British Columbia

Canucks owners bring pro esports team to Vancouver

Weeks after an international video game tournament packed Vancouver's Rogers Arena, the Canucks have confirmed they're bringing a professional esports team to the city.

Aquilini Group purchases franchise in global Overwatch League

Fans cheer as the Los Angeles Valiant team wins a playoff game in the Overwatch League. (Activision/Blizzard)

The Vancouver Canucks have confirmed they're bringing a professional esports team to the city.

Canucks ownership has purchased a franchise in the Overwatch League, which bills itself as the world's premier pro esports league with teams in the United States, United Kingdom, South Korea, China, and now, Canada.

"Esports has seen extraordinary success and continues to be one of the fastest growing industries in the world," said Aquilini Group managing director Francesco Aquilini in a statement.

"We can't wait to launch the team in Vancouver."

Younger members of the Aquilini family encouraged the Canucks' owners to "take a hard look at esports," said Adrian Montgomery, president of Aquilini Entertainment and head of the new team.

"We felt very comfortable that this would be the right place for us to enter this fascinating new industry," he said. 

The team and owners say they aren't yet ready to unveil the team's name, colours and branding.

Philadelphia Fusion players compete in Overwatch League's July final. (Mary Altaffer/Associated Press)

Millions of players worldwide

Overwatch is a team-based first-person shooter game played by more than 40 million people worldwide as of last May.

Professional players make up the Overwatch League, which wrapped up its first season in July. The playoff finals averaged nearly one million viewers per minute.

Vancouver's team will join for the 2019 season, as will a Toronto team.

Friday's announcement comes weeks after an international video game tournament packed Vancouver's Rogers Arena.

Overwatch publisher Blizzard Entertainment made this video explaining how the league works:

Justin Simpao is a member of the UBC esports club and is a fan of Overwatch. He's excited to cheer for a hometown team.

"With a lot of local talent and Vancouver becoming an esports destination in Canada, it's huge," Simpao said.

Local players will have a chance to make Vancouver's team when the free agency recruitment period opens Sept. 9.

The franchise will begin its inaugural season in Burbank, Calif., while a Vancouver venue is arranged for the 2020 season.

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Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story mistakenly stated that a recent esports tournament was held at BC Place. In fact, it took place at Rogers Arena.
    Sep 07, 2018 10:11 AM PT

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