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Searching for Kesler!

NHL 2K11 is out and we spend an afternoon with hockey stars inside a virtual PR machine

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Published 8/25/2010

"Man, walking here was a bad idea," I say to myself, as my sweat makes a mockery of my shirt. I'm trekking from the MT offices to Comerica Park, but I don't really know where to go.

So I walk the perimeter of the ballpark searching for a tour bus emblazoned with images of hockey players. See, Wii exclusive NHL 2K11 is out Aug. 24, and 2K Sports arranged a multicity tour allowing fans and press to try out the new game, and meet some NHL stars. The Detroit stop is particularly special, since the game's cover boy, Ryan Kesler, of the Vancouver Canucks, hails from around here. So when I received an invite to interview him, and get a hands-on game preview, there was no reason not to. Well, other than the fact I've never done a face-to-face interview before, and until yesterday, I'd no idea who the hell Ryan Kesler was.

I finally reach my destination, and after a few minutes of standing around, I'm "cleared" to enter the 2K sports bus. Thankful to be out of the heat, I'm greeted by this guy Mike, a genial sort, from 2K Sports. After pleasantries, Mike introduces me to some of the NHL players on hand. He introduces me to Tampa Bay Lightning center, Steve Stamkos, only he isn't Steve Stamkos, he's Steve Ott from the Dallas Stars. It's like that.

Mike then (correctly) introduces me to LA King Jack Johnson, and Chicago Blackhawk Marty Turco, all of whom have local hockey ties, and appear to be enjoying themselves on the bus. For some reason, Kesler is nowhere to be found.

I soon notice I'm the only person on the bus who is neither a 2k employee nor a professional hockey player. A little restless, I head back outside to get a little hands-on with the game.

There, a female event worker assists in navigating the menus, telling a bit of the game's background. Once I choose the Red Wings, rivalries rear, as she gently ribs my choice, revealing she's originally from Denver. I make it a point to choose to play against the Avalanche. While the controls are initially confusing, controlling your player quickly makes sense and works well. The Wii motion controls allow for some interesting gameplay options, such as waggling the Wiimote to deke your opponent. It doesn't help much because within minutes I'm down 2-0. She smiles and steps off to assist another group. I can't help but feel like I've let down the city of Detroit. Plus, I got beat by a girl.

I re-enter the bus after the crushing defeat. I've been here nearly an hour, and my set interview time is passed. Mike tells me Ryan's in the rear of the bus, and I'm free to interview him. I walk back and see a tall man, sprawled on the couch, with a water bottle in hand. That's Kesler. He sits up and we spend a few minutes conversing, but he looks like he's about to keel over. He says he's got a massive headache. Maybe he's hungover? Either way, he's a good sport and fields questions.

MT: You're from Livonia right? So do you spend a lot of time in the city?

Kesler: A little bit, I've been to some Tiger games, and Lions games. I'd go to some Wings games way back in the day, but usually when I come down it's to the casinos.

MT: Are you on this RV the entire way?

Kesler: No, there are a few different players on the bus, for me I'm doing Vegas and LA, Vancouver start, I'm here in Detroit and I finish it off in New York, but there've been a lot of players at the various stops on the tour.

MT: How's the off-season going for you?

Kesler: It's winding down quick, I'm just getting back to skating now, but I've been working out all summer so it's been really busy.

MT: So do you spend the entire year out in Vancouver?

Kesler: No I have a place here during the off-season. During the season I'm out in Vancouver, but as soon as the season's over I head back home and spend my time here.

MT: Last question. Since you grace the game's cover, you've had time to play it. Plenty of times you'll hear pros complain about how their in-game version doesn't stack up to the real deal. So how do you think 2K11 treated you?

Kesler: I like it, they've done a good job, and I think they gave me a little favoritism, so I'm happy.

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