Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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With Electronic Arts’ hockey franchise now in its fourth decade of existence, NHL 23 will ship two milestones for the collection: Its cowl options Trevor Zegras of the Anaheim Ducks and Sarah Nurse of the Canadian girls’s nationwide group, marking the primary time in EA Sports NHL historical past {that a} girl has appeared on the duvet of a sport, and the primary time that two folks have shared the stage.

For years now, EA has been placing a number of the NHL’s youngest stars on the field, like Auston Matthews (twice), P.Ok. Subban, and Connor McDavid. Zegras, 21, is even earlier in his profession than these gamers have been after they turned EA Sports NHL cowl athletes. But he’s already beginning to put collectively a formidable resume, having completed second within the voting for the Calder Trophy (the NHL’s rookie of the yr award) with 61 factors — 23 objectives and 38 assists — in 75 video games final season.

As for Nurse, 27, she made a reputation for herself on the world’s greatest hockey stage on the Winter Olympics in Beijing earlier this yr. Setting Olympic data for many factors (18) and most assists (13) in a single girls’s hockey event, Nurse helped Team Canada seize a gold medal and avenge the squad’s shootout loss to the Americans 4 years earlier. Nurse, who’s biracial, additionally turned the primary Black girl to win an Olympic gold medal in hockey.

With the NHL all the time trying to find younger, marketable stars, {and professional} girls’s hockey leagues working to achieve a foothold, Zegras and Nurse are wise decisions for NHL 23’s cowl. In their very own means, every of them represents a contemporary kind of athlete who’s altering the face of hockey.

The buttoned-up, team-first hockey tradition of outdated is slowly giving solution to instances the place gamers really feel snug sharing their persona and their off-ice passions. Sure, you’ll nonetheless see loads of boring athlete interviews filled with cliches about “getting pucks in deep” and “getting back to our game.” But on social media, NHL groups at the moment are posting images of their stars arriving to sport day dressed to the nines, and The Athletic took the subsequent logical step final season: doing energy rankings of NHL fashion icons.

Nurse shares loads of pictures in hockey gear along with her 53,000-plus followers on Instagram, however she additionally posts sponsored vogue picture shoots and pictures of her lately acquired Pomeranian, Romeo. “I’m somebody that, when I leave the rink, it stays at the rink,” mentioned Nurse. “And I love so many other things. I’m probably, like, one of the most untraditional women’s hockey players you’d ever meet. Like, I love hair and makeup and fashion, and different things like that.”

In the world of hockey, calling consideration to your self — whether or not on or off the ice — rubs some the flawed means. If you observe the game in any respect, you’ve most likely seen clips of Zegras’ unbelievable performs, like scoring lacrosse-style objectives towards the Montreal Canadiens and Arizona Coyotes (or faking the identical transfer and as a substitute flipping the puck over the web for a teammate to bat it in).

After months of grumbling across the NHL about Zegras’ show-stopping play, his group’s basic supervisor, Pat Verbeek, defended him in an interview with the media, saying, “This is just another unreal skill set and creative way to score goals.” However, Verbeek acknowledged that if somebody had carried out what Zegras did when he himself was within the league — Verbeek performed from 1982-2002, notching greater than 1,000 factors — it could have been “frowned upon,” and thought of exhibiting up an opponent by “hot-dogging.”

“Whenever I watched hockey, I’d always just think about other ways that you could get the puck to where you want it to go,” Zegras mentioned of the origins of his taking part in fashion, in an interview with EA that the writer offered to the media. “The way I’m wired is, like, if I see a play and I think I can make it, I’m going to try.”

Nurse counts herself amongst Zegras’ rising legion of followers.

“I think that’s why people resonate with [players like Zegras], is because they’re unapologetically themselves, they’re genuine, and they’re willing to express themselves,” Nurse advised Polygon. “And I think that that’s huge, and that’s critical to our game.”

Nurse was talking typically about rising the game of hockey, however she’s centered on rising girls’s hockey particularly. Although she performed a starring position on Team Canada in Beijing, Nurse doesn’t have a membership of her personal in the mean time.

While a fledgling girls’s professional league does exist — the Premier Hockey Federation, previously generally known as the National Women’s Hockey League — many of the prime girls’s gamers, together with Nurse, have allied themselves with the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association and are holding out for one thing completely different. The PWHPA is a corporation that’s working to create a sustainable girls’s hockey league in North America that may pay gamers because the professionals they’re; one of many group’s details of rivalry with the PHF is that it believes the prevailing league doesn’t help gamers sufficiently to permit them to be year-round professional athletes.

Obviously, Nurse’s look on the duvet of NHL 23 isn’t going to will a brand new league into existence by itself. But these sorts of issues could make a distinction in elevating consciousness and forming a base of help that may pay dividends down the road.

“Visibility is one of the most important things when it comes to representation,” mentioned Nurse. “Because I know, for me personally, there were women’s hockey players when I was growing up — but I never saw them, right? They were not visible. And so what EA is really doing here is really putting women on a platform and saying women have value in our game. Which I think is very important — not only for little girls to recognize their value, but also for the little boys to be able to see women in positions of power and women in sports, and make it normal.”



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