The NHL looks different this season and so will the 2021 NHL Gaming World Championship.
The annual tournament, which utilizes EA SPORTS NHL 21, has made some exciting format changes to reflect the most realistic NHL experience to date.
Gamers will use their Hockey Ultimate Team to compete in separate North American and European tournaments that will ultimately crown a champion in each region.
Though the European tournament will look similar to past tournaments, an all-new Club Championship format on the North American side will give gamers the opportunity to compete while representing their favorite NHL team.
Players will be designated to represent teams under the current NHL divisional alignment, a change that was made for the 2020-21 season because of travel limitations due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The divisions will be maintained for the gaming tournament, including the Scotia North Division which consists of the seven NHL teams based in Canada. The other three divisions – MassMutual East, Discover Central and Honda West – have eight teams each.
“I love the idea of involving NHL teams. I think it was the next step NHL eSports needed to continue growing,” Justin Reguly, the defending Canada champion from Thunder Bay, Ontario said. “Seeing now that I may have the opportunity to represent my favorite team, the Boston Bruins, is an opportunity I never could have imagined.”
The expected large field of competitors will be whittled down to eight players per each of the 31 NHL teams, four on the XBox platform and four on PlayStation. Those eight players will be seeded based on open play records and play an eight-team bracket playoff to determine a winner for each team.
“The format and the changes should really help players separate themselves,” Josh Fuss, the 2020 U.S. champion from Fairfield, Connecticut said. “I think it’s great for EA and great for the NHL because now you have everyone being able to represent a team that they choose. I’m definitely excited for it.”
There’s another exciting change for the North American tournament. A fan vote will determine the 32nd team. That team will compete in the North Division in order to balance the tournament.
After team winners are determined, each player must then win their division. The four division winners will face off for the North American championship.
“With the pandemic still affecting our fans, we are happy to continue hosting our premiere gaming event,” NHL vice president of business development, technology partnerships Chris Golier said. “The change in format will more closely align with the realigned divisions and on-ice game play and we foresee the same rivalries with fans now being able to represent their favorite club. Make sure you register and start playing from Day 1 as there are advantages to qualifying early.”
In February, the NHL partnered with DreamHack Sports Games — the Swedish gaming company recognized by the Guinness Book of Records for hosting the world’s largest local area network party — to produce and manage all events under the NHL Gaming umbrella, including the NHL World Gaming Championship.
Registration for the NHL GWC opened Friday with the Online Open Play round set to begin April 7 in the European and North American regions. The Club Finals start May 8 and the Club Championships begin June 26.