Pro Hockey Slides Into eSports


EA Sports NHL 94 aka The Best Hockey Game Ever Made™ (Photo: Racketboy)

EA Sports NHL 94 aka The Best Hockey Game Ever Made™ (Photo: Racketboy)

TNL Take: We've seen a majority of European soccer clubs invest in eSports, the NBA taking the lead in the US and the MLS finally making its first move.

Now Pro Hockey is starting to slowly enter eSports - I so badly wanted to use "skate" but that's just awful. Ok, slide isn't that much better.

Either directly or through a consortium of sports investment, here's the history so far:



New Jersey Devils (Photo: New Jersey Devils)

New Jersey Devils (Photo: New Jersey Devils)

Washington Capitals (Photo: Wallpaper Cave)

Washington Capitals (Photo: Wallpaper Cave)

aXiomatic, became a new eSports joint venture between a massive amount of sports investors and athletes including Peter Guber (Warriors, Dodgers, LAFC)  and Ted Leonsis (Wizards, Capitals, Mystics, Valor, Verizon Center ) who bought a controlling stake in Team Liquid.



Finland's Helsinki Reds eSports Team (Photo: IFK)

Finland's Helsinki Reds eSports Team (Photo: IFK)

Finland was the first country to make a direct investment when Helsinki based Hockey club IFK Helsinki launched an Overwatch team under the name Helsinki REDS.

I spoke with IFK's Sales Manager Jussi Patjas about why they got involved.



Boston Bruins (Photo: Wallpaper Cave)

Boston Bruins (Photo: Wallpaper Cave)

Delaware North, parent company of Boston's TD Garden and home of the Boston Bruins - which is also owned by Delaware North chairman Jeremy Jacobs - announced a strategic investment with eSports team Splyce.

I spoke with Splyce Co-Founder Marty Strenczewilk on the investment and what it means for both Delaware North and the team going forward.



Tampa Bay Lightning (Photo: Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning (Photo: Tampa Bay Lightning

The latest hockey investment is Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik who becomes an investor and co-chair of eSports super group aXiomatic.

Like other aXiomatic investors, Vinik is also involved in multiple sports properties including a minority owner of Fenway Sports Group (Boston Red Sox, LFC) and owns Arena Football team Tampa Bay Storm.




Just like the NBA has driven US Sports league investment in eSports, if a team doesn't have a standalone arena, they usually play in an NBA Arena (Ex: New York Knicks and New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden).

Why do Pro Sports teams invest in eSports?



A Chat With Splyce On Their Boston Bruins Investment


Boston Bruins' Parent Company Delaware North Invests In Splyce (Photo: Splyce)

TNL TAKE: 2017 has seen an immense amount of activity across the eSports landscape and last week was no exception.

Danish Soccer club Brondby IF became the 8th Pro Sports investment this year along with the 2nd team from Denmark.

The NBA made a huge move by announcing a national eSports League with NBA2K.

Then Delaware North, parent company of Boston's TD Garden and home of the Boston Bruins - which is also owned by Delaware North chairman Jeremy Jacobs - announced a strategic investment with eSports team Splyce.

Delaware North Sportservice, operates food, beverage and/or retail services in more than 50 professional sports venues, with clients in the NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA and Major League Soccer - including Nationwide Arena which held the MLG Columbus Counter-Strike Major event.

They were clearly aware of the growth in eSports having published two reports on the opportunity in the "Future Of Sports" report.

Announcing the partnership, CEO of Delaware North’s Boston Holdings Charlie Jacobs echoed the sentiments of other Pro Sports owners entering eSports by saying “With the experience and resources that Delaware North brings to an already-established esports team, we’re looking forward to exploring many different collaborative opportunities. That could include everything from sales and marketing to hosting events to broadcasting.”

I spoke with Splyce Co-Founder Marty Strenczewilk on the investment and what it means for both Delaware North and the team going forward.

Splyce Co-Founder Marty Strenczewilk (Photo: Strenczewilk

TNL: First off, congrats on the deal. I love seeing good, hard working people succeed in eSports. Talk about how this partnership with Delaware North first got started and what made you choose to go with them?

[Marty] Thanks! We were connected through mutual colleagues, which was in a way inevitable because we are both Western NY businesses. The choice to work with them was much easier than you'd think from our end: they have a major northeast city with an arena, allowing us to stay in our preferred geography while gaining a major hub; their business expands far beyond sports and gives us access to many other things outside of the Bruins (for example, we're doing a bootcamp shortly at a different Delaware North property); we have very similar management ideals and there was an instant connection and good working relationship.  One of their senior execs is a big eSports fan and that gave us the confidence of having someone who really understood and believed in what we were doing. 

TNL: Outside of the Helsinki Reds and San Jose Sharks, this is only the 3rd investment from either a Pro Team, owner or company that’s involved with Hockey. As the NBA has clearly led in US eSports investment, do see more investment from the NHL side and what’s the potential for Hockey eSports?

[Marty]I've mentioned this recently on Reddit, but I truly believe the only reason the NBA was so far ahead was they summit they had talking about eSports a year earlier than everyone else. It took them just as much time to get comfortable with eSports as any other sports owner, they just had a head start. I think hockey and basketball are the obvious two favorites to attach to eSports, since they already own or work with an indoor arena - that's a challenge football and baseball - in North America - will have to sort out for the future. 

TNL: Delaware North runs the concession business for the Columbus Arena, where MLG’s Counter-Strike event took place last year. Explain how Splyce will work together with Delaware North to leverage their assets like the TD Garden, Boston Bruins and relationship with many arena’s nationwide?

[Marty] Actually a conversation we've already had was about that exact event - how they were successful and how our eSports knowledge can better help them program concessions for the future. I can't go into a ton of details around what we have planned, but I can tell you we plan to do a lot with the Garden and activating Boston fans in the area. We're already exploring ideas on how to do that with the Bruins fans specifically. 

TNL: Last, it seems that one of the main areas that Pro Sports teams are providing an advantage to eSports teams and their investment has been to make use of the existing Sales and Sponsorship teams. What can you speak to in attracting Non-Endemic Brand Sponsors? What Brand would you want to work with the most?

[Marty] This is an obvious no brainer, since they are already experts in sales. We plan to utilize the huge sales team Delaware North has, combined with our insider eSports knowledge to go out and get some awesome brands involved - especially now that we can offer the regional element along with the global nature of eSports. No specific brands to name, as the list would be too long of awesome brands I know we can do great stuff with. [Edit: Awesome answer]

Exclusive: Pro Hockey Checks Into eSports

Exclusive: Pro Hockey Checks Into eSports

Finland's Helsinki Reds eSports Team (Photo: IFK)

TNL Take: Soccer ✔️ Basketball ✔️ Football ✔️ Baseball ✔️

Now we can add Hockey to the list of Pro Sports that have invested in eSports.

Helsinki based Hockey club IFK Helsinki is launching an Overwatch team under the name Helsinki REDS.

As opposed to many eSports teams that are comprised of various nationalities, the entire Helsinki REDS team are from Finland.

Helsinki REDS already have a 2 Brand sponsors Jimm’s, Finland’s top custom computer manufacturer, and the Battery energy drink.

Here's an Exclusive interview with IFK's Sales Manager Jussi Patjas about their eSports investment.

TNL: Jussi, thank you so much for making the time to speak with me and congrats on your move into eSports.  We’ve seen European soccer teams make major eSports investments and the NBA in the US. Why Hockey?

JP: As a professional hockey organization at the highest national level we have the resources and knowledge in building a team and also a wide range knowledge business operations around it.

TNL: How and why did you get into eSports?

JP: Helsinki REDS goal is to have a happy, committed team and become one of the leading and most popular brand in eSports. Supporting our team players and providing a caring environment to enable them to reach their maximum level.

Sounds familiar comparing to hockey? As a Pro sports organization our job is create an environment for people who love to play our sport. We want to support them by coaching and providing enthusiasm. We also want be able to find game loving, will powered talents and give them all what it takes to maximize their players skills. Then build a Pro team with good a spirit and able to find success.

TNL: You are also the first hockey organization outside of every major sport that has entered the space - did you see that as an advantage or is it because of Finland's most popular sport?

JP: Hockey in Finland is truly like national sport and IFK has always wanted to be first, not only as champion but also in development in new areas and concepts. We have all the knowledge and resources it takes to be on highest level in sports and business. With good partners and people around us we are able learn the culture of eSports

TNL: Helsinki is the home of Supercell which sold for a tiny valuation of $10B. Did the gaming culture in Finland affect your decision?

JP: Of course. Those successful stories, like Supercell in the Finnish gaming scene are also a great fuel to our new journey with Helsinki REDS. There is lot we can learn from them and their working culture

Thanks again for your time and best of luck with Helsinki REDS in Overwatch going forward.