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As Patrik Laine climbed the ranks of youth hockey in Finland Womens Patrick Marleau Jersey , he learned about the NHL from video games.”I learned probably just about the players,” the Winnipeg Jets star said. ”Nowadays it’s super realistic, and you can just pretty much see how everybody is playing and how good they are.”It’s about to get even more real with the NHL following the lead of the NBA, NFL, FIFA and other leagues in establishing a presence in a burgeoning esports market. The 2018 NHL Gaming World Championship, launched Friday, is a first step toward a potential version of the season-long NBA 2K League that’s set to begin in May or perhaps eMLS on FIFA 18.”You’re really both tapping into and expanding the existing fan base of the game,” said NBC Sports executive Rob Simmelkjaer, who got his introduction to hockey from playing ”NHL 94” on Sega Genesis. ”I think that’s something that the NHL can benefit from by putting esports front and center in the way that they market their sport.”Players will be able to match up 1-on-1 in EA Sports NHL 18 qualification rounds. That will be followed by regional finals in the United States, Canada and Europe on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and then the June 19 championship at Esports Arena Las Vegas during the NHL Awards with a prize pool of $100,000.The hope is to land new fans and connect with current fans in a different way.”This is really at its embryonic stage Rasmus Andersson Jersey Womens ,” NHL executive vice president and chief revenue officer Keith Wachtel said. ”This is the most basic way for our fans to play. We’re also going to explore in the future the opportunity, and we’re going to test this with some of the guys at the regional tournaments and the final, maybe a two-versus-two or a three-versus-three.”WorldGaming and Collegiate StarLeague are already experimenting with gaming at movie theaters in Canada and are in the midst of the Snider Hockey Cup tournament on EA Sports NHL 18 with the finals taking place March 22 in Philadelphia, next to the Flyers‘ arena.”After the response we got to this tournament, we worked closely with the NHL and Electronic Arts for this program,” WorldGaming and Collegiate StarLeague CEO Wim Stocks said. ”They’re going to be in the marketplace with really cool esports programming in the very near future.”Sports-based esports have a long way to go to catch up to fighting games like ”Dota,” ”League of Legends” and ”Counter-Strike,” but National Amusements programming and corporate development executive Kevin Mitchell doesn’t believe the NHL needs to worry.”Console gaming is just now starting to take off,” said Mitchell, who also teaches esports at Emerson College in Boston. ”I think it’s really just coming up with an ambidextrous strategy on finding ways to integrate with their traditional fan base and finding ways to create cross-over engagement for this new generation that has been primarily consuming content online.”Mitchell thinks esports ventures are ways for leagues to make fans of young people who get their sports largely through their smartphones or computers. According to Newzoo’s 2016 Esports Consumer Insights, 28 percent of hockey fans are 21-35, while 49 percent of esports enthusiasts are in that age bracket.”We have a very attractive fan base William Nylander Jersey ,” Wachtel said. ”It’s young, it’s very tech-savvy, and millennials these days, which is really the gamer, are consuming sports in a much different way.”For a sport grappling with challenges of getting kids interested in hockey in places where ice time and equipment can be expensive and difficult to come by, this is another possible route. Mitchell said about 50 U.S. colleges now offer esports scholarships and expects more development at youth levels as they become more popular.NBC Sports in the U.S., Rogers Sportsnet in Canada and Viasat in Europe will promote the event, airing regional finals and the championship and putting highlights on TV around playoff games.How it goes will help determine the NHL’s next steps.”We don’t really have a statement on what the future holds other than we’re going to be active in one way, shape or form,” said Chris Golier, NHL vice president of business development. ”We’re going to have a lot of involvement and conversation with a lot of the top gamers, as well Zach Hyman Jersey , make sure that it’s fun, engaging, the content works and we’ll revise as we see fit going forward.”Esports might be a way for the NHL to grow its audience in China, where it is already broadcasting regular-season games and hosting exhibitions ahead of the 2022 Olympics.”China is a huge gaming population,” Stocks said. ”What better way to help bring the game of hockey to China than through video gaming? I think the NHL has a great opportunity.”— PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Although he’s diminutive in size, Cam Atkinson plays big in front of the net.Atkinson scored two more goals as part of an eight-point game for Columbus’ top line to lead the Blue Jackets to their third straight victory, 4-3 over the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.Listed at 5-foot-8, 179 pounds, Atkins upped his season total to 22 goals. He has scored at least 20 in six straight seasons.“I like scoring goals,” he said.Atkinson netted both from close range, something he said is the key to his prowess.“I score a lot of my goals around the net, and you have to put yourself there Alex Burmistrov Jersey ,” he said. “I guess good reads, put yourself where you think the puck is going to go and good things happen.”Atkinson notched the first of his two scores with 10:30 left in the second period. Carter Hart made a stellar kick save on Atkinson’s first attempt, but the Blue Jackets star stayed with it and roofed the follow-up shot from the left of the crease.“I heard the crowd going bananas; they went from 100 to zero pretty quickly,” Atkinson said. “He made a great save initially, just stuck with it.”He went to the other side of the goal for his 22nd of the season, finishing a good passing play with Artemi Panarin making a move before finding Scott Harrington, who sent the feed cross-ice to Atkinson.“Just great offensive instincts,” Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. “For a smaller guy body size, he’s willing to play in the (scoring) areas.”Panarin had a goal and two assists and Pierre-Luc Dubois added three assists as part of a big night for the Blue Jackets’ top line. They almost lost the opportunity for that success because of some early-game struggles.“That line was brutal their first three shifts,” Tortorella said. “I was thinking about breaking it up. Thank God I didn’t overcoach.”James van Riemsdyk had a goal and an assist and Sean Couturier and Phil Varone netted goals for Philadelphia, which lost its first game since interim coach Scott Gordon replaced the fired Dave Hakstol and the 20-year-old Hart took over the goaltending duties.After stopping 51 of 54 shots in wins over Detroit and Nashville this week, Hart allowed four goals on the first 15 shots he faced and finished with 15 saves. He was trying to become the fourth Flyers goalie to start his career with three straight victories.“Obviously http://www.officialcanucks.com/authentic...vat-jersey , I have to make a couple more saves,” he said. “We didn’t give them much and when they did get some chances, they capitalized.”Sergei Bobrovsky made 34 saves for the Blue Jackets.Columbus, which began Saturday four points behind Washington in second in the Metropolitan Division, outscored the Flyers 3-1 in the second period to take a two-goal advantage into the third.Philadelphia went in front 2-1 on Varone’s first goal in his sixth game since his call-up from the AHL. He finished a rebound 7½ minutes into the second period.But the Blue Jackets tallied the next three.After Atkinson’s two scores, Panarin made it a 4-2 game with 35.6 seconds left in the period when his quick shot after Dubois’ faceoff win beat a screened Hart between the pads.Van Riemsdyk notched his fifth of the season after a scramble in front of the net with 1:10 remaining in regulation to make it a one-goal contest.NOTES: Columbus had killed off 14 straight penalties before Couturier’s power-play tally with 22.3 seconds left in the first period. … The Blue Jackets improved to 3-0 against Philadelphia this season. The teams will play their regular-season finale on Feb. 28 in Columbus. … Bobrovsky improved to 13-3-1 against Philadelphia. … Voracek’s assist on van Riemsdyk’s goal gave him 600 career points.UP NEXTColumbus: At the Devils on Sunday.Philadelphia: Begin a five-game trip at the Rangers on Sunday night.