For more than 250 days, Chris Douglas hasn’t had a chance to celebrate a goal with his teammates.
Saturday, the Red Deer Rebels forward will finally get that chance, albeit virtually.
Douglas is one of 60 player representatives from across the Canadian Hockey League selected to represent their club in the inaugural Memorial eCup – a 64-team, elimination-style virtual tournament using the NHL 21 video game.
“The growth of gaming and esports offers a new opportunity to stay better connected with our fans. It is also a fun way to give our players a chance to showcase their skills in a format that many of them enjoy in their spare time,” said CHL president Dan MacKenzie in a press release.
Douglas, a Richmond, B.C., native, said he found out about the opportunity a few weeks ago and has been hastily sharpening his skills at the game.
“Some of the other guys on the team said that I was one of the better NHL players. But I used to play a lot of NHL when I was younger, that’s where it came from,” said the 20-year-old forward.
“Now, I play a lot on the road with the guys on the team. So I’ve been having to brush up my skills ever since I was told I was competing in the tournament.”
Although his teammates recommended him, Douglas said he hasn’t played much of the new game. Still, he knows the boys will be counting on him and he hopes he can deliver a few victories to Red Deer and his teammates.
“It’s super exciting. They said it’s going to be streamed and everything. Sounds like it’s going to be a lot of fun. Hopefully, I can pick up a couple of wins, but we’ll see how it goes,” he said.
“I feel like there’s a lot of good players across the country.”
Douglas will face off against Oshawa Generals forward Allan McShane. He doesn’t know much about that team, but is looking forward to the challenge.
When the puck drops on the virtual competition, Douglas and the Rebels will be facing an uphill battle, as they are rated 51st overall in the game.
According to the in-game stats, the Generals are 55th overall. Red Deer’s best player is goalie Ethan Anders, who is rated a 63. Forward Josh Tarzwell is the team’s highest-rated forward at 61.
“The Western Hockey League players are rated a lot lower overall than the NHL players, so you can’t rely on one player as much. You have to be good at the game. Has to be a lot of team play to win the game,” he said.
The players will compete using PlayStation 4 and the games will be streamed on Facebook Live and Twitch.
Douglas will start play Saturday at 4:50 p.m. local time.
The winner of the tournament will be crowned on Dec. 17 and will be given $1,000 to donate to a charity of his choice.