J.T. Brown furthering NHL’s esports foray with House of Chel selection

Minnesota Wild's J.T. Brown (Hannah Foslien/AP)

This weekend, hockey’s brightest stars will descend upon northern California for the 2019 NHL All-Star Game.

Names such as Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, Sidney Crosby and J.T. Brown.

Wait, J.T. Brown?

Yes, though he only has four points on the season, the Minnesota Wild winger will also be featured prominently throughout the all-star festivities — just not at the SAP Center where the skills competition and all-star tournament will be held.

Announced Tuesday, Brown will be 20 minutes away in Palo Alto, Calif., participating in the NHL’s first-ever ‘House of Chel’ gaming house event.

Taking place from Jan. 24–26, this event appears to be another foray into esports that the NHL is attempting — coming on the heels of the league’s inaugural NHL Gaming Championship last year.

For the NHL’s second esports act, they’re going for something more ambitious than just a simple tournament. Though the video game that will be played will basically remain the same — another EA Sports NHL title in NHL 19 — the concept will be vastly different in that Brown, and other invited gamers, will be in a house participating in a series of challenges that will be streamed via the NHL’s Twitch channel throughout the course of the four days.

“What they’re doing is they’re bringing myself, a few of the top-tier NHL 19 players around, and influencers as well,” Brown told Sportsnet over the phone. “So it’s going to be a back and forth of streaming, a little bit of question-and-answer time, along with different activities.”

Joining Brown in the house will be esports team FaZe Clan member “CBass,” “GlitterXplosion,” esports outfit Team Rogue’s assistant general manager, NHL 19 content creators “Nasher” and “TDI Hockey.” The streamed segments will be hosted by Marissa Roberto, host of Super Channel television program “HUD,” and online hockey coach “Coach Jeremy.”

Additionally, there’s a chance that as the event gets going, others will drop by the house, including, perhaps, other NHL players.

“I’m pretty sure [the organizers] said they were going to have other people stop by because we’re not that far from the all-star game,” said Brown.

That the NHL chose to involve Brown shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, despite his small stature within the game. This is because he himself is a self-described avid gamer off the ice who spends more than a little time checking out esports on Twitch.

“I probably spend more time than I’d want to admit watching different video games, but it’s always cool being able to watch the best of the best compete. Whether it’s in Fortnite, Overwatch League and all the different games that they have different tournaments for.”

But Brown doesn’t only watch Twitch, he also streams a fair bit on his own channel and famously held a 24-hour Fortnite charity stream last July in support of the Hockey is for Everyone initiative. During that stream, the biggest highlight, according to Brown himself, was during the first couple hours of it when he managed to rope in about 35 NHL players to play with him.

At the moment, he’s thinking about doing it again, or at least something similar.

“I haven’t really formulated the whole thing. I’m going back and forth over whether I want to do a 24-hour stream,” he said. “I think that the highlight of the 24-hour stream was the beginning few hours when we had 35 NHL players playing at one time.

“So I want to grow that number and make it longer because that was kind of the consensus from the guys at the beginning. They were like, ‘Hey, are we done?’ I didn’t want to take up too much of the guys’ time in the summer, so I just said, ‘Hey, let’s just play for two hours.’ But maybe if we play a little bit longer we can have more of a tournament.

“So I think that’s kind of why we’re going in between the 24 hours.”

For now, as far Brown’s gaming career is concerned, organizing a massive NHL-only Fortnite event will have to be put on the back-burner as he’s got some much more important goals to tackle in the House of Chel.

“Try not to lose very badly. I know I’m going to lose, but try to keep it close.”


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