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This article was published 13/2/2019 (466 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Justin Reguly got some big goals from Patrik Laine and some monster saves from Connor Hellebuyck during qualifying for the Winnipeg Jets NHL 19 video game championship.
Now, the Thunder Bay, Ont., teen can express his gratitude to the real-life stars when he meets them next week.
Reguly will vie for the first-ever Jets tournament title — and the prize money that comes with it — on Monday afternoon, but he’s far more excited about getting the opportunity to share some screen time with the Jets’ resident gaming gurus.
"I definitely think I’m looking forward more to that two-on-two match than the one-on-one for the money. That’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience for anyone," said Reguly, 17. "The fact I get to do that is incredible. They are big names. I watch a lot of hockey and my favourite team is Boston, but I like Winnipeg because they’re a Canadian team and they’ve got some great players."
The Jets tournament began with more than 1,300 participants from 46 provinces and states across Canada and the U.S. in early January.
Reguly, an honour role Grade 12 student, and Josh Fuss from Greenwich, Conn., were the last competitors standing. Reguly won the PS4 bracket, while his U.S. opponent won the Xbox One bracket. Both players earned their spot in the final by finishing first in a six-person closed qualifying round on each platform last weekend.
The two will compete inside a private suite at Bell MTS Place during the Manitoba Moose game on Monday at 2 p.m.
The top prize is $4,500, and the runner-up receives $2,000. The best-of-five final will be streamed live at twitch.tv/winnipegjetsofficial as well as on the Jets’ Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts.
Once the championship has been settled, the two finalists will play alongside Laine and Hellebuyck in a single-game, two-on-two match immediately after the Moose play the Milwaukee Admirals.
"What a story to tell for the next 20 years. It’s incredible," said Reguly, who admits to gaming about four hours a day. "I generally cycle between three teams, Winnipeg being one of them, and Tampa and Pittsburgh. I’ve had lots of practice with Winnipeg and I enjoy using them.
"(Hellebuyck) helped a lot in the qualifier. He made a bunch of saves for me, so I’ll have to thank him."
Reguly said he kept his bedroom door shut to all distractions last Sunday with a trip to the finals on the line. "I made sure no one came in," he said, laughing. "Total concentration, just me, some music."
It’s the first meeting between the two video-game aficionados in the flesh.
"(Fuss) is someone I’ve played Xbox with for about two years online, so it’s going to be cool to meet him," Reguly said.
The league held the 2018 NHL Gaming World Championship last season. Reguly finished third in the Canadian regionals but narrowly missed advancing to the world championship in Las Vegas. Only the top two moved on.
Winnipeg is one of the first NHL organizations to follow up with its own official tournament.
"It’s certainly exciting for us and it’s an area that’s growing rapidly. Coming on the heels off the NHL’s initial foray into Esports with the NHL Gaming World Championships last June, we wanted to ensure we were at the forefront of NHL team participation in Esports," said Dan Hursh, True North Sports & Entertainment’s vice-president and general counsel.
"(The Canada-U.S. matchup) is really going to be a fun component of the finals. We didn’t know what to expect but we had a lot of participation from Canadian and American NHL 19 gamers, so it’s great to see one from each in the finals."
Assistant sports editor
Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).
Updated on Wednesday, February 13, 2019 at 10:34 PM CST: Fixes photo caption