Game Face

Lexi Peters is a 14-year-old who really has her head in the game.

The video game, that is.

Peters’ face is now the default model for female hockey players in the new NHL video game by EA Games. It’s the first time in the series that the company has ever put virtual women on the virtual ice.

“It’s a once in a lifetime experience for anybody,” series producer David Littman told the Tonawanda News after Peters’ letter to the company hit paydirt. A school hockey player herself, she had been frustrated that her brother could put a digital version of himself in the game, but she and her friends couldn’t.

“We wanted girls,” she said.

Now, I know some purists may be a little less than happy. (For the record, there has been one woman in hockey, goalie Manon Rheaume, who played for Tampa Bay in the preseason.) But let’s get serious.

Video game hockey needs no separate locker rooms.

Video game hockey players draw no sexual harassment lawsuits.

Video game hockey is, in fact, a creation of the imagination. A grown-up “Let’s Pretend” where someone can say: “If I were the coach/ If I were the star/ If I could be Matt Duchene for just one game….”

In fact, I’ll go a step further. Professional sports in general is an imaginary passion.

Most of us will never suit up for the Broncos or the Avalanche or the Rockies. In 99.99 percent of cases, our lives will go on the same as ever whether the Nuggets make the playoffs or camp out in the cellar. It’s a game, here today, gone tomorrow – just like many of the players these days.

And for a fan, everything I’ve just said is heresy.

Imagination and passion make every contest a milestone, every controversy a crisis. I suspect there’s more people out there who care about Tim Tebow versus Kyle Orton than did about Michael Bennett and Ken Buck a little while back. I mean, Bennett may be a U.S. Senator, but can he get 13 yards for the first down out of the shotgun?

They’re our players, despite every piece of evidence to the contrary. Through them, we are a piece of some of the best players in the world, somehow belonging even if we can’t do a single sit-up.

Given all that … and given the growing number of girls’ and womens’ teams out there, right down to that fantastic Olympic team … is it any wonder that women want to be part of it, too?

If a video game, a work of imagination depicting a work of imagination, can satisfy that, what’s the harm? Sure, there aren’t any women in the NHL now. But if you’re going to stick to strict realism, you might as well throw out player-created characters all together, throw out trades, throw out any game record that gives the Avalanche more than 30 wins.

Throw out the “game” part of the game, in other words. At that point, you might as well buy a DVD.

And who knows? One day, real hockey may again catch up to its mirror image. It might even be Peters who does it.

After all, she’s already won one faceoff.