Sports teams in esports has been the talk of the latter part of this year, and football and basketball are now no strangers to the world of competitive gaming. Ice hockey however, now that’s something new. The Helsinki REDS formed recently, launched by the parent company behind IFK Helsinki.
Launching with an Overwatch roster, sponsors and an impressive looking site, we had a talk with Helsinki REDS Project Manager Jussi Patjas.
Esports Insider: We’ve seen football teams and basketball teams making moves…now we see ice hockey in esports. Why did the parent company of IFK Helsinki decide to enter? How big is the scene in Finland?
Jussi: This is a new sport under the roof of sports club IFK Helsinki. We have athletics and team sports on football, bandy, handball, floorball, ice hockey, so we’re more than just ice hockey.
From my view as a professional hockey organisation at the highest national level, we have the resources and knowledge needed to build a team and also a wide range of know-how on business operations.
The history of the gaming scene in Finland spans three decades and has involved some highly talented and professional people and gamers. A wide awareness of esports isn’t there yet, but were working on it.
Esports Insider: Why was the decision made to alter the name to Helsinki REDS?
Jussi: Our club has a long history, having been founded in 1897, and deep roots in the capital city of Finland. Red has always been our colour. It is good and important to know your roots, but also emphasize the fact that this is a new story of its own.
The Overwatch League has to be taken into consideration from the get go, but with limited information on it still not fully available to us we are unable to make a definitive decision.
Esports Insider: Overwatch has had a great debut year, and 2017 looks exciting with the city based teams ‘Overwatch League’. Why did you choose Overwatch over the more established CSGO, LoL or Dota? As the Helsinki team did the Overwatch League feature prominently in the decision process?
Jussi: It´s a new fantastic game and the future potential of Overwatch is huge.
By entering a game that is still taking form we are able to start competing for spots in major tournaments early on, which in a sense is harder for established titles like those mentioned above. For us it´s a new story and journey with a fresh game. Of course, the Overwatch League has to be taken into consideration from the get go, but with limited information on it still not fully available to us we are unable to make a definitive decision. It’s solid facts we need in making big decisions concerning the future of the organisation. As such it’s wait and see on that front.
Esports Insider: How were the players and coach selected?
Jussi: I’ll pass this one over to Christer Kasurinen, our team manager.
Christer: The players that were selected are the top tier talent in Finland. We kicked off with the captain of the team Roope Kurkela, who helped with a thorough scan of the Finnish scene. Roughly 20 tryouts were evaluated and from that we ended up with the final roster. The interesting angle in the story is that none of the players knew who they were trying out for. IFK stepped into the discussion only after all had signed up to form our first esports team.
Esports Insider: Psychologists are making a move into pro esports. Is this something widely used in ice hockey, and what are your thoughts on this for esports teams?
Jussi: Every sports is a combination of physical and mental game. All our knowledge is needed to compete properly and consistently at the highest level, and this will be used in our team´s training, well-being and mindset.
Esports Insider: Do you have plans to enter rosters in other titles such as CSGO or Dota?
Jussi: We are considering our options but for at least the beginning half of 2017 we are solely concentrating on our Overwatch team’s development and success!