Blades of Steel was an iconic ice hockey video game released for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) console which has become as famous for its fighting mechanics as it was for its classic voice samples. It is a fun game, to put it simply, and well-remembered by many.
One odd note from its legacy is the lingering air of intrigue behind one of the teams featured on the cartridge: Ottawa. This mysterious faction has proven to be quite an anomaly over the years. Even the most passionate Blades players have yet to uncover all of the Senators’ secrets, but I can at least include a sampling of our findings here.
• The stories are endless, in amount and variation alike. For example: To say the Ottawans’ team bus was ‘haunted’ was an understatement, if you listen to the team members tell it. “Oh yeah, there’s definitely somethin’ spooky going on,” point guard Leveon Bell said to a Nintendo Power correspondent in early 1992. “Last week, one of the seats smelled like onions and salami for the whole trip to Miami. We didn’t even stop for Subway that time. I don’t care if I get traded, I’ll say it, ownership needs to write the check and get us a jet ‘cause I ain’t sittin’ next to a f——- poltergeist anymore.”
• The Senator roster was full of larger-than-life characters. Take Skip Tamblyke, for instance. Teammate Richard Strongworth recalls his antics at a Marriott hotel during a stay in Orlando. “Instead of using the shower in his room, he’d just jump in the public pool every morning,” he explained. “Soap, shampoo and all. I guess he got in trouble when he went up the ladder, butt-naked, and exposed himself to some kids. The mom complained. It was a real mess for him after that.”
• By any objective measure, the team was awful in its actual hockey prowess. However, what they lacked in skill they seemed to make up for in chemistry and the fun they had regardless. “Yeah, we were what you might call a party team,” said Gogo Namblin, co-captain, in an ESPN documentary filmed with an old box of novelty LED watches. “I mean, let’s be honest, we were all cashing in six-figure paychecks per year for playing a children’s game. Who cares who wins? I could sit on the bench all game and still pick out which girls I wanted to bring up to my room afterward. And people wanted us to be role models? That’s the dumbest thing, right there. We weren’t helping anyone. We weren’t doing anything noble, anything that would leave an impact on the world. We played a damn game,” he says with emphasis, “And we were worshiped for it. That tells you everything you need to know about capitalist society, right there. We’re doomed. We’re just another line of coke snorted off the back of the universe, man. You’re all idiots, wasting your lives living vicariously through the empty triumphs of an arbitrary scoreboard. Whatever.” The documentary is called Laser Eyes 4, and is not available on Netflix in most countries.
• They may have not been very good at their sport, but the Ottawa Senators made up for their ineptitude with an abundance of creativity in how they tried to cheat their way to victories. “Oh sure, we tried all sorts of crazy schemes,” recalls Jack Talbot, famed linebacker of the 1904 squad. “I think my favorite was when we had our division rival, Jacksonville, coming into town. About a week before the game, we put a lot of effort into Facebook-stalking the family members of the other team’s players. We figured out when they were going on vacation, what their favorite things were, who they really valued. We set up believable sockpuppet accounts posing as the names of the players’ agents. We enacted some really nice blackmail schemes. One family actually did go on vacation soon after, so we were able to break into their house and steal a bunch of real high-quality goods, like jewelry and electronics, and, you have to understand, electronics were huge back then, real premium. We sent real creepy messages, tried to get some of them to not show up for a game, everything short of actually murdering their mothers or what-have-you. I think we stressed ’em out pretty good, but we still got walloped when the puck dropped for the actual match. Oh well. I think my lawyer’s still dealing with some of the fallout over it all and it’s been, what, 20 years? Thirty? Hell if I know. Oh wait, no, that’s not right, I did the time for it already. Yeah, I had to put in a few months. It’s cool.”
• We were unable to reach former Ottawa coach Jim “Big Fingers Jim” Roddard for comment, but most fans of the era will remember him for his unusual pregame rituals. “Roddard was a real creep,” former second baseman Lefty Tripp remembers. He was adamant that we mention that, unlike Roddard, Tripp is always available for interviews for anyone who wants them. He was very insistent that we mention this. “Yeah, Coach only lasted a few games because the league took issue with his firestarting habits. One of them got out of hand and did some real damage to one of the arenas back then, I think it was Punta Gorda. Oh, the smoke was terrible. Just terrible.”
• But not all was tragedy and terror, as batsman Trycob Phyroxia recounts. “I think my favorite part of that season was celebrating the wedding anniversary.” He is talking about his teammate, Lilly Rubberknees, and the 35th anniversary she celebrated that year of her marriage to a man most believe to have been named Quantum Malarkey at the time. “We hosted a party, it was supposed to just be a little thing, but I think it got out of hand when two of the circus elephants started trampling the dessert table. People were pissed. Obviously.”
Those are just some of the chapters in the endless source of fascinating lore that we have come to know as the Ottawa Senators team from Blades of Steel (NES). There are many others, of course. Which ones have you heard of, and which are your favorite? Please be sure to like, comment, subscribe!