The 2019-20 Federal Prospects Hockey League season may have been canceled due to COVID-19, but it lives on in the gaming world.
The league called off the season with three weeks remaining, but an ambitious 17-year-old named Graham Tuck from Winston-Salem, N.C., took it upon himself to play out the rest of the schedule on his Xbox. Tuck writes from the Under Review website that covers Carolina-based sports and he is a fan of the FPHL’s defending champions, the Carolina Thunderbirds. He was disappointed to see the season called off and had plenty of free time with schools being closed to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
“I’m stuck at home and I can’t go to school and baseball season has been canceled, so I might as well put something together.” said Tuck, who is a senior at Atkins High School in North Carolina.
Tuck decided to use the customization suite feature in the NHL 18 PlayStation video game to create the teams and players down to logos and team colors and decided to stream some of the games on his Twitch channel, where people can watch a live feed of the game online. The games are run as a computer simulation with no interaction from a third party.
“It’s something to keep the fans and players entertained and stay connected,” Tuck said. “The FPHL community is really tight-knit and this gives me something to do.”
Other simulated games that are not broadcast live on Twitch due to bandwidth reasons are recorded and then cut up into SportsCenter-style highlights that are edited by James Jackson, who is also with the Under Review website.
“It’s a unique idea and it did really well the first time we posted the highlights,” Jackson said.
FPHL players immediately took notice and some were not happy with their ratings and let the Under Review site know their displeasure much like when NFL players are displeased with their ratings on the Madden football game.
“We put out the ratings and the players interacted with them,” Jackson said. “Some were saying they were rated too low and were joking about it.”
Watertown Wolves player and league rookie of the year Ryan Marker was one of the first players to embrace the virtual season. Other players like Phil Bronner of the Danbury Hat Tricks made the live streams appointment viewing.
“The guys on the Hat Tricks hadn’t left for home yet and they were watching it (together) like a real game,” Tuck said. “They were giving each other a hard time when someone didn’t make a pass or didn’t make the right play.”
The highlights have caught on so much that regular broadcast crews are getting in the action. Columbus River Dragons play-by-play man Zak DeBeaussaert edited the broadcast introductions along with commercials to make the game sound like a real River Dragons’ broadcast. Drew Blevins of the Thunderbirds and Casey Scott of the Hat Tricks will also lend their voices to full games and call them as if they’re happening in real life.
“To my shock, the River Dragons wanted to be a part of it and they got Zak (DeBeaussaert) to do a game,” Jackson said. “He went above and beyond and it sounded like a live broadcast.”
Jackson added the simulations are a great way to grow the website and interact with their followers in a time of no live sports. Tuck said he’s planning on running the whole simulation through the Commissioner’s Cup playoffs.
Tuck said that the Wolves games that were slated for Saturday and Sunday will be on the Under Review YouTube channel while Sunday’s simulated game against the Mentor Ice Breakers will be live-streamed on Twitch. The Twitch channel can be found at theunderreview while the YouTube channel is at Under Review.