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Tkachuk, Jones, Knight compete in Chel Gaming Challenge

Hockey stars joined other athletes, video game pros for lighthearted contest

by Cristina Ledra @cledra / Staff Writer

ST. LOUIS -- Hockey equipment was spilled, food was flying, and a mechanical bull was spinning.

So probably not your typical game of EA Sports NHL 20 between friends.

The Chel Gaming Challenge brought gamers and athletes together for a mini tournament in front of fans at Ballpark Village on Saturday.

Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk, Buffalo Sabres forward Jack Eichel, Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones and United States women's hockey star Hilary Knight joined Gaming Hall of Famer Johnathan "Fatal1ty" Wendel, NHL Gaming World Championship's Andrew "Nasher" Telfer, WWE superstar Xavier Woods and Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cole Irvin for a series of competitions centered around NHL 20. 

"It's always fun to do things like this," Eichel said. "It was a pretty unique experience. Obviously EA (Sports) and gaming has gotten so big, so it's good to do that."

The event was hosted by former NHL player Paul Bissonnette and Blues reporter Angella Sharpe, and marked the beginning of Season Three of the NHL Gaming World Championship. Registration will open in early February.

"Really nice of the players today to show up, especially on a game day like this in order to interact with the fans," said Bissonnette, who, at one point, stepped away from the stage to ride a mechanical bull while Tkachuk offered digging commentary. "And of course Hilary Knight - like, just a stud. A great ambassador for the female side of things. I would love to do this again next year."

The participants were split into two teams and had mini challenges that determined which team would be working with surprise disadvantages. Among the disadvantages were playing with a mascot head on, which Jones had to do. Tkachuk had to play a portion of the time with his controller upside down.

They all took turns shooting food items at a target with Bissonnette's face on the bullseye. Woods and Irvin raced to put on a full set of hockey gear that was stuffed into a bag. They both struggled.

"It was a lot of fun to interact with (the players) and get to know them a little bit off the ice," Irvin said. "It was just a fun environment. The energy was great and it was a blast. I was definitely stepping out of my element here."

The event was another positive experience for Woods in his recent foray into hockey fandom. Having only gotten into the sport during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Woods says he's felt so welcomed by the hockey community. 

"I'm trying to bring the same energy that I have when I'm wrestling and I feel like that's the same language everywhere," Woods said. "It's like, 'Oh cool, he wants to learn. He has no idea what he's doing or what he's talking about but he wants to learn so come on in,' and that's always what I'm nervous about when I'm entering a new realm but everyone has been so cool and so kind, so I've just been having a blast." staff writer Pete Jensen contributed to this story.

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