Is the EA Sports NHL cover curse real?
Poor Individual Performance: On an individual basis, a few players have had drops in performance during or after their NHL cover years. For starters, after 1996-97, John Vanbiesbrouck rarely had the spark he had during the Florida Panthers’ 1995-96 run. After 2008-09, Dion Phaneuf was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs and never looked the same. And in 2018-19, P.K. Subban had the worst year of his career up to that point, was traded to the New Jersey Devils during the offseason, and hasn’t returned to his performance of the past since.
Poor Team Performance: Similarly, teams of cover athletes have also struggled. On the subject of Vanbiesbrouck, the Panthers haven’t gotten past the first round since his cover year. Peter Forsberg’s Team Sweden was eliminated in the Quarterfinals of the 1998 Olympics. Vincent Lecavalier’s Team Canada didn’t win a medal at the 2006 Olympics, despite being one of the favorites. And Patrick Kane’s Team USA lost to Canada in the 2010 Olympic Final.
Moreover, since 1997, 10 cover athlete teams missed the NHL Playoffs, 12 were eliminated in the first round (or the 2020 qualifying round), 1 team was eliminated in the second round, and only 1 has won the Stanley Cup. But if you think that everything went fine for the one Stanley Cup winning team, think again.
Injuries and personal problems: In addition to losing the 2010 Olympic Final, Patrick Kane also faced charges for an altercation with a cab driver just prior to EA’s 2010 release. The case resulted in “a noncriminal charge of disorderly conduct.”
One of the worst series of injuries started the year before Eric Lindros’ cover year—with his first concussion—and became dramatically worse thereafter. In his cover year alone, Lindros suffered a punctured right lung, missing the “final seven games of [the] regular season and Eastern Conference quarterfinal.” Unfortunately, Lindros would then go on to have numerous concussions in the years that followed.
This season, Auston Matthews will once again be the NHL series’ cover athlete. After having just recovered from wrist surgery, can Matthews dodge further injuries, an early postseason exit, and other issues that cover athletes have faced in the past? After all, when he was last on the cover in 2020, he also had wrist issues, was eliminated in the qualifying round by the Columbus Blue Jackets, and later contracted COVID.
The Leafs are off to a 2-3-1 start and currently sit fifth in the Atlantic Division.