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Standard games are based on hockey leagues that exist in the world today. In standard leagues, league structure and details have been configured to match the real-world details of those leagues as closely as possible.
When you start a game using "New Game", you will get a list of available leagues to include in the game. These are all the possible current leagues that can be played. Note that selecting all or many of them may have a significant effect on game speed, depending on your computer.
Activating some leagues may require other leagues to be active as well - for example, the Canadian junior leagues must all be activated togather; lower-level leagues in some countries require higher-level leagues in the same country to be active; and the Czech league requires the KHL to be active (as one Czech team is affiliated with a KHL team.) The NHL and AHL must always be activated, they cannot be deactivated.
Historical games are based on a database containing historical ratings and league setups from 1947 to the present. In most seasons, only the NHL will be active in a historical season. The lone exception is the World Hockey Association years (1972-73 through 1978-79), when that league is active as well.
The historical database is built upon the framework provided by the player and team records assembled by the Hockey Databank Project, with extensive additions and changes by our research team to rate the players in game terms.
Custom games allow you to create your own hockey leagues from scratch. You can define various details of a custom league, including the league format, team names, cities, and various other settings. Custom leagues will take the place of the NHL in the game; the rest of the hockey world will exist normally (although you can choose to use either real or fictional players.) You will also have a minor league, in the same format as your won, to provide farm teams for your top-level league - this league takes the place of the AHL, in other words.
Quickstart games are pre-built hockey universes. These games come complete with rules, teams, and players. The New Game setup routine is based on a quickstart consisting of the modern hockey universe, but the Quickstart Game option can be used to start with an alternate quickstart.