When NHL 23 is released on October 14, it will be the first sports game to feature female players in its Ultimate Team mode, marking a significant step forward for a genre that has only recently begun to feature women’s athletics in a meaningful way.
It was one of the highlights of NHL’s second year on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S, after the game made the transition to the current generation of consoles last year.
Other notable additions include cross-platform matchmaking, which means that players on the Xbox Series X shopping mode will be able to play with their peers on the PS5, and a more customizable franchise mode.
But it’s the addition of women’s national team players from the International Ice Hockey Federation [IIHF] to Hockey Ultimate Team that really stands out, putting well-known players like Sarah Nurse on the ice alongside their male counterparts.
To commemorate the occasion, NHL 23 will feature Nurse on the cover alongside Anaheim Ducks centre Trevor Zegras, who stunned the hockey world last year with a lacrosse-style flip pass (and will be possible in NHL 23).
“It is such a tremendous honor to be the first woman on the cover of the EA SPORTS NHL franchise,” said Nurse, who plays for Canada.
“Hockey is really for everybody and I’m excited that NHL 23 is celebrating the diversity and inclusivity of the sport. I hope that the increased representation of women in such a prominent game will inspire young girls everywhere to know that there is a place for them in hockey.”
Hockey Ultimate Team [HUT] is NHL 23’s take on the card-collecting mode that has been chastised in Madden and FIFA for its emphasis on microtransactions.
Female players will appear in packs and the auction house, and their ratings will be comparable to their male counterparts, with EA stating that a “94 rating will be a 94 rating no matter what.”
Female players have been added to Hockey Ultimate Team as part of a larger push across EA’s sports games.
Following England’s victory in the Women’s European Championship this summer, FIFA 23 will include women’s club football for the first time.
NBA 2K has similarly featured the WNBA since NBA 2K20, with Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi featuring on this year’s cover.
Elsewhere, NHL 23 will seek to upgrade its gameplay with new “desperation shots” that can be pulled off as players stumble to the ice, as well as enhanced goalie A.I and updated power play strategies.
The presentation is also being upgraded with an improved arena atmosphere, including a brand-new hat trick animation.