10 Things You Should Know About Blades of Steel

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

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Interview: Michael J. Sokyrka, NHL ’94 Music Composer

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”

New faces and a few surprises revitalize annual Blackhawks Convention

The Blackhawks Convention has been a must-do for ’Hawks fans ever since the show started in 2008. This year, it took place on July 27-29 at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Chicago.

It was the 11th year for the popular show, where fans have the opportunity to meet and get autographs from players, shop for hockey merchandise and attend panel discussions. There is also an interactive room with activities like floor hockey, as well as a display from the Hockey Hall of Fame. It’s a tried-and-true format that hasn’t changed much in the past 10 years. So, what could the Blackhawks do this year to mix things up and make the show feel fresh again?

For starters, the Blackhawks brought back two of its most iconic players: Jeremy Roenick and Chris Chelios. The pair were the most popular Blackhawks players during the 1990s, but neither had been a part of the Blackhawks Convention until now.

“It always seemed that the Convention was at the same time as something that I had already planned,” said Roenick, who played with the Blackhawks from 1988 to 1996. Read the full article at Sports Collectors Digest

Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk

1994-95 Parkhurst SE Promo Card

During the 1994-95 season, Upper Deck sold a set of hockey cards called Parkhurst Special Edition — usually referred to as Parkhurst SE — in Europe. Even though the cards were printed in English, they were sold outside of North America, though many have eventually found their way back to this side of the Atlantic. Even though they were sold overseas, Parkhurst SE cards were printed in English. 

A while ago, I found this promo card for Parkhurst SE. It features Wayne Gretzky and gives more details about the set in English: 10 cards per pack, 48 packs per box, and a special collectors album to put the set in. 

But the back of the card was always a mystery to me. It is written in Swedish and Finnish, and I never knew what it said — until I got a little help from some friends on Twitter. 

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This is Why I Check the Bargain Boxes

I thought I’d end the week with a fun look at some cards I picked up at a recent show. Although I don’t really write too many “look at what I bought” blog posts anymore, I am still an avid hockey card collector. Last month, I went to the Chicago Sports Spectacular, and since I don’t have an infinite budget for frivolous things, I will almost always stop and look through the bargain boxes — because you never know what you may find. Here are some of the gems that I scored for loose change.

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Lafleur! The Guy Lafleur Disco Album

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”

2018-19 Panini NHL Sticker Collection Box Break #2

Last month, I purchased two full boxes of 2018-19 Panini NHL Stickers. My first box had quite a few foil stickers, and very few duplicates. So I was excited to open the second box of Panini stickers, and hoped that the collation would be as good as the first box. 

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The Thermochromic Puck: Hockey’s Latest and Greatest Achievement

The NHL made the announcement yesterday that for the first time, official game pucks to be used in this season’s NHL Winter Classic game will feature a new technology using a thermochromic coating. Thermo-what, you ask?  To put it in the simplest terms, PPG  — yes the Pittsburgh-based paint company that sponsors the Penguins’ home arena and is advertised as the official paint of the NHL — has developed a coating that changes color based on temperature. That’s right — color changing pucks. 

Where have we seen this phenomenon before? Continue reading “The Thermochromic Puck: Hockey’s Latest and Greatest Achievement”