A look back at the EA Sports NHL 20 BCHL playoffs simulation


Despite the COVID-19 pandemic canceling the 2020 BC Hockey League playoffs, they lived on as a simulation. The league recruited players from each remaining BCHL team and then recreated each team in NHL 20 using available in-game assets.

This example isn’t the first time sports simulation games have been used like this. For years, people used the Madden NFL games to predict the Super Bowl winners, with varying levels of accuracy.

Because of the pandemic, we didn’t see BCHL champions crowned in 2020 or 2021. This simulation was a fun way for the players, and fans, to see what could have happened.

Just over a year later, with a season of normalcy seemingly on the horizon, let’s reminisce about what happened when the Fred Page Cup playoffs were completed on a video game console rather than on the ice. 

To recap this, all surviving teams involved are listed and all the players who represented those teams in the simulations.

Actual, real-life series played

Before getting to the virtual games, I want to recap the events of the first round of the Fred Page Cup playoffs as it was the only one completed before everything got shut down in March 2020.

On Vancouver Island, the Nanaimo Clippers swept the Alberni Valley Bulldogs to advance. Meanwhile, the Cowichan Valley Capitals defeated the Powell River Kings in five games.

In the Mainland Division, the Coquitlam Express swept the Langley Rivermen to advance and the Surrey Eagles defeated the Chilliwack Chiefs in seven games.

In the Interior, Penticton topped West Kelowna in five games and the Vernon Vipers dispatched the Wenatchee Wild, also in five games.

As well, two wild card teams faced a pair of Interior Division teams. The Prince George Spruce Kings, who played in the Mainland Division, were swept by the Trail Smoke Eaters. The Salmon Arm Silverbacks also dumped the Victoria Grizzlies in four games.

Round two

In the Mainland Division on EA Sports NHL 20, the Eagles met the Express. Surrey’s Hassan Akl faced off with Joe Howe of Coquitlam. The Express won the series in seven games.

On Vancouver Island, the Nanaimo, represented by Josh Kagan, took on Cowichan Valley, which was played by Nolan Barrett. The Capitals eliminated the Clippers in six games.

In the first matchup in the Interior, Salmon Arm faced Trail with Kent Johnson of the Smoke Eaters against Ethan Langenegger of the Silverbacks. The Backs defeated the Smokies in six games.

South of Salmon Arm, the Vipers renewed their rivalry with the Vees. Vernon’s Trey Taylor faced off with Penticton’s Conner Hutchison. Taylor and the Vipers came out on top in seven games.

Round three and the final

With the semi-finals set, only four teams remained. For the first semi-final, Barrett’s Capitals faced Howe’s Express. Meanwhile, Langenegger’s Silverbacks tackled Taylor’s Vipers.

In the Vipers-Silverbacks series, Salmon Arm won in six games. For the Capitals-Express series, Cowichan Valley was victorious in seven games.

All that remained was the BCHL finals between the Silverbacks and Capitals. For the final series, Matt Crasa replaced Barrett as the Capitals representative. In the end, Salmon Arm eliminated Cowichan Valley and clinched the virtual Fred Page Cup for 2020.

Closing notes

A lot of effort went into this simulation by the BCHL and its teams last year. The NHL 20 create-a-team feature is deep and complex. If you know how, you can recreate every present BCHL jersey with that feature, but it goes beyond that, as every player on these rosters had to be created from scratch as well.

The BCHL YouTube page has videos on every series. They even provided play-by-play from the local broadcasters for these games to enhance the experience.

Despite not having playoffs for 2020 or 2021, it looks more and more like they will return in 2022. We are slowly emerging from the pandemic and returning to normal.

This series was a fun exercise for fans who missed watching live hockey during the pandemic and it lives on YouTube to revisit in the years to come.