perfection – these can separate a good game from a great one.
 
“Take it one game at a time”
You have to concentrate on the game you're playing or about to play. Looking ahead to a game next week or the next playoff series can kill a team. When I was with the Orlando Solar Bears, we were down 3-0 against the Detroit Vipers in the semifinal. Our coach, Curt Fraser, told us to take it one game at a time and we could come back. We ended up winning Game 7 in double overtime. What seems impossible is possible when you look at it one game at a time. At EA, we set visions for the product during pre-production. The vision is usually very broad in scope and will take a year to finish. We break it down into features and then to the detailed-task level. Each and every day we do our best to get those tasks done. We take it one day at a time. Before we know it, we have features complete. One year later, we have our completed vision. What seemed impossible was possible by taking it one day at a time.

A native of Flushing, N.Y., David Littman was drafted by the Sabres in the 1987 NHL Entry Draft. He spent four years at Boston College before turning pro in 1989. Over the next 10 years, Littman would play in the ECHL, IHL, AHL and NHL (with Buffalo and Tampa Bay). The 40-year-old currently works as a producer for the wildly popular EA Sports NHL series of video games. Read his other blogs HERE.

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