The National Hockey League is seemingly moving forward with plans for an esports structure surrounding the EA game franchise in the coming year, according to an ESPN interview with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.
Bettman states the goal for NHL esports will be to attract players and fans to the real-world NHL, not the other way around: “We wanted this to be another touch point and another connection to our real game. We weren’t looking to start something different. We weren’t looking to start a different league. We wanted to have our fans, who were into esports, to have a way to play our game and connect to our game.”
While Bettman and company have seen the way traditional sports like the NBA 2K League have developed they insist the NHL will do things differently and not create a structure based on a league, necessarily.
Chris Golier, Vice President of Business Development for the NHL stated in the first year they wanted to remain cautious: “In year two we’re going to invite our clubs in. It’s not going to be a full-blown league, but we’re going to have teams participate in some way, shape or form. We’re going to have locally activated tournaments that will be part of the overall construct of the league. The clubs are excited.”
While minor community-run tournaments have been active for quite some time, the hockey league created the NHL Gaming World Championship this year for the first time to test the NHL esports waters. The Championship held qualifying tournaments in the United States, Canada, and Europe with the winner and runner-up flying to Las Vegas for a round-robin finals tournament in June ahead of the NHL Awards. The format was 1v1 with one person on each side controlling a 7-man team. The prize pool was $100,000, half of which went to first place winner “Eki” from Finland. Bettman explicitly stated future plans of NHL esports would involve a 6v6 game format.
Esports Insider says: Traditional sports flowing into esports is becoming a natural occurrence especially in relation to games that are based on traditional sports. We’ve seen it come from games like FIFA, Formula 1, and NBA 2K and the success is there. This will be exciting to witness as the league hopes to get every team involved in some form or fashion.