Daniel Otten meets with his Düsseldorfer EG teammates to train four or five afternoons a week. Unlike the DEL team, he doesn’t have to go to the dome to do it, he doesn’t even have to go to the ice, although he still calls it that. Otten and his teammates form the DEG esports team: joint training takes place in EA Sports’ NHL 24 on Playstation and Xbox.
The Düsseldorf ice hockey club was the first DEL team, which in 2018 founded an esports team to represent DEG on the console and bring it to the virtual ice. Now the team has been reorganized under the management of Daniel Otten.
Otten is a passionate DEG fan, he has had a season ticket for more than 20 years and says that during this time he has missed at most “six or seven home games”. The 36-year-old is also an avid console gamer since his childhood. “I had wanted to join the DEG esports team for a long time and it worked out nine months ago. And since there were some personnel changes after last season, we have now completely reorganized the team,” says Otten, who took over the management of the e-sports project and is himself on the virtual ice of the DEG goal.
DEG has created a completely new team
This required a whole range of new actors. In their requirement profile, they did not have to be close to the DEG as a fan, but first of all, they had to be able to work with the controller. “Together with our other goalkeeper, Bernd, we are two big DEG supporters in the team. “We are both always in Düsseldorf,” explains Otten. The rest of the team members live throughout Germany and even further afield. “We also have players from Switzerland,” Otten continued.
The European Championship League (ECL), one of the most recognized leagues in the virtual sector of the NHL, has been underway since last weekend. DEG currently competes in the “ECL Winter Lite” division, the third of five leagues. “We would like to get used to the winter season, then the German league will follow and in the spring the ECL will continue with the spring season. Then we would like to move into the professional sector,” says Otten.
The start of the new season saw a 2-1 doubleheader win against the “Bustdown Rollie Avalanche” team and then a 4-0 loss. “In the second game we were a bit unlucky, we hit the post and the crossbar and then played at a numerical disadvantage for a long time. But we can be satisfied with a victory at the beginning,” Otten says afterwards, which cannot be distinguished from the analysis of a “real” ice hockey match.
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 is video analysis, 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 is why we study these aspects in training,” explains Otten. As with games, the team communicates via voice and video chat.
For the 36-year-old DEG fan, the esports project is about more than just success on the console. Otten would like to take advantage of the great potential he sees in the field of ice hockey esports for the club he loves. “The matter is still in its beginnings and little by little it is developing. “In general, you can see that the topic of e-sports is becoming more and more popular, and not only among young people, but also among those between 30 and 50 years old,” says Otten. This is also reflected in the age structure of the DEG team. The youngest player is 19 years old, the oldest is already 45.
“We are happy that 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 have also renewed themselves on social networks as part of the restructuring. A lot has happened at DEG, particularly on the streaming platform “Twitch.” “There we will broadcast our games professionally. With preliminary and subsequent reports, interviews and Alexander Blattmann, known as BloddyLP, as a commentator,” says Otten.
Blattmann is an NHL streamer and YouTuber and also has experience as a DEL2 commentator. “So we can deliver a really well-produced stream and hopefully build a community.”
The association supports Otten in the organization
When organizing the project, Otten can count on the support of the club, which in recent days has also been advertising the team on its social networks. “This is a very close collaboration with those responsible for DEG, who supported the project in a very positive, supportive and benevolent way from the beginning,” says Otten. For example, before the start of the ECL season they were provided with official club material. “With the battery center we have also gained a regional partner from Viersen, who explicitly supports the esports team and helps us with licensing and broadcast costs,” explains Otten.
He would like more DEL teams to found an e-sports team, so that in the future a virtual league with all German teams can be organized parallel to real gaming operations. “So far only Munich, Nuremberg, Iserlohn and us are competing in the ECL. The Bundesliga, that is, EA FC, already has a complete league and shows the potential it has.”