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Despite pandemic, it was ‘game on’ for Durham’s esports team

Sports seasons at Canadian colleges and universities have been shut down for an extended period due to COVID-19.

Although all other Ontario Colleges Athletic Association sports were cancelled due to the pandemic, Durham College’s (DC) esports team was able to have a season.

And a successful one, too.

“It was weird being the focal point of the varsity program, esports is something that is just starting to get recognized, and I’m really impressed by Durham’s willingness to show us off and support us in such a weird time for everyone,” says Ben Bramly, DC Lords Rocket League team coach and manager.

DC Esports General Manager Bill Ai says while it was unfortunate they were the only program to have a 2020-21 season, the esports athletes are accustomed a slightly different status.

“We are used to being lone competitors from back when the varsity program was still a club,” Ai said.

“We’re excited to show that support back to all the other varsity teams when they get back in action,” Bramly said.

Ai found out his team would have a season once they were approved by the task force.

“None of the players were surprised we would be having a season since everything can be done online,” he says.

The Lords esports team had success this season. The DC Rocket League Team won two New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) titles, the OCRS Ruckus Tournament championship, reaching the Unified Collegiate Esports Association (UCEA) Grand Final in both semesters, and qualifying for the Clash Royale League (CRL) which showcases the top 20 North American collegiate teams.

“Winning the NECC title in both the fall and spring was an awesome experience for all of us,” Bramly says. “It was a great personal achievement for the players, proving themselves as top tier talent, as well as for the school showing that we have a program capable of winning titles.”

Conner McGlennan, a Rocket League player, is grateful of all the accomplishments his team achieved this season.

“It’s amazing you know, we competed very well and hard work pays off. We won a couple of titles during the season, and it made it worth it,” McGlennan says.

He adds their success during the season allowed the team to be distracted from what’s currently going on in the world.

“It’s good to smile, celebrate and have joy because we need it. This world we live in is hard, so we need some kind of happiness,” he said.

Making it to the CRL was probably the biggest accomplishment the Rocket League team has accomplished to date, according to Ai.

“While winning the NECC Championship and Ruckus league were highlights as well as almost taking home UCEA twice, qualifying for CRL is something every collegiate rocket league player wants to achieve,” he says.

The entire season was done virtually which is actually something video game athletes are used to, but there were still some things that couldn’t happen.

“It was unfortunate not being able to see players or coaching staff in person and due to the pandemic, we were unable to make use of our arena,” Ai say.

He’s excited for the new season and hopes for some level of normalcy.