NHL commissioner considers esports league

Gary Bettman envisions a NHL-wide esports competition.

The NHL might become the second professional sports league in the U.S. mirroring itself in esports. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman envisiones a “league-wide competition,” where the league’s teams compete in EA’s hockey simulation NHL 17. It would follow a similar move by the NBA, which partnered with game developer Take-Two Interactive on its NBA 2K eLeague.

Bettman, who spoke at Leaders’ Sport Business Summit last week, said that the NHL was in contact with EA “about having a game that can replicate hockey in terms of having six players that are playing together against other teams.” The purpose, he said, would be about “building a community and having awareness for the game and doing it in conjunction with our teams.”

The NHL commissioner’s suggestion also sounds similar to the approach EA took with its FIFA franchise and Spain’s soccer league, La Liga. The Virtual Football Association includes many Spanish first and second division clubs, and opted for an 11 on 11 game mode, which is uncommon in competitive FIFA.

Other than the NBA 2K eLeauge, which is set to start in 2018, there’s no schedule for the NHL esports league. In fact, it’s supposedly still a long way off. The NHL’s plans are “very preliminary,” according to NHL insider Elliotte Friedman, who quoted a source who described the league as “a sperm cell right now.”.

Some NHL owners are already ahead, though. Washington Capitals’ Ted Leonsis is invested in Team Liquid and Boston Bruins’ Jeremy Jacobs partnered with Splyce.