For the first time ever, you will finally get to play with the world's top women's hockey players in an NHL video game with the launch of NHL 22's latest update.
EA Sports officially launched two new modes for NHL 22, allowing players to play as both the men's and the women's World Championship teams with officially licensed players. Like with the World Junior Championship mode launched in December, this will feature all the teams playing in their respective real-life tournaments in an organized mode for the first time.
The update is live now on all platforms.
Men's international hockey has always been a staple of the game, even if recent iterations don't have a proper tournament mode. But for women's hockey, this is the first time official players have appeared in a capacity that allowed you to play with full teams.
"Just prior to the pandemic, we met with the IIHF, and there was some just initial conversations about potentially working with them," NHL 22 producer Andy Agostini said. "And then as we progressed, it was really about including all aspects of international hockey, whether it's the juniors, the men's world championships, and the women's world championships, into the NHL product.
"We thought it was a great opportunity to showcase women's hockey at its highest level and allow these great athletes to have an opportunity to be in a game that until this time, they haven't had that chance."
Women's hockey models and pronouns have been in the game for a while, with the ability to play as a woman in Be a Pro in NHL 12 and allowing players to sign a select group of "legends" in NHL 13. NHL 22, like previous installments, allowed you to play as a woman in various modes, but the likenesses of the players and the proper national teams never matched what we saw on the ice.
The players will have their own overall system that mirrors the men's side. So top players, such as Marie-Philip Poulin and Hilary Knight, among others, will play similar to players on the men's side like Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby.
Agostini said all players that participated in the 2021 World Championship in Alberta will be playable and will be updated once the 2022 tournament rolls around. There will not be an Olympic mode again this year due to licensing, but Agostini said women's hockey – and the contingent of other IIHF properties – are here to stay.
And, it might not be the only women's hockey content before too long.
"When I started on the game, I think there were only six leagues and now we have 14 men's leagues and now the inclusion of the women's hockey," Agostini said. "We've never been afraid to expand and try to grow hockey, whether at an international level or whether at a league level."
Sports video games have always been seen as an avenue to help bring news fans in and make it more accessible to everyone. eSports, for example, has continued to grow, with many NHL teams building their own online organizations to host and compete in tournaments.
Hopefully, the plan is that having more women in the game will spark a generation of youth into playing hockey in real life and finding new idols in the form of the game's top stars. Representation matters, even in video games.
"I think the product will allow more eyes to see these players, not just in a two-week period, whether it be at the worlds or the Olympics, but all the time. They're available for people to see them and see how good these players are," Agostini said.
Screenshots can be found below: