NHL 2002 is the only entry in Electronic Arts' hockey series to be released on the Game Boy Advance. With the console versions having migrated to 3D graphics years earlier, the handheld game retains a 2D top-down view very similar to the earliest titles in the series on the Genesis and SNES. In particular, the GBA title is based on NHL 96 for SNES, with modes, graphics and even menus recreated almost exactly.
Besides a standard mode for exhibition games, the game has a practice mode where the number of players on the field can be freely chosen. Season mode is unusual in that, unlike in other games, the player doesn't select a team to lead through a season. Instead, the game includes the full game schedule of the 2001-2002 NHL season, and any team in any scheduled game can be played. If no games of interest are scheduled on a given day, it can be skipped and the results simulated. The season mode also includes the ability to trade players, sign free agents and even to create players.
The game also includes a multi player mode over the link cable, with up to four players able to join for cooperative or competitive play.