Zack Hayes is once again competing for the Prince Albert Raiders, albeit in a digital format.
The former blueliner and captain for the Western Hockey League club will be taking part in a 64-team Memorial eCup tournament on NHL 21, which will feature representatives from all 60 Canadian Hockey League teams along with four yet to be announced hockey personalities.
“I’m pretty excited to take part in the tournament and I think it’s really cool that the CHL is putting something like this on,” Hayes said on Friday.
“Once the National Hockey League came out with their Fortnite tournament back in the spring, I was curious as to if the CHL was going to do something similar, whether it be with Call of Duty, Fortnite or NHL. I’m really happy to have the chance to compete in this.”
While the Raiders are pretty competitive when it comes to video games, Hayes said that no one was stepping up to take part in the tournament until he put his name forward.
“All of the guys were texting about it at first in our group chat when the news started to come out about the tournament, but I was keeping quiet,” Hayes said.
“No one was stepping up though and I said ‘well I’m not really doing much right now so I might as well put my hat into the ring.’”
Hayes has been playing the NHL series since 2013 and has also ventured into playing the old PC versions of the game from the mid 2000’s.
“I usually end up playing against the guys on the team as we all tend to have the same schedule, but I also like to play against some of our old teammates like Max Martin,” Hayes said. “Whether it’s through playing NHL or other games, it’s a good way to stay connected with the guys.”
The 21-year-old Hayes, who is from Calgary, had 79 points in 272 games for the Raiders from 2016 to 2020 and served as their captain during the 2019-20 campaign.
During the extended off-season, Hayes has been keeping busy in a number of ways as he gears up for his first season in the pro ranks for the American Hockey League’s Henderson Silver Knights.
“I’ve been using this extra time to try and get stronger in the weight room and to improve my skills, so I’ll be working out about four or five times a week and then I’ll be on the ice for four or five days the following week,” Hayes said.
“I’ve also tried to spend some time doing other things as well. I was at the lake quite a lot during the summer and then I’ve tried to go hunting as much as I can here this fall.”
In addition to Hayes, three other players with Prince Albert connections will be taking part in the tournament, which runs from Nov. 27 to Dec. 17
Former Raiders blueliner Rhett Rhinehart will represent the Saskatoon Blades, while former Prince Albert Mintos forwards Kyrell Sopotyk and Kishaun Gervais will be competing for the Kamloops Blazers and the Portland Winterhawks respectively.
The full bracket for the tournament, which is taking place on the PlayStation 4 and will see all matches streamed on Facebook Live and Twitch, will be announced in the coming days.