While the Vancouver Canucks are likely preparing for another dim season as the club continues to rebuild, Vancouver sports fans look to be getting a brand new team to cheer for – in a competitive arena they’re probably not all too familiar with.
Video game publisher Activision Blizzard has sold a slot into its Overwatch League (OWL) for a Vancouver franchise, ESPN’s Jacob Wolf is reporting. Overwatch is a popular first-person shooter video game from publisher/developer Activision Blizzard that pits a team of six against each other.
The new franchise will be led by Canucks Sports & Entertainment chairman’s Francesco Aquilini’s Aquilini Investment Group, buying the expansion slot for anywhere between the range of $35-$60 million, Wolf reports.
Canucks Sports & Entertainment is the parent group of the Canucks and Rogers Arena, a venue that’s becoming increasingly acquainted with esports.
Just two weeks ago, the Rogers Arena played host to The International 2018, DOTA 2’s annual grand championship that awarded more than $25 million in prize money and $11 million to the champions, OG.
There’s been no official announcement made yet on this move.
Vancouver joins Toronto as the only two Canadian cities reportedly getting a spot into the OWL. As the ESPN reporter says, there have been eight new expansion franchises — if you include the two Canadian cities — bringing the league up to a total of 20 teams.
The inaugural season of the OWL concluded on July 28, with the London Spitfire defeating the Philadelphia Fusion during the Grand Finals at a sold-out Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Should this report wind up being true, prospective fans of this new Vancouver franchise can likely expect to see regulation play beginning in January. However, actually seeing the team play live and in-person may prove to be a little challenging as every team – including ones representing cities in China and England – played in Los Angeles at Activision Blizzard’s Blizzard Arena.
This will probably remain the case for the 2019 season as well, but, according to Wolf, the league will be looking to move teams into their home bases of operation come the 2020 season, meaning esports at Rogers Arena could become a far more regular thing.
The reported inclusion of Vancouver and Toronto as new OWL markets is further evidence of Canada’s push into the burgeoning space of esports with such highlights as Toronto hosting the 2016 North American League of Legends Championship Series summer finals, the Toronto Raptors’ NBA 2K League team Raptors Uprising GC and the aforementioned The International 2018.
Canadian fans interested in Overwatch esports can track the Overwatch World Cup qualifier beginning this Friday with Team Canada in action attempting to book its ticket into the tournament’s finals at BlizzCon in November.