EA Sports just announced that Cale Makar will be the chosen cover athlete for NHL ’24. Many thought it might be Jack Hughes, but the New Jersey Devils star will get his shot later.
August is the slowest month on the NHL calendar. Not much happens, but there is some excitement. One thing video game fans anticipate is the cover athlete for EA Sports NHL game. This year, the honor went to Cale Makar.
The Colorado Avalanche defenseman definitely deserves the honor. He is likely the best player at his position, and he won most of the awards he can win in 2022. Makar is one of the young stars that is growing the game across the U.S. Those are the types of athletes EA Sports targets for its cover.
Looking at the history of the cover athlete, EA Sports has been going in a different direction in recent years. They’ve prioritized young talent. The early NHL games celebrated the established stars of the league. Glenn Healy, John Vanbiesbrouck, and Kirk McLean donned some of the earliest covers. Now, that isn’t the case.
Alexander Ovechkin did don the NHL ’21 cover, but that seems like it’ll be an outlier. A young Auston Matthews was the cover guy for NHL ’20 and ’22, and Sarah Nurse joined Trevor Zegras on last year’s cover. It makes sense some would think Hughes would be on the cover this season, but it’s not his time. It makes much more sense to have Makar.
The Devils have a long history of being cover athletes. As much as some like to say the Devils are “irrelevant” in the NHL landscape because they “live in the shadow of New York,” they actually get a lot of national publicity. Scott Stevens was on the cover of NHL ’96 with Steve Yzerman. He was also on the cover NHL Hitz 2002 (which was a fantastic game, by the way). Martin Brodeur was the cover athlete for NHL ’14. Meanwhile, the Rangers have the NHLPA ’93 cover (where they weren’t allowed to use their logo) and the NHL Hockey ’95 cover, where Alexei Kovalev is scoring on the Rangers.
It seems like the natural projection for Hughes to be on the cover, but there’s probably something bigger in the works. The Hughes brothers are incredibly close and would love to do this together. Putting Luke Hughes on a cover this early would be a stretch. EA Sports would love to have a brothers cover. It’s going to grab headlines, which is the whole point.
On top of all that, Devils fans might not want to see a cover athlete. There might be a curse involved, as no cover athlete has gone far in the playoffs in a long time.
This doesn’t even mention that Stevens failed to qualify in 1996, the year he shared the cover with Yzerman (who lost in the Conference Finals). Maybe the Devils should talk Hughes out of taking the cover entirely. That likely won’t work, but for now, let’s celebrate someone else gracing the cover.