Hey NHL Gamers,
French magazine "Slapshot", one of the nation's biggest hockey publications around since the year 2000, included a 2-page news story about e-sports and virtual hockey gaming called "À quand la Stanley Cup virtuelle?" ("When will we see the virtual Stanley Cup?") in their latest September - November 2017 release #88. Besides the NHL and other hockey related stories, they have been talking about recent e-hockey developments and NHLGamer's ECL in their "Prolongations" section on pages 54 and 55.
Thanks to the authors, we are allowed to share both pages with you for free - you can read them here:
For everyone who's not capable of speaking French, we created an English translation on our own. Minor inaccuracies may be present due to limited French skills on our end!
When will we see the virtual Stanley Cup?
Many do not yet realize the impact it will have in a few years. E-sports, known as electronic sports on a PC or game console, does not omit ice hockey either. Continental tournaments of very high level already exist, and some of the players are playing them on a more or less professional level. The NHL is paying attention to this phenomenon, and an official competition is already in the pipeline. By Yann Maillet.
Everyone is talking about e-sports. The players, the critics, the developers, the testers, the geeks, the nerds and everyone else. It’s organized around the world, online or not, for a phenomenal amount of different video games. Some of the more famous ones are League of Legends, World of Warcraft, FIFA and Gears of War. The best players in the world compete in amateur or professional competitions as individuals or organized in teams, and some win nice prize money and other rewards. In 2016, around 800 DotA 2 players participated in approximately 2000 tournaments all over the world, playing for a total prize pool of 38 million US dollars. The global dimension of these competitions has come to convince video game publishers to take care of the e-sports package whenever they launch a new video game. Finally, the growing development of virtual reality (VR) only reinforces an e-sport that’s already an inherent part of the gaming landscape.
Bettman wants to launch the e-NHL
The NHL series developed by EA SPORTS does not escape this development, but you are warned, so far it is quite less extensive, if only in relation to FIFA. Many professional NHL players exist, some are sponsored by the developer and serve as early game testers. Some of them are even associated with the development of the game, just like real NHL stars. The management of the North American organization managed by Gary Bettman has recently mentioned the interest to potentially port an official virtual competition of the game under direct license of the league.
Bettman makes it one of his growth levers. The NHL commissioner wants to attract new fans, especially among the youth, through a video game and its 6 vs. 6 competition. For each real franchise, 6 players form a team to represent the same franchise to win a virtual Stanley Cup and likely high prize money, all of it from the couch in their living room. All of these hockey-related projects are still little compared to what already exists for Basketball and American Football, but progress is there and it will probably happen before 2020.
6 vs. 6 is targeted with lots of determination by our friend Gary, simply because it’s the game mode most suited to a competition worthy of its name. As opposed to FIFA, where 1 vs. 1 is its panacea, true online gaming in NHL takes place as 6 vs. 6 with every player taking his position. Since most of NHL‘s pro players are located in North America, lots of formidable teams are gathering in tournaments across the pond already. In Europe, the frenzy is a little less. However, a competition shows by its seriousness, dynamism and level of play that comes close to excellence. You may be wondering why the hell I am talking to you about separate American or European competitions when the online portion of a game allows anyone to connect from anywhere and anytime. Playing on remote servers has some constraints by causing a game to slow down, an effect called ‚lag‘. And that’s why these competitions are mainly continental and not really global.
French in the assault of the European Championship
ECL, the European Championship League, is heading into its fifth season. Founded by Kenneth Lehtinen and his friend Samuli, this competition brings together everything that European e-hockey has to show. „The demand for e-sports is considerable“, says Kenneth Lehtinen. „This is true for all sports and hockey is no exception. We created the competition to cover the demand. Especially since it’s a new phenomenon, we discovered there is public interest for the game itself and an audience that likes to watch the games. The integration of divisions last season has notably split the levels of skill and we find ourselves with an assiduity much larger than before. Many more things are coming too“. You can find all information on the league’s website NHLGamer.com.
The French are also represented well in this organized competition on three levels: Elite, Pro and Lite. The Hawks (eds. note: Hawks Hockey Club), conglomerate of French players, have been finalists in the past season of the Lite division and have qualified for the Pro division in the current season that was launched shortly after the release of the new version of the game NHL 18.
„The ECL is a very serious championship“, says Izzo, winger of the Hawks. „We face the best teams in the game out there and the matches become really intense sometimes. 6 vs. 6 is a highly demanding and very specific game mode. Last year we participated for the very first time, and we met our goal of qualifying for the Pro division. Sadly we lost the Lite division finals in game 7 of the series, but while it was disappointing for all of us we still achieved our promotion. This season, we return with a few adjustments to our roster.“
Another French club is about to embark during the next season, the Pirates du Cancun hockey club. The team, which has been playing together for four years now, brings together a dozen French, Swiss and Quebecois and presents itself as one of the most active French clubs. „During last year, we really focused on the rigor and tactical involvement of each player. This year we apprehend things with a little more hindsight“, estimates Sébastien Girodo, defender and assistant coach of the Pirates du Cancun. „ECL is really interesting, but we are facing difficulties when it comes to scheduling matches, and our bench is not yet deep enough. If we go into that competition lightly, we will be going down. The skill level of certain players and teams is just amazing. So while ECL is not yet a priority for us, we will keep it in our heads. At Pirates du Cancun, we mainly play to be with our buddies, while also trying to win more possible titles.“
E-sports is on track to change the way we approach video games. Time will tell if we will someday be seeing Olympic champions in Warcraft, but the current trend points towards it. Many will regret that the real outdoor sport could be supplanted by this new way of playing. Meanwhile, video game publishers are rubbing their hands.
Translation courtesy of @gzell60. No content was altered or modified on purpose.
What do you think about Slapshot's take on our ECL and the developments in e-hockey and e-sports in general? Let us know in the comments!
@gzell60 for NHLGamer.com