Inaugural season of Caps Gaming to end with Final Four showcase in Washington, D.C.
As esports continue to rise in popularity, professional sports leagues are trying to break into the gaming scene. The National Basketball Association (NBA) 2K League was created in 2018 and has grown from 17 teams to 21 teams in just two years.
Seeing success in basketball esports, the National Hockey League (NHL) launched a league-wide initiative to grow esports in hockey in 2019 to engage a younger audience. While there is no formal NHL esports league, some individual teams have formed their own NHL 20 Xbox competitions, including the Washington Capitals, Anaheim Ducks, and Montreal Canadiens.
Caps Gaming, presented by Leidos, was announced in November 2019 and is a 32-team league featuring eight weeks of competition followed by a single-elimination tournament.
The Capitals were the first team to appoint an official ambassador as they signed JohnWayne, a familiar name to any hockey esports fan as one of the top NHL 20 players in the world. He broadcasts weekly on Twitch, a streaming service primarily adopted by gamers. Last month, he streamed a battle against Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov is not the only gamer on the team, as captain Alex Ovechkin has been known to take his controller on the road to play Fortnite.
Capital One Arena, home of the Washington Capitals and Washington Wizards, amongst other D.C. area teams, was renovated in 2019 to include an interactive esports gaming zone on the second level concourse, further emphasizing owner Monumental Sports and Entertainment’s (MSE) commitment to the esports community. "Esports is a key initiative for us at Monumental and we are thrilled to add Caps Gaming to the family as we continue to tap into a new generation of fans," said Zach Leonsis, Senior Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at Monumental Sports & Entertainment. MSE is also responsible for NBA 2K team Wizards District Gaming.
As the Caps Gaming season comes to a close, the final four teams will compete in the Caps Gaming Showcase in Washington, D.C. next weekend for a $15,000 prize. The tournament can be streamed live on Feb. 29 at twitch.tv/capitals.