The Madden, FIFA, and NBA 2K sports series all have robust esports leagues either already in progress or forming as we speak. It was only a matter of time before NHL got in on the action as well.
Today the National Hockey League announced the 2018 NHL Gaming World Championship. A joint venture between the NHL, NBC Sports, Sportsnet in Canada, and Viasat in Sweden, this international NHL 18 tournament kicks off later this month and culminates with a virtual final taking place in Las Vegas this June. Surprisingly, the tournament does not leverage the game’s 6v6 EASHL mode, opting for 1v1 matches instead. When ESPN asked why they decided to go this direction, NHL VP of business development Chris Golier said, “we wanted to have everybody play and be eligible. Finding 3-on-3 and 6-on-6 teams was too cumbersome.”
EA Sports appears to be taking a backseat in the formation of this league.
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Players can register here to compete in four online qualifiers (on either PS4 or Xbox One). The winners and runners-up will move on to the regional brackets. The regional finals and world finals, which are both round-robin tournaments, will only be played on PS4.
The competitions can be watched on NHL platforms, as well as Twitch.
I’m glad to see NHL get into the esports fray, but not adopting the EASHL for the format is a massive missed opportunity. Eliminating A.I players altogether and having purely player-controlled teams would have made for great television. I also don’t buy the “too cumbersome” argument against pursuing that direction. Finding talented players is easy, and watching the 5v5 NBA 2K League develop to the point of the upcoming player draft has been fascinating. I would have loved for NHL to take a similar approach.