Monumental Sports & Entertainment (MSE), owners of the NHL’s Washington Capitals has launched its own hockey-focused Esports brand and is planning a tournament – the Caps Gaming Showcase in December.
The new tournament, played in EA NHL’s six-on-six EASHL mode, will have online qualification and a LAN-based final with a $15,000 prize pool. Participants will control individual NHL players instead of a whole team. The Washington Capitals hopes the tournament will become a model for a move of NHL esports to a more frequent six-on-six style.
This would take it closer to real-world gameplay. The NHL esports community has been hoping for new tournaments for some time.
First Esports sign-up for an NHL organization
MSE, as per TSN reporting, already demonstrates the potential for traditional sports and eSports collaboration and pursuit of shared interests. It co-owns aXiomatic which has a controlling stake in Team Liquid and also owns Wizards District Gaming.
MSE has signed John “JohnWayne” Casagranda as its official streamer, he came second in the NHL Gaming World Championships in 2019. Significantly, Casagranda will be the first esports player to be signed by an NHL organization. He says:
“I cannot wait to get started and see where we can take the NHL esports scene.”
The company was also one of the first to hold a one-on-one EA NHL tournament and has its own esports director, now Andrew McNeill. Zach Leonsis, senior vice-president of strategic initiatives at MSE, says:
“Esports is a key initiative for us at Monumental and we are thrilled to add Caps Gaming to the family as we continue to tap into a new generation of fans.”
NHL Esports sponsorships are further signs of growth
So far, the NHL hasn’t replicated the NBA’s eSports franchise model or substantially expanded its tournaments beyond “one-on-one gameplay”, writes TSN. It has ran a head-to-head tournament, the NHL Gaming World Championship which had live finals in Las Vegas and a prize pool of $100,000.
Chris Golier, NHL vice-president of business development initially said it wanted to approach such tournaments “cautiously.” 2019’s Gaming World Championship sponsors included Honda, Adidas Hockey, Brisk, and MGM Resorts.
With sponsorship deals a main driver of esports future revenue prospects, they are crucial for NHL eSports development. In September 2019 hockey gear maker Bauer announced it would partner with NHL eSports Twitch and YouTube streamer Andrew “Nasher” Telfer. Ricky Hildebrand, Bauer’s digital marketing manager said at the time:
“Nasher reflects the diversity of this hockey experience, including online, on-ice, street and roller hockey.”
Photo courtesy: NHL.com