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AJ's Smashfest Experience

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January 3rd, 2015 was a beautiful day in Sacramento, nearly 60 degrees Fahrenheit and yet I sit at my computer running late for my footgolf tee time while I desperately try to get my airplane tickets settled for my trip next weekend. Where does a person from Sacramento go to for winter vacation? Florida? Hawaii? Mexico? All reasonable answers as they are among the few places with better winter weather than Sacramento. But you’d be dead wrong, I’m going to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan where the temperature is a balmy -10 for a high. What the hell have I gotten myself into?

Allow me to explain, I’m an NHL ’94 junkie that grew up playing the genesis version ever since the game was released in 1993. Despite the Saskatoon Smashfest being an exclusively SNES event, I had no hesitation about attending. How could I when this was the man setting the whole thing up?


My plane left Sacramento at 5 pm Friday night and after a stop in San Francisco I was scheduled to be in Calgary just before midnight. My trip got off to a smooth enough start as I landed in SF on time and in one piece. Unfortunately, the plane to be used for my trip to Calgary was delayed on the east coast for nearly 3 hours and I didn’t arrive in Calgary until 1:30 am Saturday morning. I sped my way to customs and approached the guard where he dutifully asked me what my purpose in the country was. “I’m here for a hockey tournament in Saskatoon, sir.” To Canadians this makes total sense. A hockey tournament, could I be doing anything more Canadian? In America such a response would cause one to be shuffled off to the side and interrogated through the small hours of the night.

Perhaps you’ve been doing some math in your head now and you’re trying to figure out how I’m getting from Calgary to Saskatoon for a tournament that starts in 16 hours. Allow me to introduce Mikey McBryan, TV star, creator of the documentary Pixelated Heroes, and good ‘ol Canadian boy. He, his cameraman Kaetyn, and a lovely Canadian female pick me up and shuffle me off to Mikey’s place in Calgary. After I’m greeted by my welcoming party, Calgary decides to greet me and this is what I get.

I’ve lived in California my whole life and I’ve been to Canada once over 10 years ago, British Columbia to be exact and I’ve been made aware that B.C. doesn’t really count. Holy hell what have I gotten myself into? An SNES tournament that includes 12 hours of travel to play on the North Pole!? Not to worry though, within an hour of touching down in Canada I’m already the recipient of some incredible Canadian

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We stay up past 3 am playing 94 on both systems and talking shop about all things 94, the tournament, and the trip ahead of us tomorrow. Which oh by the way we leave at 7 a.m., hope you enjoy that 2+ hours of sleep AJ.

Morning comes and we pull out the driveway at about 7 am and I notice something a bit funky. The sun isn’t up, not even close, it’s still pitch black. My brain is unable to compute such matters and I only dive further into the climate shock of the Canadian prairies. A few hours into our drive I discover that the darkness wasn’t hiding much.


Roughly 4 hours later we cross over into Saskatchewan, there is no sign on the side of the highway welcoming anyone to the province. There are just random Saskatchewan Rough Rider logos plastered on barns, flags, and houses along with grocery stores being littered with Rough Rider merchandise to be purchased. Subtlety does not exist for Rough Rider fans.

We arrive in Saskatoon safely enough and despite the -20 temperature we are in high spirits in anticipation of the tournament which will be happening in a few hours. Mikey and Kaetyn decide to do grown up stuff and prepare their equipment and game plan for the documentary. Meanwhile I work on my gimmicks, my frame traps, and my option selects.


I have no illusions about my play style, I’m not a legit SNES player. Despite my brief albeit successful SNES career, I do not have a specific set of skills in order to carry me to the title. I will rely on frustrating the opponent into beating themselves as I play the game like no other SNES player out there.

After a couple of hours of practice we load up all the equipment and head over to the spot where the tournament is held. There to greet us is the man behind the most interesting man in the world avatar. Halifax lived up to everything his avatar stands for when he said “Your drinks are on me bud.” The Canadian hospitality strikes again.

Slowly guys start funneling into the tournament and I get to learn more of the faces behind the avatars I’ve been looking at all these years. All in all we have 13 amazing buds who love NHL ’94 as much as I do…and I can’t wait to rain on their parade as I attempt to bring this glorious piece of hardware back to America.


My first match of the tournament was against TylerDeanHill, being one of the local Saskatoon killers; he definitely had the familiarity of home ice on his side. I was able to sneak a few glances during the pre-tournament exhibitions and I knew I was going to be in for a legit match as this guy had some offensive talent. Fortunately I was able to get out ahead early and I withstood the constant comeback attempts in a back and forth 8-5 game.

My next match turned out to be against Mikey who has provided me with a ride and a room and is a fellow GENS guy. I’m slightly conflicted on what to do before the match as I would like to get a ride home to Calgary after the tournament. My love for America overrides all though as I withstand Mikey’s best efforts in a 9-1 game.

With that win I buy myself a little time and I decide to go order some food. Now I’ve already got a bit of a reputation with the bartender as I had purchased something earlier with American money. Here I am now ordering a sandwich with fries and she offers me gravy as a side. The little hamster in my head stops running on his wheel and asks “WTF? GRAVY!?” The waitress quickly recants and asks if I would like ketchup instead and I quickly reply that I want the gravy, give me the gravy! (Yes, I’ve got a good buzz going on from the free beers being handed out to me by this point) A few minutes later this is what I’m presented with.


Again, the hamster in my head is unable to work through this problem himself. The gravy is presented in a bowl that is typically used for Au jus sauce when ordering a French Dip in America. So I pull the waitress over to the side and explain to her that yes, I am an American and I am indeed as stupid as I look. Can you please tell me if the gravy is for my sandwich or the fries? She giggles (at me I presume) and informs me that the gravy is for the fries. She again offers me ketchup, trying to give me an escape route but I don’t take her up on it. She walks off, probably laughing at me again as I dig into my fries with gravy. All I can say is good gravy! Gravy with fries > ketchup with fries. Why hasn’t America figured this out yet?

After I load up on food I realize I’m about to play in Winner’s semis against big daddy Halifax. I immediately cease drinking at this point and try to focus on a game plan. When I don’t possess the skill of my opponent I tend to resort to the Eddy Guerrero school of thought. Lie, steal, cheat. This didn’t seem appropriate in this circumstance and I proceeded to play my worst game of the tournament (not a bad game by any means) and lost in a 6-4 battle dropping me to losers bracket. After this tough result, I decide I go back to drinking to recapture the lost mojo.

Considering the jet lag, the lack of sleep, the climate shock, and the SNES I figured I was still sitting in good shape at 2-1. That was simply not the case as I sat down next to the guy in the “jacket” (stheads) for my losers bracket game. This is my third game out of four facing one of the Saskatoon killers, and this is arguably the biggest killer of them all. In an absolute slug fest game I manage to force overtime with just a couple minutes left in the 3rd. I go into overtime on the powerplay and promptly give up a shorthanded goal to Steve Yzerman to seal the deal and send me to losers-loser bracket. I think this was the best game I played in the entire tournament and I lost to a great player, no shame in any such result as that.

Fighting for my tournament life I face Logan, a fellow GENS guy who was the one to actually help introduce me SNES all so many years ago. We decided to make things a bit interesting for our game, he put Tony Twist at center and I put Rob Ray at center in our elimination match. I extracted a little revenge from my classic 2007 SNES playoff loss to Logan as Ray proved to be the superior man with a 5 goal game in a 6-2 win.

Games come fast and hard in the losers-loser bracket and I see TylerDeanHall again. In another offensive battle I managed to get TylerDeanHall in a vortex during the 2nd period as I scored 8 or 9 goals in the frame en route to a 14-6 win. Tyler is by no means a slouch, he is a very skilled player and this performance had me riding a huge wave of confidence thinking that I could indeed overcome the odds and bring the cup back to America.

The next match was for the last spot in the top 4 of the tournament where I played Edmonton native and SNES online veteran matticefire. The drinks were flowing freely through me and the confidence was surging at this point as I was able to set up a stifling defense and score when needed. I got out ahead quickly and then grinded out a 7-2 win to move into top 4.

Three of the top four included the Saskatoon Killers (Thejacket, Stheads, and Halifax) and me, the American Dream. I draw Stheads again in another elimination match. I get to pick the matchup we have and I figure the only chance I have to beat him is to screw with his comfort level. I decide to go with Ottawa vs. Anaheim. Stheads is taken aback by this and after much deliberation decides on Anaheim. Until earlier in the hotel room, I had never played as Anaheim or Ottawa on the SNES version. I did some experimenting with them just in case a scenario like this had popped up and I felt comfortable with either team although I did prefer Anaheim. In an absolute beauty of a game that was a knock out drag down affair Stheads pulled off another close victory as he scored the winner with just over a minute left and took the game down 4-3. Ending mine and all of Americas hopes in bringing home the chalice.

After being relegated to the sideline, I was able to watch the rest of the tournament which ended in incredible fashion with Stheads winning his last 4 games and saving his best for last by mounting an impossible 3rd period comeback in the championship game. A fantastic ending to an incredible event.

After the tournament, Mikey, Kaetyn, Halifax, CJ, and myself hightailed it back to the hotel where we did some post tournament interviews from 230 am until after 5 am. My interview took place at roughly 430 am where still slightly inebriated I assuredly made a jack ass of myself and emphatically created the perfect poster for my next Smashfest appearance.


We slipped into bed at about 6 am Sunday morning; there was no rest for the weary as we were up by 9 in order to catch my flight in Calgary at 7 pm. It is safe to say I slept less on this trip than I do on my trips to Vegas. It was entirely worth it though, the event was an absolute blast, the documentary is legit and there is a lot of love going into it on the side of Mikey and Kaetyn and everyone else involved in the project. I met a lot of incredible people which I hope to see again at the next installment. I probably never shut my mouth in any of the conversations (blame it on the liquor) and I apologize for that. I’ll be better next time, I promise. Big ups to Halifax, CJ, Mikey, Kaetyn, Stheads, and everyone else involved with the event. Without them and their incredible hospitality I would have never been able to attend this tournament and be a part of the documentary. Until next time Saskatoon.


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This documentary is looking awesome.

Great write up AJ. Really got a feel for what that trip might have been like had any of us got the same hair brain idea to run off to the abyss for that tourney as well!! I made a New Year's trip to Iceland once, and totally related to that part about waking up w/ no sun & frigid temps and nothing around!

Also, all tournaments with alcohol available probably end with the BEST drinkers finding a way to the top of the board by the end :)

Again, that looked like a slam dunk, great set up, great videos, great write up. Thanks for the entertainment guys.

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TIL: Canadian Prairies = Planet Hoth


I laughed at this pic when I first saw it....only now did I notice Aj in the cockpit. LOL.

I don't think there's anyone on this site more creative than clockwise...the man is a comedic genius.

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Imagine what the hamster would have done if AJ'd been offered this:


when i used to travel for work i was in ottawa and i was told a story that you have to be careful how you pronounce 'poutin' as I was told you could be ordering a working girl instead of fries with gravy and cheese :)

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when i used to travel for work i was in ottawa and i was told a story that you have to be careful how you pronounce 'poutin' as I was told you could be ordering a working girl instead of fries with gravy and cheese :)

Hehe, yes, that's true. Poutine (the food) is pronounced similar to "poo-teen". However, because in Ottawa you have a lot of people who took French in school but didn't really master it, sometimes they will try to pronounce it so it ends like the French word "matin", which means "morning" and is pronounced like "ma-tai(n)" (the n is subtle, not quite silent). Unfortunately, this turns poutine into "putain", which means "wh*re". Not call girl, not prostitute, not lady of the night, not working girl. Double-you, aitch, oh, are, ee. The double-u bomb.

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