Overwatch is an incredibly popular multiplayer shooter from Blizzard Entertainment, and its design team happens to be “filled with giant hockey fans.” That’s what led to Russian character Zarya using “It’s only a game … why do you heff to be mad?”, which is something former NHL goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov famously said in a high-pitched voice during a 2006 interview while he was with the Anaheim Ducks and talking about teammate Chris Pronger returning to Edmonton (a city he controversially forced a trade out of that summer). And it’s just one of a number of hockey references in the game, spawned from their development team’s love for the sport, as Overwatch lead writer Michael Chu told Yahoo’s Greg Wyshynski:
“The Overwatch team is filled with giant hockey fans. During the season (and after), it’s an almost daily conversation topic,” Michael Chu, lead writer of Overwatch, told Yahoo Sports.
“I got into hockey when I was 10 years old and the Mighty Ducks movie and team appeared in my backyard,” he said, while lamenting the fact that the Ducks moved away from their classic Disney-inspired logo.
Chu was a roller hockey kid who idolized Teemu Selanne and Paul Kariya, before becoming a Ducks season-ticket holder a decade ago. As he said, he’s not alone on the Blizzard development team when it comes to hockey fans.
“Jeff Kaplan, our game director, is a diehard Kings fan. I lorded the Ducks’ Cup over him while I could, but that was short-lived. Lead animator Ryan Denniston lead animator is a big Chicago fan, but I saw him wear a Ducks hat to the playoffs last season. Then for many years I sat next to long-suffering Canucks fan and senior UI artist Randal Dumoret, my best source for hockey news and someone I could complain daily about how much Ducks fans fail to appreciate Andrew Cogliano. Randal lives up in Edmonton now, where it’s minus-32 in November, according to meteorologist Ilya Bryzgalov.”
Yep, Bryzgalov is known for that quote as well, and for his unrelated “the universe is humangous beeg” on HBO’s 24/7 in 2011 and “I’m not afraid of anything. I’m only afraid of bear in forest.” in the 2012 playoffs when asked about the Penguins’ biggest threat. His NHL career was full of plenty of amazing interviews and moments, and he feels like a perfect fit for this game. So it’s nice that Chu and the rest of the team were able to work him in. And it’s impressive that they got the line and its pitch so right, too. Here are the clips side by side:
Well played, Blizzard, well played. And Chu says they’ve put other hockey references into the game, too, including a comic depicting a character in Canada at a restaurant with hockey (which he said is probably the world juniors) on in the background, proving that the sport’s still around (at least in Canada) in the Overwatch future. So we’ll have to see what other hockey references they can work in over time.