If you grew up playing video games in the 1980s and 1990s, you definitely have seen artwork by Tom DuBois. He is an illustrator from Chicago who created many of the iconic covers that graced video game boxes. Remember Bayou Billy and Castlevania III for Nintendo, Lethal Enforcers for Sega Genesis, or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time for Super Nintendo? All of those games, and dozens more, featured DuBois’ art on the covers. But most importantly for hockey fans, he illustrated the cover art for Blades of Steel, which came out for Nintendo in 1988. Recently, DuBois spoke with me about how he got his start in creating video game artwork, including Blades of Steel – and how working on that game got him in trouble.
If there are two things that Bruce Dowbiggin loves, it is sports and business – or more specifically, the intersection between the two. He is a former sportscaster for the Canadian Broadcast Company (CBC) and writer for The Globe and Mail. Dowbiggin was a part of the investigation that put Alan Eagleson, the corrupt former head of the NHL Players’ Association, in prison.
He has also written numerous books about sports and business. His latest work, entitled “Cap in Hand,” explains how parity and the salary cap are ruining professional sports in North America. Dowbiggin recently spoke with Sports Collectors Digest about his new book, why pro sports must change, and how soccer gets it right.
Sal Barry: Why would someone want to read “Cap in Hand”?
Bruce Dowbiggin: If you’re like a lot of sports fans, who wonder why it is that every season starts with eight to 10 teams that basically say “we’re not going to try and compete,” then I think you’re going to want to read this book. This is a book about how we got to where sports are today, to the point where it is that teams don’t care about winning, that teams are tanking. It’s all in the service of parity for the major league sports in North America. I make the argument that the usefulness of parity is over. We want a new sports economy, and it’s time that the people that run the leagues understood that.
SB: So, why write a book about the salary cap?
BD: I wanted to write a book about the 10 or 12 most-significant player contracts in history. I wanted to show the evolution from Babe Ruth to current contracts today. My publisher suggested that I put it in a bigger context. So, that’s where the idea came in, about how salary caps have done more harm to pro sports in North America than they have to help.
SB: Why is the salary cap the main culprit?
BD: As you know, in baseball, football, basketball and hockey, we’ve lost seasons or half-seasons. We’ve lost considerable amounts of time where leagues have locked out its players to get salary caps. Was it worth it? No, it wasn’t. Whenever there is a labor lockout, the owners and their commissioner are always talking about that somehow this is going to keep ticket prices restrained. That doesn’t happen at all.
Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk.
Thirty years ago, hockey video game Blades of Steel was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). The game has stuck around, with several sequels and re-releases, as well as embedding itself into hockey culture, over the next three decades.
Created by video game company Konami, Blades of Steel was originally a coin-operated arcade game released in 1987. It was ported to the NES in 1988, various home computers in 1990 and the Game Boy in 1991. But 30 years later, it is the Nintendo version that is best-remembered. Blades of Steel came out in a simpler time. It was just realistic enough to be cool, but easy enough that anyone could learn to play it in five minutes. Blades of Steel for the NES had fast-paced five-on-five action, some play-by-play narration and even fighting — and fighting had consequences, as the winner of the fight would get a power play, while the loser would literally get dragged to the penalty box.
In celebration of the game’s 30th anniversary, here are 10 things that you should know about Blades of Steel.
Earlier this year, I wrote an article for The Hockey News about NHL ’94 for the video game’s 25th anniversary. One of the people that I interviewed was Michael J. Sokyrka, who composed much of the music for the different versions of NHL ’94. We had a great conversation, but because of the sheer amount of information that I had to cover, as well as space limitations of a magazine, I was only able to quote Mr. Sokyrka once in my article. So, I decided to publish our conversation here, as it gives a fascinating look at how video game music — and specifically the music for NHL ’94 — was made back in the early 1990s.
Sokyrka is a musician and a music teacher. One day, he transcribed some blues riffs for two young students to learn, which impressed their father, Rick Friesen — who happened to work for a company in Vancouver called Distinctive Software. The company needed someone with Sokyrka’s talents to make music for video games. Sokyrka took the job, and several years later the company was purchased by Electronic Arts and became EA Canada. NHL ’94 was the first of several hockey video games that Sokyrka worked on.
Sal Barry: Had you worked with computers much prior to joining Distinctive Software?
Michael J. Sokyrka: I had zero computer experience at the time. The first time I saw a mouse, I thought I had to speak into it. Everybody [at Distinctive Software] seemed to be having a good time. I was hired on the spot. I walked out of there thinking, what have I done, I just took on a job, and I got my teaching studio, how am I going to handle all of this? Needless to say, for the first seven years or so, I worked two jobs. I’d start my day at Distinctive Software at 7 a.m., and then teach piano lessons, and my day would finish usually around midnight. Then on the weekends, I was gigging.
SB: Are you a hockey fan?
MJS: I’ve always been a hockey fan. Continue reading “Interview: Michael J. Sokyrka, NHL ’94 Music Composer”
Hey, guys I found another puck that was squashed and turned into a record. This time it’s the 1979 classic of legendary Hab-Dude Guy Lafleur, a.k.a. The Flower, teaching us how to hockey…to French-Canadian Disco! In the late 70’s there was nothing hotter that a dance beat and Les Habitants hockey in the bleu, blanc et rouge. Why not smoosh them together?
First and foremost, the packaging of this flattened biscuit is worth the price of admission alone. Continue reading “Lafleur! The Guy Lafleur Disco Album”
On Tuesday, Las Vegas Golden Knights forward Ryan Reaves hit Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson with a blindside hit. Reaves was ejected from the game, and Wilson also left the game with a concussion. Fan response ran the usual gamut, from lauding Reaves for giving Wilson a taste of his own medicine, to demonizing Reaves for making what many would consider a dirty hit (while, presumably, not understanding what “irony” means).
Two days later, Inscriptagraphs, a sports memorabilia store based in Las Vegas that specializes in autographed items, was selling 16″ x 20″ photos of Reaves standing near an injured Wilson — and signed by Reaves in red ink with the inscription “He ran into a Lion in the Jungle,” which Reaves said in a postgame statement.
With the NHL season now two months in, I’m sure everyone is as happy as I am that hockey is back in full swing. Just like with the last few seasons, Topps Skate is back as well with another year of digital card collecting, trading, and competition.
For those not familiar with Topps Skate, it is a digital app for mobile devices, licensed by the NHL and NHLPA, that allows users to collect and trade cards as well as compete in chase contests and live, real-time competition.
What’s that you say? Topps doesn’t make hockey cards? Topps hasn’t made hockey cards since 2004?
Well, you would be correct…if we were talking about actual, tangible cards you can touch, smell, and throw in your bike spokes. But in this case, we are talking about digital cards that exist virtually, in the mobile device world, floating through the air as little ones and zeros. Topps has had a license to produce the app and make card designs since 2016. I don’t recommend throwing your phone into your bike spokes.
This year’s app is quite different from last year and received a heavy design face lift. For those familiar with other Topps digital apps, it now looks a lot like the Topps baseball app, Bunt. But since we focus mostly on hockey, I wanted to take some time to give our readers a basic overview of the app and also give my take on Skate as a whole.
Do you want to give a book to your favorite hockey fan this holiday season? Then consider any of these fine books listed here. I have personally read each and every one, and highly recommend all of them.
Nearly 29 years after he skated his last shift, former St. Louis Blues center, honored Hockey Hall of Fame member and current Blues color commentator Bernie Federko finally penned an autobiography. Entitled “Bernie Federko: My Blues Note,” and co-authored with Jeremy Rutherford of The Athletic, the former superstar recounts his 14-year NHL career and what came afterward. Federko — perhaps because of his subsequent career as a broadcaster — has no shortage of interesting things to say, good or bad, about those he played for, with or against.
With the NHL hockey season back in full swing, we take a look at five hockey books from the 2017-18 season that are well worth the read. And if you aren’t a hockey fan, don’t worry; these books will still appeal to anyone who loves reading about sports.
“Gratoony the Loony”
by Gilles Gratton and Greg Oliver
Gilles Gratton had a short, tumultuous career in the National Hockey League and World Hockey Association during the 1970s – but not because he lacked talent. The oddball goalie, best known for his lion mask, was sometimes said to be better than Ken Dryden when it came to his ability to stop pucks. The problem was, Gratton hated playing hockey.
“Gratoony the Loony: The Wild, Unpredictable Life of Gilles Gratton,” explores the life and times of one of hockey’s most colorful characters. Despite having the talent to garner a six-figure contract – great money for a pro hockey player in the 1970s – and representing Canada in international tournaments, Gratton sought interesting and absurd excuses to get out of playing hockey. Some nights, he couldn’t play because of a bad horoscope. Other nights, Gratton’s war wounds – incurred during his “past life” as a soldier in the Spanish Inquisition – made it too painful for him to play. The list goes on.
Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk.