By Lisa Meadows

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Ever wanted to play hockey against the Wild? The first-ever Minnesota Wild NHL gaming tournament happened at the Mall of America Monday, and some Wild players were there to take on some fans in the audience.

As the popularity of online gaming rises, esports gaming tournaments are getting more popular with professional sports teams.

“Today the Minnesota Wild is putting on their first-ever eSports tournament. It’s been a common thing that has been going around with a lot of NHL teams,” esports commentator Jamie Diazruiz said.

Earlier this month, players went head-to-head in a single elimination bracket leading to today’s finals. The Wild hosted a qualifier, there were 500 players who tried to qualify and, today, they had their final four.

First place wins $2,500 and a Wild jersey. Ryan Bouchard won the tournament for the Xbox, and Matthew Grenier won for Playstation.

While tournament players took on each other, Minnesota Wild players faced off with fans, comparing similarities between hockey on the ice and hockey on the screen.

“You have to think to play, see what’s open and stuff like that so there’s a little similarity, but it’s a video game as well,” the Wild’s Victor Rash said.

An event showing how the recent rise in popularity of online gaming is getting more professional sports involved.

Lisa Meadows