ECHL, Komets excited about video game inclusion

There are only a few things hockey players love as much as playing the game: playing the video game version and playing themselves in that video game.

Now the Fort Wayne Komets and other ECHL players will get that chance. The ECHL announced Tuesday its inclusion in the upcoming EA Sports NHL 17 game which will be released in September. It makes its debut next week at the EA Sports Gaming Conference in Los Angeles.

« It’s cool, and I definitely think the league deserves to be in it, » Komets forward Shawn Szydlowski said. « I was in the game for a few years because they put the (Ontario Hockey League) in it in 2012, and that’s when I really started to get into it. It’s every kid’s dream to play themselves. It will be cool to be back in, especially as the Komets. »

All 27 ECHL teams (the former Evansville franchise is sitting out a season to transfer to Owensboro, Ky.) will be included. The game already includes the American Hockey League, several major junior leagues and some European circuits. The process of adding the ECHL has been considered for several years, according to ECHL Senior Vice President of Business Operations Ryan Crelin.

« They were very enthusiastic about it and they were phenomenal to work with, » Crelin said. « It’s a project to get the entire league into a game both on their side and on our side. We’re very excited about it. »

Initially, the 2015-16 end-of-season ECHL rosters will be included when the game is released in September but will be updated regularly as new players sign. The game also gives fans the option of following players into the AHL as they move up.

« Somebody has to track every player, and if he goes to Europe he’ll show up on the European site of the game, » Crelin said. « There are a whole bunch of different positives that come out of this, and being able to follow players to different leagues is one of them. It’s great for gamers, the fans and the players. It’s great for hockey. »

The active players are practically addicted to playing NHL 16 in the afternoons after practice, often playing two-on-two tournaments to kill time.

« I’m definitely the best, » Szydlowski joked. « (Pat Nagle) might play the most, but I think I have the upper hand. We are definitely the two better players because we have more experience. »

Nagle. of course, calls balderdash to that. He says Spencer Martin plays the most, even taking the game on road trips, and is likely the best indiviudal Komet.

« Guys play different systems so it’s hard to say, but two-on-two, (Mike) Embach and I could beat anybody and we’ll leave it at that, » Nagle said about his former college teammate and long-time roommate. « We’ve played a few games together over the years. This will be fun for Komets fans to be able to play with their home team. »

The new game will allow ECHL teams to be shown wearing one of three jerseys. There’s even the ability to customize the arenas and rinks they use. Want to design a new Memorial Coliseum? Here’s the opportunity. Want to challenge professional players to a game? That can happen also.

Komets Director of Sales and Marketing Josh Testin even made up a fake covering featuring Szydlowski on Tuesday afternoon.

« I’ve got some big plans for it, » Komets Executive Vice President and Co-owner Scott Sproat said. « We’re going to work on ways to plug in through our video system so we can do in-arena play. We’re going to feature it heavily as prizes, especially with the kids. We may even do tournaments or some other interesting things with it. »

Sproat said for years his three sons have been designing teams within the game to resemble the Komets.

« We’re on top of it and want to explore opportunities as much as possible for the fans that is resonates with, » Sproat said. « It’s a new opportunity and gives us something fun to talk about and think about. »

For more on the Komets, follow Blake Sebring on Twitter at @blakesebring and at his blog tailingthekomets.com.

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