NHL Takes Different Approach With Format Of Esports Tourney
After the NBA, NFL and FIFA all jumped into esports, it was "inevitable that the NHL would as well," and to get it right, the NHL has "decided to keep it simple," according to Greg Wyshynski of ESPN.com. The NHL's version is "not the massive 6-on-6 tournament many EA Sports Hockey League players were hoping for, nor is it a 31-team league that would mimic the NHL." Ducks RW J.T. Brown, who is one of the league's most prominent esports players, said, "The biggest thing is getting it right the first time, and making sure that the format is set up correctly. All the rules need to be set. They have to make sure it goes fluid the first time." Wyshynski noted maneuvering through the esports space is "a lot like a video game itself: They could end up collecting countless coins and raising the victory flag, or they could fall off a cliff and it's game over." Wyshynski: "Why make this a one-on-one tournament, when one of the appeals of esports is team play?" NHL VP/Business Development Chris Golier said the league "wanted to have everybody play and be eligible. Finding 3-on-3 and 6-on-6 teams was too cumbersome." NHL CRO & Exec VP/Global Partnerships Keith Wachtel said, "What we wanted to do, and this is a little bit different than everyone else, is to be as inclusive as possible. This is a participatory vehicle for us. We're making it extremely simple. It's a test-and-learn phase for us." But a survey of 40 active online hockey gamers found the "majority of them preferred 6-on-6 or 3-on-3 games." Meanwhile, Wachtel said that the NHL is going to "attempt to spotlight the personalities in its tournament." As it reaches regionals, the league's TV partners are "going to do features on the remaining players." Wachtel: "This is going to be a player-driven opportunity for us" (ESPN.com, 3/9).
ALL ABOUT GROWTH: The AP's Stephen Whyno noted the NHL's hope is to "land new fans and connect with current fans in a different way." Esports also might be a way for the NHL to "grow its audience in China, where it is already broadcasting regular-season games and hosting exhibitions" ahead of the '22 Beijing Games (AP, 3/9). The CP's Neil Davidson noted as virtual sports grow, real sports "want in on the action." The NHL sees the virtual hockey tournament as just its "opening esports salvo, with member teams likely to develop their own esports opportunities down the line." But in organizing the inaugural world championship, the "aim is to allow as many people to get involved as possible" (CP, 3/9).
For more coverage of the business of esports, visit our partners, esportsobserver.com.