I've been typing up notes over the last few days as I can to try and capture my thoughts as fresh as I can, so here they are!
First, many thanks to @King of 94' WI for organizing this event. He has been a great member of this community, embracing the game, helping others during classic, as well as stepping up his own level of play in a relatively short period of time. Putting together an event like this is no small task -- getting a location, procuring the equipment, promoting, figuring out structure, setting up, taking down, etc. requires a lot of work. Trojan was relentless in his promotions, even creating a promo video (!), and ran a wonderful tournament. Somewhere during that time, he welcomed another baby to his family! Most people can barely function in life after that, so major stick tap for all those months of work!
The BEST part of any of these live tournaments is meeting up/hanging out with all the guys that I've come to know over the years, and meeting some people for the first time. After every tournament, it's always something I wish I had more time to do! Some quick shout outs to these guys, in the order that I remember running into them:
@IAmFleury'sHipCheck - One of the original '94 legends (GDL 02 champ!) that truly has a love and passion for this game and community. He was gracious enough to drive me 2 mins away to McDonald's for a late meal when I arrived (McD's closed at 10pm, but drive-thru was open until 11pm), and picked up a sack of cheeseburgers for everyone else who was playing the Friday Tecmo tourney/'94 exis. He hooked up a Genesis in his room for late night exis, lent us the Genesis the next night for MOAR exis, gave me a protective case for my '94 sealed copy (thanks again), and generally played until he could no longer keep his eyes open! I was glad we got to play some exis, and at least one tournament game, but he definitely got the draw from hell in the Genesis tournament (explained later).
@Arda Ocal - Our celebrity retro video game fan, Arda really adds a lot of fun and character to these events, promotes and creates excitement all day. Simply can't say enough about what he does for this community, and on top of all of that, he's just an awesome dude to hang out with! He may have been a part of establishing a 4 man record fro NHL'96...TBD.
@CoachMac - So happy Coach made it out to Green Bay for the event. As usual he dropped some old school hockey knowledge on everyone, crushed it at '94, was amazing doing commentary, and just overall a blast to hang out with.
@angryjay93 - Doesn't get any better than this guy competing. The most traveled '94 player made it out again to defend his KO'94 WI title. From the "storybook" mode, he was the guy I wanted to play as he knocked me out in Vegas, but overall I just enjoy that level of competition that he brings. I wish I had gotten some more time to play exis and talk, but the days go by so quickly!
@RetroSportsGamer - Tom, aka the RetroSportsGamer. Was great to meet you in person, and absolutely loved the stream you had set up for the tournament (looking forward to watching more). I encourage all to subscribe to his YouTube channel, he's keeping tabs on the retro scene! - The Retro Sports Gamer (YouTube link)
@jer_33- Missed this guy at Vegas, so was awesome to catch up here in WI. Talked hockey, curling, Canada, and got to team up to go undefeated in 2v2 at night! We also may have been a part of establishing a 4 man record for NHL'96...TBD.
@corbettkb - Texas Pachyderm! He was my main exi opponent going into the tournament and knew how dangerous he could be. Aside from '94 related talk (which is always great with fellow enthusiasts), it was just fun to hang out, drink some Spotted Cow beer, shoot the breeze.
@Coffey - Rocking the Pat Verbeek Detroit Red Wings jersey, it was great to hang out and chat. Nice that you were able to just be a player/spectator for the first time without having to worry about streaming/production equipment! Amazing insights to Twin Galaxies history, and the fact that it was HE who started this whole '94 world record recognition on this site from this post. I'm looking forward to watching the new stream location for Settle It On The Screen (you should all check it out): https://www.twitch.tv/settleitonthescreen
@Kevin Cabarello - Not exactly a '94 member specifically, Kevin is just a retro gamer who has been at all these events. First got to hang out with Kevin in Vegas and it was nice to see him again here!
@smozoma - One of my personal '94 heroes, I was happy to see him make the trip from Canada for this event. Just like the rest of the guys I mentioned, I always appreciate the time hanging out during these events and rooting for my friends to win. Some amazing games vs AJ (both in SNES and Genesis), it was fun to watch.
@Tyler Votaw - Turns out I played a test game with him a while back and now he's here for the '94 tournament! Was great to meet you and play some great '94 games all weekend. Also rocked some 2v2 and he may have been part of establishing a 4 man record for NHL'96...TBD.
@LeifErikson - Sooo cool for Leif to bring that awesome NHL'94 themed cabinet to the tournament! I didn't even realize at first that the guy I was talking to wearing the '96 Penguins jersey was you! Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to play some exis or tournament matches against you, but I DID have to play Leif Jr. in my Genesis Round Robin play! Special shout out to Leif jr, who stopped what was supposed to be my 5th goal with an amazing manual goalie save in the 3rd, to keep me at 4-0! Kid is 10, btw; an awesome little dude who seemed to really be enjoying himself all day. Great again to see you guys there, I hope to be able to meet up again one day.
THE REST - Great crowd overall! Nice to meet Moe Man and TheShield specifically, local players better known for their Tecmo prowess, but'94 players as well. We got to enjoy some cold ones after the festivities at the nearby sports bar.
Okay...now the actual tournament.
Loved the room full of CRT setups, there was enough systems to go around and keep things moving. @King of 94' WI kicking it off with the Canada and US national anthems was pretty damn cool. And Dan Rafferty playing the organ throughout the day was an 11 out of 10. Can't say enough how amazing that was. The music choices were fantastic, and if you were playing on the streamed game, Dan would do the Dragnet music on a penalty, etc. He was also having a good time, and it just created an amazing atmosphere for the opening of the games.
Going into the SNES bracket, we knew none of the top SNES players were able to make the tournament (Bob K, Annatar, Jamil, etc) and it was likely going to be AJ and me going deep as we had the most SNES experience out of the group. I had gotten pretty good at SNES leading up to the Vegas tournament in September and I took over a team in Fall Classic to give me some more reps against the big dogs. Still, you never knew what was going to happen since a lot of Genesis skills transfer to SNES. Group play was a nice way to break the ice, but since we all made the brackets, I don't think much changed from group play to brackets. My bracket run was pretty uneventful to the finals (no disrespect to others). I did enjoy the semifinals vs Trojan when I ended up with the NJ Devils, put in Ken Daneyko, and had Arda and CoachMac doing the play by play. I got to play against Ken Daneyko in the Prudential Center on the jumbotron back in December thanks to Arda, so this was fun to put him in the game. AND he made the last two game winning checks to stave off Trojan's Montreal attack! Videos can be found here via the links that @jer_33 posted above.
The big upset in the SNES bracket was smozoma taking out AngryJay93 in the quarterfinals. It went down to game 03 in a best of 03, Smozoma was leading by one goal in the 3rd period when AJ ties it with ONE SECOND LEFT! An amazing feat to tie the game. Smozoma keeps his composure and wins it in OT to complete the upset. Smozoma also took out corbettkb in the semis to face me in the finals. I had smozoma’s number on defense in our series, and with a little bit of luck, kept him scoreless in our two games to win the SNES championship. It felt great to win the tourney, but the focus was still on winning the Genesis brackets.
Given the SNES tournament took longer than anticipated, we went straight into the Genesis tournament. We also had some unexpected drops, so in an attempt to quickly re-seed everybody, Trojan ran a 3 game swiss-style round robin. I think the intention was good, but ended up with some different-than-expected seeds.
My first match was against EA! Having just played about 4-5 hours of SNES, EA was one of the last guys I wanted to play my first Genesis match against. Knowing that it was just for seeding purposes (can’t be eliminated) made me feel slightly better, but it was very tough. We played back and forth for 2 periods, and I pulled away slightly in the 3rd to win by 2. I think the final was something crazy like 8-6 or 9-7. We picked Vancouver Calgary, I believe.
My 2nd swiss opponent was none other than CoachMac! Another ‘94 veteran who (by his own admission) was playing better than ever. I won the toss and chose New York Islanders and Washington Capitals. Coach decides to roll with the Capitals. After about 1 minute of play I realize that I have a major cold team/momentum/disadvantage/whatever going and it doesn’t seem to be changing. I went down 2-0 early and said “I’m probably not going to win this game”. Coach was playing extremely patient, not making any silly mistakes with the goalie. I couldn’t complete a pass to Hogue, and Turgeon’s slappers looked like he was using a foam stick to shoot the puck, so I continued struggling go get anything going. If I remember correctly, we were in the 3rd period knotted up at 5, when Coach wristed one past Healy to go up by 1 with about 1 minute left. I threw everything I had at the end, but Coach held me off to go 2-0 in his swiss RR and I was now 1-1, with a low goal differential.
I knew then that the brackets were going to be strange, with me going 1-1 and EA (likely) 1-1 as well. My 3rd and final opponent was Brock, aka LeifErikson jr, who was 10 years old. I wanted to win 5-0, and before I knew it we were in the 3rd period with about a minute to go and I was up only 4-0 (we had a good conversation about RoBlox). I thought I had a sure one-timer, but he manuals to make quite a great save! It was truly fun to play, and fun to chat with him, I sure hope he enjoyed his time at the tourney.
SO, as expected, we had some surprise seeds in the bracket. The first thing I noticed is that I was the 11th seed, playing the number 6 seed, who was none other than CoachMac! Well, having just lost to him a few minutes ago, I knew I needed to wake up quickly! Luckily I downed a large coffee a few minutes ago and it started kicking in. Our games were on the main FB stream, so the replays should be available. Coach, as the higher seed, picked MTL and NYR to start, and I unexpectedly chose MTL, not giving Patrick Roy to Coach. I went up 8-0 and Coach put in the NYR enforcers at the end to knock some of those Canadiens around, but survived and gave Roy the shutout. I chose two high powered teams in Buffalo and Vancouver for game 02, and took out my friend in the round of 16. It never feels good, but Coach always has fun and also put in the May Day line for Buffalo to send a message to those pesky Canucks in the 3rd period! Ggs Coach, I always root for you at these tournies, but two times now I had to be the one to knock you out.
Meanwhile, in the “bracket from hell”, EA ended up as the 16th seed and had to face the #1 seed AJ in the opening round of 16! To me, this should have been a featured matchup, but it wasn’t on the streams. They had started playing their first game during my matchup with Coach, so I caught the end of their first match where AJ won 4-1 using Edmonton vs Philly. I scrambled to get my phone and realized that I could stream directly from my phone on Twitch, so I managed to snag the 3rd period between their 2nd game, AJ using Dallas and EA Calgary.
Really wish we had captured this one more, that was high level ‘94. AJ wins 3-1, the one goal I captured was a deflected pass into a goal, so tight defense on both sides there.
Things were moving quickly, so my next opponent was corbettkb, which was the quarterfinal match. I was anticipating playing him in semis or finals, but the way it shook out we were set to duel now. I had played a bunch of exhibition games online vs corbettkb leading up to the tournament and knew he could win 2 out of 3 against me. He's done it before, and in general he is very tough to beat. He was the higher seed and chose Florida vs San Jose. I took San Jose as I felt they were better skilled than Florida, if ever so slightly. We played a pretty tight match, a bounce here or there and things could have been different, but I took the first game 3-1.
The second game I chose Toronto and Dallas. I was pretty sure corbettkb would take Dallas, and I was okay with that. For some reason I do very well with Toronto, even though I don’t particularly like the makeup of the team. And if he went with Toronto, I was happy to fly with Russ and Modano. I don’t remember the score, but I don’t think it was a particularly close game. We have 1 period on stream before Facebook cutoff at the 4 hour mark, and I was very fortunate to have Potvin make a stop late in the 1st to be up 2-0. Always good games vs. corbettkb, another guy I’d always root for if he wasn’t playing me!
Because things had to move along quickly, I played TheShield in the semifinals at the same time that smozoma was playing AJ. I had wanted to watch that match, especially after smozoma took AJ out in SNES, but was only able to catch the end of the game. Meanwhile TheShield was the higher seed, so he chose Florida vs Ottawa. I generally don’t like these matchups, but went with Florida to have the use of Gord Murphy. Now, TheShield was definitely the beneficiary of the swiss group play, making it to the semis. He’s a great dude, great Tecmo player, but not known for his ‘94. I took game 01 10-2. I chose Boston vs LA for game 02, and TheShield took the Kings. He scored the first goal, but I ended up winning that game 9-2, cruising to the finals.
I caught the end of the smozoma/AJ game 02, where AJ won 4-0 with SJ over Florida. I will watch those matches on The Retro Sports Gamer YouTube stream sometime soon.
Anyway, AJ was battling some food poisoning from something he ate earlier, so I wasn’t entirely sure he was going to be able to play. That dude popped an Advil and said “let’s go”, and we were set for the rematch from Vegas just a few months earlier. I was definitely excited and nervous; AJ was going to be the toughest guy I faced all night, and he beat me 4 straight the last time we met! As usual with a finals game, we had a good crowd around us, with Arda and Trojan calling the game. AJ was the higher seed, so he started things off with a Quebec vs Montreal game. Now, I don’t like either of these teams in particular, but I felt that Montreal was the stronger of the two teams, and I LOVE having Roy in net. However, I really don’t like using Montreal. Plus, nothing is by accident with AJ. Having thought about it for what seemed like forever, I went with Montreal. I honestly don’t remember much of the game. I remember winning, and it was close as always, but not VERY close. I have to go back and watch the game footage. Game 02 I decided to go with Vancouver and Buffalo, same as I did vs. Coach. My thought here was to “out-offense” AJ, if possible. I love both these teams, and was hoping for Vancouver. I don’t think I’ve lost with Vancouver in a live event. However, AJ took Vancouver, which was fine because Buffalo is a pretty high powered team as well and I could cause a lot of damage with Mogs. Shmelik/Bodger would be a good CB defensive pair against those high-flying Canucks, however, I couldn’t take Svoboda out of the game. I had every intention, but when the edit lines came up, I just left him there. Again, I was going to focus more on the offense, so maybe I didn’t want to overthink the defense. All I remember from this game was exchanging goals back and forth all the way through, but never being able to take the lead. I threw the kitchen sink, including making a bunch of ridiculous pass shots to keep up. Most notably one late pass shot by 89 that even I was surprised went in, lol. Nonetheless, AJ “out-offensed” me in this one, winning 7-6.
Coin flip and I win. My strategy from game 02 didn’t necessarily work (or really fail), and I thought it’d be exciting to continue with high powered teams again. This time I go with Chicago and Detroit. I wanted Chicago here, having just played a Classic season with them I was most comfortable, and the best matchup with Chicago in case AJ went with them was Detroit (I wanted to leave Buffalo and Vancouver off as we just used them). AJ immediately picked Detroit, and I was good with that. I LOVE Smith/Chelios/Belfour on D, and figured I could pick apart Cheveldae with JR. I sub in Rutuu for some more defense. I mean, what’s not to love about Chicago lineup? Plus I was home, in case there was some home ice benefits. However, in exchange for that deal I had to arm AJ with Yzerman, Fedorov, Dino, and Coffey. Yikes, here we go.
I remember scoring 2 quick goals early, and I honestly felt like AJ was struggling at the beginning of this game. It’s hard enough mentally to play at a high level, and to be dealing with any stomach issue, no matter how small, will throw you off. Well, any sympathy I felt for AJ stopped once he knocked JR out for the game somewhere early in the 1st period! Chicago’s forwards severely drop off after JR, so I really remember thinking I had to rely on my defense. But damn, AJ had arguably the most potent offense out there! I don’t remember much else until the end of the 2nd period. I was up 5-1, and I remember thinking I have a 4 goal lead with one period to go, with a solid D...just focus. Weeellllllll, AJ had something to say about that. He came out in the 3rd on fire, relentlessly pushing and being much more aggressive on defense, and I remember he scored 3 unanswered early and I was reeling. I wasn’t panicked, because I knew this was possible, but man I felt a whole lot better 2 minutes earlier! The crowd was screaming at the comeback, and it was an electrifying atmosphere. I felt the pressure mounting as I was trying to hold onto my lead, and really unable to muster anything offensively as AJ was stifling my attempts. I scored a late goal to seal the deal at 6-4, in a thrilling finish to a tournament. Always the class act at these live events, AJ let me know “I earned that one”, which I appreciated. I was very happy to win the tournament, obviously, and glad that the games ended up being exciting.
We shutdown rather quickly afterwards as we were over our time at the venue, went to local watering hole to have a few drinks. Ended the night playing some 2v2 at the hotel, watching the gold medal Olympic match OT between Russia/Germany, and finally trying to set a ‘96 4-man world record, which was hilarious because none of knew how to play, stay onside, or score.
I am looking forward to watching some of that footage from both streams and thinking ahead to the next tournament, which will likely be the one I run with Chaos and Evan in Long Island in August. Thanks again for an awesome live tournament, and especially to all the good buds who took the time, money, effort to make it out last weekend. Cheers!