Thunder Bay

'Practice and repetition': Thunder Bay gamer earns real wins on virtual ice

The ice may be virtual, but Justin "Regs" Reguly's competitive gaming success is anything but.

Justin Reguly is top-ranked NHL 19 player in Canada

Thunder Bay's Justin Reguly, left, competes in the Official Winnipeg Jets NHL 19 Tournament in Winnipeg. The 18-year-old is currently the top-ranked competitive NHL 19 Playstation 4 player in Canada. (Winnipeg Jets/Twitter)

The ice may be virtual, but Justin "Regs" Reguly's competitive gaming success is anything but.

Thunder Bay's Reguly, 18, is currently the top-ranked competitive NHL 19 Playstation 4 player in Canada.

"I honestly didn't think it was possible," Reguly said Tuesday. "My friends always told me that I was good, but I never thought I'd reach a level like I'm at now."

Reguly has been a gamer pretty much all his life, he said, but it wasn't until about a year ago that he began playing competitively, at the urging of his friends.

"I started playing in these tournaments and I started placing really well," Reguly said. "I became known, I guess, as one of the better players."

Reguly's focus on EA Vancouver's NHL series is simply due to the fact that he's good at it.

Daily practice

"I used to play hockey when I was younger, so I knew a bit about hockey and how it's supposed to be played," he said. "I was able to transfer that over to video games."

Now, Reguly generally puts in a few hours of practice each day, playing against other top players in online multiplayer contests as much as possible.

"The main thing is just practice and repetition," he said.

Qualifying for the various tournaments takes place online, Reguly said. The top players are then flown to a larger city to compete for the championship, face-to-face.

The most-recent tournament Reguly played in was in mid-February 2019, when he won the Official Winnipeg Jets NHL 19 Tournament in Winnipeg (the NHL itself backs competitive NHL gaming).

Tournament 'surreal'

About 1,300 players from across North America entered the qualifying rounds, with the top players on each console — Playstation 4 and Xbox One — earning a trip to Winnipeg.

That trip, Reguly said, was "surreal."

"For this one, the Winnipeg Jets covered all my airfare, my hotel and everything, and they were great to myself and the other competitors," he said. "But it's definitely nerve-wracking, playing right beside the other guy, with people standing around, watching you."

Reguly's competitive career will continue on Feb. 22, when he'll compete in the Washington Capitals Esports Faceoff in Washington, D.C.

"I'm feeling pretty good," Reguly said Tuesday. "I have to play against seven other guys who are all really good players, so, I mean, anyone can win it, but I'm feeling confident in my gameplay, currently."

Reguly is also aiming to qualify for the NHL Gaming World Championship, which will take place in June.

And in case anyone out there is thinking of making a go of it in competitive gaming, Reguly has some advice.

"It's not going to come right away," he said. "You're going to have to put in the time and the hours to do it."

"As long as you stay with it, and if you're really passionate about it, anything can really happen."