2022 League of Legends World Championship semifinals coming to Toronto – Sportsnet.ca

Scotiabank Arena, home of the Toronto Raptors and Toronto Maple Leafs, will play host to a different sort of sporting event next year.

Just before the Raptors and Golden State Warriors tipped off at Chase Center in San Francisco on Sunday, it was announced by Riot Games that the 2022 League of Legends (LoL) World Championship would tour North America.

The Worlds 2022 event will host different aspects of the tournament in these cities:

• Play-ins, LoL Esports’ Liga Latinoamerica competition arena, Mexico City

• Groups and quarter-finals, Madison Square Garden, New York City

• Semifinals, Scotiabank Arena, Toronto

• Finals, Chase Center, San Francisco

Exact dates of Worlds 2022 haven’t been announced, but the championship generally takes place around the start of October and concluding in early November.

League of Legends is among the most popular video games in the world. A game of the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) genre, LoL pits two five-man teams against each other in a battle to destroy the other’s base core, called the “Nexus.” On the path to accomplishing this goal, teams will attempt to take down one another’s defences, claim specific objectives on the map and engage with each other in combat.

The League of Legends World Championship is competitive LoL esports’ culminating event that sees teams playing out of professional leagues from all around the world (such as the North American region, Europe, Korea, China, Japan, Brazil and more regions) competing for a chance to win the game’s ultimate prize.

“Worlds is the showcase of the greatest of our sport, and we look forward to celebrating that with our fans in North America and across the world,” said Naz Aletaha, global head of LoL Esports in a statement.

Added Isaac “Azael” Cummings-Bentley, a Canadian shoutcaster (esports term for broadcaster) and analyst on LoL esports streams and broadcasts in a recent interview with Sportsnet: “The World Championship is the best teams from everywhere around the world. So, you’re just kind of getting a higher level of competition. It’s the champions, the top teams from every league around the world. It’s China, it’s Korea, it’s Europe, it’s North America. There’s teams from all kinds of different regions – from Brazil, from Japan. So it’s the elite of the elite.”

This marks the first time since 2016 the League of Legends World Championship will be back on North American soil, but will be the first time across multiple countries. However, given how well live LoL has performed in the past, there doesn’t appear to be much fear that heading to three major stadiums will lead to anything but a sellout.

LoL esports has many examples of successful live stadium events such as the 2016 World Championship held at Staples Center and even a North American Championship held at Scotiabank Arena (then Air Canada Centre), also in 2016.

“The momentum behind League of Legends esports has only continued to grow since the last time we hosted Worlds in the U.S., in 2016. We’re thrilled to bring the full scale of our global sport back to North America and, COVID permitting, welcome fans into the stands across three countries and four different cities,” said Aletaha.

And if you think it’s a little silly that people would actually pay for tickets to watch people play a video game, then you’re likely behind the times. Esports, to many, is just another kind of sport.

“I think that a lot of the things that you love about sports are true in esports as well,” said Cummings-Bentley. “Why would someone go watch basketball when you can just play basketball yourself? Well, you’re doing it because it’s at this incredible level of competition and you’re seeing these people who have perfected their craft.

“[Esports] is something that’s very accessible for people today, and I think that a lot of youth today, a lot of kids, people play games, people love games and being able to see them play at that incredible level of coordination and competition is just inspiriting, is just aspirational, and it’s incredibly exciting to see what the best in the world can pull off.

“And when you go to one of these live events it truly is that kind of incredible atmosphere that you would expect going to a Raptors playoff game. It’s that level of buzz, it’s that level of excitement that’s around it that truly makes it an incredible spectator sport, that makes it an incredible in-person experience.”

Still not convinced that video games can be considered real pro sports? Consider this: the top eight teams of the past 2021 World Championship split a pot of $2.25 million, with the champions Edward Gaming walking away with $489,500. Not bad.

Certainly for Cummings-Bentley, this marriage between video games and sports was natural to him as someone who actually came from a large sports background growing up in Kingston, Ont., and also, earlier in his life, becoming a pro gamer himself in the game World of Warcraft.

“Growing up, I played all kinds of sports,” he said. “My parents basically made it where we always had to be playing a sport or doing something like that. So, not that I was amazing, but I played soccer, basketball, football, rugby, volleyball, badminton. Like, pretty much you name it, I played it.

“I loved sports growing up, I’ve been a huge sports fan for most of my life, and we used to go up to basketball games at (Air Canada Centre), and when I lived in Toronto I would go to watch Raptors games and I was a huge Raptors fan as a kid, when they were first coming into the league. I remember watching, for the brief time, when Tracy McGrady was on the team and, obviously, the Vince Carter era was huge for me and all my friends. So, definitely have been a huge sports fan growing up and it does make it really meaningful going to actually be in that arena where I’ve grown up and gone to games with my family.”

The last time Toronto hosted top-level pro LoL, it was a resounding success – and there’s no reason to think otherwise for next year’s go-around.

“We look forward to welcoming League Of Legends once again, this time for their 2022 Worlds Championship at Scotiabank Arena,” Melissa Bubb-Clarke, senior vice president, music and live events at MLSE, said in a statement. “The esports community is growing exponentially in Canada and our fans will be excited to have the opportunity to attend and watch the best of the best of LoL.”