BOSTON -- One of the most storied franchises in the National Hockey League is ready to make its mark on esports.
Delaware North, the parent company of the six-time Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins and the TD Garden, have invested in esports franchise Splyce, which fields nine professional esports teams across League of Legends, Call of Duty, Overwatch and more.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the Delaware North intends to use resources from the Bruins and TD Garden in the development, sales and marketing of the esports brand.
"Delaware North is always looking at emerging markets and new opportunities and certainly one in the entertainment and sports space," TD Garden President Amy Latimer told ESPN. "One, because we feel like we already have some of the important elements that would make a sports franchise successful. We have a sales teams for sponsorships and ticket sales. We have a marketing engine, social. We have an arena to host events. It was an ideal partnership because we already have some of the basic elements."
In addition to assisting in the growth of Splyce, organizers hope to use the TD Garden to host major esports events in the future.
"We love the idea of having it here in Boston," Latimer said. "We think that we can leverage an unbelievable sports fan base and sort of the fans we already have but also more fans. For us, we're always looking at what's next, and we think it fits within our culture, and we're just excited about it from a company standpoint. We really think there's a tremendous opportunity.
"I think having a home team and having [the TD Garden] as the home facility, and we want to make it one of the toughest places to play in. Truly, we think we bring all of those attributes here. For us, it's really just adding another Boston sports team to the landscape."
Splyce was founded in 2015 in Rochester, New York, and was known as Follow Esports. The brand initially served as a directory of esports live streams and events, becoming the self-proclaimed "TV guide of esports." Shortly after it began, Follow Esports expanded into professional esports competitions, signing teams in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, World of Warcraft, Super Smash Bros. and others.
The company then purchased Team Dignitas' second League Championship Series team in Europe before rebranding to Splyce in the final months of 2015. Splyce has seen success in professional League of Legends, most notably qualifying for the League of Legends World Championship in 2016, the team's first year in the league.
Splyce co-founder and CEO Marty Strenczewilk says the deal between Delaware North and Splyce was contingent on location in the northeast United States. Both companies are based in Western New York -- Splyce in Rochester and Delaware North in Buffalo -- but Splyce intends to work more around the Boston market due to the city's significantly larger reach. Strenczewilk says that despite both being based in Western New York, he doesn't believe it's ready for a geolocated esports franchise.
"For us to be competitive for players, for opportunities for growing our business, we really have to look at what is the right opportunity, and you're looking at places like Philadelphia, Boston, New York City, Chicago, if we want to stay in the northeast, and that was really important to us," he said. "Boston offered not only one of the passionate fan bases in sports, but also, it's got great infrastructure here for running a sports team. I think there are really opportunities to grow the cross-fan-base between esports and sports both directions."
The Bruins are the third NHL affiliate to make moves into the esports space. In September, New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia 76ers ownership group headed by investment magnate Joshua Harris purchased esports teams Team Dignitas and Apex Gaming. Shortly after, Washington Capitals and Wizards majority owner Ted Leonsis led a firm in purchasing controlling interest in esports franchise Team Liquid.
The investment also continues a trend from sports franchises and affiliates that kicked off in 2015. First Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban invested in esports sportsbook Unikrn. Then Sacramento Kings co-owners Andy Miller and Mark Mastrov founded their own team, NRG Esports. Names such as Shaquille O'Neal, Rick Fox, Magic Johnson and others have become financially involved since then. Most recently, NBA and Take-Two Interactive Software, makers of the mega-popular NBA 2K video game, announced a partnership to form a first-of-its-kind esports league centered around the NBA 2K series.