The first version of the game was released in August 1991 in North America for the Sega Genesis. It was developed by Park Place Productions, North America's largest independent development company owned by Michael Knox and Troy Lyndon. This version of NHL Hockey is the first game to include the EA Sports logo. It is considered the most realistic hockey game of its time.[weasel words] The game uses a vertical top-down view, which was unique at the time since most previous hockey games used a horizontal or side-on view. It also features a National Hockey League license, so all of the league's team names and logos are used. However, lack of a license from the National Hockey League Players' Association NHLPA results in all players being referred to by their numbers rather than names. Although the game has all of the NHL teams that existed at the time, the only competition present in the game is the Playoffs, decided in either one or seven matches.
Outside of North America the game was released as EA Hockey and features international teams and no NHL license.
A component of the game which added to the game-play is the fact that fights break out in the event of a bad body check. Players fight with a computer player (or a friend in 2 player mode) which continues until one player falls down, or until approximately thirty seconds has passed and normal gameplay resumes. During the fights the crowd cheers and team mates and officials stand in close proximity. No advantage or disadvantage is gained from winning or losing a fight.
Other platforms: Though there are DOS and Game Gear games titled "NHL Hockey", these versions are technically not the same as this original Mega Drive/Genesis version, despite the same title. While the other sequential games across all platforms featured a year in the name (i.e. NHL '94, NHL 95, etc...) the original DOS and Game Gear versions did not, being simply titled "NHL Hockey". The first PC/DOS version was released in 1993, which is actually equivalent to NHL '94 on the Mega Drive/Genesis. The Game Gear version was released in 1995, based on NHL 95.