Today, EA SPORTS announced a long-awaited addition to its NHL video game franchise. For the first time ever, fans will be able to play with IIHF women’s national teams. That’s right. Some of your favorite women’s hockey players will finally be in a video game. This is something that countless hockey fans have been waiting for for years.
“The introduction of women’s national teams to NHL 22 as part of the upcoming IIHF content will be an important moment for the franchise in its continued effort to reflect the diversity of the hockey community,” said Sean Ramjagsingh, VP and GM, EA SPORTS. “We are proud to feature playable women’s teams for the first time in NHL 22, alongside the rising stars on the World Juniors teams.”
This content will be available in-game as part of a patch, and fans can play with their favorite women’s national team stars in early 2022. Fans can also experience the Worlds Juniors tournament (men’s), which is another major addition to the most popular hockey video game in the world.
Playable women’s teams will be available for the first time ever with the IIHF Women’s Teams and World Championship. Players will be able to celebrate this golden era of women’s hockey by playing as their favorite teams and players. Starting early 2022, players can hit the ice with Team USA icon Hilary Knight and Hockey Canada captain Marie-Philip Poulin, among other superstars.
This feels like the first significant step by the franchise to include and represent the women’s game since Hayley Wickenheiser and Angela Ruggiero were in NHL 13. Fans have been able to create women’s hockey players for years, which enabled Eleni Demestihas to create every player of the (then) NWHL for the 2019-20 season in NHL 19. If you missed out on that project, we highly recommend you give it a read. You could say that it helps to illustrate just how important an update like this can be.
There’s a real audience that has been asking for this for years. And now, it is finally here.
EA Sports told The Ice Garden that national team rosters will be accurate as of August 2021 but there will be no NCAA players in the game. “We’ll be working closely with the IIHF in regards to having the most up-to-date rosters possible,” they clarified. So, it sounds like rosters could be updated throughout the season, which is something worth keeping a close eye on. It’s unfortunate that NCAA players won’t be in the game, but given the newness of the NIL in the NCAA, this is hardly surprising. Hopefully the NIL agreement paves the way for the NCAA talent to be included in the future.
Speaking of athletes making money off of themselves, we’ve also learned that EA Sports will not disclose if the women’s hockey players who are in the game are being compensated for their names and likenesses being used, per the company’s policy not to disclose financial information with players, teams, and leagues.
Remember, this isn’t as cut-and-dry as EA Sports having a deal with the NHL and NHLPA. This sounds like a deal specifically forged between EA Sports and the IIHF, which does not have a players’ association. So, there is definitely a story here. Hopefully, the athletes you will be able to play as in NHL 22 are getting some kind of compensation. I also hope that we see the same level of attention and detail put into the rosters and players of the national teams outside of North America.
Finally, we asked EA Sports if this will truly be women’s hockey or just men’s hockey rules with women’s hockey players? The response was encouraging.
“We’ll share more details in early 2022 about more specifics, but our goal is to make the Women’s Hockey gameplay as accurate as we can,” EA Sports told The Ice Garden. “It’ll still be physical. Other than that all women wear cages or full-face shields as equipment.”
So, we’ll have to see just how much this update to the NHL franchise actually looks and feels like women’s hockey. It’s also an encouraging sign that a physical element will still be there. Anyone who follows or plays women’s hockey knows that it is incredibly physical even with bodychecking outlawed in collegiate, international, and pro play.
Now, let the debate(s) about player rankings (finally) begin. Is it 2022 yet?
NHL 22 was originally released on Oct. 15, 2022. It is available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.