I was five years old when Midway released the first NBA Jam in 1993, an insanely popular basketball arcade game that kickstarted a franchise and generated a reported $2 billion in revenue over its many iterations. Four years later, the company released NFL Blitz, a line extension that brought Jam’s cartoonish, chaotic gameplay and fast-and-loose rulebook from hardwood to turf. That game, too, was an immense success. The NFL, citing Blitz's cheery doses of wanton player-on-player violence, would eventually revoke Midway's license, but it was still being published (as both an arcade unit and a video game) in 2001, when the company released the inaugural version of NHL Hitz. My coming of age followed one year behind.
I was 14 when my parents bestowed their children with the priceless gift of a $150 PlayStation 2, along with a copy of NHL Hitz 2003. Chris Pronger, playing then for the St. Louis Blues, glared menacingly on the game's cover. Its load screens and menus were built to look like futuristic, blue-tinted computer displays, for some reason. All 30 NHL teams were there, plus a dozen national teams and another half-dozen theme-costumed squads, like "Clowns" and "Cowboys."