NHL Announces 2020 Gaming World Championship

Last updated:

When the 3rd annual NHL Gaming World Championship (GWC) was teased in December 2019, it was confirmed that the event would continue using Hockey Ultimate Team as the game-mode of choice. Today, the NHL has officially released the full details of this year’s event, which includes some key changes to the tournament format and its prize pool.

For those of you that are hearing about this tournament for the first time, here’s how it works: The NHL and its sponsors have been putting on an international esports tournament for the EA Sports NHL video game series since 2018. Anyone 16 years or older with a game console, a copy of NHL 20 and a subscription for online gaming can sign up, qualify for all-expenses-paid live LAN tournaments, and win cold hard cash from the comfort of their own home.

The 1st ever NHL Gaming World Champion was Erik “Eki” Tammenpää (Finland), and the current reigning champion is Matthew “Top Shelf Cookie” Gutkoski (USA). With a win, each took home a cheque for $50,000. This year, the NHL has upped the stakes by adding over $50,000 to the prize pool, which now includes over $25,000 in cash to be won solely from online qualifiers.

The format of the tournament has also been altered, to allow more players a chance to qualify for the World Final as we’ll now see nine (9) players participate in the final instead of six. This year, the top three (3) players in each Regional Final will earn a spot in the World Final. Each regional champion and runner-up will guarantee their place in the eight-person finals bracket. The three third-place regional finalists will face off in a Best-of-3 round-robin tournament before the World Final to determine the two players that will fill out the rest of the bracket.

The 128-person Online Play-in brackets will also be slightly different this year. The format will be a Best-of-3, single-elimination bracket for the entire qualifier. This should help avoid those instances where top players are bounced from the tournament after a single bad game.

EA Sports will once again be involved in the tournament. The first phase of online qualifiers will be hosted within the NHL 20 Hockey Ultimate Team mode, and they will be conducting the HUT Team Drafts for the Regional and World Finals. This could signal increased investment in their esport, but only time will tell.

“As seen most recently with our Chel Gaming Challenge during NHL All-Star Weekend in St. Louis, online gaming is a force — and the NHL gaming community is more engaged and enthusiastic than ever,” said NHL Vice President of Business Development, Chris Golier. “The NHL Gaming World Championship allows us to interact with the hockey community in authentic ways that help extend the reach of the NHL brand to a younger, gaming-savvy demographic. The platform continues to attract a number of blue chip NHL corporate partners who have experienced increased visibility across the global stage.”

Registration opens on February 27, 2020, and the competition will kick-off in NHL 20 on March 11, 2020. The full schedules for the Online Qualifiers, Regional Finals, and World Final are outlined below.

The NHL will broadcast the three Regional Finals and the World Final live on their Twitch channel. Each Regional Final and the World Final will also be broadcasted a few days after each event on national TV through their broadcasting partners – Viasat, Sportsnet, and NBC Sports.

Players can register for Online Open Play now, which will be hosted and played directly within EA Sports NHL 20. The second phase of online qualification, as well as the live Regional Final and World Final, will be administered by the third-party esports company FaceIT.

Are you ready to play? Click below to register for the 2020 NHL Gaming World Championship.

Key Information

Online Open Play Schedule

Week 1March 11 to 1512 AMNHL 20 HUT Leaderboard
Week 2March 18 - 2212 AMNHL 20 HUT Leaderboard
Week 3March 25 - 2912 AMNHL 20 HUT Leaderboard
Week 4April 1 - 512 AMNHL 20 HUT Leaderboard
(all Online Open Play will be played within NHL 20 in a HUT Champions-style leaderboard)

Online Play-In Schedule

EuropeDay 1April 11, 20208 AMSingle Elim (Bo3)
EuropeDay 2April 18, 20208 AMSingle Elim (Bo3)
USADay 1April 18, 20204 PMSingle Elim (Bo3)
USADay 2April 25, 20204 PMSingle Elim (Bo3)
CanadaDay 1April 25, 20204 PMSingle Elim (Bo3)
CanadaDay 2May 2, 20204 PMSingle Elim (Bo3)
(The first 4 rounds of Online Play-in Brackets will be played on Day 1 and the final 3 rounds (quarterfinal, semifinal, consolation and final) will be played on Day 2. All Online Play-In brackets will be played using a single-elimination, Best-of-3 format)

Regional HUT Draft Schedule

EuropeApril 25, 2020TBDSerpentine
USAMay 2, 2020TBDSerpentine
CanadaMay 9, 2020TBDSerpentine

Regional Final Schedule

EuropeCopenhagen, DenmarkMay 16, 2020TBDSingle Elimination (Bo3)
USAStamford, CT, USAMay 23, 2020TBDSingle Elimination (Bo3)
CanadaToronto, ON, CanadaMay 30, 2020TBDSingle Elimination (Bo3)
(all regional finals will be played in a Best-of-3, single-elimination bracket)

World Final Schedule

HUT Team DraftOnlineJune 3, 202012:00 PMSerpentine
World FinalLas Vegas, NevadaJune 17, 2020TBDRound Robin + Single Elim (Bo3)
(the World Final will consist of a mini round-robin tournament between the 3rd place regional finalists, from which the top two will move on to play in an eight-person, single-elimination, Best-of-3 bracket for the championship)

World Final Prizing

5th - 8th$2,000

Regional Finals Prizing

(the prizes listed above are awarded to 1st & 2nd place of each of the three Regional Finals)

Online Play-in Prizing

3rd - 4th$300
5th - 8th$250
9th - 16th$200
(the prizes listed above are awarded for each of the six Online Play-in brackets)

Qualification Process

Players will begin by competing in ‘Online Open Play’ starting on March 11, 2020. There are four weeks that a player can attempt to qualify for the ‘Online Play-In’ bracket that corresponds to their respective region and console. Online Open Play will be played in a specific tournament that will be hosted in NHL 20’s HUT game mode. Players can play a maximum of 25 games each week, and the Top 32 players on each console’s leaderboard at the end of each week will earn a ‘Qualification Collectible’. A Qualification Collectible earns a player a spot in the ‘Online Play-In’ bracket. Once qualified for the Online Play-In bracket, a player may not attempt to qualify for it again. Players may attempt to qualify for their Online Play-In bracket on both consoles, but will only qualify for one.

At the end of Online Open Play, 768 total players will qualify for the Online Play-In brackets. There will be six (6) brackets of 128 players – one per console, per region. Players will be seeded into these brackets based on their results from Online Open Play in the following order:

  1. Total wins during the week of qualification
  2. Skill Rating (ie. points, like those that are awarded in NHL 20 HUT online competitive modes)
  3. Goal differential during the week of qualification
  4. Earliest qualification
  5. Coin flip

Each Online Play-In bracket will be played over the course of two days. Day 1 will consist of the first four (4) rounds of the bracket. Day 2 will be the final three (3) rounds of the bracket, plus the consolation final. Players will qualify for the regional finals of the 2020 NHL Gaming World Championship by placing in the Top 4 of an ‘Online Play-In’ bracket (one Online Play-In bracket per console per region).

Day 1 will determine the four players that qualify for the Regional Finals. Day 2 will determine the seeding of the regional finalists.

Each regional finalist (8 per region) will be flown to their local Regional Final and will compete for a spot in the World Final. The 1st and 2nd place players of each Regional Final will win $5,000 and 1,000 USD, respectively. The top 3 players from each Regional Final (9 total players) and will earn a spot in the World Final that will take place on June 17, 2020, in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. The three players who finished 3rd in their Regional Final will face off in a Best-of-3 round-robin tournament before the main event to fill the remaining two spots in the World Final.

All tournament games will be played in the Hockey Ultimate Team mode in EA Sports NHL 20.

Tournament Format

Online Open Play will be run using a leaderboard format, using the ranking/seeding scheme as noted above. Players can play up to 25 games each week. Players are matched randomly with their opponents during Open Online Play.

Online Play-In brackets will be seeded and played using a Best-of-3, single-elimination format. The brackets will be displayed on the FaceIT website prior to the start of each Online Play-in.

The World Final will begin with a mini Best-of-3 round-robin tournament between the three 3rd place regional finalists to determine the two players that will compete in the World Final. Once decided, the eight Finalists will play through a Best-of-3, single-elimination bracket to determine the champion of the 2020 NHL Gaming World Championship.

Key Eligibility Requirements

  • Must be 16 years of age or older to participate
  • Must be a legal resident of Canada, the USA, or Europe
  • You may attempt to qualify for an Online Play-In bracket on both consoles
  • You cannot qualify for more than one Online Play-In bracket
  • All travel and accommodations required for players during the Regional and Grand Finals will be paid for by the NHL and its Sponsors

Click below to read the official tournament rules.

Have questions? Feel free to message @TDIHockey on Twitter, or send an email to tdihockeyyt@gmail.com.