For over 20 years the EA Sports NHL series has dominated the hockey video game world with its realistic and fun gameplay coupled with year-by-year innovation.
The annual announcement of who will be that year's cover boy for the game has always been a fun debate for fans as NHL enters its 22nd season. For NHL 13, EA Sports is changing the way its cover athlete is chosen. Instead of being selected in-house, fans will have the opportunity to decide who gets the honor.
Beginning today and ending June 4, puckheads will be able to vote from a list of 60 players leading up to the announcement of the cover winner on June 20 during the NHL Awards show in Las Vegas.
Here's how the three rounds of voting will break down:
March 29 — April 11: Round of 60: Two players from each team have been chosen and will go head-to-head to determine one representative from all 30 clubs. Two wild cards*, plus the 30 winners will advance. (*wild card selections made by EA)
April 12 — April 22: Round of 32: Of the 32 survivors, voting will go leaderboard style with the top 16 overall vote getters moving on.
April 24 — June 4: Round of 16: Here we move into a round-by-round bracket-style tournament until two remain and the winner is announced at the NHL Awards show.
Voting will take place at NHL.com/CoverVote and fans can do so an unlimited number of times. A Twitter hashtag, #NHL13Cover, will also track the cover athlete tournament discussion. Updates and other content will also show up on the EA SPORTS NHL Facebook page.
So which 60 players made the cut? Join us after the jump.
Here are the Eastern Conference matchups:
Bruins: Tuukka Rask vs. Tyler Seguin
Canadiens: P.K. Subban vs. Tomas Plekanec
Capitals: Brooks Laich vs. John Carlson
Devils: Ilya Kovalchuk vs. Adam Larsson
Flyers: Claude Giroux vs. Scott Hartnell
Hurricanes: Eric Staal vs. Jeff Skinner
Islanders: John Tavares vs. Michael Grabner
Jets: Evander Kane vs. Andrew Ladd
Lightning: Steven Stamkos vs. Victor Hedman
Maple Leafs: Phil Kessel vs. Tyler Bozak
Panthers: Stephen Weiss vs. Tomas Fleischmann
Penguins: Evgeni Malkin vs. Marc-Andre Fleury
Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist vs. Brad Richards
Sabres: Derek Roy vs. Thomas Vanek
Senators: Erik Karlsson vs. Jason Spezza
Eric Staal and Steven Stamkos are the only ones in the East that have already appeared on a cover in North America.
Here now are the matchups in the Western Conference:
Avalanche: Matt Duchene vs. Gabriel Landeskog
Blackhawks: Patrick Sharp vs. Duncan Keith
Blue Jackets: R.J. Umberger vs. Ryan Johansen
Blues: T.J. Oshie vs. David Perron
Canucks: Henrik Sedin vs. Alex Burrows
Coyotes: Shane Doan vs. Keith Yandle
Ducks: Corey Perry vs. Jonas Hiller
Flames: Mikael Backlund vs. Matt Stajan
Kings: Anze Kopitar vs. Drew Doughty
Oilers: Jordan Eberle vs. Taylor Hall
Predators: David Legwand vs. Pekka Rinne
Red Wings: Pavel Datsyuk vs. Jimmy Howard
Sharks: Logan Couture vs. Brent Burns
Stars: Loui Eriksson vs. Jamie Benn
Wild: Mikko Koivu vs. Niklas Backstrom
Lots of youth in the West. Who's up for a Pavel Datsyuk campaign?
Looking at the 60 players, one of them will end up as the NHL 13 cover boy. Who do you think will end up with the winning vote?
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy