NHL 20 pro Scheckel29 – aka Keith Scheckel – is getting ready for his first stint in the Northern Arena NHL 20 Cup. The Wisconsin native was selected first overall by Brett “BFett” Warren and the Calgary Flames for this months 2v2 tournament.
I spoke with Scheckel about his thoughts going into the tournament, his experience playing in net and where the scene can go from here.
SQUAD: When did you first start playing NHL games competitively?
Schekel: I really got into it starting in NHL 08, when my older brother got into NHL games. With NHL 09 introducing the EASHL gamemode, I really dove in. My brother and I were just playing that game mode, it was a ton of fun and we ended up climbing pretty high. There weren’t a lot of goalies around back then, so I was usually the one who stepped up and I ended up becoming pretty good at it.
When did you get to the point as a goalie that you were comfortable putting yourself out there in the pro scene?
When they announced NHL 09, they also announced a year end playoff that EA was running. Right from there, I wanted to see how high I could go with my brother’s team. When they stopped playing, I started hopping around from different top teams. I was probably on a top 20 team at one point, and we played a top 5 team. They only had 5 people and were missing a goalie for the match. I stood on my head and we still lost 0-3, so I messaged that team. I tried out for their open goalie spot and made the team.
Unfortunately, EA came out really late with the rule about being from certain states – and not from Quebec – so that team was basically all disqualified. I ended up being the backup for the Purple Cobras team which won the NHL 09 championship.
How do you prepare yourself for matches as a goalie?
There’s a lot of scrimming going on. If you go on the top leaderboards on EA, none of the top teams are really there because we all play scrims against each other. We have a Discord server for a couple of the 6’s leagues we’re in, so you either play with a different team or your team gets on and scrims other top teams.
We scrim a lot early on in the year. It’s a new game and you have to figure out new things when the patch hits.
You and five other goalies who were drafted into the Northern Arena 2v2 Cup are all apart of The Goalie Guild. Tell us a little about your experience with the Guild.
The Goalie Guild was started by Justin Goldman, he’s an emergency backup for the Colorado Avalanche. He originally started the foundation to help goalies with training and finding pads.
He started getting into esports about a year ago, and began to realize that a lot of the same mental preparation to be a goalie in this game is similar to what you need to do in real life.
SIX #G3 club members were drafted this week for the upcoming @NorthernArena 2v2 tourney! Congrats @eashlgoalie @MyLittleRevvy @Scheckel29NHL @TheCreasePolice @Dkuemps and @Perrilyzer1! 🤘🏼🔥 pic.twitter.com/x9tO3jFuRE
— The Goalie Guild (@TheGoalieGuild) May 8, 2020
He’s trying to see where this esports goalie position goes, and to see if playing the game can help you in real life as well. He’s trying to help us become better goalies through different mental and visual training, so we’re just broadening our perspectives into the online world too.
Most tournaments like GWC are 1v1, so there’s not a lot of opportunity to shine as a dedicated goalie. As the NHL expands its presence in esports, do you think it’s worth the investment for the league to sign six-man rosters as opposed to 1v1?
That’s a tough question. 1v1 is obviously easier, it’s easier to run, manage, the payouts. However, even just going to 2v2 would be an improvement for events like GWC. I think adding a goalie in there is just part of the game. If you look at the comments online, a lot of people are like, “The top players just know how to cheese the goalie.” When you add a human factor into it, I think it makes the game more interesting.
Would I love to see 6v6? Of course. I’ve played this game mode for over ten years now and it definitely has me hooked. It’s that competitiveness and playing with a team is a lot of fun. It’s definitely something I wish we could play for GWC , but I completely understand how difficult it is to run a 6v6 tournament.
Do you think that having larger teams would be more fun for viewers?
Yes! You would be allowed to have those team listen-ins, and see the different celebrations and reactions with your team instead of just a single players celebrating by themselves. You have friends you met playing online, you grew to bond with them and you’re going to celebrate with them.
Look at the Caps Gaming 6v6 and how well that event went. Having a mic on a team, or the ability to listen in on a team during an event would bring so much more to a stream as well.
As someone who’s been playing the NHL series for a long time, how does it feel to see the pro scene begin to blossom in the public eye?
It’s pretty surreal. I think a lot of us didn’t expect this to happen. We always played for the love of the game, and now it’s getting competitive with money on the line and sponsors.
You know, is it ever going to get to the 2K League style with the NBA? That would be awesome if it did. I would love to be a coach one day. I coach currently as my job, but to coach in a video game, that would be unbelievable. It’s incredible to see the growth that the NHL series has had in the past two years.
For any hockey fans who haven’t really heard of the NHL 20 pro scene, how would you convince them to tune in?
That’s another tough question. I think the major thing is the stigma behind video games. “Why would I want to watch someone play video games?” Well, why do you want to watch someone play hockey? Because they’re the best at it. You’re going to be watching the best players play a video game and hey, you might pick something up that helps you play.
That’s why some of the big streamers are so successful, people want to watch them win and see why are they so good. There are a lot of talented people out there and it’s crazy competitive. It’s just like the NHL in the respect that a bounce can go your way or against you. Once you get to know the players, you get involved in it. I don’t play 1v1, but I have friends in the scene. I watch them and I’m on the edge of my seat, like I am with a real life sport.
How did it feel to be picked first overall for the Northern Arena 2v2 Cup
Honored to be viewed as the number one goalie. I don’t know if I am the number one goalie in North America. This game can be like real hockey, you can have bounces go your way one night and then the next night do the exact same thing and it’s not there. I don’t know if there’s truly a number one goalie, but I like to consider myself pretty good, and to be picked number one is pretty cool to see.
Coming into the Northern Arena 2v2 Cup, what would winning the championship mean to you?
That would be pretty cool, coming in and winning it all. Winning any competition is pretty awesome, but just participating is awesome.
To be one of the top 31 goalies in North America is really what it’s all about. I just want to see how well we can do and where we go, we go. It’s just about having fun and being in that competitive atmosphere, feeling that drive and competitiveness to win.
[This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.]
SQUAD would like to thank Keith “Scheckel29” Scheckel for taking the time to chat with us! You can catch Scheckel and other top NHL esports players in the Northern Arena NHL 20 2v2 Cup at the Northern Arena Twitch stream or the official Xbox Canada Mixer stream.