The Orlando Solar Bears will be one of the ECHL teams available in NHL 17 (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
For the first time in franchise history, the EA NHL series is delivering the ECHL to fans. EA Sports announced Tuesday that all 27 ECHL teams, as well as their players and jerseys, will be a part of NHL 17.
EA Sports’ goal with each passing iteration of their NHL video game series is to deliver a deeper experience for fans, and the upcoming title is going to present gamers with an opportunity to do something they’ve never been able to before: hit the ice with ECHL clubs.
The feature list for the upcoming title was released Tuesday afternoon, and as part of the reveal was the announcement that the ECHL will make its debut in the EA NHL series starting with NHL 17. The NHL series has long included the AHL, but this will be the first game to offer a second level of minor-league affiliation.
“We are very excited to be working with EA Sports and include the ECHL teams in the NHL franchise,” said Ryan Crelin, the ECHL’s senior vice president of business operations, in a statement. “The NHL 17 product is an amazing gaming experience, and we are pleased to be able to allow our fans to engage with their favorite ECHL club or player within the game, interacting with our League beyond the in-arena experience.”
The involvement of ECHL players should make the game even deeper than before and offer more players than the game has ever seen. All 27 ECHL clubs will be added into the game, as will each team’s home, road and alternate jerseys. An agreement with the Pro Hockey Players Association made the addition of the ECHL players possible, and while EA hasn’t gotten into specifics, bringing the ECHL on board could have widespread impact on several game modes.
“Bringing the ECHL to NHL 17 is a great opportunity to give our fans more ways to connect with their favorite ECHL teams and players,” Sean Ramjagsingh, EA Sports’ NHL franchise’s lead producer, said in a release. “This is something our players have wanted for a long time so it’s very exciting to deliver it and make the game even bigger this year.”
According to the ECHL, putting the minor league’s teams and athletes in the game will allow players “to play as some of their favorite young stars, following them throughout their career in the game as they progress to their American Hockey League and National Hockey League affiliates.” That sounds a lot like the ECHL could be integrated into Be A GM, Hockey Ultimate Team and potentially even Be A Pro, giving players the option to hop into life in the ECHL and work their way up.
If the league is part of Be A GM, fans of the mode may be able to shuffle players between three separate leagues and build deeper stocks of prospects to develop and star on future rosters. And some ECHL talent sprinkled into Ultimate Team would set up a middle-ground between the CHL, AHL and European talent that usually fills out rosters in the early going. The ECHL’s inclusion also opens up the possibility of created players in Be A Pro starting their careers in the ECHL and working their way up through the AHL and to the NHL. If that’s the case, gamers could experience the grind of earning their spot in the big league.
That’s not to mention the ECHL’s addition to the franchise may very well increase the options as far as jersey selection goes for Ultimate Team, Be A GM, Create A Team and EA Sports Hockey League.
Other new features include a brand new game mode, Draft Champions, as well as franchise relocation, arena creation and new celebrations.