Colorado Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon is used to being targeted on the ice by opponents. But on Monday, they’ll be targeting him with guns, bombs and rockets while trying to eliminate him from competition — and doing a trash-talking victory dance if they’re successful.
If MacKinnon doesn’t get them first, that is.
“There’s a level of bragging rights and excitement in Fortnite, especially if you eliminate certain guys from other teams,” said J.T. Compher, MacKinnon’s teammate on the Avalanche and when they squad up in Fortnite.
This time, the bragging rights are on the line for a good cause. The NHLPA Open featuring Fortnite, a live charity tournament, is scheduled for 2-5 p.m. ET Monday. It will be streamed live on ESPN’s esports Twitch channel. NHL players will squad up for four games of “trios,” with $200,000 at stake in a charity prize pool. Charities will be chosen by the players.
Compher will play with MacKinnon and Matt Nieto of the Avalanche. Other players include Johnny Gaudreau, William Karlsson, Clayton Keller, Travis Konecny, Mitch Marner, Bryan Rust, Alex Tuch, Sebastian Aho and Thomas Chabot. Compher said the games will be “NHL-only” battle royals, and he expects up to 80 players will take part.
“That’s where the bragging rights come in. You’re not playing against random people. You’re playing against guys from around the league,” Compher said.
The Avalanche forward helped organize the event with his friend Zach Hyman of the Toronto Maple Leafs. “Once the season got shut down, me and my teammates were playing Fortnite a little more. We just kind of came up with the idea of getting an NHL tournament together, where we could play against guys around the league,” Compher said.
“To do it for charity is the most important thing. We have all this downtime, all these tough times going on in the world right now. For the players to step up, use our time, use our exposure in the right way was pretty exciting for us.”
Fortnite has occupied a complicated place in the NHL the past two seasons. There was a firestorm of speculation when Jeff Marek of Sportsnet mentioned that “a recent first-round draft pick for a very, very prominent NHL team” might not make it to the NHL because of an addiction to the game. (The player has not been identified.) Michael Del Zotto, then of the Vancouver Canucks, talked about potentially banning the game on the road because young teammates were playing it too often. Another veteran, Adam Henrique of the Anaheim Ducks, said “teams should monitor” the frequency with which players fire up Fortnite.
But Compher said he knows of many players in the NHL who play Fortnite with regularity, and he learned about more of them as this NHLPA Open approached.
“I’ve played with guys around the league. We had an idea who played and that there were quite a few guys that played. But as this event gets closer and more players learn about it, there’s been a lot of excitement about it,” he said.
But with 80-some NHL players streaming Fortnite and occasionally hopping on a mic during the event, Compher knows there might be some limitations on that excitement.
“It’s live, so there are going to be some check-ins with the guys. We want kids and families to be able to watch, so we’re trying to limit the cursing,” he said. “But we want to see that excitement. That’s part of Fortnite.”
Here are a few of Compher’s Fortnite preferences.
Favorite version of Fortnite: “I prefer it when it’s simpler. Like how it is right now. I didn’t like the sword. … I prefer the building and the more normal guns they kept in there. But the way it is right now, with the launch pads back, is pretty fun.”
Favorite drop spot: “Usually I’ll go to Risky Reels. From time to time, Sweaty Sands. I’ll keep our team drop quiet. I don’t want to release where Nate will be dropping in case anyone is coming after our team after I said we have some good players. I think we’re going to be pretty aggressive, our team.”
Ideal load out: “I would go rocket launcher, scar, tact shotgun … and then I’d probably go minis and slurp fish. The floppers are the ones that only give you health. The slurp fish are the ones that give you health or shields. I almost put the sniper in there, but in trios, if I have a sniper, I’m going to get sniped. That’s how it works. So I’d rather go RPGs and create some havoc.”