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Amid Lockout, Ohio NHL Fans Cheer Virtual Team


The National Hockey League was supposed to launch its new season a week and a half ago, but a labor dispute has put that on hold. Still, that didn't stop fans of the Blue Jackets, based in Columbus, Ohio, from piling into a local bar last Friday to watch their team's home opener. Without a real game to watch, Michael Darr(ph), co-owner of Our Bar in Columbus, decided to show a video game simulation instead.

He did it using NHL '13 for Xbox. To start things off right, Darr even brought in the man who would have sung the National Anthem at the real game.

MICHAEL DARR: He actually sang both anthems because we were playing a Canadian team, Vancouver Canucks that night, so he had to sing both the Canadian anthem and the National Anthem.

BLOCK: And Mike Darr didn't stop there. The Blue Jackets actual play-by-play announcers showed up to call the fake game.

GEORGE MATTHEWS: The Jackets would come back to score a couple to tie it 6-6 before losing on a redirection 50-footer off a high fly area for Vancouver to win it 7-6.

BLOCK: That's George Matthews who calls Blue Jackets games for the radio. He says calling Friday's game presented a few challenges.

MATTHEWS: On the video side, many of the players look alike and you have to try to identify them through numbers rather than, you know, a particular type of style of player.

BLOCK: But the bar owner, Mike Darr, says the fans didn't seem to mind.

DARR: Just to be able to do something fun to get everyone together and just enjoy a night rooting on, unfortunately, a computer animated hockey players, but not knowing what the outcome would be was a lot of fun.

BLOCK: A lot of fun, even though the Blue Jackets lost. Well, in case the NHL lockout drags on, announcer George Matthews has some advice for the simulated Blue Jackets.

MATTHEWS: I think they ought to play a little tighter defensively inside their blue line from what we've seen here on Friday night.

BLOCK: Matthews and Darr say they're open to hosting more simulated games, but both hope a real agreement comes soon so they don't have to. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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