Ok. I know what you're thinking. "Why is this on a Dallas Stars blog?".

We are about the Stars first here, of course, but we're also about growing the sport in the state of Texas. And let's face facts here; hockey is not the easiest sport to get involved in here in the lone star state. Gear is an investment, especially for us goalies, and places to play are hard to find. And even when you find a place there's always league fees and 'memberships'. Here in Austin there's really only 2 places to play ice and one (that I know of) to play roller. You can't exactly watch a Friday night Boston vs Montreal grudge match and then head out to the frozen ponds for a pick up game on Saturday morning around here.

We do have an alternative. While nothing simulates the feeling of scoring (or stopping) a goal in even the lowest of beer leagues, we can still pop in a copy of EA Sports yearly NHL title to satisfy that hockey "itch".

Which brings us to the topic at hand: NHL 15.

While not heavy on the Stars action, we do get Ryan Garbutt throwing a few punches against what looks to be Michal Rozsival at :54.

Most of the new features this year revolve around presentation and atmosphere. A lot of it is from the new relationship between NBC Sports and EA. First up is the "NBC Sports game day presentation". It will either be NBC B-roll footage or digitally recreated arena exteriors along the lines of FIFA 14's intros for more famous stadiums. The NBC partnership continues with the commentary of the NHL on NBC team Doc Emrick and Eddie Olczyk. However it won't just be their voices as pre-game video commentary makes it's first appearance in the franchise.

Inside the arena we get something that I'm personally very excited about. Authentically remade arenas. As you see above with a version of our very own barn, the American Airlines Center. All 30 NHL arenas will be accurately recreated. EA has dabbled with this in the past with the San Jose Sharks and Edmonton Oilers getting their authentic player intros in NHL 14. But now every team will get the treatment. The Stars will charge down the tunnel and out of the familiar star lowered from the rafters. (Hey....EA....little side note.....I know it's alpha/beta/pre-release footage.....but the star isn't gold anymore). Whether or not we get authentic music as well remains to be seen but is unlikely. The crowd inside these arenas is more alive now as well. EA claims "9,000 individual crowd models with 4x the animations of previous generations". Signs, chants, super fans (will we get our very own glass banger?! #BANG) will all be in the crowds.

It continues at ice level. More detailed player models with "unprecedented likeness" promise that each player is basically 3 different components - the body, authentic gear, and jersey. Collision and puck physics are also new this year. Hits will be more authentic, although there's still hope for the return of the amazing Hercules check from NHL 13. Improved puck physics means the puck will roll on an edge and bounce more authentically. 

Gameplay features have not really been touched on yet. The updated "skill stick" is the only thing so far that has been announced with various new skill moves. 

Unfortunately most of the new features focus on the front 5 skaters as goalies seem to be untouched yet again this year. Gear for goalies will be authentic except for the generic mask paint jobs. Collision physics will effect goalies but movements will pretty much all be the same from goalie to goalie. Jonathan Quick, known for his low positioning, will effectively look the same as any other goalie in the game in terms of stance and reactions. This likely wont bother 99% of the people who will play the game, but for goalie snobs like myself it's an issue.

There's bad news for owners of previous generation consoles. Pretty much all of the features I just listed - you don't get. You'll get the new commentary team, but that's about it. It sounds like it will just be a mildly updated version of NHL 14.

NHL 15 will hit shelves and digital download September 9th and will be available on all platforms. Check out the full list of features on EA's site.