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Marie-Philip Poulin and Amanda Kessel Reflect on Women's Hockey in NHL 23

NHL 23 will let users create mixed-gender teams in Hockey Ultimate Team for the first time. Hockey stars Marie-Philip Poulin and Amanda Kessel say the representation is significant.
NHL 23 Cover

In front of television and computer screens across the globe, young hockey fans have been imagining themselves as the top men’s players in the world since 1991. When NHL 23 comes out this year, fans will not only now be able to participate as the top women in the sport in the Hockey Ultimate Team mode, but they’ll also see a woman on the cover for the first time in EA Sports NHL history.

NHL 22 was the first game users could play with women's IIHF teams. By adding women to Hockey Ultimate Team, fans can now create a mixed-gender team.

“It’s pretty incredible. It’s about time,” said Team USA and PWHPA star Amanda Kessel of seeing women “in the game.” “It’s awesome that EA Sports has taken that step to put women and men on the same playing field, and for the first time ever, men and women will be able to play side by side in this game.” 

On the NHL 23 cover is Team Canada standout Sarah Nurse, who gamers can control alongside Canadian captain Marie-Philip Poulin, long considered the best player in the world.

“It’s unbelievable, to be honest. It’s hard to put into words,” Poulin said. “Seeing Sarah Nurse on the cover, to really show that women’s hockey belongs, seeing her representing all of us is huge. I’m a big believer in ‘if you can see it, you can believe it,’ so a little boy or little girl being able to play as one of us, to see us out there, to see that women’s hockey is part of it, it’s huge.”

It’s not just on the ice that Poulin is considered the best in the world – it will now be on the screen as well, as she was awarded a 94 player overall in NHL 23, tops among all women. 

Poulin said she believes the impact will be significant for women and girls who can soon pick up a controller and play women's hockey in NHL 23.

“It would have been unbelievable. I watched the Olympics in 2002 and that’s when my dream sparked, and I wanted to be there one day, so I can’t imagine if we would have been able to play a video game as a woman,” she said. 

Kessel, who was a standout at the recent World Championship scoring 17 points in seven games, and who will work with the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins this year in an executive mentorship program, echoed Poulin’s sentiment on the importance of representation at all levels of the game.

“It exposes girls at a younger age to the possibilities that are out there," Kessel said. “I didn’t really know the possibilities when I was that young.” Had she seen women in an EA Sports video game growing up, Kessel said she believes it would have been a boost to her dreams.

“It would have given me that extra comfort level to know that people were out there and what level they were at… To see people, that’s really important to have that visibility and know what you can strive for.”

Both Poulin and Kessel will compete again in the PWHPA Dream Gap Tour this winter. During the weekend events, neither is ruling out the opportunity to shift the rivalry formed between Canada and USA to a hotel room or locker room playing NHL 23.

“It would be pretty awesome – there are a couple of girls on our team that are pretty good at the game,” Poulin said. “It would be awesome one day to be sitting in a room and really looking at that game and seeing all of us out there and getting to play as one of us.”

“It would be pretty cool – hopefully, I’m a lot better on the ice than I am at video games,” Kessel said. “I’m sure that the rivalry on the ice would probably get carried off the ice as well.”

Whether they're on the ice or the screen, Poulin and Kessel are two of the best in the game. While the PWHPA’s Dream Gap Tour and international competition will make up the bulk of this year’s schedule for members of Team USA and Team Canada, there's hope a new professional league is not far off. 

With the continued growth and visibility of women’s sports, whether it be in professional soccer or basketball, the opportunity is there for hockey, and the inclusion of women in NHL 23 is another step in building long-term success and sustainability.

“Everybody that has grown up playing sports has heard of EA Sports,” said Kessel. “It elevates us as well, takes us to the next level to have us in the game and expose us. That only makes the league look stronger (and) gets people more familiar with us. It’s huge to go hand in hand with both of them.”

EA Sports will release their NHL 23 edition on Oct. 14, the day before the kickoff of the PWHPA’s first Dream Gap Tour stop this year on Oct. 15 and 16 in Montreal. 

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