By J.P. Hoornstra, AllPuck.com

NHL 13 cover

The NHL is arguably the most progressive of the four major North American sports. In some corners, it has to be to in order shed its ‘niche’ label. (Want a team in Florida? Here, have two!) The game of hockey moves fast; why shouldn’t its most popular league?

So try this on for size: Rather than complaining about who’s on the cover of EA Sports’ annual “NHL” video game, go vote for who you want to see. A novel thought.

The process for choosing the “NHL 13” cover boy will go like this:

  • Now – April 11: Round of 60: one representative from each team plus two wild card selections advance*
  • April 12 – April 22: 32-Player Leaderboard: fans vote for their favorite 16 candidates; top 16 vote-getters advance
  • April 24 – June 4: Round of 16: single-elimination playoff bracket decides NHL 13 cover athlete

Online voting is unlimited at NHL.com/CoverVote; tacking the  #NHL13Cover hashtag onto your Twitter posts for good measure is encouraged. Here’s a breakdown of the first-round, team-by-team bracket:

Eastern Conference

Bruins Tuukka Rask vs. Tyler Seguin Lightning Steven Stamkos vs. Victor Hedman
Canadiens P.K. Subban vs. Tomas Plekanec Maple Leafs Phil Kessel vs. Tyler Bozak
Capitals John Carlson vs. Brooks Laich Panthers Stephen Weiss vs. Tomas Fleischmann
Devils Ilya Kovalchuk vs. Adam Larsson Penguins Evgeni Malkin vs. Marc-Andre Fleury
Flyers Claude Giroux vs. Scott Hartnell Rangers Henrik Lundqvist vs. Brad Richards
Hurricanes Eric Staal vs. Jeff Skinner Sabres Derek Roy vs. Thomas Vanek
Islanders John Tavares vs. Michael Grabner Senators Erik Karlsson vs. Jason Spezza
Jets Evander Kane vs. Andrew Ladd

 

Western Conference

Avalanche Matt Duchene vs. Gabriel Landeskog Kings Anze Kopitar vs. Drew Doughty
Blackhawks Patrick Sharp vs. Duncan Keith Oilers Jordan Eberle vs. Taylor Hall
Blue Jackets R.J. Umberger vs. Ryan Johansen Predators David Legwand vs. Pekka Rinne
Blues T.J. Oshie vs. David Perron Red Wings Pavel Datsyuk vs. Jimmy Howard
Canucks Henrik Sedin vs. Alex Burrows Sharks Logan Couture vs. Brent Burns
Coyotes Shane Doan vs. Keith Yandle Stars Loui Eriksson vs. Jamie Benn
Ducks Corey Perry vs. Jonas Hiller Wild Mikko Koivu vs. Niklas Backstrom
Flames Mikael Backlund vs. Matt Stajan