By summer 2018, the NHL will be fully on the esports bandwagon.
Prior to the start of the NHL All-Star Skills Competition on Saturday night, commissioner Gary Bettman spoke to the media and confirmed plans that have been in the works for nearly two years: the NHL will be the next league to launch an esports league.
As mentioned, plans for the NHL to enter the world of esports have been discussed for the better part of the last two years as the virtual industry has continued to grow in popularity. As far as what those plans are, Bettman wouldn’t divulge. All he mentioned was that the league will be unveiled prior to the end of the NHL regular season in April.
According to a source close to the matter, no ideas are 100% set in stone due to ongoing discussions with the 31 teams in the league. The NHL, the source says, is planning on “pulling out all the stops” with this new venture, and is hoping to ultimately have involvement from every team in the league with sponsored teams a la the NBA 2K League.
In addition to the team involvement, the NHL wants to new league to behave like a true sports league. The current hope is to hold the first tryout for the league later this year, with another potentially happening sometime in early 2019. No word was given as to what the criteria would be to take part in the tryout, but that is expected to be one of the first details unveiled later this year.
The source also mentioned that the NHL and EA Sports want to hold a draft sometime within a year after the announcement, but that’s in the embryonic stages of planning. Specifics on players, coaches, general managers and more are expected to come shortly after the initial unveiling of the league.
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