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The Unstoppable Growth of the eSports Industry

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Photo by Anthony Brolin / The Unsplash License

The eSports industry is now a billion-dollar industry, and it’s expected to reach more than $1.5 billion by 2021. It’s growing worldwide, but it’s currently most popular in the U.S., China, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. Thanks to its growing popularity, cities around the world are now building stadiums specifically dedicated to eSports, professional sports leagues are investing heavily in eSports, and colleges are even introducing eSports majors.

For reference, eSports includes genres of games like: first-person shooter, fighting, multiplayer online battle area (MOBA), real-time strategy, battle royale, and games based on real-life sports. This wide selection of eSports games has certainly been a huge factor in its growth. But other big reasons for its explosive growth include rapid improvements in technology across the board, which has increasingly digitized our lives.

Additionally, eSports are more popular with younger generations who grew up playing and watching video games. So instead of going to see a professional sports game, many of them are more likely to follow their favorite players on social media, watch tournaments online, bet on eSports outcomes, and travel to sports stadiums around the world to watch eSports teams play in the flesh.

eSports Teams

eSports is now rivaling real-life sports with franchise teams, dedicated fans, regulated season matches, and massive championship games. Many eSports teams around the world are now worth more than $100 million, with many players earning million-dollar paychecks. The world’s most valuable eSports team is Cloud9, which is worth more than $300 million.

Some professional sports leagues even own eSports teams or host tournaments. The NBA, for example, has partnered with Take-Two Interactive to create the NBA 2K League, and MLS has partnered with EA Sports to host the eMLS Cup. Former players like Michael Jordan have also invested in eSports, along with Stephen Curry, Drake, and Kevin Durant.

Photo by Alex Haney / The Unsplash License

 

Most Popular Games

Although the world of eSports includes a large selection of games, several of the most popular — and the most valuable in the world of professional eSports — are League of Legends, Overwatch, and Fortnite. For example, ever-addicting Fortnite has more than 125 million active players across the world. It’s even produced superstars like Ninja, who has made a career out of playing Fortnite for a living. He has tens of millions of Twitter followers and YouTube subscribers, and reportedly makes seven figures per month.

Other popular games include Call of Duty, Dota 2, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Hearthstone, Rocket League, and Super Smash Bros. Besides Fortnite, which is a battle royale game, MOBA games like League of Legends and Dota 2 tend to be the most popular to watch and play.

eSports Tournaments

There are dozens of eSports tournaments around the world, and the list is likely to grow much further from there. Tournaments like the Fortnite World Cup, League of Legends World Championship, the Rocket League Championship Series, and the Smite World Championship tend to be the most popular and have the biggest prize pools.

Hundreds of millions of people watch eSports tournaments every year, and the viewership totals are growing every year. For example, in 2018, roughly 380 million people watched eSports. By 2021, that number is expected to grow to roughly 550 million.

Improved Technology

Virtual reality is also taking over the eSports industry. Players can now indulge in virtual reality eSports, join VR eSports leagues, and compete in VR eSports tournaments. As this technology improves, the entire world of eSports is likely to move to virtual reality because it offers a far more immersive experience.

Virtual reality can also offer fans a better viewing experience. Many games now allow fans to stream live tournaments through their VR headsets so they can feel as if they’re actually there in the stadium. Although this option might not be for all eSports fans, it’s still another way that fans can have fun watching the game.

What it all comes down to is: More people are aware of eSports, investing in eSports (both time and money), and engaging with eSports. And this isn’t going to stop any time soon.

Published by Harry Miller

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A statistical look at the Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Columbus Blue Jackets play-in series – TSN

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The National Hockey League’s Return to Play format is official, and assuming all goes to plan, we are about six weeks away from watching hockey once again.

The new format – in the event you live under a rock – will feature 24 teams in total, and will open up with a 16-team qualifying round. The opening best-of-five series offers new life to eight teams that were below the original playoff cutline, and should create waves of excitement for eager sports fans.

With such a significant layoff, there will be ample questions about preparedness for every team. But the good news is with 70 or so regular-season games logged, we do have a rather strong understanding of each team’s strengths and weaknesses.

To shake off the rust here, I will preview each qualifying round series over the next few weeks. Today we will start in the Eastern Conference, with the eight seed Toronto Maple Leafs taking on the nine seed Columbus Blue Jackets.

Regular Season Performance

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One of the things that I think makes a Toronto-Columbus matchup so intriguing is that the teams are polar opposites.

The Maple Leafs are a high-flying offensive team with loads of superstar talent up front, and carried one of the league’s more prolific offences through the regular season. Toronto’s 3.4 goals per game was actually third in the league, trailing only Tampa Bay (3.5) and Washington (3.4). Despite the wondrous offensive production, Toronto is still just an eighth seed – in large part because only five teams gave up more goals per game (3.2). Elite offensive team, shaky defensive team

The Blue Jackets live on the other end of the spectrum. Their 2.6 goals against per game was fourth best in the league – a surprisingly strong performance considering the exodus of talent from Columbus last summer. In many ways, it’s a classic John Tortorella team: incredibly disciplined in the defensive zone, with five-man units that show very capable in pushing opposing forwards well into the perimeter.

It’s also a classic Tortorella team because scoring was a problem all season long. 5-on-5 scoring and power-play production – which has been an area of concern for a few years now in Columbus – are ineffective, in large part because the team cannot create offence from the low slot:

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Skater Overview (Goals Above Replacement)

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There is no doubt that Toronto’s Auston Matthews is the best skater heading into this series. Matthews’ fourth professional season was absolutely electric, with 47 goals and 33 assists in 70 games played. The season stoppage ultimately barred him from chasing down the Rocket Richard Trophy, finishing just one marker back of Boston’s David Pastrnak and Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin.

What differentiates Matthews from a number of other prolific scorers in Toronto is that the Maple Leafs showed a semblance of defensive competency with him on the ice. Toronto was a full goal better than its opponents for every 60 minutes of even-strength play with Matthews on the ice – a number that compares to the likes of Mark Stone and Evgeni Malkin.

Consider some of the other Leafs attackers, and you have a very different story. Mitchell Marner (+0.0 goals per 60 minutes), Kasperi Kapanen (-0.2 goals per 60 minutes), and John Tavares (-0.4 goals per-60 minutes) are just a handful of examples of productive offensive players who traded off those goals because of leaky defensive play behind them.

Matthews isn’t the only player in the series to drive such an impressive on-ice goal differential, though. Oliver Bjorkstrand – the 25-year-old Columbus forward in the midst of his own breakout season – also finished a goal better than his opponents per 60 minutes, coming into his own with linemates Gustav Nyquist and Pierre-Luc Dubois.

But the story of Columbus ultimately centers on their blueline. The team’s top pairing of Zach Werenski and Seth Jones has become one of the most formidable defensive duos in the league, and Toronto’s top-six forwards are going to see an ample amount of both in this series.

The Jones/Werenski pairing is strong on both sides of the ice, and over the years it has led to some incredible goal rates. By season:

– 2016-17: +9 goals

– 2017-18: +16 goals

– 2018-19: -10 goals

– 2019-20: +14 goals

For Toronto to prevail in this series, neutralizing Columbus’ best units – anchored by the Jones/Werenski pairing – will be critical.

Goaltender Overview (Goals Saved Above Average)

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The questions about how porous the Maple Leafs defence has been this season has been quite tough to answer, if only because the goaltending has been comparatively abysmal. For every scoring chance where the blueline left a Toronto goalie out to dry, you had another lifeless shot from the point that somehow found its way in the back of the net.

Frederik Andersen did improve as the season progressed, and the acquisition of Jack Campbell from Los Angeles did prove to be a major upgrade over Michael Hutchinson. Andersen will be the guy in this series, but it’s probably fair to say he doesn’t have the longest leash of goalies in the qualifying round.

In Columbus, Tortorella had tough decisions to make in the post-Sergei Bobrovsky world. His tandem of Elvis Merzlikins (33 games) and Joonas Korpisalo (37 games) proved more than capable, and were one of the biggest reasons the Blue Jackets stayed in the hunt this season.

But in a short series, the value of a rotational goaltender system is diminished – Tortorella ultimately has to pick one. The games played edge would seemingly give it to Korpisalo, but on performance, Merzlikins was a definitively better goalie. I would be surprised if the Latvian isn’t given the Game 1 start.

Prediction

If anyone is still counting out Columbus after last season’s unbelievable sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning, they are foolish. This is a strong, defensively disciplined team that’s going to scratch and claw for every inch of the ice.

But this Toronto lineup just has too much firepower in the forward ranks, and there are serious concerns about where the scoring will come from on the Columbus side.

The pick is Toronto in five.

Data via Natural Stat Trick, HockeyViz, Evolving Hockey, NHL.com

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Oilers' McDavid, Nurse size up new playoff format ahead of potential Hawks clash – CBC.ca

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During his downtime in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Darnell Nurse tuned into the Michael Jordan documentary The Last Dance for a dose of inspiration.

The Edmonton Oilers rearguard plans to draw on motivational lessons from Air Jordan in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs against the Chicago Blackhawks.

“I think that’s the perfect example — to see his mindset in a lot of those games – of creating your own environment, creating your own fire,” Nurse said Thursday on a virtual news conference conducted via Zoom.

“That’s a test that everyone in this situation is going to have to go through, having the ability to create your own excitement.”

WATCH | Nurse remains motivated by opportunity to win Stanley Cup:

Edmonton Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse says even though they will be competing in an empty arena, the opportunity to win a Stanley Cup should be enough to motivate players. 1:08

There will be no crowd due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The seats, empty. The energy in the building, absent.

“Yeah, there’s no fans there,” Nurse said. “And yeah, you might be in a hub city. But there’s an opportunity to win the Stanley Cup. I think that should be enough motivation to get anyone going.

“There’s a lot of challenges. There are a lot of things that aren’t ideal that come along with this situation. But that’s the world. The world is in that position right now. So the Stanley Cup is all the fire you should need.”

On Tuesday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced the league and NHLPA agreed to a return-to-play format, which concludes the remainder of the regular season and begins a 24-team playoff plan.

The new plan would see the top-4 clubs in the Eastern and Western Conference play two abbreviated round-robin tournaments to determine playoff seeding.

The other eight teams in each conference would play a best-of-five ‘play-in’ series — No. 5 versus No. 12, No. 6 versus No. 11, No. 7 versus No. 10, and No. 8 versus No. 9 — to determine the 16 clubs left standing for the playoffs.

WATCH | 2-minute recap of Bettman’s press conference:

Commissioner Bettman outlined the NHL’s 24-team playoff format, and the draft lottery. 2:11

If fans were allowed in the building in Edmonton, Chicago forward Patrick Kane would have no doubt experienced the wrath of the Oiler faithful given the carnage inflicted over the years.

Through 43 career games against the Oilers, Kane has 56 points. And in the post-season against any club, Kane is a certified gamer with 123 points in 127 career appearances and a Conn Smythe Trophy to boot.

The Chicago faithful have reason to hope for an upset — if Kane can keep up the torrid scoring pace and the rest of the Blackhawks can somehow limit the damage inflicted by Leon Draisaitl and captain Connor McDavid.

Holland approves of format

“I’m happy it’s a best-of-five,” Oilers general manager Ken Holland said. “There might be a little bit of rust in the first game or two, but over the course of a five-game series it’s an opportunity to — if you get off to a sluggish start — get back in the series.

“If you have a bad first game, you’ve still got to lose two more versus how quickly a best-of-three can go.”

In spite of the Kane factor, the Oilers (37-25-9) will enter the series — whenever it happens — as the undeniable favourites against the Blackhawks (32-30-8).

On Thursday, McDavid, who was part of the NHL/NHLPA’s Return to Play Committee, and Nurse addressed the merit of the 24-team format and whether a hub city approach would provide an advantage for the hometown franchise among other topics.

WATCH | McDavid, Nurse discuss polarizing return-to-play format:

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid, who was part of the NHL/NHLPA’s Return to Play Committee, and his teammate Darnell Nurse discuss the creation of the NHL’s 24-team playoff plan. 1:57

The Oilers led the league in power-play efficiency at a whopping 29.5 per cent, and now they have the services of a healthy Mike Green as the quarterback on the point.

As for the penalty kill, they ranked second behind only San Jose at 84.4 per cent.

“We’ve had that same power play for probably two years now, and that helps a lot,” McDavid said. “We’ve had a lot of success on specialty teams, and we’ll probably need to be a little bit better five-on-five.”

Draisaitl a driving force

The difference maker could well be Draisaitl, the 2019/20 Art Ross Trophy winner with 43 goals and 67 assists for 110 points in 71 appearances. The 6-foot-2, 208-pounder is a beast to move off the puck and one of the best pure passers in the league.

During Thursday’s conference, a reporter from Germany asked McDavid how he benefits from playing with Draisaitl.

“He gives me nice passes, so that definitely helps me out,” McDavid said. “A lot was made of us playing together or not playing together, and that gives our team a different look.”

After Christmas, head coach Dave Tippett assigned McDavid and Draisaitl their own lines, and the Oilers became way more challenging to defend with the scoring spread around.

“As a general manager, and if you’re a fan of the Edmonton Oilers, we’re very fortunate to have two great players who are 23 and 24 years of age and, really, probably just coming into their prime years as athletes,” Holland said. “They’ve been versatile. Obviously, Leon can move to the left wing and we can play them together as a line.”

And when that happens — even minus fans in the building — the atmosphere will no doubt be electric.

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Bruins win Presidents' Trophy for 2019-20 season – NHL.com

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The Boston Bruins won the Presidents’ Trophy, awarded to the team with the best record in the regular season.

The Bruins were 44-14-12 and led the NHL with 100 points when the 2019-20 season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

The NHL in its Return to Play Plan announcement May 26 said there would be no more regular-season games, instead restarting with eight teams in each conference playing a Qualifying Round for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, with a Seeding Round Robin featuring the top four teams in each conference.

The Bruins had five winning streaks of at least four games, including three of at least six games. They had a 13-game point streak (9-0-4) from Nov. 10-Dec. 5 and ended the season with at least one point in 30 of their final 37 games (24-7-6).

It’s the third time the Bruins have won the Presidents’ Trophy since it was first awarded in 1985-86. They did so in 2013-14, when they lost to the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Second Round, and in 1989-90, when they lost to the Edmonton Oilers in the Stanley Cup Final.

Boston was led by forward David Pastrnak, who tied Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals for the NHL lead with 48 goals and was tied with Artemi Panarin of the New York Rangers for third in the League with 95 points.

Goalies Tuukka Rask (26-8-6, 2.12 goals-against average, .929 save percentage) and Jaroslav Halak (18-6-6, 2.39 GAA, .919 save percentage) combined for eight shutouts and helped the Bruins allow the fewest goals in the NHL (167, 2.39 per game), earning Boston goalies the William M. Jennings Trophy for the third time (Andy Moog and Rejean Lemelin, 1989-90; Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez, 2008-09).

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