Anaheim Ducks forward Trevor Zegras and Team Canada forward Sarah Nurse are the cover athletes for NHL 23, EA Sports announced on Wednesday, noting that Nurse is the first women’s hockey star to grace the cover of their NHL video game.
“It’s something I never thought was possible,” Nurse, who starred in Canada’s dominant gold medal win at the 2022 Beijing Olympics, told ESPN. “I never even dreamed of being on it. And so I think it’s huge, and I think it just speaks for where women’s hockey is now, the visibility and the value that people see in women’s hockey.”
Clem Kwong, lead producer of the EA Sports NHL series, said there had been discussions in recent years about a female hockey star on the cover. The timing was right for this edition after EA Sports added the women’s national team roster from the IIHF World Championships to NHL 22 late last year, marking the first time female players could be selected in the game.
“As we went through the process and looked at the shortlist of athletes, we were looking for athletes who were on the biggest podium. She is also a pioneer of inclusivity and diversity within the sport,” Kwong said of Nurse.
Zegras had a star debut with the Ducks in 2021-22 thanks to several goals on the roll. The most daring saw Zegras lift the puck on his stick behind the Buffalo Sabers’ net and pass over the goal cage to score teammate Sonny Milano.
Gamers tried to emulate that move, dubbed “The Zegras,” in NHL 22.
“I saw a lot of videos of kids trying to make it,” Zegras, who finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting last season, told ESPN. “Almost like throwing the puck over the net, which was pretty cool to watch.”
Programmers have created a way for players to perform that over-the-net pass in-game, making “The Zegras” an official part of the franchise.
Mike Inglehart, creative director at EA Sports, sees Zegras as the face of a generation of players making “video game moves” in the NHL.
“They do things where you say, ‘That should be first in a video game and second in the NHL,'” said Inglehart. “Who knows where it’s going? There’s probably something going into NHL 24 that we’re not even thinking about right now.”
NHL 23 will be released on all platforms on October 14. Additional information about new features will be revealed later this week.