Last month, the NHL brought the Stanley Cup to the Los Angeles Valiant, my favorite team in the Overwatch League. As part of the NHL’s new esports initiative and in promotion of the NHL playoffs, the league is doing outreach to the esports community, the result being this lovely video of two worlds colliding – plus some newfound motivation for a team that badly needed it.
The Cup visit was a particular treat for the great Jen Neale, former hockey journalist and contributor for Yahoo’s Puck Daddy blog, who now runs PR for the Valiant.
The team posed individually and as a group with the 125-year-old trophy.
— Jen Neale: Left-handed girl in right-handed world (@MsJenNeale) March 21, 2018
But meeting the Cup was also a learning opportunity for the Valiant, who were struggling with a losing record at the time. “Every single one of those [names on the Cup],” Content VP J.M.R. Luna told the team, “they took that weekend that they wanted to do something else, and they played hockey.”
Since their day with the Cup, Valiant’s fortunes have changed dramatically. At the time, Valiant were controversially scratching their star DPS player (damage-per-second, i.e. an offensive role), Brady Girardi, also known as Agilities, while retooling their team chemistry, coaching, and strategy. The team missed the stage two playoffs with a 4-6 record. They immediately began a drastic roster overhaul.
Valiant traded DPS player Silkthread to their cross-town rivals, the L.A. Gladiators; traded support player uNKOE to the Dallas Fuel; converted depth DPS player GrimReality to an assistant coach; and released the hybrid-role Envy entirely. They returned Agilities to the main roster, added support player Custa from the Dallas Fuel (in exchange for uNKOE), and added two new players – DPS Bunny from South Korea and the newly eligible tank player Space.
Photo: LA Valiant
It worked. The Valiant are now undefeated through two games in stage three and have yet to lose a single map (though one of their games was against the league’s weakest team, the Shanghai Dragons). Valiant’s true test will come in a couple weeks, when they will face off against stage one champions, the London Spitfire. When that happens, I hope they keep in mind the determination of 1907 Cup winner Frank “Pud” Glass.
Headline photo: L.A. Valiant