Daniel Otten meets with his Düsseldorfer EG teammates to train four to five nights a week. Unlike the DEL team, he doesn’t have to go to the dome to do this, nor does he even have to go on the ice – although he still calls it that. Otten and his teammates form the DEG e-sports team – joint training takes place in EA Sports’ NHL 24 on Playstation and Xbox.
In 2018, the Düsseldorf ice hockey club was the first DEL team to found an esports team to represent the DEG on the console and take it to the virtual ice. Now the team has reorganized under the leadership of Daniel Otten.
Otten is a passionate DEG fan, has been a season ticket holder for over 20 years and says he has missed at most “six or seven home games” during that time. The 36-year-old has also been an enthusiastic console gamer since childhood. “I have wanted to join the DEG esports team for a long time and it came to fruition nine months ago. And as there were some personnel changes after last season, we completely reorganized the team”, says Otten, who took over the management of the e-sports project and is on the virtual ice in the DEG goal.
DEG has assembled a completely new team
This required a whole range of new players. In their requirements profile, they did not need to be close to the DEG as a fan, but first and foremost they needed to be able to work with the controller. “With our other goalkeeper Bernd and myself, there are two big DEG fans in the team. “We are both always present in Düsseldorf,” explains Otten. The remaining team members live throughout Germany and beyond. “We also have players from Switzerland,” continued Otten.
The European Championship League (ECL) – one of the most renowned leagues in the virtual NHL sector – has been underway since last weekend. DEG is currently competing in the “ECL Winter Lite” division, the third of five leagues. “We would like to get used to the winter season, then the German Championship League will follow and the ECL will continue with the spring season in the spring. Then we would like to move into the professional field”, says Otten.
At the start of the new season there was a 2-1 victory in the double round against the “Bustdown Rollie Avalanche” team and then a 4-0 defeat. “In the second game we were a bit unlucky, we hit the post and the crossbar and then We played at a disadvantage for a long time. But we can be satisfied with a victory at the start”, says Otten afterwards, which cannot be distinguished from the analysis of a “real” ice hockey game.
Video analysis is also available in esports
In any case, the e-athletes’ approach is as detailed and professional as that of their DEL colleagues. There are video reviews, pre- and post-game discussions, analysis of upcoming opponents, tactical meetings: “Each of our players controls a virtual player on the ice. Good coordination is important – that’s why we study these things in training,” explains Otten. As with games, the team communicates via voice and video chat.
For the 36-year-old DEG fan, the e-sports project is more than pure success on the console. Otten would like to use the great potential he sees in the esports area of ice hockey for the club he loves. “The subject is still in its infancy and is gradually developing. “In general, you can see that the topic of e-sports is becoming more and more popular – and not just among young people, but also among the 30 to 50 age group,” says Otten. This is also reflected in the age structure of the DEG team. The youngest player is 19 years old, the oldest is 45.
“We are happy when DEG fans are also interested in our games and want to offer them content when there are no DEL games,” said Otten. To achieve this, e-athletes also renewed themselves on social media as part of the restructuring. A lot happened at DEG, especially on the “Twitch” streaming platform. “We will broadcast our games there in a professional way. With preliminary and subsequent reports, interviews and Alexander Blattmann, known as BloddyLP, as commentator”, says Otten.
Blattmann himself is an NHL streamer and YouTuber and also has experience as a commentator on DEL2. “So we can deliver a really well-produced broadcast and hopefully build a community.”
The association supports Otten in the organization
When organizing the project, Otten has the support of the club, which has also been promoting the team on its social networks in recent days. “This is a very close collaboration with those responsible at DEG, who followed the project in a very positive, supportive and benevolent way from the beginning,” says Otten. For example, they were equipped with official club merchandise before the start of the ECL season. “With the battery center, we also gain a regional partner from Viersen who explicitly supports the esports team and helps us with licensing and broadcasting costs,” explains Otten.
He would like to see more DEL teams founding an esports team, so that in the future a virtual league with all German teams could run parallel to real gaming operations. “So far only Munich, Nuremberg, Iserlohn and us are competing in the ECL. The Bundesliga – i.e. EA FC – already has a full league and shows how much potential there is.”