Hockey strike over, just in time

After close to a year of NHL contract negotiations, which are finally wrapping up after a marathon session by the NHL Player’s Association and owners, hockey will return next season. The details should be hammered out in the next few weeks, cutting it really close to the line for game developers. While the teams still have some time to work out the kinks, the main hockey video games – like NHL ’06, Gretzky NHL ’06, NHL 2K6, and ESPN NHL Hockey – have a small window of maybe two weeks to get their products into production.

The main issues are team rosters – who’s playing for who this season, and with what rookies – and the list of 13 proposed rule changes, including no centre-line, wider blue lines, more teams in the playoffs, smaller goaltending equipment, limitations on goalie puck handling, automatic icing calls, penalties for shooting the puck into the stands, stiffer misconduct penalties, three-point games, and shoot-outs to resolve ties.

There is a good chance that at least a few of these rules will be passed by the league, which means that they will have to be included in the video games which are striving to be as realistic as possible.

The NHL, which is the first major sports league to cancel an entire season, will also relaunch this season with a new branding campaign to bring fans back to the game. The video game companies also want to capture the essence of that brand launch.

The only positive for the game developers is the fact that no player statistics changed last year besides age, and it will only require a minimum amount of reprogramming to create virtual teams for the 2006 season.

Most of the games are slated to be released in time for the start of the NHL preseason, with Electronic Arts releasing NHL ‘06 in mid-August, 2K Sports releasing NHL 2K6 on Sept. 1, and Sony releasing Gretzky NHL ’06 less than a week later.

Company to come up with in-flight cellular solution

It wasn’t all that long ago that the airlines finally admitted what many of us suspected all along, which is cell phones and other electronic devices will not jam instruments and cause planes to fall out of the sky. It turns out that those restrictions were extended purely as a courtesy to other passengers.

It was a courtesy I appreciated, and a courtesy I think should continue to be observed, but in these days of "ME" it’s also a courtesy that is about to go out the window.

Siemens AG of Germany recently signed a contract with Airbus to develop a technology that would allow passengers to use their cell phones in flight. There are no cellular towers at 30,000 feet, so any solution would likely involve secondary transmitters on the plane that would relay data to towers on the ground or to satellites in space.


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