Wednesday, June 17, 2009 | 2:10 a.m.
More on the NHL Awards
Ovechkin's 50th with 'Burning Stick'
Ryan Kesler wonders if his pals back in Livonia, Mich., will even believe him.
This fall, when playing NHL 2K10 on his Nintendo Wii, The Vancouver Canucks center will be able to point at the virtual rendering of himself -- be it scoring a goal or celebrating afterwards -- and brag that those lifelike motions were captured on a slab of synthetic ice in front of Caesars Palace.
In Las Vegas.
In the middle of June.
2K Sports, while finishing up its annual hockey game set for a September release, put on a motion capture display for the public and media alike Tuesday night right in the heart of the Las Vegas Strip. It was the first ever outdoor motion capture session.
Kesler and Washington Capitals superstar -- and 2K10 coverboy -- Alexander Ovechkin donned skin-tight black suits covered with motion sensors and added some finishing touches to their characters for 2K's latest stick-and-puck installment.
"Skating on the Strip -- I never thought I'd be doing it," Kesler said. "But it's an opportunity I couldn't pass up.
"I'll tell my buddies when I play that I did that move on the Strip. They should be here. Write that down. They should be here and they're not."
They missed quite a scene.
To kick off a week of NHL festivities in Las Vegas, with the highlight being Thursday's NHL postseason awards ceremony at The Palms, Kesler and Ovechkin took turns scoring from various spots on the plastic and wax surface, then performing their patented celebrations for inclusion in the game.
Ovechkin, the top pick in the 2004 draft, is a finalist for the Hart and Pearson trophies, while Kesler is a Selke trophy nominee. The Hart goes to the NHL's regular season MVP, while the Pearson is awarded to the league's most outstanding player as elected by the NHLPA. Ovechkin is up against Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin and Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk for both. Kesler, a first-round selection himself in 2003, is up against Datsyuk and Philadelphia's Mike Richards for the Selke, which goes to the league's top defensive forward.
Ovechkin, the game's top young goal-scorer, finished the 2008-09 season with 110 points, including 56 goals, making him the first Capital ever to record a trio of 50-goal seasons. Kesler scored a career-high 59 points in helping lead the Canucks to the Western Conference semifinals.
As for the simulation of their scoring skills Tuesday, however, the highlight came when Ovechkin, skating to the chants of 'Ovi, Ovi, Ovi' from beyond the iron fences, performed his much-maligned 'burning stick' routine after scoring from up close.
After scoring his 50th goal of the season in March, the 23-year-old Caps winger put his stick down on the ice and pretended to warm his hands over it as if it were on fire.
It will look identical when NHL 2K10 is released, patented gold laces and all.
"It was pretty fun to score 50 goals and I tried to celebrate," Ovechkin said. "I don't care what people say, what people think. I say life is good, life is beautiful, I'm enjoying my life."
Ovechkin toyed with the crowd some, bobbing his head to the chants at times and flashing his signature gap-toothed grin before exiting for a night of celebrating his first night out in Vegas with his entourage.
2K's hope with this year's game is that it will become the life of several parties.
"I think people really just want to be able to sit on the couch, grab all their friends, open up a couple of beers and play hockey," said Jason Argent, vice president of marketing for 2K Sports. "And I think that's what we've been able to do.
"That's what gaming's about. That's how social gaming started. We all watched Swingers, right?"
Argent, of course, was referring to the Vince Vaughn flick of the mid-90s, which involved a famous scene in which Vaughn and friends get caught up in a heated game of NHL 94 -- a cult favorite among both hockey and gaming fans -- on Sega Genesis while enjoying a couple of beers before heading out for the night.
The game made NHL star Jeremy Roenick a pop culture icon, thanks to a legendary Vaughn quote from the scene.
So, which virtual player has the edge: NHL 94 Roenick or NHL 2K10 Ovechkin?
"I'm biased, but I've got to go with Ovi," said Argent, who confessed to spending countless hours in his early 20s playing NHL 94. "We're hoping it's the same vibe, but a lot, lot, lot better simulation version. I hope I can have as much fun (with 2K10) as when I played that game."
Sun reporter Ryan Greene can be reached at (702) 948-7844 or at [email protected].