Transcending Fantasy Sports, Canadian Startup Web Sim Hockey Teams Up with NHLPA

by Joseph Czikk

Web Sim Hockey is announcing their new partnership with the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA), making the Quebec City-based startup’s online hockey simulator game the only one to have been granted an NHLPA license.

The increasingly popular multi-player hockey game puts users in the seat of general managers of pro hockey teams, allowing them to enter leagues with friends while drafting, trading and signing free agents. Social media integrations allow players tocomment on every action.

“We are thrilled to have concluded such a historic agreement with the NHLPA. Although we are an up-and-coming company, the NHLPA realized the potential Web Sim Hockey has for hockey fans worldwide,” said cofounding brothers Guillaume and Alain Quirion in a release. “The best of Web Sim Hockey is now here.”

The agreement only allows Web Sim Hockey to use player pictures, but its more the association with the massive sports icon that the startup is likely after. VP of research and development Eric Bergeron said that Web Sim Hockey approached the NHLPA with the idea after grossing $250,000 over the last few years. The suitors obliged.

“We were very impressed by how quickly Web Sim Hockey has evolved in just three short years,” said the NHLPA’s Martin McQuaig. “Web Sim Hockey is the perfect example of the next generation of high-quality online games—and we are proud to be associated with the team.”

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With over 500 active hockey leagues, 10 000 teams managed on a daily basis, and 5 million monthly page views, Web Sim Hockey’s popularity has been growing at a substantial rate. named it Online Hockey Game of the year in 2012. Laurentian University, meanwhile, has used the game for two years now as part of its Bachelor’s degree program in Sports Administration.

The brothers Quirion coded the game from their apartment in 2005 and eventually brought it online in 2009. Along the way they hired Bergeron, who had previously worked with Alain Quirion at a website development company. Bergeron is a passionate hockey fan too, having organized 80,000 signatures to try and bring the Quebec Nordiques back to the NHL in 2005. The team is rounded out with Norman Berrette and Sebastien Lessard.

Any hockey fan engagging in an online league knows the pitfalls of fantasy sports: once the real season ends, everything stops. With Web Sim Hockey, users are engaged all year round, something that likely keeps its 5 million plus monthly page views constant. Users are staying on the site for an average of 192 minutes (in comparison, Facebook users stay on for 413 minutes while Yahoo! users stay on for 151 minutes).

“In 2013 people are much more willing to spend time on those types of games than five years ago, so were trying to get as many people to try it,” Bergeron told Techvibes. “After four years we’ve added tons of new features, we’re listening to our community, we’re always improve the game and we’re very inspired.”

The company has already received significant exposure from French media in Quebec but the challenge remains penetrating the English market (which doesn’t seem too daunting given English Canada’s hockey craze). It rests on whether they can bring the product to enough people’s attention and the NHLPA agreement should help in this respect.

Future plans include ideally forming partnerships with the American Hockey League (AHL), the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) umbrella organization and even Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). Bergeron said they are also eyeing a tournament module to allow users to enter into monthly competitions outside of their own leagues.

Along with the NHLPA partnership, Web Sim Hockey’s version two is now out. The team is confident in the product and they’re ready to move forward. “It’s well made, we have a very strong and loyal community that enjoys the game and all we need is to share the word,” said Bergeron.

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Joseph Czikk

Joseph Czikk

Joseph Czikk is a freelance reporter currently based in Montreal. more

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