NHL Teams Continuing To Embrace League's Growing Esports Efforts
The NHL's third iteration of the Gaming World Championship kicked off this past weekend with the Chel Gaming Challenge, a live-streamed two-hour event from the St. Louis Ballpark Village. Several current NHLers like Blue Jackets D Seth Jones and Sabres C Jack Eichel participated along with gaming influencers and other personalities. NHL VP/Business Development & Global Partnerships Chris Golier called it "a promotional vehicle" as the league and EA Sports continue to build the NHL gaming community. He explained that two seasons ago, no one had yet taken the reins and organized any substantive event or series of events. From his perspective, it did not make sense to roll out an all-encompassing esports league. Additionally, there are the necessary rules and regulations, developing the league infrastructure and determining everything from player signings, drafts and housing, among other league-related matters. "It's ambitious," he said. There is no mandate from the league for all 31 clubs to participate in their own independent gaming initiatives. The message to teams, Golier said, is to test and learn, activate locally, get some sponsorship and get some learnings. About half of NHL teams have formally launched their online and live gaming activities for this season or said "we're coming." Last year, 22 clubs participated in some way.
FINDING ITS PLACE: "Engagement is the key word with all of this," said Golier, who noted that sponsors Honda, Scotiabank and Great Clips returned for '20. So, what are the future plans for a league, similar to that of the NBA 2K League? Golier said the NHL is focused on the tournament format in the short-term, but did suggest there is a possibility of a future league, with the NHL working towards an integrated approach for all of its teams. No concrete timeline was given on when a full-fledged operation might come to fruition.
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