Local teen hopes to win cash at NHL video game showpiece event

‘It’s pretty crazy. I never thought I would get this far,” says the 19-year-old, who is one of 8 finalists competing for a $26,000 top prize in Montreal this week.

Even at the end of his minor hockey career, Newmarket resident Ethan Polgar said his love for the game never died.

This love allowed Polgar to play in a different way in the world of video games. The 19-year-old online content creator plays EA NHL, the league’s flagship video game series.

“Since I was a kid, my dad has been a huge Leafs fan,” Polgar said. “His love for the game pushed me further…I played hockey my whole life until I couldn’t anymore. After my years of minor hockey were over, I tried to play (EA NHL). I knew I was pretty good. »

Now, he’s gearing up to take on the best as a top-eight finalist in North American competition at the NHL World Games Championship. Polgar, also known as “Polgz,” is in Montreal for the July 6 contest, with $26,000 USD and a championship belt and trophy on the line.

“It’s pretty crazy. I never thought I would get this far,” Polgar said. “It was quite difficult.”

The competition supported by the NHL itself has brought together more than 17,000 players to compete online for chances to win prizes and a possible place in the final, with each player controlling an entire team. Polgar entered a console competition to earn their spot at the league’s first in-person championship since 2019.

“These players, who have worked their way through Online Open Play, Online Club Play and Console Finals, now find themselves at the pinnacle of GWC competition,” the NHL said in a press release. .

A lot of work goes into competition in the world of esports, Polgar said. The player works to perfect his games for three to five hours every day, he said, practicing at smaller events against other top players.

“It takes so much time and work behind the scenes that no one noticed. Even learning the little details of games, how to beat the goalkeeper, how to score every time,” he said. declared.

But he has his family supporting him. If he wins, Polgar said he wants to bring his mother, Shannon Kerr, on stage with him. Kerr is a recent cancer survivor and Polgar said she pushed him forward.

“She’s an absolute warrior,” Polgar said. “I just want to do it for her and I want to make her smile. It would mean the world…She’s a big reason I’m where I am now because she pushes me, and she’s never left me.

The prize pool included $1,000 guaranteed for each entrant, rising up to $2,500 for the top four, $10,000 for second place and $26,000 for the winner.

“That’s a lot of money,” Polgar said. “Maybe I would buy my first car.”

The player will represent his hometown, the Toronto Maple Leafs, in the virtual competition, his favorite team.

“The Leafs are my first choice and I’m so excited to represent them this year,” he said.

The competition will be broadcast live on twitch.tv/NHLfrom 1 p.m. on July 6.

Regardless of the outcome, Polgar said he hopes to participate in the game again for next year’s competitions.

“I will definitely be back,” he said. “I was pretty good at hockey, not the best, but my love will never go away.”

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Jennifer R. Strohm