Overwatch League Expansion Tier List: What cities will we see next?

It was recently reported that the Overwatch League was looking to expand with a price tag of a cool $30 to $60 million. Activision Blizzard also announced that they are now looking to add four or six teams instead of the two they were planning on originally. This adds numerous possibilities, and many different cities will be vying for spots in the league.

With that in mind we are going to look at which cities have the best chance of getting Overwatch League teams and rank them into three tiers.

Rankings will be based on the following questions:

  1. How big is the city?
  2. Has the city had any involvement in esports before? If so, how successful have those events been?
  3. Is there a known investor/franchise that is from that city that would want to put it there?
  4. Are there teams in close proximity to this city already? (i.e. another LA would not be likely)

There will be other factors to keep in mind as well. If they only go with four teams will they just keep the two divisions? If they go six do they split them up? Also, they will want to keep the divisions equal. To do so, there are only so many teams from certain areas that can can be considered.

Not happening this time

There are some cities that will probably be mentioned but, it is very unlikely that they will get a spot for one reason or another.

Detroit, Minneapolis-St. Paul, St. Louis, Kansas City- While all of these cities have a good amount of traditional sports teams, it is unlikely in this first expansion that they will pick two Midwest cities – especially ones that don’t have a huge connection to esports just yet.

Rome, Barcelona- Both are huge for soccer/futbol. That being said they aren’t necessarily known for esports and while they could eventually get teams there is no chance they beat out most of these other cities.

Tier 3- Unlikely but Possible

Brooklyn-  This was originally going to be a complete no, but looking at a couple factors changed that. To start, the Season 1 playoffs are happening at the Barclays Center. Also, most traditional sports have at least two teams in the big apple. Lastly, Los Angeles already has two teams so why not put two in New York as well? The main reason this is a long shot is that the Overwatch League wants to be a global league and there are areas of the United States and Europe that need teams more. Remember, there can only be two or three teams coming from the Atlantic area.

Overwatch league expansion

Courtesy of: Knights.gg

Beijing- The market in Asia is huge for just about any esport, especially China. Beijing did host the 2017 World Finals for League of Legends in an arena that held 91,000. The real problem is that there are at least two other cities that will be on this list that the OWL will want more for their Asian market. Truthfully, if Shanghai hadn’t come first, it is very likely that Beijing would be a higher priority.

Pittsburgh- This city is the least expected one on this list. That being said there is already an established esports organization that is officially the esports team of the city, the Pittsburgh Knights. With investors already coming in and the city backing them, it would be very easy for the OWL to establish a team in this city. Also Rob “Leonyx” Lee, owner, already has a ton of experience within the world of esports and would be able to help grow the new league.

The major problem is that without the already established team, Pittsburgh would never be considered. They don’t host any big events, it’s one of the smaller cities on this list, and the Philadelphia Fusion are in the same state.

Denver- DreamHack being in Denver put this city on the esports map. It’s in a very good location as there aren’t any teams already established anywhere nearby. That is about all it has going for it when it comes to a potential team, though. Unless a major investor with connections to this area comes forward, it is hard to see the Mile High City getting a team this time around.

Tier 2- Close but just out of reach

Atlanta- There is a lot to like about putting a new team in Atlanta. To start, there are no other teams in the area, so they could hit a whole new demographic. Their newest team in the MLS is bringing more fans to their games than any other team which means that this city receives new teams with enthusiasm. Lastly, Atlanta is a hotbed for hosting esports events such as DreamHack, the CWL, and more. The only thing going against Atlanta is that there are a limited number of spots.

overwatch league expansion

Courtesy of: Dribble.com

Washington D.C.- With a plethora of investors to choose from, a brand new NBA2k league team, and it being the capital of the United States it makes it hard not to at least consider D.C. The city is obviously big enough. The problem is that there are already so many teams in close proximity, such as New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. If D.C. wants a team and they don’t get one this time around, it wouldn’t be surprising to see one in serious consideration next time.

Cleveland- The Midwest desperately needs an Overwatch League team. The closest ones are either on the East coast or in Dallas. While Cleveland may not have been on the list before, that has changed majorly in the last year and a half. There is clearly investment interest as Cleveland has added two major esports franchises in the Cavs Legion from the NBA2k League and 100 Thieves from League of Legends. Both franchises are expected to perform well as the Cavs Legion have a top team lead by Hood and 100 Thieves recently finished 2nd in the NA LCS.

Tier 1- Very Likely

Chicago- We will start with the city that most likely will take Cleveland out of the running this time. Chicago is a major sports city and it has hosted numerous major esports events. Most consider Chicago to be the New York of the midwest and for good reason. It is a very cultural city that has incredibly loyal fans and has the biggest population in the Midwest. Did we mention that the Midwest needs a team? Even if there were only two spots available it is likely that Chicago would be highly considered, now with the possibility of three, Chicago had better be ready for an esports team.

Courtesy of: Leagueoflegends.com

Hong Kong- Like Cleveland being overshadowed by Chicago, Beijing won’t be considered because of this city. Hong Kong has been one of the major Asian cities for the last century and is one of the most Westernized cities on the continent. Combine this with the fact that it is likely that the OWL wants to reach more fans in China, and you get a top tier city. With a company like Tencent being in the area it is highly likely that they may want a piece of the OWL pie as well.

Paris- MSI for League of Legends will be happening here in just a few days. Paris has hosted esports events and is one of the major cities in Europe. Lets not forget that the London Spitfire are the only team representing Europe in a global league. If you don’t think Nate Nanzer is thinking about this then you’d be dead wrong. This city makes a ton of sense and like Chicago, even if they were only bringing in two teams overall it is likely Paris would be near or at the top.

Berlin- Almost everything that has been said about Paris can be said about Berlin. Although there is one distinct advantage, League of Legends EULCS is based there. This shows that people will attend games and the esports scene is growing there quickly. That being said, this may also be a reason why the league wont go here. As of right now it seems as though both leagues aren’t exactly on great terms (check out what happened to Immortals), so it is possible that the OWL could look elsewhere for now.

Seattle- Esports are based on the West Coast. It is where most of the studios are and it is where every team currently is based. With connections to Microsoft, many esports events being hosted there, and the general acceptance of esports in this city, it is likely they would be considered. Seattle would continue building the base of esports in the west and thus continue to grow it.

Overwatch League Expansion

Courtesy of: TheVerge.com

Toronto- The fact that there was not a team in Toronto to start was a little surprising. This city has a massive esports culture. It has hosted many events and it has one of the new NBA2k League teams. Canada needs to be represented in this league and Toronto is an obvious choice to make it happen.

Las Vegas- A year ago this may not have been a top choice. But with their new esports arena (used by Ninja for a Fortnite tournament), a new hockey team that is doing extraordinarily well, and a new NFL team, this city is ripe for an OWL team. The stereotype of Las Vegas being the sin city is still there. However, in the last decade or so it has become much more family friendly. With all of the new major venues and teams coming to Vegas, an OWL team just makes sense to join them.

Tokyo- Last but certainly not least is the biggest city in Japan. There is a massive culture built around gaming and esports in this city and country. They even have heroes and a map representating them in game. If a slot buyer comes forward with connections to the city then it would be very hard for the OWL to pass up the opportunity to bring Tokyo into the mix.

What do you think?

These are some of the top cities that could be considered for Overwatch League spots. As of right now there have been no announcements as to the bidding process, who has made a bid, or just about anything other than what we know from that original report. Speculation will increase the hype as the league starts their last stage this week.

What cities do you think will receive teams? Are there any that were missed? Comment below and let us know!

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Here is why Esports Arenas will be coming to a city near you

The world of esports is growing very quickly. Estimations show that it will be larger than a $1.5 Billion industry in the next couple years. We are seeing more major sponsors for leagues and teams. With this, esports are switching over to a franchising system. This can only mean more money coming into esports.

With franchising comes the need for arenas. For a long time, esports were not taken all that seriously because many worried that either a certain esport wouldn’t last long enough or that esports would be unable to be franchised because they wouldn’t make enough money. Well, Twitch and other streaming services changed that. This grew the audiences to very high levels. What it also did, however, was bring about a new worry.

Would people go to games or would they just prefer to watch it online? After spending time at TD Gardens in Boston, The Fillmore in Miami for NA LCS, talking with other journalists, and following both League and Overwatch League closely, I can tell you that people will absolutely go to these games weekly.

What about all the other events that have come before this?

Counter-Strike Global Offensive in Esports arena

Courtesy of: CS:GO Betting

This is a valid question. The answer is that most events or even leagues can be categorized into two different areas right now.

  1. Most of these events are only happening maybe once a month as tournaments or major events that happen a couple times a year. Examples of this are CS:GO and Dota 2. What these events prove is that if there is a major event, people will come. The problem is that it doesn’t show that there are enough people who would go on a weekly or multiple days a week basis.
  2. The second area is that most leagues as of now are based in Los Angeles or other centrally located cities. Both the OWL and League are based in LA and the NBA2k League is in New York City. This is great for the people who live there or who travel there as they can watch their teams play. Everyone else is sadly out of luck.

The Fans

Fan bases for esports as a whole are growing substantially. According to Statista.com, there will be almost 400 million viewers by the end of 2018. This number will only increase as games like Fortnite, which are sweeping the world right now, are spreading to casual and non-gamers.

With the swath of viewers, there will be many who attach to certain players or teams based on their viewing experiences and what games they like. While this is great, many people often never have an event close enough to them to see their favorite team or player perform in person. Thus, they watch online.

Courtesy of: SportsTechie

With the new franchising leagues, esports are following traditional sports. Many people forget that traditional sports did not start off with teams magically appearing in cities around the world all of a sudden. Instead, a relatively small amount of teams traveled and hosted events at venues where large numbers of people could gather. This mirrors how esports have been the last few years. Now, esports are moving onto the next stage of development with franchising.

With teams representing areas and cities, people will more likely gravitate towards them as their team. Again following the traditional sports model, this will help fan bases grow, allowing people to become more attached to their teams.

As more and more people watch esports, they will be enticed to at least look at their hometown teams which should, in turn, build fans in those areas.

Franchising

As one could probably tell when reading this, franchising is a game changer. Like the NFL, NBA, and MLB, esports like League of Legends, NBA2k, and Overwatch are following in their predecessors’ footsteps. They are paving the way for other esports to jump on franchising as it offers stability and money.

Stability and massive amounts of money have always been what has kept esports from being taken seriously. There were relegations at such an early start for esports like League of Legends. This kept people and groups from feeling comfortable in investing. With franchising eliminating relegations, we saw an instant interest to the tune of up to $20 million in investments for spots in these leagues.

This is a much cheaper price than trying to buy an NBA franchise. Getting in on the ground level of anything this big is always more exciting.

With the money and stability comes the desire to make more money. Building an arena can definitely help in this area. The investment towards the future will pay off as they will be able to grow the fan base even more due to people finally being able to watch their city’s team in person.

“If you build it, they will come.”

This quote from the movie Field of Dreams, while it is about the traditional sport of baseball, applies to esports quite well.

Between other events, the fan bases, and the stability brought about by franchising, the next logical step is to start building esports arenas in cities. While there are some newer ones, like in Las Vegas and Arlington, there are plenty of teams and companies working out ways to create even more.

With the leagues that are franchising, there are even some cities that will already have a need for new arenas to host the multiple teams that are in them. You can check them out here.

All of these leagues will continue to grow and more esports will be franchising. Call of Duty announced their intentions to franchise, but not much more has come out since. With that, more cities will get involved and the need for arenas will increase.

Keep an eye out, esports and their arenas will be coming to a city near you.

 

Featured image courtesy of: Populous.com

 

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Esports Arena: Spacestation Gaming vs eUnited showmatch recap

esports arena

Image courtesy of esportsarena.com

It was a big night for the SPL on Thursday, as Spacestation Gaming and eUnited met in a showmatch for the opening of Esports Arena Las Vegas. Playing at the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas, a $15,000 prize pool was available in the best of one.

Unfortunately for eUnited fans, Lucas ”Screammmmm” Spracklin was unable to attend the event, leaving Cassidy ”Card1ac” Cameron to fill in as a support, and Michael ”PolarBearMike” Heiss to go off-role as their jungler. In the end, the absence of Screammmmm was too much as Spacestation won without much trouble in 33 minutes.

Picks and Bans

EUN Picks:

Solo: Hercules – Ben ”Benji” McKinzey 1/2/2

Jungle: Thor – Michael ”PolarBearMike” Heiss 2/4/0

Mid: Ullr – Brandon ”Venenu” Casale 0/4/2

Support: Geb – Cassidy ”Card1ac” Cameron 0/8/1

ADC: Sol – Maksim ”PandaCat” Yanevich 2/3/0

Eun Bans: He Bo, Da Ji, Cerberus, Cu Chulainn

SSG Picks:

Solo: Artio – Ryan ”Aquarius” O’Neill 0/0/15

Jungle: Camazotz –  Andrew ”andinster” Woodward 5/1/13

Mid: Janus – Woonyoung “Baskin” Kim 12/3/8

Support: Athena – Rosario “JeffHindla” Vilardi 2/0/16

ADC: Jing Wei – John “BaRRaCCuDDa” Salter 2/1/11

SSG Bans: Nemesis, Thoth, Serqet, Ravana

Both teams turned in a fairly traditional picks and bans phase with every role seeing a familiar god. Spacestation drafted an incredibly strong global presence with the selections of Janus mid and Athena support, while eUnited looked for early pressure and control with Sol ADC, Ullr mid and Geb support.

Early Game

A standard 2-1-1 start was the choice for both teams with the two supports starting in the duo lane. In duo, both teams ran into a stalemate with only one moment of low health for JeffHindla and BaRRaCCuDDa.

Baskin got off to a strong start at Esports Arena Las Vegas, catching Venenu with a Portal bringing him below half health on the first wave. However it was Baskin getting caught with a Thrown Axe from Venenu, as PolarBearMike collapsed on the Spacestation mid laner leading to the first ever kill at Esports Arena Las Vegas.

Card1ac’s inexperience showed early, as he was caught out of position five minutes in leading to andinster putting Spacestation on the board.

Both Aquarius and Benji seemed content to wait out the early game. Neither side made any forced plays until seven minutes in. Here, Benji looked for an invade onto Spacestation’s right side experience camp, turning it into a kill onto andinster. However a quick rotation by Aquarius, JeffHindla and Baskin led to a response kill onto Benji by Baskin.

Mid Game

As the teams transitioned into the mid game, it was clear that Card1ac was having problems in the support role.

Already two levels behind, the eUnited substitute mistakenly used his Cataclysm before using his Blink. This caused Cataclysm to be missed entirely leaving him without an ultimate. Baskin took advantage soon after with a beautiful ultimate that caught Card1ac as he attempted to return to base 15 minutes into the game.

Spacestation looked to push their lead, as andinster picked up another kill on PolarBearMike then helped to secure the Pyromancer at 17:50.

PolarBearMike gave eUnited fans some hope 19:50 in when he connected with Mjolnir’s Attunement onto Baskin. This gave eUnited both a solo kill, as well as an uncontested Gold Fury. In response, Spacestation tried to to start a fight, leading to Card1ac being killed by JeffHindla and BaRRaCCuDDa being taken down by PandaCat.

The hope did not last long for eUnited however, as another misused Cataclysm by Card1ac at the 22 minute mark led to Spacestation getting a triple kill for Baskin, the middle T2 tower, a kill for andinster, the middle phoenix, the Pyromancer and finally the Fire Giant. This ultimately proved to be the turning point of the game.

Late Game

With the Fire Giant buff around their belt, Spacestation pushed their lead even further going into the late game.

Spacestation was able to follow up by taking both duo lane towers, along with another quick double kill by Baskin. This gave them the opportunity to siege the duo lane phoenix with ease while killing Card1ac again in the process. With two phoenixes and three eUnited members down, Spacestation decided to play it safe by taking the Gold Fury instead of trying to end the game.

From here, Spacestation played a slow and steady game, picking up kills onto PandaCat, PolarBearMike, Card1ac, Venenu, and the middle phoenix for the second time, only losing Baskin in the process.

Off of that, Spacestation was able to get their second Fire Giant kill of the game at around the 30 minute mark. With the enhanced buff Spacestation easily destroyed the remaining phoenixes, killing the majority of eUnited in the process, allowing them to kill the Titan and end the game in 33 minutes.

Takeaways

Chalice of the Oracle looks to still be valued by both teams, as five players purchased it at some point in the game. Look for this trend to continue in future games.

Spacestation showed great poise and patience with respect to ending the game. Other teams, including eUnited, have thrown wins in the SPL this season by overextending to try and end the game. Spacestation decided to instead play a safer style, waiting until all phoenixes were down before committing to attacking the Titan.

Strong performances by both andinster and Aquarius should have Spacestation fans feeling good going into Friday. The two were Spacestation’s biggest question marks heading into the season, but if they play as they did tonight, expect dominant sets from Spacestation.

The importance of Screammmmm to eUnited was clearly on display in the Esports Arena. While PolarBearMike showed promise filling in for the jungler, their substitute Card1ac had a game to forget. Multiple missed ultimates led directly to Spacestation building a lead that they never surrendered. If Card1ac fills in this season, he needs to show that his performance here is not indicative of his ability.

Player of the game: Baskin

eUnited and Spacestation will play again on Mar. 23rd 2018 at 6:45 ET exclusively through SmiteGame on Mixer.

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Top image courtesy of Hi-Rez Studios and Esports Arena

eSports

Esports come to the Las Vegas Strip

eSports

Image courtesy of www.esportsarenavegas.com

March 22, 2018 marks the official opening of the Esports Arena Las Vegas and a big day for esports. Located at the Luxor Hotel on the Las Vegas strip, this 30,000 square foot arena boasts a competition stage, telescopic seating, broadcast center and production studio and a 50 foot video wall. The sight may prove to be the ideal location for major gaming events in the Las Vegas area.

To celebrate the grand opening, Esports Arena Las Vegas is hosting multiple game competitions and broadcasts to demonstrate the capabilities of the arena. Games such as Super Smash Bros., Rocket League and Dragonball FighterZ will be showcased. There will also be a special broadcast by Twitch streamer Tyler ‘Ninja’ Blevins. Ninja recently made rounds in gaming news thanks to a Fortnite broadcast on Twitch this month featuring special guest appearance by musician Drake.

eSports

Image courtesy of www.esportsarenavegas.com

Along with these events, the Smite Pro League will take to the stage as well. Reigning champions eUnited will take on newly formed Spacestation Gaming – a team comprised of the previous season Luminosity Gaming roster. This match up will not be part of the Smite Pro League 2017 Spring season. The two teams will have their first official match following the event on March 23rd.

This will certainly be worth watching to see how both teams are adapting to changes in Smite’s latest season. The event will hopefully serve to widen the audience. More importantly, it may help bring more attention to the Smite community. Hi-Rez continues to improve on the gameplay of their flagship title and provide thrilling competitive experiences on the battleground of the gods.

This is not the first arena of this nature. Esports Arena alone has opened two similar locations previously in Oakland and Orange County. The medium continues to garner popularity thanks to streaming services like Twitch and Mixer. Along with new organizations like the Overwatch League, it is unlikely to be the last either. Arlington, Texas recently made an announcement that the city will open a 100,000 square foot esports stadium later this year.

Fans can check out the Esports Arena Las Vegas event at twitch.tv/esportsarena where they will stream matches and broadcasts from March 22nd to the 25th. eUnited and Spacestation Gaming will play Thursday evening.

You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other TGH writers along with Brian Quisenberry.

Top image courtesy of esportsarena.com/lasvegas/

NHL All-Star Game

NHL All-Star Game: The stars, the surprises and the snubbed

On Wednesday the NHL announced the roster for the 2018 NHL All-Star Game (ASG) in Tampa Bay, FL.

Most of the players that made the cut were obvious choices: Connor McDavid, Anze Kopitar, Nikita Kucherov, etc.

However, a good amount of players that made the team don’t quite fit the bill. There were a lot of quality players that didn’t make the cut in favor of less qualified players.

THE STARS

There are two different categories for the stars in the ASG.

You have the obvious, always have and will be all-stars such as Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, Patrick Kane, McDavid and more.

There are the stand alone stars who’s teams are seeing mediocre seasons but they still stand out such as: Mike Green, Johnny Gaudreau and Jack Eichel.

Granted the Penguins, Oilers and Blackhawks are having less than stellar seasons so Crosby, McDavid and Kane could all be included in this group too, but lets face it; it’ll be a cold day in hell when these guys aren’t on this roster.

THE SURPRISES

Here we have a category of players who either surprised me (in a good way) individually this year or they come from a surprisingly good hockey team (looking at you Vegas).  In this group we see: James Neal, Marc Andre-Fleury and John Klingberg (are you kidding me, 33 assists as a D-man?).

Some additions in this group of surprises are: Josh Bailey, right winger for the New York Islanders, who is sporting impressive numbers this season in goals and assists for the floundering team. Bailey has a career plus/minus of -31 so this season is definitely a turn around for him.

Aleksander Barkov a center for the Florida Panthers is also somewhat of a rising star this season.  With 14 goals, 21 assists and a +4 rating; Barkov has definitely surprised hockey fans (especially with his flashy shootout moves). (Youtube link from Puck Daily)

In addition to these positive surprises I also have a list of “how the hell did you make it on this roster”.

Starting us off. Carey Price. I get that they are picking a player from each team, but even the shockingly bad Canadiens have better to offer this season.  After missing a handful of games due to injury, Price returned and has since been sporting a 2.89 GAA and a .911 S% over 29 games.

Our second victim in this category is Oliver Ekman-Larsson. This is by far the worst selection of the ASG. Sitting at 6 goals and 13 assists with an absolutely HORRENDOUS plus/minus of -34, Ekman-Larsson’s name doesn’t belong anywhere near the word all-star. Honestly, just give Shane Doan an alumni appearance in his place.

The final selection for the (bad) surprises is Rickard Rakell. He isn’t a bad player, he just isn’t the best the Anaheim Ducks or the Pacific has to offer. He has a respectable goal count with 15 but he only has 16 assists and a -6 rating.

THE SNUBBED

Speaking of that surprise selection from the Ducks, where is Ryan Getzlaf on this roster? I get that he only has 4 goals this season, but with 20 assists, a +9 rating and his leadership qualities he seems like a better choice for the ASG.

Mark Giordano somehow slipped under the radar for this year’s ASG. Coming from one of the best defensive cores in the NHL it is amazing that no D-men from the Calgary Flames made this roster. Dougie Hamilton could’ve easily been taken in place of Ekman-Larsson as well.

NHL All-Star Game

These are the top five forwards for the Vegas Golden Knights.   (Screenshot from NHL.com)

Finally we have the omission of Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson.

Marchessault leads the Golden Knights in points with 40 (16 goals and 24 assists) and Karlsson is right behind him with 36 (22 goals and 14 assists). James Neal made the roster in favor of these two which is shocking to me, especially if you look at the statistical breakdown of the Golden Knights’ forwards.

 

 

 

The Wrap Up

Overall, I am not impressed by this year’s ASG roster. Just bring back the fan vote (I want to see more John Scotts in the ASG) or the draft because that at least would make things more exciting and dramatic.

The 3-on-3 format is nice because it’ll keep things moving and showcase more speed so at least that will be interesting.

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Las Vegas

Las Vegas Golden Knights impact the city with more than just wins

The Las Vegas Golden Knights are the 31st team in the National Hockey League. Furthermore, their efforts in revitalizing the community have gone further than simply playing the sport.

Sports have the ability to unify a city which the Knights were planning to do as an expansion team. The organization has since become fuel for the city in the wake of the Vegas shooting.

Professional athletes always have a platform to partake in charitable contributions to society. They remind us that they are human and willing to help on and off the playing surface. Furthermore, it is difficult to not feel or have any emotion when players are active participants in helping their cities. Teams can help citizens feel good about where they live and where they come from. The Golden Knights are doing this in tremendous fashion.

Opening Night in Vegas

Tuesday, Oct. 10 was the Knights’ home opener at the T-Mobile Center. It was historic on all accounts. NHL hockey was alive in Las Vegas. The home team made history with their performance ending the night with a 5-2 win over Arizona. The victims of the shooting were remembered before, during and will in every game the Knights play this year.

Las Vegas Golden Knights

Photo: Sports Illustrated

It is respectful procedure to have a moment of silence before a sporting event in the aftermath of tragedy. However, to stand together in unity, the Knights made a more meaningful gesture in memoriam.

Each of the victims’ 58 names were lit up on the ice and the Vegas faithful stood in solidarity for 58 seconds. Then, Knights defenseman Deryk Engelland (a Las Vegas native) gave a heartwarming speech to the crowd informing them of his pride in calling Las Vegas home. A historic night at the T-Mobile Arena then ensued.

The Knights had already made history becoming the first expansion team to win their first two games prior to their home opener. Rally towels, insanely high crowd noise and the goal horn were all in effect on this night leading to their third win. Vegas put up four goals in the first period that electrified the crowd and me (the viewer) personally. Hockey along with the sporting world at large is dedicated to being a part of something bigger than the game itself. The Golden Knights are playing in honor of those victims who lost their lives in the tragic shooting which is an easy cause to get behind.

Knight In Shining Armor

James Neal was selected in this summer’s expansion draft from the Nashville Predators to be the Knights’ premier goal scorer. He has become just that and then some.

Las Vegas Golden Knights

Photo: Las Vegas Review-Journal.

In his first three games, Neal has scored five goals including the first game-winning goal in franchise history. The team has yet to name its captain, but he has already been named an alternate.

The 30-year-old veteran is still in his prime and has averaged over 20 goals throughout his career. Scoring the game-winner in the team’s first game against Dallas was one of the best feelings he’s had in hockey, he said according to USA Today. The team is creating chemistry by coming together as well as the fans knowing they are making history.

It’s a tricky situation potentially with this being a contract year for Neal. It isn’t if the Knights eventually fall into the expected cellar where they would trade him for a pile of assets at the deadline. However, if the club miraculously stays competitive throughout the year, they would face a tough decision. For now, they prevail onward in their historic inaugural season with their “knight in shining armor.”

Bigger than the game

Hard times and tragedy highlight what the sports platform is capable of in terms of unity.

In any case, the essence of sports at all times embraces the togetherness of its teams and fans. They evoke emotion and passion within those involved. Many relationships are formed and sustained through the teams that play in their cities.

Las Vegas is now home to an NHL franchise and will soon be home to an NFL franchise. For those who did not believe hockey would work, the organization received deposits for all 16,000 season tickets available for this season.

This town is deserving of pro sports with their economy and people within their economy already benefiting. Hockey is a powerful sport, and those who do not follow hockey are already seeing what the sport can do, thanks to the home opener on Oct. 10.

#VegasStrong

 

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Echo Fox dominates Evo 2017

Echo Fox invested heavily into their fighting game team early in 2017, signing a plethora of talented players in the hope of winning tournaments. At the conclusion of Evo 2017, Echo Fox as a team walked away with four medals and two golds. The investment into the first “super team” in fighting games has paid off handsomely.

Equally important, Echo Fox landed six players in the top 8 and many more in the top 16. The next closest team is Panda Global with three. Special performances propelled Echo Fox to one of the strongest performances from a single team in Evo history.

Certainly, the play of Hajime “Tokido” Taniguchi and Kim “JDCR” Hyun Jin put the 2017 squad into the discussion of best team ever. Tokido wins the marquee event in Street Fighter V, and has a dominating effort in both Injustice 2 and Tekken 7.

Tokido in Grand Finals. twitch.tv/evo

In a stroke of genius, Echo Fox bought out the Tekken free agent market before the release of Tekken 7 and have been winning everything since. Evo was no different. JDCR looked dominant taking home the gold, while Choi “Saint” Jinwoo finished second.

Everyone’s chasing Echo Fox

Panda Global is the only team that is anywhere in the vicinity of Echo Fox. Punk’s loss to Tokido was a complete heart-breaker and stole away an Evo Street Fighter for Panda Global. PG is also the only team with players across multiple games and platforms performing well. One medal and three top 8 appearances in three separate games.

SFV pools at Evo.

Not to mention, there’s only five teams with multiple players reaching a top 8. Noble, Splyce, Liquid and CLG had two each. It was Echo Fox far ahead of the pack. The Fox squad had more medals than the next best team had top 8 placings. It was a complete wreck.

In other instances, players still don’t have the sponsors. BlazBlue top 8 didn’t have one player sponsored, but that’s not much of a surprise considering the majority of players hail from Asia. The problem is that the few sponsored Asian born players all play for Echo Fox. With no more MadCatz, Echo Fox swept up all the talent.

Who will be the next team to make a big move in the fighting game free agent market? The best team at Evo changes nearly every year, especially with more teams joining the fray. It will be interesting to see if Echo Fox can hold that title again at Evo 2018.

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Armada continues best year ever with win at Evo 2017

In Melee’s fifth consecutive year at Evo, the results stayed consistent. Adam “Armada” Lindgren asserted his dominance as the world’s best Melee player, winning in straight sets over Joseph “Mango” Marquez. This secured Armada his second Evo title.

Armada winning a tournament is hardly news anymore, but that doesn’t take away from his massive achievement at Evo 2017. This speaks to his consistency and work ethic. He continues to perfect his Peach play while improving at playing under pressure.

As a matter of fact, Armada has become nearly unbeatable in last stock situations since famously falling to Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma at Evo 2016. Armada had to put that loss behind him and as a result it made him stronger for this latest run of dominance. The second Evo victory for Armada not only adds another trophy to his mantle but improves his 2017 resume as the best year from any Smasher ever.

Mango vs Armada

Nevertheless, Mango was looking to finally get that elusive third Evo title after failing the last two years. His first win over Hungrybox, after two consecutive exits at the hands of Hbox’s Puff previously, finally setup the matchup fans of Melee have been waiting to see at an Evo for the last four years.

Shockingly, this is the first time Mango and Armada reached Grand Finals in the same Evo. El Classico, as it’s known in Melee circles, fizzled out the last couple years. Armada held up his end of the bargain, but Mango struggled to reach the finals through losers bracket. And after all this time, Armada did what he does best and won by simply outplaying his opponent.

Reminiscent of Genesis 4, in which Armada dismantled a mentally tired Mango, Armada wasn’t pushed like in previous years. Evo 2017 felt similar to that Genesis 4 result. Mango put all his strength into beating Hungrybox and didn’t seem as mentally prepared to face Armada’s overwhelming, punish-heavy Peach.

M2K nearly pulls it off

However, Armada did struggle in one of the most intense and pain staking sets of 2017. Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman, similar to Mango against Hungrybox, put his heart and soul into beating Armada. Even in a best of three, the set felt like it took ages. A seven minute game three on Pokémon stadium was a game to be remembered. Every single hit was important.

Although M2K didn’t get the win, he managed to make Armada sweat. Something that isn’t easy to do. In no other set did Armada feel that pressure or the threat of a loss. Armada went 12-3 in the semifinal bracket, and despite a small setback against Jeff “Axe” Williamson, he dominated all day.

Armada sets up a chance at the “Threevo”

I don’t want to already move on to 2018, but it’s hard not to picture what could happen in the days to come. Mango has spoken of a third Evo title, but has let it linger too long and now is in jeopardy of potentially losing the “threevo” to his nemesis, Armada.

In the event that Mango and Armada meet in another Evo grand final, the stakes will be as high as they’ve ever been. But for now, it’s Armada’s time to sit back and enjoy another Evo title. One of the hardest working players in Smash continues to separate himself from the rest of the pack. The onus is on the rest of the field to match the Evolution 2017 world champion.

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Super Smash Bros Melee Evo 2017 odds

Evolution 2017 takes place next weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada, and in classic Vegas fashion I’m here to present the odds for Super Smash Brothers Melee. Of the 1,493 entrances, one of these players on the list below will be Evo champion. Will it be a past champion or a new name that takes the title?

9/4 Adam “Armada” Lindgren

It’s been a long time since anyone other than Armada was the favorite heading into an event. The two-time Evo champion is still amid the best year of his career. For Armada, he’s already accomplished the Melee gauntlet of tournament wins in his career. The lone achievement missing from his mantle is a third Evo title, or the “threevo.”

The 2017 tournament will be his second chance to obtain the illustrious third title that Hungrybox ripped out of his grasp in 2016. Armada will be focused and prepared. It will take an inhuman effort, like Hungrybox last year to take out Armada.

13/5 Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma

Armada is the favorite, but Hungrybox has the most recent major victory between the two of them. Smash N’ Splash 3 presented another game five set and like Evo 2016, Hungrybox edged him out. If anything, Hungrybox will have the most momentum of any player. With the recent win and the fact that he’s a returning champion, Hungrybox must feel a wave of confidence.

The key match will not be with Armada, but with Mango. The play of Mango’s Fox could be a potential hurdle en route to another championship.

Armada and Hbox, Evo 2016. Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/evo2k

15/5 Joseph “Mango” Marquez

Mango has had two disappointing Evo performances in the last two years. After scraping out two Evo titles previously, much was expected of him the last couple of years and in both instances Hungrybox ended his run. It was a despairing couple of losses due to the anticipation of the “threevo,” which is a title not many fighting game players hold.

The reality is that Mango still has another Evo run inside him. His talents still show up, not as often as in previous years, but the potential to win is there. This aspect makes Mango such a dangerous player heading into this weekend.

6/1 Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman

M2K is the one of the top four that has failed to win an Evo. Historically, Evo has been M2K’s worst major of the year. Some of his worst career performances have taken place at Evo. He’s never made it past a fifth-place finish. It’ll be another difficult year to break through for M2K, especially if Leffen plays up to par.

6/1 William “Leffen” Hjelte

Leffen is the wildcard once again. Recently, he’s given Armada some trouble and has pushed players like Hungrybox to their limits. Leffen rarely wins the tournament, but on any given day he’s capable of beating anyone. There’s not many players with the matchup prowess and understanding of Leffen.

18/1 Justin “Plup” McGrath

Plup is coming off a third-place finish at Evo 2016. A performance in which he took out Mango. Well, guess what? Plup will play Mango and his tournament success could ride on that matchup and if he can rewrite the history between him and Hungrybox.

25/1 Zac “SFAT” Cordoni

SFAT has cooled off a bit in 2017 after a breakout 2016, but the Fox player still has enough winnable matchups to get him over the top. SFAT avoids his problem matchups in M2K and Armada and will get ChuDat, Hungrybox and Mango. All players he’s had mild success against. If he can somehow get a win over a couple of these players, he could carry that momentum into the top 8.

30/1 Weston “Westballz” Dennis

The return of the extreme punish heavy Westballz has seemingly returned in 2017. The defense is still there, but now he’s starting to hit harder again with his Falco. He matches up with Leffen, who he has had close sets with in the past, but could run into some problems down the line.

30/1 Jeff “Axe” Williamson

Axe will have his hands full with Wizzrobe and Armada in bracket. He’ll have to play extremely well to have a shot at top 8 winners. The secret advantage Axe possesses is having the raucous Arizona crowd, which is in close proximity to the Vegas area, cheering for him.  Let’s see if Axe has the Evo main stage magic once again.

35/1 Justin “Wizzrobe” Hallett

Wizzrobe could be the one underdog to place your money on this weekend. It feels like a matter of time before he has another breakout performance. He can compete with the upper echelon players and he’s starting to win more of the 50-50 matchups. Wizzrobe now has the tournament experience necessary and is a threat to win an Evo.

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Featured image courtesy of twitch.tv/evo2k

Evo 2017: Attendance drop is just returning to the mean

Evolution 2017 has seen massive drop-offs in terms of entrances. Street Fighter V is down nearly 50% from 2016, both Smash games lost almost 1,000 unique entrants, and the newer released games failed to reach their expected marks. So, what’s causing this?

The game to focus on here is Street Fighter V. SFV was wildly successful in its first year as players seemed ready to move on from Street Fighter IV. This caused the spike in attendance from Evo 2015 to Evo 2016. The extra 2,800 players created a trickle down effect for the rest of the games as there were the most crossover entrances in Evo history.

The fighting game community was buzzing around the time Evo 2016 rolled around. SFV was still a new game and no one wanted to miss out on the first Evo featuring the newest Street Fighter game. Evo 2016 had the most first timers in its history. While first time attendees are a good thing, it’s fleeting and not sustainable. It created unreasonable expectations for the follow-up year because the numbers exploded.

Additionally, Evo made the jump from the Westgate to the Las Vegas Convention Center while moving championship Sunday to the Mandalay Bay Sports Arena. It was a perfect combination of Evo taking strides to enhance the experience and a new game that brought extra attention to the tournament. It all culminated into the biggest Evo in its 14-year history.

evo 2017

Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/capcomfighters

Fast forward to today, the buzz from last year has died off. In some respects, players now consider SFV to be an under-developed game that was rushed to market. Even with an influx of other fighting games being released in 2017, the sour taste SFV left in players mouths might have dissuaded them from attending Evo.

The direct result of SFV’s lackluster year is what we’re seeing now. Attendance is down across the board, with a few exceptions. SFV took the biggest hit. It’s not the sole reason attendance is down, but the larger player pool provided by SFV facilitated growth for nearly every other game.

Was 2016 an outlier? 

On the other hand, 2016 could be considered an outlier. Before 2016, Evo had never reached over 10,000 unique entrants. The numbers have been skewed by new releases and don’t provide an accurate estimate.

Take the release of the new Super Smash Brothers game for example. Three years ago, the popularity spiked and broke the record for the second most entered event in Evo history. Then the release of SFV started the trickle down and Smash re-broke their same record.

Returning to the present time, the Smash 4 numbers have dropped significantly. Is it because the community has shrunken in size? No, it’s just coming back to the average. Evo had doubled the entrants of most Smash majors last year. It’s no surprise to see the Evo numbers coming down.

As for Melee, the lack of a Sunday slot seemed to hurt the overall total. Part of the draw of Evo is having your favorite game on the main stage Sunday afternoon. Melee’s numbers dropping are correlated to the move to Saturday’s night. The trickle down hurts melee as well but not nearly as bad as Smash 4. It’s Evo’s lowest number of entrants for Melee since 2013.

In reality, the combination of factors when realizing that last year was a total outlier and not indicative of actual Evo numbers explains the drop. It’s still the third largest Evo in the tournaments history and will bring the same level of competition as ever. The general fan decided to stay and watch from home this year.


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Featured image courtesy of twitch.tv/capcomfighters