As we near September and the start of training camps, EA Sports has released a trailer for NHL 23, its latest installment of the franchise. EA has been making NHL video games since 1991. Back then, the console of play was the Sega Genesis, and cover athlete was Glenn Healy. 31 years later, EA didn’t really shock anyone with the announcement for NHL 23, but there are still some cool new features and details that we should get into.
NHL 23 cover athletes
NHL 23 will feature two cover athletes, World and Olympic champion Sarah Nurse and Anaheim Ducks forward Trevor Zegras. Nurse becomes the first female player to appear on the cover. This is a major move to represent multiple underrepresented areas in hockey, namely BIPOC and women in hockey. Nurse is a highly decorated player in women’s hockey. She’s won gold and silver medals in the Olympics and gold and bronze medals in the World Championships.
Zegras came onto the scene in 2021–22, where he had 61 points in 75 games (0.81 P/GP) in his rookie season. Those point totals are nice, but the key factor in Zegras is his marketability and personality that has sprouted quickly.
Remember that ‘Dishigan’ pass earlier this year, or the insane shootout move he made at the NHL All-Star Game? NHL 23 will allow you to perform the ‘Dichigan’ pass from behind the net too. However, doing the move should be complicated and require gaming skill, similar to the Michigan in NHL 22.
As EA looks to garner as much of the young gaming audience as they can, choosing Nurse and Zegras as cover athletes was the perfect road to go down.
Cover athletes are always a key topic of conversation, but in the end, people aren’t purchasing for the cover, they want the meat and potatoes of the game. With that, let’s jump into some of the features in NHL 23.
New features in NHL 23
The game saw a big overhaul in its mechanics with the Superstar X-Factor feature introduced last edition. It looks like the major improvements this year move back to the entire hockey gaming experience rather than in-game mechanics.
Women’s National Team players added to Hockey Ultimate Team
Hockey Ultimate Team (HUT) is the most popular game mode in NHL games, as you can build a team with players of past, present, and future. HUT allows you to run a forward line of Lemieux – Gretzky – McDavid, or a defence pair of Lidstrom – Makar, as some dream examples. This allows users to become creative and build out their teams however they like.
Want to make an entire team of just Calgary Flames, past and present? You can do that. Throw McDavid on the Flames to play against your friend who is an Oilers fan? You can do that too.
The biggest addition to HUT this year is that ability to play with Women’s National Team players, like cover athlete Sarah Nurse or Marie-Philip Poulin. This is a huge addition for the women’s game, building off improvements in increasing representation from NHL 22. It brings a big light to these players and the massive skillsets they have. Giving representation to the women’s game in the biggest game mode of the NHL game is a huge step and will hopefully lead to further intrigue and viewership of the women’s game.
Cross Play, or Cross Platform Matchmaking, won’t be available when NHL 23 launches, but will come out in an update as we near the holiday season to end 2022. This has been a huge ask from fans for a long time, as someone with a PS5 could not play with someone on a Xbox Series X or vice versa. This is a major step behind other video game franchises, who combine their various gaming platforms into one community.
For several NHL games, the online community has been separated based on whatever console you play, which leads to fewer matchmaking possibilities and less overall interest. In past years, interest in EA NHL games would dwindle quickly due to users of PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X being divided and only allowed to play against one another. This year, users will be able to play both against and with users of the same generation consoles. That means PS4 users can play with and against other PS4 users as you could do previously, while also being able to play against Xbox One users. I’ve provided this table below to demonstrate the console type and who you can play with and against with that certain console:
|Console Type||Console(s) you can play with||Console(s) you can play against|
|Xbox One||Xbox One||Xbox One, PS4|
|PS4||PS4||PS4, Xbox One|
|Xbox Series X||Xbox Series X||Xbox Series X, PS5|
|PS5||PS5||PS5, Xbox Series X|
Cross Play is a huge step for the NHL gaming franchise, as the ability to play against other same generation consoles should decrease matchmaking setbacks and increase community. While it is unfortunate that the older and newer generation of consoles will still not be able to play against one another, dividing the community from four to two platforms this year is a huge step.
Should this cross play work from console generations, cross play between the old and new generations would hopefully be added in subsequent time.
Celebration and Crowd/Atmosphere improvements
There is nothing better than watching the Stanley Cup celebration after your team wins in Franchise Mode. But, after you win a few cups, the same celebration can become boring and repetitive. In NHL 23, you will be able to customize that Stanley Cup celebration, along with hat trick and post-game celebrations.
No details of the exact customizations have been announced yet, but this is a small but important change to keep Franchise Mode fresh. Along with the celebration improvements, NHL 23 will also feature crowd/atmosphere improvements that should improve the realism of the game.
In previous games, the crowd and noise was inconsistent and fairly random, where home fans would cheer for their own player getting rocked with a major hit. In NHL 23, the crowd noise and atmosphere will reportedly become louder in tense moments, and the fans will also boo if you are losing badly or take a bad penalty.
Another smaller adjustment, but improved crowds should further improve the intensity and realism of games and make an overtime win or three goal comeback feel even better.
New year, new game
This wasn’t the biggest announcement by any means, as fans still seek improvements to Franchise Mode with GM Connected and college rosters or better overall gameplay. However, NHL 23 will represent important areas of hockey that have been misrepresented for a long time, and continue to grow the game.
Beginning to incorporate cross platform play will only improve the NHL fanbase and market. Changing the overall graphic of the game by marketing towards younger and female audiences should continue to grow the game and add interested users that otherwise wouldn’t have looked into this game.
NHL 23 is set to release on October 14, which is one day after the Flames begin their regular season with a game against Nazem Kadri’s former team, the Colorado Avalanche. Ordering the X-Factor Edition will allow you to start playing NHL 23 on October 11, three days of early access.
Image courtesy of EA Sports.