Monday, September 10, 2012

The history of Philly Cover Athletes

September 10, 2012

Many a hockey fan will be picking up a copy of EA Sports' NHL 13 tomorrow, when the game finally hits store shelves.

The team at EA has made big changes to this year's edition of the annual hockey game, which gives fans plenty to be excited about.

Flyers fans, however, have one extra reason to buy the game, because two-time All-Star Claude Giroux is the cover athlete.

Giroux is only the most recent of Philadelphia athletes to grace the cover of a sports game though. In fact, he joins a pretty lengthy list of players who were chosen to be cover athletes during their time in Philadelphia. Nine to be exact.

So, in honor of the release of NHL 13, I've decided to take a look back at all the games that had a Flyer, a Phillie, a Sixer or an Eagle on the front of the box.

The first game on the list released way back in 1997. Wait, that was 15 years ago? Already?.... I'm getting old.

NHL FaceOff 98

John LeClair put up big numbers while he played on the famous Legion of Doom line.

In the 1996-1997 campaign, LeClair scored 50 goals and earned 47 assists in the regular season.

In the playoffs, LeClair scored nine goals and totaled 21 points in the postseason, helping the Flyers dominate the Eastern Conference en route to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Detroit ended up being a problem though.

Nonetheless, LeClair's impressive season earned him a spot on the cover of the Playstation-exclusive hockey title for the following season.

He proved that he earned the cover athlete title by scoring 51 goals in the '97-'98 campaign, besting his goal total from the previous season by one.

NHL 99

 The center of the Legion of Doom made his appearance on a video game cover just one year after LeClair with EA Sports' NHL '99.

Eric Lindros scored 30 goals and 41 assists in 63 games with the Flyers for the '97-'98 season. Lindros missed part of the season when he suffered the first of many concussions.

He scored 40 golas in the '98-'99 season, but ran into more injury issues, including one that almost killed him. Plus the issues between him and Bobby Clarke (the genereal manager at the time) were starting.

Things did not get better beyond the 1999 season for Lindros. He lost his captaincy, got knocked out by Scott Stevens, and sat out an entire season until he was traded.

It is a time in Flyers history that is rarely discussed, but it seems the Winter Classic is able to heal all wounds.

NHL FaceOff 2000

After a one year absence from the NHL FaceOff cover, John LeClair made his return to the front of the box with NHL FaceOff 2000, making it three years in a row that a member of the Flyers was featured on a video game cover.

Legionare LeClair may not have been scoring 50 goals a year anymore, but 40 is still pretty good.

LeClair scored 43 in the '98-'99 season. Then scored another 40 goals in his second year on the cover ('99-'00).

The Flyers made it to the Eastern Conference Finals that year, but lost to the Devils in seven games in a series that is mostly remembered as the one where Scott Stevens caught Eric Lindros with his head down (see above entry).

NBA 2K, 2K1, 2K2, 2K3 and 2K4

 2K (known as Sega Sports at the time) either must have liked consistency, really liked Allen Iverson or couldn't find a better guy for five years, because A.I. was on the cover for all of their basketball games during that span.

Don't get me wrong though, Iverson was a great player during those five years.

In 2001, he won league MVP and the Sixers made it to the NBA Finals.

He also averaged at least 26 points per game every season he was the cover athlete. His highest being 31.4 in the 2001-2002 season.

I just always found it odd that he was chosen for the cover every year. I can't find anything explaining why. If anyone knows, please tell me.

NHL 2K3 and 2K4

Jeremy Roenick also graced the cover of one of 2K's games for consecutive years. However, he only had the spot for two years instead of Iverson's five.

Like Iverson, Roenick was a good player during his time as a video game cover athelete.

He scored 21 goals in the '01-'02 NHL season to be chosen as the cover athlete for NHL 2K3.

Then he scored 27 goals in the '02-'03 season to get the spot again for 2K4.

In 2004, Roenick scored only 19 goals in his last season with the Flyers, but helped the team get to the Eastern Conference Finals. Even though he broke his jaw and got a concussion from a slapshot to the face.

The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Flyers in seven games, then went on to beat the Calgary Flames to win the Stanley Cup.

Martin St. Louis of the Lightning was chosen as the cover athlete for 2K5 to end Roenick's run. Unfortunately there was no season that year, even though the game released on time.


Terrell Owens is another subject that is rarely disscussed in Philadelphia Sports History, but when the Eagles signed him back in 2004, it was euphoric.

There wasn't an Eagles fan in the world who didn't think that this guy was the last piece to the Eagles' Super Bowl puzzle, after coming up just one game short three years in a row.

With all the hype surrounding T.O.'s signing, 2K (again, formerly known as Sega Sports) made a smart choice in picking him as the cover athlete for their football game.

The descision became even smarter as the season went on.

Owens caught 77 passes for 1,200 yards and scored 14 touchdowns. He was just one touchdown shy of winning a bet that would force head coach Andy Reid to wear tights to practice.

He broke his leg with two games left in the season, but the Eagles managed to make it to their fourth consecutive NFC Championship game without him.

T.O. didn't play, but it didn't matter. There he was, cheering on his team from the sidelines and getting the fans fired up.

The Eagles won, earning their first trip to the Super Bowl in about a quarter century.

Owens returned to play in the Super Bowl, but the Eagles lost to the Patriots.

The aftermath of that year was agonizing (I'll get to that in the next entry), but in retrospect, that season was one hell of a ride!

Oh yeah, and the video game was pretty awesome too.

Madden NFL 06

This is the period in Eagles history that many would rather forget.

Donovan McNabb was the cover athlete for the 2006 edition of Madden, and he probably suffered the worst from the infamous "Madden Curse."

His go to wide receiver in Terrell Owens called him out multiple times throughout the season, most notably accusing him of getting tired and throwing up in the huddle during the Super Bowl.

At the same time, McNabb tried to play through a sports hernia until his season was eventually forced to come to an end.

The Eagles finished the 2005-06 season 6-10, just one year after appearing in the Super Bowl.

After being suspended and doing sit-ups in his driveway, T.O. was released by the Eagles, but the damage had already been done.

Owens may have went from one of the most beloved to one of the most hated athletes in Philadelphia, but he also caused the same shift for McNabb.

Ever since Owens was released, McNabb's decision-making and leadership abilites were placed under constant question by the fans. And as time went on, McNabb's image of being one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL fell apart.

For McNabb, the Madden Curse may have done more than shorten his season with an injury, it could have initiated the collapse of his career.

MLB 08: The Show

 Ryan Howard quikcly established himself as one of the top power-hitting first baseman in the game when he got called up to the Majors.

After winning NL Rookie of the Year in 2005, Howard had an incredible 2006.

He batted a .313 with 58 home runs and 149 RBI's to win NL MVP honors.

Then in 2007, Howard hit 47 more homers to help the Phillies reach the postseason for the first time in 14 years.

With a track record like that, the folks over at Sony chose Howard to be their cover athlete for their Playstation exclusive baseball sim.

Howard went on to hit 48 home runs and batted in 146 RBI's in 2008.

The Phillies won the NL East pennant for the second straight year, and eventually went on to win their first World Series since 1980.

There is also something interesting about the background of the cover. If you look at the scoreboard in Citizens Bank Park, you see that Jim Thome is the Phillie at-bat when the photo was taken.

Thome was the first baseman for the Phillies before Howard earned the starting job. Ironic? Yes.

MLB 2K11

2K must have had a pretty easy time deciding who they wanted to put on the cover of their baseball game.

Roy Halladay was absolutely dominant in his first season with the Phillies.

Doc went 21-10 with a 2.44 ERA to win the NL Cy Young Award.

Oh yeah, and he threw a perfect game, then followed up with the first playoff no-hitter since 1956.

There was no better player you could find to pitch a million dollar perfect game contest.

Doc disproved any thought of there being a cover jinx in 2011 by having an equally dominant year, going 19-6 with a 2.35 ERA, making the pitching staff of Doc, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels that much more terrifying to other teams.

NHL 13

 Now we finally arrive to the present day.

Claude Giroux is the newest member to join the list of Philly Cover Athletes, and this time it was all thanks to the fans.

EA Sports allowed the fans to vote for the cover athlete for this year's game and the Flyers' fans made their presence known.

EA picked Giroux and his fellow linemate Scott Hartnell to represent the Flyers in the voting, after both players had career years.

Giroux scored 28 goals and tallied 93 total points in the 2011-12 season to lead the team in scoring.

After the shocking trades of Jeff Carter and former captain Mike Richards, Giroux also established himself as a leader on the team.

Meanwhile, Hartnell scored a career high 37 goals to finish second on the team in scoring.

Both Hartnell and Giroux made it deep into the late rounds of voting. But in the end, Giroux was revealed as the winner during the 2012 NHL Awards.

Giroux beat Nashville Predators' goaltender Pekka Rinne in the final round of voting.

So there you have it. Over the years, a Philadelphia Athlete has graced the cover of a video game a total of 15 times, which provides for a pretty impressive and extensive list.

There are even more players who have played in Philadelphia and have appeared on video game covers. However, they were not playing for Philadelphia at the time.

Here are the ones who were chosen as cover athletes, but were not playing for Philadelphia at the time they were selected:

NHL 98

 Peter Forsberg (Colorado Avalanche)

 Played for the Flyers from 2005 to 2007.


NHL 2000


 Chris Pronger (St. Louis Blues)

Joined the Flyers in a trade from Anaheim in the 2009 off-season. He is still a member of the Flyers.

Madden NFL 2004

Michael Vick (Atlanta Falcons)

Signed by the Eagles in 2009 and is currently the team's starting quarterback.

Madden NFL 08

Vince Young (Tennessee Titans). Signed with the Eagles in 2011 then idiotically told the media that the Eagles were a "Dream Team." He only lasted a year. The fact that the team finished 8-8 didn't help his cause.

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