The NHL is joining the NBA as one of the major American sports leagues to dip their toe into esports! The NHL 18 Gaming World Championships will be a series of global competition which culminate with a final series taking place at the NHL Awards this June! We gathered some of the community’s feedback about this new esports venture!
The NHL has often lagged behind other sports leagues for whatever reason, whether one might believe the league has a poor marketing team, ineffective sales force, poor leadership, especially from the commissioner’s seat, or all of the above, but the fact is hockey is the fourth of the four major sports in terms of popularity by a longshot. However, one of its contemporaries, the NBA, has seen a massive burst of popularity over the past several years. One of the many ways the NBA has been successful in attracting a newer, younger audience is by effectively integrating its wildly popular video game series, NBA 2K, into its real-life counterpart. Recently, the NBA announced the beginning of its “2K League,” an esports league which awards winners with pieces of its $1 million prize pool.
Finally, the NHL has followed suit, recently announcing the NHL 18 Gaming World Championships, a 6-month event series which culminates at the NHL Awards this June. Players from the United States, Canada, and Europe will play in online qualifying matches which lead to regional finals taking place in Stockholm, Sweden, Stamford, Connecticut, and Toronto, Ontario. These locations are the homes to the major hockey broadcast networks in their respective countries and the top 8 finalists will get to visit these studios and play for the chance to go to the World Finals from there.
As Excited as A Game 7 in Overtime!
There are tons of players who are thrilled for this opportunity and wasted no time in signing up. NHL 94 and 95 shark ZMAN11 said to us on Twitter, “I just joined the biggest NHL esports tourney ever! Awesome that they’re expanding it to EU. It’s what I’ve been waiting for since ’94!” “I will 100 percent watch esports for NHL,” said Kevin Levasseur to ESPN, who plays EA Sports Hockey League on Xbox One. “I have been playing this game competitively for so long, wishing something like this would eventually happen. I just see a big window for them and hopefully when they watch their first four-OT playoff game they will realize how intense this can be.” YouTuber Brianstormed said of the tournament, “Even though it’s not what we’ve been hoping for, it’s still a great start because it gives the NHL a lot of room to grow in a bunch of different directions.”
However, not everyone in the community shares their feelings and aren’t thrilled of either the format or the fact that NHL 18 is being played for serious cash considerations. “One major thing that makes me pessimistic about a possible esports league coming to the NHL franchise is that this year’s game [NHL 18] has arguably been the most flawed version of the game released to date,” said Trevor Katz to ESPN, who plays on Xbox One in the League Gaming Hockey League. “The AI is overpowered in every way, and people exploit that to the fullest extent. This is why a 6-on-6 league would be the only way for NHL esports to be possible.” Gamer Justin Lima said on Twitter that the new venture would, “…frustrate and p— of more people world-wide on a bigger stage. The game’s missing the simplest aspects of a hockey game, but boy can you pull off some Datsyukian dekes.” Lima is, of course, referring to former Detroit Red Wings legend Pavel Datsyuk, who was notorious for his dekes and dangles on his way to scoring 314 goals during his storied NHL career. Here’s an example just so you see the point of Lima’s protest.
While both sides have some valid points, the truth is we’ll just have to wait and see! The tournament series starts on March 24, and we’re sure to find some awesome clips in the near future. Hopefully this tournament is a rousing success and hockey starts to gain in popularity across the world. If you need more hockey, whether it’s from 2018 or 1994, check out our sit-down with NHL veteran ZMAN11!