You can now count the NHL among the North American professional sports leagues interested in delving into the world of eSports. The league first brought up the notion at the Board of Governors meetings last winter, and it sounds as though the league is ready to move forward with some action on the competitive video gaming front.
The business of eSports is aggressively growing, with new opportunities springing up left and right. It’s gotten so big that you can even bet on them these days. Yes, some sportsbooks offer the opportunity for you to bet on your favorite eSport. This is just the beginning, of course.
In August, Colorado Avalanche owner Stan Kroenke became the latest NHL owner to get into the game. Kroenke purchased an eSports franchise based in Los Angeles. The owners of the Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, Tampa Bay Lightning, New Jersey Devils and Washington Capitals have also gotten in on the action.
Owners of professional sports franchises getting into the eSports realm isn’t a particularly new phenomenon, but the wave of NHL interest is noteworthy. The league doesn’t want to pass up the opportunity to further connect with its fans in addition to potentially adding new ones.
Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet believes that the ultimate goal for the NHL is to eventually develop some sort of eSports tournament. eSports has grown beyond the limits of the internet. Fans these days are happy to shell out cash in order to attend live tournaments in arenas all over the world. Just this past winter, a League of Legends tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York City sold out on back-to-back nights.
There is no reason to believe it can’t translate to the world of hockey. Madden NFL is already a hugely popular eSports title, with tournaments popping up everywhere. The NHL can certainly do something similar. It could even be as simple as having one eSports team representing each of the NHL’s 31 franchises and playing a Stanley Cup-style tournament to determine a winner.
Per Friedman, that sounds like the most likely outcome. Rather than expanding beyond the walls of hockey into something like League of Legends or Call of Duty, the league’s owners would prefer to keep their eSports interests hockey-based. Considering the ultimate goal is to expand hockey’s general fan base, this makes plenty of sense. Obviously, it would additionally provide a new revenue stream, which is essentially the name of the game anyway.
The NHL may still be a ways off from making the eSports tournament dream a reality, but it’s reportedly something we could see coming in the not-so-distant future. As of now, it’s safe to say we can expect more and more league owners signing off eSports acquisitions in the coming months.