NHL is a series of professional ice hockey simulation video games developed by EA Canada and published yearly by Electronic Arts under the EA Sports brand. The game is developed under license from both the National Hockey League (NHL), which enable the use of team names and designs in the game, and the NHL Players' Association (NHLPA), which enables the use of player names and likenesses.
The Free-4-All mini-game was introduced in "NHL 2005," letting gamers compete with each other by scoring goals on one goaltender, either in a certain time limit, or until someone scores a certain number of goals. With appropriate settings, defensemen can be incorporated into the game, making it more challenging.
The NHL is not the only league in more recent games: A Nordic expansion of NHL 2001 was published by EA Sports Nordica introducing Finland's SM-Liiga and Sweden's Elitserien. Germany's Deutsche Eishockey Liga was introduced in 2004 and the two previous leagues made a return. The game has expanded to include the Czech Republic's Tipsport Extraliga in "NHL 07" and in "NHL 10" the Swiss NLA. Before "NHL 07," users could only use European teams for Exhibition and Season modes. Now, users can bring a European team into Dynasty mode.
A revamped Create-a-Player feature is available after being taken out of "NHL 2005." Gone are the pre-modeled faces to choose from and in comes facial sculpting, inspired by that of the Tiger Woods PGA Tour videogames. Create-a-Team has remained the same. Players have the ability to recreate defunct or vintage teams, or start new ones with plenty of logos and jersey designs to choose from. The Hartford Whalers logo was not included due to the fact that the city of Hartford owns the team's rights and has prohibited the team's inclusion in the game. In "NHL 11" though, the logo and jersey appear. Create-a-Team is unavailable for the "NHL 07" Xbox 360 game, but returned in "NHL 08". A Shootout mode is introduced in "NHL 07," emulating a true-to-NHL shootout. It is used to get Xbox 360 players familiarized with the game's new Skill Stick, as well as a means to practice shooting. Users have the ability to turn shootout rules on or off. Note: Shootout options in actual games will always be on.
The World Cup of Hockey was a feature in "NHL 2005", coinciding with said event featuring authentic rosters and uniforms. It has been relabeled as "EA Sports' World Tournament" from "NHL 06" onward with non-licensed jerseys due to the lack of the IIHF license. Rosters for international teams in "NHL 06" were based on the real rosters of the 2006 Winter Olympics. NHL 10 did not feature the Olympic rosters of the teams playing in the 2010 Winter Olympics upon release; a later roster update corrected many national teams.
List of games
|NHL Hockey||1991||Sega Genesis|
|NHLPA Hockey 93||1992||Sega Genesis, SNES|
|NHL '94||1993||DOS, Sega Mega-CD, Sega Genesis, SNES|
|NHL 95||1994||DOS, GameBoy, Game Gear, Sega Genesis, SNES|
|NHL 96||1995||DOS, GameBoy, Sega Genesis, SNES|
|NHL 97||1996||DOS, PS1, Sega Saturn, Sega Genesis, SNES, Win|
|NHL 98||1997||PS1, Sega Saturn, Sega Genesis, SNES, Win|
|NHL 99||1998||N64, PS1, Win|
|NHL 2000||1999||GameBoy Color, PS1, Win|
|NHL Rock the Rink||2000||PS1|
|NHL 2001||2000||PS1, PS2, Win|
|NHL 2002||2001||GameBoy Advance, PS2, Win, Xbox|
|NHL 2003||2002||GameCube, PS2, Win, Xbox|
|NHL 2004||2003||GameCube, PS2, Win, Xbox|
|NHL 2005||2004||GameCube, PS2, Win, Xbox|
|NHL 06||2005||GameCube, PS2, Win, Xbox|
|NHL 07||2006||Xbox 360, PS2, PSP, Win, Xbox|
|NHL 08||2007||PS3, Xbox 360, PS2, Win|
|NHL 09||2008||PS3, Xbox 360, PS2, Win|
|3 on 3 NHL Arcade||2009||PS3, Xbox 360|
|NHL 10||2009||PS3, Xbox 360|
|NHL 11||2010||PS3, Xbox 360|
|NHL 12||2011||PS3, Xbox 360|
|NHL 13||2012||PS3, Xbox 360|
|NHL 14||2013||PS3, Xbox 360|
|NHL 15||2014||PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360|
|NHL 16||2015||PS4, Xbox One|
|NHL: Legacy Edition||2015||PS3, Xbox 360|
|NHL 17||2016||PS4, Xbox One|
|NHL 18||2017||PS4, Xbox One|
|NHL 19||2018||PS4, Xbox One|
|NHL 20||2019||PS4, Xbox One|
|NHL 21||2020||PS4, Xbox One|
|NHL 22||2022||PS4, Xbox One, PS5, Xbox Series X/S|
As is traditional with EA Sports, the NHL series boxes feature live action photos instead of drawings. As it lacked the NHLPA license, the early titles staged photos without real players. NHLPA Hockey 93, on the other hand, had the rights to use player images, but not of the teams. On this cover, the main action photo features the New York Rangers' Randy Moller checking the Philadelphia Flyers' Rod Brind'Amour while Rangers goaltender Mike Richter makes a save (in this photo there is the logo of the New York Rangers located on the bottom right of the goaltender's pants). This photo is surrounded by eight small portraits of players (Steve Yzerman, Andy Moog, Pat LaFontaine, Brian Leetch, Ray Bourque, Patrick Roy, Jeremy Roenick, and Rick Tocchet). This changed with NHL 94, which featured a goal situation for Tomas Sandstrom (LA Kings) against Andy Moog (Boston). NHL 95 featured an in-goal camera during a goal scored by Alexei Kovalev of the New York Rangers during the '94 Stanley Cup Finals against Kirk McLean of the Vancouver Canucks. NHL 96 featured New Jersey's Scott Stevens and Detroit's Steve Yzerman. EA Sports has not announced who will be on the cover of NHL 12, but fan speculation on forums has Tim Thomas, Carey Price, and Ryan Miller as the frontrunners. The latter has been featured on some fake fan-designed NHL 12 covers. If either of the three abovementioned players are picked, it would be the first time since 2006 that a goalie was on the cover of any NHL game (including the NHL 2K Series), when Marty Turco, then of the Dallas Stars, appeared on the cover of 2K Sports' NHL 2K6. It would be the first time since 1997 that a goalie was on the cover of an EA Sports NHL game, when John Vanbiesbrouck, then of the Florida Panthers, was featured on NHL 97.
In NHLPA '93 and NHL '94, Emmy award-winning sportscaster Ron Barr gives a pre-game scouting report prior to each game. In the Genesis version of NHL 95, KNBR radio sportscaster John Shrader replaced Ron Barr in that duty. Live play-by-play commentary was introduced in "NHL 97". Jim Hughson, currently play-by-play man for CBC's Hockey Night in Canada and also one of Canada's best-known hockey announcers, provided the play-by-play for much of the series, excluding the Xbox 360 version of "NHL 07" and the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of "NHL 08" through "NHL 11"; which is provided by Gary Thorne and from NHL 15 until NHL 19, Mike "Doc" Emrick commentated matches. Color commentary is provided by Daryl Reaugh (1998–99), Bill Clement (2000, 2001, and all Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions), Don Taylor (2002–03), Craig Simpson (2004–09) and Eddie Olczyk (2015-19). Play-By-Play commentary is now provided by James Cybulski, while Ray Ferraro does the color commentary.
"NHL '99" was the first game in the series to feature fully-licensed music from David Bowie. Since then, each game has had soundtracks of licensed music known as EA Sports Trax, with selections of punk, alternative, and rock music.