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Colorado's Braedon Greenwood in Gaming World Championship Regional Final

"frogstomp33" is among eight players competing for the U.S. championship

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab /

Braedon Greenwood's love for hockey and eSports has led him to the United States Regional Final in the 2019 NHL Gaming World Championship.

What might make Greenwood--aka frogstomp33, his gamertag--different than some of his opponents in the regional final is he doesn't regularly compete in gaming tournaments. The NHL's second annual competition using EA Sports' NHL franchise is Greenwood's debut.

"This is my first actual tournament," Greenwood said to "I don't really compete or anything, but I thought I would sign up for this one.

"I didn't really think I was good enough to get to the actual stage and get first or second place, so I never really tried. But for the World Championship I was like I might as well try and here I am."

Greenwood grew up in Parker, Colorado, and now lives in Highlands Ranch. The 19-year-old presently works full-time in golf course maintenance for Colorado Golf Club and is preparing to go to college in the coming years.

When he is not helping maintain the site that hosted the 2010 Senior PGA Championship and 2013 Solheim Cup, Greenwood's attention is on hockey, both on the ice and with video games.

His passion for both has helped him become one of eight players to qualify for the United States Regional Final that takes place on Thursday at 12 p.m. MT at the NBC Sports studio in Stamford, Connecticut. It will be streamed live on, and NBC will also produce unique content around the U.S. final.

Greenwood was one of four players to qualify on PlayStation 4, while the other half of the finalists did so on Xbox One. The finals will feature PS4 players taking on their counterparts from Xbox, as adapters will be used to provide a cross-platform, gameplay experience.

In 2018, the NHL hosted three regionals leading up to the NHL Gaming World Championship Final in Las Vegas prior to the NHL Awards in June. Players competed in the United States, Canada and the European Union on either PS4 or Xbox One, with the final four players from each console advancing to the regional final. That same format is being used for this tournament as well.

The winners from each region this year will earn a $5,000 cash prize for advancing to the final, where they can win a share of $100,000. Last year's world champion, Erik "Eki" Tammenpaa of Finland, won $50,000 in front of a live audience at HyperX Esports Arena in Las Vegas and has reached the final once again after winning the European Regional two weeks ago.

The road to the Gaming World Championship began with four weeks of open qualification, where the top 32 players of each console after each week secured a spot into the online play-in bracket. The 256 remaining players from each region then competed in single-elimination games for the first five rounds before a best-of-three series was used for the last two rounds to determine seeding

Greenwood qualified in the second week of open play on PS4 and secured his spot in the regional final when he defeated everyone on his side of the bracket. It was in the early afternoon on April 27 when frogstomp33 defeated xTaresenko91 to secure a regional spot.

"I was super happy, but I was kind of shocked that I had got to this point. It was really cool," Greenwood said of the surreal moment when he knew he was one of the top American players.

His family was also surprised when he told them he was heading to the NBC Sports studios for the U.S. finals.

"Whenever I play that game, I get super mad, super frustrated," Greenwood said. "They always thought that I was getting mad at the game, and I wasn't really that good. So I told them, and they were shocked that I am going to Stamford, Connecticut, to play."

Like many people that love the game of hockey, his passion for the sport is present on the ice, in the stands and through gaming.

Hockey is the No. 1 sport for Greenwood, who developed his love for it at 5 years old while living in Phoenix, Arizona.

"The reason I started playing hockey was since I lived in Arizona, it was always so hot, and my dad wanted to take me somewhere to cool me down," Greenwood said. "He wanted to get me into swimming or hockey, and hockey is the one I went with. That is how I got into it. No one in my family played it, so I was the first one in my family to play it."

When the family soon moved to Parker, hockey came with them.

Greenwood played for Foothills and Arapahoe Youth Hockey Associations and skated with the Evolution Elite Hockey Academy as well while growing up in the Denver metro area. He also played one year of high school hockey at Mountain Vista during his senior year (he attended Highlands Ranch High School, but it didn't have a team).

His younger brother followed his path as well and is currently playing for the Monument-based Colorado Rampage.

"I played for 12-13 years. I love it," Greenwood said. "Especially now that I'm not playing it anymore, I love playing NHL, I love watching hockey. It's my favorite thing to do. I started when I was 5. It has always been in my life, and my little brother plays it."

While Greenwood admits he likes watching the Vegas Golden Knights and the style that the NHL's newest club plays, his all-time favorite team is still the Colorado Avalanche. He grew up an Avs fan, watches games regularly and is excited for the for the future of the franchise.

"The Avs are going to be so good in the next couple years," he said. "It's crazy, especially with the young guys like Cale Makar, Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen. It's crazy how cool Denver is going to be in the next few years as a hockey town."

Greenwood was also part of the sold-out crowd at Pepsi Center on April 15 for the Avalanche's 6-2 victory over the Calgary Flames in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs' first-round series. That contest featured a three-point game by MacKinnon and Makar scoring while making his NHL debut.

"That was my favorite sporting event I had ever been to," he said. "It was crazy, especially when Makar scored."

Playing video games was also part of Greenwood's childhood. While he's played popular releases such as Halo and Call of Duty, his favorite game is The Last of Us. When it came to sports options, he played Madden NFL and FIFA soccer, but NHL always took most of his time.

Among the features in EA Sports' NHL is the Hockey Ultimate Team (HUT), where users can create fantasy lineups and compete with their constructed squad against opponents around the world or offline.

This year's Gaming World Championship shifted its game mode to HUT, and that change was a reason why Greenwood ultimately decided to participate in the 2019 GWC instead of watching it on Twitch like he did last spring.

"I knew about it last year," he said of the World Championship. "I didn't try and qualify, but I watched it. It is fun to watch. I think this year they did the format better."

A week after securing a regional spot, Greenwood completed the U.S. play-in bracket to determine seeding. He lost in the first round to JrPens91, who was runner-up in the world final a year ago, but defeated NippinBiscuits in the third-place game.

That victory gave him the No. 5 overall pick in the regional draft, where each of the eight competitors chose which NHL team they will represent and their HUT players. Once a team and player was selected, they were no longer available, resulting in no duplicate players or clubs.

Greenwood chose the Avalanche to represent and used his first pick on Nathan MacKinnon, who is coming off a 99-point NHL campaign and has a 91 rating in the game.

"He's my favorite player, and he is such a fun player to watch," Greenwood said of his decision. "He's a good player in the game too, so I thought I would give him my first pick."

He also selected Colorado center Carl Soderberg and had a draft strategy to create synergies among his players. The thought behind it in NHL 19 is if four or more players have the same synergy, it boosts some of their abilities.

Greenwood drafted with the synergies of speedsters (acceleration, speed, agility), breakout master (skating and shot power) and defensive warrior (defensive traits) in mind, and he is pleased with the team he's chosen after practicing with it for the past several weeks against other GWC finalists.

"I like small, fast players, so I picked Max Domi and Matthew Barzal, and a few other fast ones, Jason Zucker," Greenwood said. "They're small so they get bumped off the puck pretty easily, but they're faster so it will be easier to get around the opponent. They're a fast team.

"My defense is pretty good. When I pick defense I try and pick players that are at least 6'2" because it's easier to knock opponents off the puck when you have bigger defensemen. I have Duncan Keith, John Carlson, Rasmus Ristolainen. They're all pretty good offensively and very good defensively. They're all basically two-way defensemen."

Greenwood hopes that tactic will pay off in the regional final where he'll face some of the best players in the nation.

Up first is a matchup against Xbox player John Casagranda of Anchorage, Alaska--aka johnwaynee90--who won the U.S. region last year. If frogstomp33 can win the best-of-three series and move on, a possible rematch against JrPens91 (David Roebuck of Forty Fort, Pennsylvania) looms.

"I feel like I'm the biggest underdog," Greenwood said. "It's funny, I was in a Twitch chat watching HockeyKings, he was trying to qualify... I just remember people in the chat were saying who is frogstomp? Who is this guy? That is basically how it's been, no one really thinks I'm going to beat johnwaynee; he won the regional last year. It will be fun. I'm going in happy that I'm in this position. We'll see what happens."

His perspective in Connecticut is just that. Enjoy the moment of being one of the top eight players in the U.S., but also focus on the challenge in front of him and doing all he can to advance to the world final in Las Vegas.

"I do think I deserve to be here," frogstomp33 said. "I do think I'm a good enough player, but by no means am I going in thinking I'm going to win. I'm going in happy to be here; I'm going to be competitive.

"You got to beat the best to be the best. Hopefully I'll be able to do that out there."

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