Islanders Launch Isles Gaming Team

Calgary Flames v New York Islanders
Calgary Flames v New York Islanders / Sarah Stier/GettyImages

On January 6th, the New York Islanders launched the Isles Gaming Team (Isles GT). The Esports squad will compete in one-vs-one and six-vs-six National Hockey League tournaments.

As a fan and user of the EA Sports NHL game since the 1994 game, this brought a new entertainment value for me and the fanbase. The fanbase can be provided an additional rooting interest when the Islanders are not playing.

If rooting interest isn't enough for fans, the Islanders will host a series of NHL22 tournaments for fans to compete and win cash.

The starting six players for the Isles GT squad are Lucas Hendry, Joshua Claus, Eric Fisher, George Katehis, Justin Reguly and Keith Scheckel. Additionally, the squad has three utility players in Nick Panarin, Deon Cohem and Matthew Jakubowski.

I had the opportunity to speak with the Islanders Esports strategy lead, Jordan Zelniker, and Vice President Partnership Sales, Jeff Fischer.

First and foremost, the Isles GT can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @IslesGT. Jordan stressed, “The fans can interact and watch the games on twitch.” The Isles GT can be found on twitch under NYIslanders_.

Jordan encouraged fans to interact with the team and contact the Isles GT when they are playing their own matches.

Here is Jordan and Jeff’s breakdown of Isles GT:

"We launched Isles GT as the official esports brand of the New York Islanders. There is really two pieces to that. We went and signed the first-ever 6v6 team. This is six individual players in each position, so we have our own gamer LW, C, all the way down to the goalie and we do have three additional subs, a full roster of nine players. So that roster of players we are submitting into other NHL team tournaments, and they are going to be competing. It gives our fans something we can broadcast and follow their path throughout these tournaments. On the other side of things, we are hosting our own tournaments for fans which our team is not competing in, called the Isles Circuit and this is more for the entire gaming audience across all North America to compete in and having a $15,000 prize pool. These two aspects for the team, our individual team and something for our fans to root for. The tournament is something for gamers to compete in and connect with the brand and show their skills."

Jordan Zelniker

How many other NHL teams have Esports teams?

"About a third of the league is involved in the NHL esports team but we are the first team to sign a 6 v 6 team of individuals. The Capitals were the first team to sign 1v1 player, but we are the first to sign the 6v6 team. Since then, the Anaheim Ducks have announced a partnership with another 6v6 team in the recent weeks."

Jordan Zelniker

Is the goal to have every NHL team represented in an Esports league?

"We are not looking at it as preparing for a 6v6 league, we are just trying to engage with our fans and create new content and create new connections. It’s a new touchpoint for the Islanders to have with their fans.  It would be nice to see an alternative goal of seeing more teams get into this."

Jordan Zelniker

"Eventually, launching their own league with most teams to support this and buy into this similar to what the NBA has done with NBA 2k."

Jeff Fischer

How did you select the players for the 6v6 team?

"So, the NHL Esports team has been around for 5-10 years but really throughout the last 2-3 years, the 6v6 scene has exploded and you have seen these NHL team tournaments with a platform with ranking competitive players. We had our eyes on these players for a couple of years now and familiar with all the different players on the scene. It was not necessarily an open tryout but identifying our players as the best players for the brand and being brand safe. Being that they were the first players to launch on the scene and to represent it well was important.  It was going to be a test case for all other teams and the league itself, so we picked the right players."

Jordan Zelniker

"We started by identifying the six players that made the most sense for the brand side and could compete in any tournament and we are ending up picking our subs based on the fit for the team and the players."

Jeff Fischer

Will fans have an opportunity to be eligible for the Isles GT 6v6 team?

"Yes, we create more opportunities, whether that’s a tryout or more in our tournaments, and giving them the opportunity to have a chance to be on the roster."

Jordan Zelniker

"I would just add to that if a fan were wanting to be on our team, it wouldn’t be someone off the streets with no experience in the game. The people that are in the community have been playing for 5-10 years. There is a great skill set involved to compete in the game. We want to have a virtual shootout during the actual Islanders games to show our fans how difficult it is to score on user goalies. People realize that they played video games when they were younger and can pick up the sticks and play NHL 94 like they used to, but it is very difficult as they play at a very high level."

Jeff Fischer

How does Isles GT Circuit work?

"The Isles Circuit works with two open brackets, and we just had the first open bracket. A three-day tournament that led to a champion and we will have another series 2 circuit on the 21st and then take the top 8 teams across the two circuits and put them in a series in the beginning of March."

Jordan Zelniker

Where can we see all of the content? Twitch?

"Yes, twitch.  So that channel is a mix between our game play, and we play in other tournaments. Every Thursday and Sunday are our team games and on tournament weeks we will be live on Mondays and Wednesdays. Our players will go live for good content in addition, so we are live almost every single day of the week."

Jordan Zelniker

Is Isles GT on XBOX and/or PlayStation?

"This year is specific to Xbox due to the way the new consoles came out this year. They were more available for our fans and audience to buy. It will be a better mix but there is no PC of this."

Jordan Zelniker

What is your favorite NHL game?

"I was a fan of all the games, but I am loving the game these days and the recent games since 19-20 with EASHL was introduced has really created the opportunity to take this from a hobby to a profession, so since we launched Isles GT and signed these first 6v6 players the goal has been to show players what that next level is. Now I can go and play for my favorite team, and I can turn this into a career. The recent games have really created that opportunity. The games get better and better each year."

Jordan Zelniker

"I am a lot older than Jordan and a 90s kid, so I grew up with 94 on Super Nintendo sitting in my room playing for hours and learning the other teams."

Jeff Fischer

It is a very exciting time for the fans of the NHL franchise and the actual NHL. This is a chance to interact and play with professionals.

Incredibly, this is an extremely cool opportunity for players to make a career from playing this great game.

Keep an eye out on social media and at Islanders games for new information on the Isles Gaming Team.