Funny how something like a COVID-19 pandemic lockdown can change everything, including professional hockey’s attitude toward Fortnite.
First, a bit of context. In October 2018, Vancouver Canucks’ forward Bo Horvat let it slip to the media that the team had instituted a full-on ban of the game for the season—at least while players were supposed to be bonding on road trips.
“Yeah, that’s definitely a no-go on the road,” Horvat told Vancouver’s TSN 1040. “No more Fortnite. No more bringing video games on the road. It’s strictly team meals, team dinners, and hanging out with the guys. So we put an end to that.”
Fortnite has been a major obsession of NHL players over the past couple of years, with stars like the Winnipeg Jets’ Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers, Ottawa Senator Colin White, and Carolina Hurricane Jake Gardiner all singing the praises of the battle-royale game.
Behind the scenes, NHL general managers have been known to question potential draftees about their Fortnite playing habits, which they view in extreme cases as a distraction to player focus and development. Perhaps because of that, pro feeder leagues like the OHL have told players that it might be wise to scrub references to Fortnite from their social-media accounts.
Horvat is definitely onboard with that line of thinking.
“In my opinion, there’s better ways to spend time on the road,” he continued in his Team 1040 interview, “whether it’s hanging with the guys in the room or going to a movie with the guys. There’s a lot of cool cities we visit, and to be cooped up in your room all night, playing Fortnite, is a waste of your time.”
Then, just in case the point was missed, he added: “Hopefully, a lot of parents and little kids are listening right now. I don’t play it. Nor will I ever.”
One has to wonder if Horvat is reevaluating things today.
The National Hockey League Players Association has announced that over 60 players will be participating in a Fortnite tournament for charity. Created by the Maple Leafs’ Zach Hyman and the Colorado Avalanche’s J.T. Compher, the NHLPA Open will see US$200,000 up for grabs, with the winners designating the money to the charities of their choices.
The full roster of players will be announced just prior to the event, which takes place from 5 to 8 p.m. PST on Twitch.tv/espnesports.
Those who’ve been confirmed so far include Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Nieto, Sebastian Aho, Clayton Keller, Travis Konecny, Thomas Chabot, Mitch Marner, Bryan Rust, Johnny Gaudreau, William Karlsson, and Alex Tuch.
Hyman—a vocal champion of eSports—will serve as the colour commentator.
In an NHLPA press release for the tournament, Compher said: “Players across the league are passionate Fortnite players. While we cannot compete on the ice right now, it is important to the guys that we give back in a meaningful way. We are excited to showcase our competitive skills online to an ever-growing audience, and I can’t wait to watch our event unfold.”
Hyman added: “When J.T. approached me about creating the NHLPA Open featuring Fortnite, I was on board right away because I knew teammates and friends around the league who would be thrilled to be a part of this. Many players have participated in a number of outstanding gaming events, and J.T. and I knew players would jump at the chance to come together with such a large group of players like this to unite and compete for charity in a unique way.”
Neither player commented on the availability of Horvat, or whether he still thinks Fortnite is the worst thing this side of Brad Marchand, Matthew Tkachuk, Nazem Kadri, and COVID-19 combined.