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Pro hockey prospects told to keep quiet about Fortnite fandom

Big league executives think the game is a ‘distraction/obsession’

2018 Memorial Cup - Game Five
The goalie for the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs in action this May in the Memorial Cup, Canada’s major junior hockey championship.
Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Fortnite may make for a good goal-scoring celebration, but some hockey prospects are being told to cool it with their ardor for the game, particularly on social media, as team management considers Fortnite a distraction in their development.

The Sports Network’s Rick Westhead said yesterday that players on an Ontario Hockey League team have been advised to wipe any Fortnite references from their social media. That’s because big league clubs “consider the video game a major distraction/obsession.”

The OHL is one of three major junior hockey leagues (17 clubs in Canada, three in the U.S.), taking top-flight players between the ages of 16 and 21. The suggestion sounds unreasonable until you consider that, back in May, an anchor for Sportsnet said an unnamed major junior hockey player had been sent by club management for counseling over his video game habit.

“He’s a recent first-round draft pick for a very, very prominent NHL team, will probably never play in the NHL because of a video game addiction,” Jeff Marek said, according to Sports Illustrated.

Players in minor professional leagues don’t belong to a union and have very little control over their advancement, and management is constantly fretting about character or distraction concerns with the draftees. Whether their assumptions are correct or not, they still have an outsize influence on someone’s future. Of course, it probably is a good idea for everyone to routinely clean out or protect their social media, as it’s increasingly material that can and will be used against you.

Several high profile athletes have been well known for playing video games. The Boston Celtics’ Gordon Hayward played in a professional StarCraft 2 event after joining the NBA in 2010, and had been scheduled to play in a Fortnite pro-am event this summer. He’s also made several appearances for League of Legends and Riot Games.

More often, though, when pro athletes and video games intersect, someone’s frowning on the story. Earlier this year, Boston Red Sox pitcher David Price’s carpal tunnel syndrome was rumored to be caused by Fortnite, though the team’s manager later refuted that claim. Clash of Clans was blamed for a midseason slump that almost sank the Kansas City Royals on the way to the 2015 pennant. And in 2006, Detroit Tigers reliever Joel Zumaya was sidelined from the American League Championship Series with a wrist injury later blamed on Guitar Hero.

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