And the NHL 12 Cover Athlete is…

...not Corey Perry.

Joey Davidsonby Joey Davidson

NHL 12 Cover Athlete

Hockey fans get the joke. Corey Perry raked in the Hart Trophy last night at the NHL Awards for the 2010-11 season. The cover athlete for this year's major hockey title from EA actually ranked 11th in votes for the Hart Trophy this year; one of his teammates came in 3rd in the same race. The award is, essentially, the equivalent of an MVP trophy. It's the highest individual award a player can earn in hockey.

But being placed on the packaging of a sporting game in today's modern age, unless it's Madden, is an incredible honor. One that this year's athlete probably didn't even expect.

Your NHL 12 cover athlete? Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

NHL 12 Cover Athlete

EA sent over a press release with news of this year's cover and some reasoning as to why they chose Stamkos.

At just 21 years old, Steven Stamkos is one of the fastest rising stars in the NHL®. He was drafted first overall in 2008 and on February 6 of this year, Stamkos became the first player in the NHL to reach the 40 goal mark in the current season. His skill on the ice earned him the Maurice Richard Trophy, awarded to the player with the most goals in the NHL®, which he shared with Sidney Crosby in 2010. This year, Stamkos was a finalist for the Ted Lindsay Award, presented annually to the “Most Outstanding Player” in the NHL®, as voted by fellow members of the NHLPA. His performance in the 2011 Stanley Cup® Playoffs is another example of his perseverance and skill as he battled his way with the Tampa Bay Lightning to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Bruins.

While I'll totally own up to the fact that Stamkos is a stunning, young center talent that manages to stand out in the game's most competitive league on the planet, the Penguins fan in me died a little bit at news of the reveal. Sidney Crosby (boo, hiss) was in a scoring race with Stamkos at the start of the 2010-11 season. Sid managed to vault past the Bolt and rack up a crap load of points during one of the longest scoring streaks in the NHL's storied history. Then concussions happened. I've been quietly sobbing ever since.

Still, Stamkos is a great pick. And he's also been honored and thrilled by the news. From the same release:

“I’ve grown up playing EA SPORTS NHL videogames so it’s an honor to be chosen for the cover this year,” said Stamkos. “I love how authentic the game is and thought it was great when I scored a one-knee, one-timer goal as myself in NHL 12!” 

NHL 12 - Steven Stamkos

There he is scoring on the Caps. We feel better already.