For most hockey fans, October 7th was a day of rejoice.  The NHL season had finally begun, after what was quite possibly the driest summer the great game had ever witnessed.  Puck drop signaled a new beginning, but it wasn’t such a joyous day in the land of NHL hockey video games.

NHL gamers quickly began to question their allegiance to EA Sports’ storied hockey franchise after its latest installment, NHL 11, was left without an opening day roster update.  At exactly 12:01 PM EDT, just seconds after the first puck dropped in Helsinki, nerds everywhere flocked away from actual NHL action and loaded up their next generation video game console in search of Eric Belanger on the Phoenix Coyotes and 40-year old Mike Modano on the Detroit Red Wings.  Needless to say, message boards were wrought with tension.

How could EA Sports, the same video game publisher that revolutionized what the Franchise/GM mode has come to be, been so careless and sloppy as to not allow gamers the ability to skate as the San Jose Sharks sans Jed Ortmeyer?  Outrage.  Don’t even dare to venture into the discussion around the absence of rookies; no gamer in their right mind would move to update the rosters on his or her own either, what do you think this is?  NHL 95?

EA is constantly evolving and looking for innovative ways to enhance the sports gaming experience.  So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that the video game publisher reached out to hockey bloggers for insight and recommendations on how to improve NHL 11 after its nearly disastrous roster fiasco.  HOTH was able to obtain classified documents that detailed the project’s findings.  Here is what we discovered:

- Eklund of HockeyBuzz was one of the first “bloggers” that EA had contacted, presumably because of the steady flow of inexplicable web traffic the rumour monger has garnered over the years.  The following is believed to be a transcript of a phone conversation between the two parties:

Eklund: What have you done to the game’s trade engine?  None of the deals I’ve proposed have worked.

EA: We had a lot of complaints that many of the trades that were approved were unrealistic, not plausible, and would never work in real life.

Eklund: You don’t understand, I NEED these deals to work.  My livelihood depends on it.

EA: I don’t understand, sir.  Most gamers want a realistic experience, gone are the days of exchanging Dustin Brown for Andrew Raycroft… isn’t that a good thing?

Eklund: You haven’t heard the last of me…

- It was a novel suggestion, but Pensblog struggled to find support for their proposed Ric Flair Woooo! in place of the Consol Energy Center’s goal horn.

- Five For Howling‘s Travis Hair pleaded with EA to implement a ‘Throw the Snake’ aspect of the game for Phoenix Coyotes postseason home games.  His plea fell on deaf ears.

- Toronto Maple Leafs bloggers put their heads together to try and improve the Be A GM mode of the game.  They informed EA that the GM mode was terribly unrealistic, as it didn’t offer the ability to tell fibs to the media about trade offers that never existed in an effort to drum interest for your own second rate commodities.  They proposed a potential solution, but were told they would need to supply a prototype.

Relying on teamwork, the crew nearly had something.  One prominent LeafsHQ blogger kidnapped the Hockey News’ Adam Proteau while @mlse and @felixpotvin laid the groundwork for what would become a combination of a modified Speak And Spell and animations courtesy of Bloge Salming.  Completion of the project was left to Down Goes Brown, a noted Ottawa software guru, but after leaving the machine with him for several weeks – the only audio it could produce was a repetitive “Wendel Clark, Wendel Clark, Wendel Clark” refrain.  The current status of this project is unknown.

- Scotty Wazz was interested in lending his expertise to a proposed game mode that would feature obscure backup goaltenders of the 1990s.  Word is that he is still awaiting a callback on that offer.

- It was mostly glowing reviews from popular Montreal Canadiens’ bloggers, but there was some confusion over the cheering of Carey Price during home games.  EA offered no explanation for the suspected bug.

- Adrian Dater, a beat writer turned blogger for the Denver Post, was flabbergasted that the latest installment of the NHL series did not feature a ‘Peter Forsberg comeback’ mode.

- The Oilogosphere decided to band together with the hope that power in numbers would lead to some real changes.  Their report was both innovative and exhaustive.  Several highlights of their suggestions included: a revamped approach to the game’s statistics tracking engine that would implement Corsi, Zone Start, Advanced +/-, and Quality of Competition.  Another suggestion was to overhaul the in-game commentary in an effort to rid it of any logical fallacies.

One whip smart Star Wars obsessed EA staffer responded by saying: “None of this is possible unless you can alter time, speed up the harvest or teleport me off this rock”.  An Oilogosphere spokesperson responded by stating, “We can do that”.

- Both Tom Gulitti of Fire & Ice and the crew at In Lou We Trust pointed out that gamers were unable to dress less than 18 skaters, as well as the inability to manipulate long term injury reserve for salary cap purposes when using the New Jersey Devils.  EA is reportedly contemplating a ‘Lou Lamoriello Mode’ for next year’s installment.

- Although FlamesNation contributors generally liked the game, they did complain at the Calgary Flames’ overall rating of 92.  They said it was too high, and would like to see it come down to a more realistic level.

- An anonymous Washington Capitals’ blogger known only as “Ted” was livid that after playing an entire season, the Capitals failed to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals.  EA responded by telling Ted that to be the best you have to beat the best.  Ted replied, “But it’s our time”.

- EA contacted Puck Daddy‘s Sean Leahy, a noted NHL video gamer in his own right, and asked if he could lend his two cents.  Leahy prepared a 71 page dissertation that offered fixes for everything from graphic overlays to proper fist-pump etiquette.  Unfortunately, his report was intercepted by Greg Wyshynski.  The document was reduced to one sentence that read:  “Please release 8-bit version of the game”.

Electronic Arts released its long awaited NHL 11 roster update early Tuesday morning.  Hockey gamers everywhere will rest easy, at least until the next batch of players hit waivers.