First reported by ESPN, the National Hockey League is making its foray into esports. The North American professional hockey organization is setting up the first tournament featuring EA Sports’ NHL 18.
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Starting March 24, the first NHL 18 tournament will feature one-on-one matches in multiple single-elimination online qualifier events. In this year’s version, players from the US, Canada, and European Union countries can partake.
“We’ve been very careful about launching [the tournament] the right way,” said NHL Chief Revenue Office and Executive VP of Global Partnerships Keith Wachtel in a statement. “But it’s very much an embryonic, Phase One for us.”
NBC Sports, Sportsnet, and Viasat, the three parties organizing the tournament, will handle their regions. NBC oversees the US territory, hosing regional finalists at their studios in Stamford, Connecticut. Canadian finalists will compete for the regional first place in Toronto, overseen by Sportsnet. Then, Viasat will host Europe-based final players in Stockholm.
FACEIT steps in as the official platform for the event, charged with making sure the action unfolds smoothly.
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Once each region’s finalists are decided, the tournament will head to Las Vegas for the 2018 NHL Gaming Final. The Esports Arena Las Vegas at Luxor Hotel and Casino hosts the final event, which sees a trophy and $50,000 up for grabs. The winner will also join the NHL Awards in Vegas this year.
In addition to taking care of the regional organization, NBC, Sportsnet, and Viasat will produce content throughout different stages of the event. The NHL’s digital outlets and Twitch channel will broadcast said content.
A ‘test-and-learn’ phase
Compared to other established leagues that feature more complex structures, this tourney appears simple. This stems from an intentionally cautious approach.
“What we wanted to do, and this is a little bit different than everyone else, is to be as inclusive as possible,” Wachtel told ESPN. “This is a participatory vehicle for us. We’re making it extremely simple. It’s a test-and-learn phase for us.”
Nevertheless, according to Wachtel and NHL VP of Global Partnerships Chris Golier, the league is committed to expanding its esports efforts.
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