Anaheim Ducks: Embracing Esports in the Absence of the NHL

For a lot of Anaheim Ducks fans, the absence of hockey has been a dreadful experience, and there seems to be nothing to patch that hole in their heart reserved for NHL hockey. Luckily, the Samueli family and the Ducks organization have embraced EA Sports’ NHL 20 and the world of Esports in order to give people new opportunities through lots of philanthropy.

There is a large contingency of people that are unaware of what Esports are, let alone what that word even means, so it would help to give a brief explanation. Esports, or Electronic Sports, is a broader sport that encompasses competitive video games and uses them for competition much like regular sports.  The growth of Esports, especially here in Southern California, has been huge. Los Angeles alone now has seven professional Esports teams/organizations, and much like the NHL, these teams and organizations compete in their own leagues for different games, such as Overwatch and League of Legends.

In the NHL, both the Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks have been simulating games through NHL 20 that were meant to be played before a pause was put on the NHL season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For the Ducks, they have gone farther than simulations, however. The Anaheim Ducks have established multiple social media pages for their new venture into Esports and they are going by the name of Anaheim Ducks Gaming or NHLDucksGaming. Before we get into how you can help their efforts to expand their pages, I would like to stress how much the organization has done for up and coming Eathletes still in high school.

To start, we’ll go back to look at the work that the Ducks have done with NASEF to host NHL 19 and NHL 20 tournaments. To answer the question of what NASEF is, the North American Scholastic Esports Federation is a federation that maintains the goal of allowing students to learn critical life skills through competing in Esports. Back in 2019, the Ducks hosted a 1v1 NHL 19 tournament in order to find the best Eathletes both in high school and 18+ years old that was helped along by NASEF in the high school branch, and the tournament was a huge success. Due to the success of that first tournament, the Ducks teamed up with three other NHL teams to host another tournament at DreamHack Anaheim this last February. That tournament included students representing the Vegas Golden Knights, the Florida Panthers, and the Kings alongside the Ducks, but SoCal prevailed as Zachary H. won first place in the CHEL invitational representing Anaheim. Aside from that personal pride, he was awarded a $2,750 scholarship and a $1,750 club grant for his school, so there is most definitely plenty to gain from competing in the world of Esports. In general, the work that the Samueli family does to give back to the SoCal community is undeniable with such charitable programs as S.C.O.R.E (Scholastic Curriculum Of Recreation & Education) helping to improve local schools, but now they have used the world of Esports to create new opportunities for students alongside NASEF. Outside of those tournaments, the Ducks have been very productive lately.

On the streaming platform known as Twitch.tv, the Anaheim Ducks have been streaming plenty of NHL 20 content. As mentioned before, they are simulating the last few games of the season that were paused, but Ducks Gaming has given back to fans by competing against them in different game modes such as the aforementioned CHEL, HUT, and EASHL. If you are out of the loop of what all those fancy words mean, fear not, the main point to get here is that the Ducks have gone above and beyond by setting up this streaming service to give their fans a shot to compete during this extended off-season. In order to support them and show that SoCal has a love for Esports, all that is required is your viewership. If you aren’t swayed as to how Esports are important enough for the Ducks to support them, allow me to introduce you to an expert.

To give more of an insight from someone who is very active in the Esports world, I have brought in a long time friend and Esports expert, Connor “Connie Kins” Crockett. Connor has been in Esports since his freshman year of high school and has actively worked in four different Esports organizations while having a streaming career on Twitch.tv. Currently, he helps out SoCal’s very own Dair Productions at Santa Ana’s Esports Arena during their Wednesday Night Fights tournaments alongside the owners and founders in “Preheat” and “Sky Bungis”. When asked about his thoughts on Esports and the Anaheim Ducks, Connor had this to say,

What Esports is to me is the idea of playing and spectating video games competitively just like you would in any other sport. Sports have always been about mental strength more than they have been about being the strongest or fastest. You can’t be in ideal shape if you have the wrong attitude, and Esports rely entirely on your mental prowess. I like to joke that thanks to the game Fortnite by EPIC Games that there is no longer an argument of whether Esports is a sport or not just because of how much the game has turned heads and has made the older generation realize that Esports athletes aren’t all slobs that do nothing but stare at a screen all day. I have been lucky enough to talk to the people who run the Ducks’ Esports divisions at events like DreamHack Anaheim, and the Anaheim Ducks have been wonderful throughout their efforts to support Esports. They currently collaborate with NASEF and host events at the Esports Arena in Santa Ana to give out scholarships, equipment, swag, and so much more back to the youth of Esports. It’s really important to make them realize that they do matter and have a place in the Esports world, and the Ducks do an excellent job of giving them some great experience for Esports jobs as well as some exciting memories. They also stream the game NHL 20 on their Twitch channel and they are investing in live streaming equipment and commentators, which is amazing news. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them sign on Esports athletes or even shoutcasters and producers in the near future. In my opinion, the Ducks are sure to do nothing but improve if they keep the momentum going!

As a long time Twitch streamer himself, Connor has helped many up and comers set up their careers on the platform, and it is very comforting hearing the confidence he has in the Ducks getting even better over time in their streams. As he also talked about, it is inspiring seeing how much the Ducks are giving back to the community in all kinds of different ways, and using Esports as a platform for an opportunity for philanthropy has been a pushing force in their success.

As a general fan of Esports and another long time helper in the SoCal community, I am very proud to call the Anaheim Ducks my team with how they are using their Esports platforms. Very rarely do I see many organizations being this charitable for fans, but when it comes to Anaheim Ducks Gaming, they are the exemplary group in the world of Esports. Connor and I are enthralled with how the Ducks are progressing Esports, and we want hockey fans, as well as all sports fans, to see the value and excitement of Esports. So, if possible, make sure to follow the Ducks on Twitch and catch a live stream to experience some of the action in this down time for the NHL in order to support the team and the future of their Esports branch.

Next: Anaheim Ducks: Top Five Players of the 2019-2020 NHL Season

In closing, the Anaheim Ducks have used Esports for good, and through philanthropy they have been able to give back to the community they call home. Whether it is giving money to schools, giving scholarships to students, or even just allowing their fans to interact and compete against them in NHL 20, the Ducks are a key part of the future of Esports. If every team’s organization had a department for Esports that gave this much back to their community, imagine how many more people would get quality educations and fantastic opportunities to follow their dreams. That is the future of sports and Esports teaming up for the greater good.

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