Club Formation

Mike Mitchell skates as a member of the TPG High Heaters.

The origin of the CanAm Cartel begins in Fall 2008, when EA created a revolutionary game mode for the NHL series called the EA Sports Hockey League, allowing up to six teammates to control individual players on the ice. The initial club was formed from friends on a web site called ThePerfectGame where fans of the baseball simulation High Heat Baseball congregated in the early to late 2000s.

Founding members Joe Niewser and Gary Guzman branded the team TPG High Heaters and modeled the logo after the KHL team, HC Sibir Novosibirsk, due in part to the shared “H” logo and red, white, and blue colors for the TPG forum. Early games were a mish-mash of players of different skill levels and interest, serving mostly as a community extension of the forum and an opportunity to chat online.

Initial Season (2008-2009)

At the start of 2009, the club acquired hockey neophyte, Mike Collins, who settled in to the mostly vacant left defenseman position. Over the next few months, the High Heaters began to develop chemistry and take more of an interest in applying true hockey strategies to their arsenal.

Winger and defenseman Gary Guzman is a founding member.

Powerplay formations were identified, forechecks were implemented, and the team relied heavily on a dump and chase strategy, using communication and teamwork to overcome any deficiencies in pure skill. At the time, this was not common within the EASHL, but the approach would be a mainstay of team strategy for the next few seasons, and the High Heaters began to specialize in position specific roles.

Throughout this period, TPG played nearly all of their games with 5 to 6 players while fielding a relatively small roster. This placed increasing demands on the players' time and availability, and a clear delineation between those who were looking for a fun online game and those who were deeper into hockey strategy began to develop.

Towards the end of the first season, several players recognized this division and left the team on friendly terms. Key among these departures were Matt D’Auria, Bill Dobrolski, and Robert Glass, who would also play a pivotal role in the upcoming team website. The Cartel owes all of these players a debt of gratitude for getting the team off the ground.

Web Site and Formation of North America United

Center Joe Niewser picks the top corner to beat the downed goaltender.

As the team awaited a late season patch with promises of improved realism, Collins began working on a team website to track games and statistics. The new site, putitonthesite.com, was named by Guzman and launched in Spring 2009 as the club finished their initial season. In addition to having a team forum to discuss strategy, the player and game stats allowed the team to review optimal lineups and track opponent matchups.

During the offseason, the team decided to rebrand themselves as North America United, based on the Chicago Blackhawks. This decision was fueled by the increase in additional jerseys which were available to the Blackhawks, as well as the focus on a shared Canadian/American roster.

Excitement was at an all time high heading into the second season, being the first to fully implement new strategies and branding from the outset.

Second Season (2009-2010)

Now the United, and with two additional free-agent pickups in the form of winger TJ Hutchings and defenseman Mel McConnell, expectations were higher than ever going into NHL 10. These expectations were met as the United discovered more success, frequently competing with top competition in the league.

Left defenseman Mike Collins celebrates lighting the lamp.

This period marked perhaps the most stable lineup in team history, with Collins, Niewser, Guzman, McConnell, and Hutchings playing nearly every game. United also benefited from contributions by Mike Mitchell and Matt McDonald, who was a frequent fill-in on the wing.

Success was to be short-lived, as the departures of Hutchings and McConnell in Spring 2010 would lead to the breakup of the United. With only a handful of remaining players, the team went on hiatus with no immediate plans for the future.

The team scattered, with some playing random online team play games, and others, such as Guzman, joining the XSHL. Others simply took a break from the game. After a few days of random games, Winarkse and Collins decided to look for a new opportunity, taking a step back from team ownership, and looking to fit in on a new club with Collins, and potentially Niewser, playing net.

Soopavillainz and Rag Tag Hockey

Ron Ringeisen scores in front as a member of the Soopavillainz.

Niewser and Collins soon set their sights on one of the most frequent competitors of the United, the Soopavillainz. Led by Ron Ringeisen and Sven Hartmann, the two found the team a good fit with Collins eventually taking on full time responsibility in net and Niewser providing skilled play from the center position. This would continue a trend of Niewser dabbling in other positions but always returning to center. While chemistry on the ice was positive and the Villainz improved in the win column, team tensions would eventually lead to Niewser and Collins leaving the Soopavillainz and signing on with Rag Tag Hockey.

Rag Tag represented a different approach to the EASHL, running multiple lines per night with many matchups, as opposed to the 5-6 man rosters of the United. Franky Butera, owner and player on Rag Tag, navigated the many different personalities and skillsets with ease, and the team enjoyed a successful run over the Summer of 2010 as they ascended to the top of the casual league within the EASHL.

Third Season (2010-2011)

NHL 11 would see the return of Guzman and original High Heater, Mike Mitchell. Butera rebranded the team as the Rag Tag Buzz, at first seemingly in jest, but the moniker caught on and Butera soon created a team website, leading to a return to tracking game and player statistics.

Rag Tag represented the most democratic form of team management to date, as players were able to make a case for playing time and lineup spots, with a core group of owners debating the pros and cons of each move.

As the season reached its midpoint, Butera became less interested in the game, and Niewser assumed temporary ownership of the team, supported by Collins and Adam Sroslak. While the team would continue for a few more months, Winarkse and Collins would eventually decide that shared ownership with Butera no longer made sense, and the Buzz dissolved, soon to reform from the ashes of TPG, NAU, and RTB.

Creation of the CanAm Cartel and Continued Success

Many players from the Buzz stayed on for the reincarnation of the TPG High Heaters as the CanAm Cartel. Key contributors such as Michel Lalonde and Dan Soffer, along with original members Guzman and Mitchell, helped establish the most cohesive roster in team history, much of which carries on to current day.

Michel Lalonde has been a mainstay at left wing for the Cartel.

Over the next three seasons, the core of the team remained consistent, and past teammates such as Ringeisen, Hartmann, and Sroslak all joined at various points to keep the team competitive and active through the release of NHL 14.

Some memorable moments along the way include the gold-masked Lalonde playing over 50 games in net one month, winning 12 straight games at one point, as he filled in for a vacant goalie position. The Cartel also won their first playoff championship with Hartmann stopping an incredible 43 of 44 shots in 4 games.

The Cartel dabbled with jersey changes to black and gold, and silver and blue, before returning to the original orange and blue combination.

Hartmann and Ringeisen would both leave the EASHL but only after leaving an indelible mark on the Cartel's team and playoff history.

Temporary Hiatus and Return of the EASHL

Dan Soffer strides as a member of the CanAm Cartel.

The release of NHL 15 would be the first since the EASHL’s inception to not include the mode.

With no better options, much of the Cartel migrated to FIFA 15’s pro clubs. This provided a welcome distraction from the stinging absence of the EASHL, and the football version of the Cartel would see the brief return of former teammate Robert Glass, as well as increased participation from the Eurocentric Sroslak.

NHL 16, with the return of the EASHL, also marked CanAm’s switch from Xbox to PS4, a somewhat controversial decision. The Cartel would pick up where they left off, continuing to be a competitive team at the highest levels.

Modern Era

The next few seasons mark the greatest stability in club history. While participation among some players would ebb and flow due to other responsibilities, leading to more frequent 3 and 4-man games which previously would have been unthinkable, the core of the team remained firmly established. NHL 18 saw the return of the team website, as canamcartel.com.