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So I finally found the Xbox NHL 2004 Joe Sakic variant (sort of)

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I recently made this post on r/originalxbox on reddit and wanted to find another place to share my story of the search for the missing North American NHL 2004 Sakic cover variant. I'll past the story from reddit here and add some new commentary at the bottom of the post:

I collect hockey games. No. I collect hockey games OBSESSIVELY. I have made it a goal to have one of every cover variant for every console ever made - not just every game. Of course, EA released a bunch of their NHL series games with variant covers depending on the country of release (Sweden, Finland, Switzerland and Czech Republic regularly got different athletes on the front, as well as a sprinkling of other nations here and there)

Eight years ago I posted this to r/xbox asking if anyone could help prove the existence of the NHL 2004 Xbox cover featuring Joe Sakic. EA originally released NHL 2004 with Dany Heatley on the cover. Six days after the release of the game, Heatley was driving recklessly and caused an accident which eventually led to the death of teammate Dan Synder. In response, EA appointed Joe Sakic as the new cover athlete.

To this day the great majority of used copies of NHL 2004 out there have the Heatley cover. The PS2 Sakic cover is the most common of the Sakic covers and generally commands a slight uptick for PS2 collectors (but not much). The Gamecube Sakic is much harder to find (I made a post five years ago on r/Gamecube about my copy. Another poster talks about their copy here). Most of the time the Gamecube Sakic cover is found in Canada. There is also a PC version with the embossed "big box" cover that is VERY difficult to track down as well.

The North American Xbox Sakic cover has remained elusive to this day (as far as I know). In Europe, the Sakic Xbox cover exists. It is quite rare, but it is out there. I own a copy that I imported from the Netherlands and I've also seen one in Germany with the gaudy USK rating emblem on it).

Maybe I missed an auction or two over the years? Unlikely, I have saved ' "NHL 2004" xbox ' as a search in ebay AT LEAST since the time of my post eight years ago and check ebay religiously. I've never seen the cover pop up for the NTSC/North American version. I know others of others who have or had followed the game on various reselling sites. None has ever came up. I even reached out to EA employees that would have worked on production and publication of the game and they either couldn't recollect or give any real answer that helped.

However, in the last year I decided to start looking at the Canadian copy a little closer (since the Gamecube copy exists mostly/only in Canada, I figured it was my best bet). I discovered something remarkable. There are apparently versions of NHL 2004 with the manual being entirely in French - even if the box itself has no French language on it. I imagine these games were likely originally sold by vendors in Quebec - but I have no idea (I haven't seen one sealed with a notice of it being a French language copy). I'd keep opening "NHL 2004" listings on ebay originating from Canada and checking each picture to see if manuals were shown. Then it happened. Staring back at me was Joe Sakic and the ESRB rating on a freakin' manual.

I own the only two copies I've seen - one manual (scanned here) that is far cleaner than the other. My working theory is EA simply didn't provide the resources (for whatever reason) for an NTSC cover update for the likely lower-selling Xbox version but somehow refreshed the French language manual for the Quebec audience. An odd coincidence is that a lot of hearsay points the Gamecube Sakic cover originating in that same region of Canada (though I've seen one for sale in Vancouver). Though I can't be sure a Sakic cover was released in France (perhaps?) maybe someone in EA had easy access to the resources for manual production due to one already having been produced for the overseas market? Why that wouldn't apply to the cover is beyond me. Another farfetched thought: Could there be some overlap in production due to the nearby French territory of St. Pierre and Miquelon? Likely not, anyone selling games on that island (if they even were) would have been selling PAL copies.

My heart says this is it. There is no North American Sakic cover, just this quirky little manual that snuck into some Quebecois gamers cases. Perhaps I'm wrong - though at this point I might even have a hard time believing a Sakic cover not being a repro. It is crazy how a silly annual sports title variant is potentially one of the rarest video game "things" in existence. For someone that has paid WAY too much attention to this I'd actually be interested in getting the real story from someone behind-the-scenes on this, but I doubt we ever will.

Hopefully you all enjoyed this little read and maybe this post will help shine some light on it and uncover another wrinkle in this mystery.

The picture with the original reddit post is a scan I made of the manual. Like I said I have two copies of the manual, one loose and one with the game (with a Heatley cover). The one that came with the game is pretty dirty and wrinkled. These are the only two copies I've ever seen online. 

Curious if anyone here has come across these or can add any information. I really don't think a true Sakic cover variant exists except for PAL territories (and it is quite rare there too, "probably" as rare as the Gamecube variant) 



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