Kids, ignore your parents. Play more video games. That’s exactly what hockey streamer Andrew Telfer, more well known as ‘Nasher,’ did, and it’s really starting to pay off.
Earlier this month, Telfer signed a brand deal with Bauer Hockey that will provide him with equipment and other apparel for use in his content, an agreement that comes on the heels of world famous streamer Tyler ‘Ninja’ Blevins, who had nearly 15-million followers on the popular streaming platform Twitch before signing a contract with Microsoft’s Mixer, signing on with Adidas. And while Telfer, who has slightly fewer than 300,000 subscribers on YouTube and roughly 32,000 on Twitch, isn’t exactly on Blevins’ level, the NHL gamer became the first signed to a major hockey brand.
“Growing up, I had dreams of playing in the NHL,” said Telfer, who worked at a Wendy’s headquarters in Ohio before making his video career his full-time job. “That didn’t pan out. This is the next best thing is, it’s truly a dream come true.”
Telfer’s journey began eight years ago with an EA Sports NHL 11 published to YouTube, and his online presence continued to grow when he started including GoPro videos of him skating and stickhandling. He has become among the biggest NHL content creators in a growing space, and his ability to blend the real-life videos with his regular digital content helped him get noticed in two different hockey communities. And while the NHL streaming landscape remains a niche compared to other titles – the Fortnite World Cup earlier this summer had a $30-million prize pool – it’s heading in the right direction. In fact, Telfer has made enough of an impact with his YouTube channel that some NHLers have taken notice. A while back, Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski reached out to Telfer about playing NHL 19, and they later connected to meet up and play on the ice, too.
It’s opened other doors for Telfer, as well. Recently, he was an analyst for the NHL’s official Gaming World Championship tournament, a $100,000 competition pitting the top EA Sports NHL players against each other. Sponsors such as Scotiabank, Great Clips, Honda, Brisk and Adidas, among others, invested into the championship, which garnered more than 62 million impressions on social media and 150,000 unique viewers across three two-hour Twitch live streams.
“’Nasher’ is a compelling personality and he has played a significant role in the first two years of our Gaming World Championship both as a member of the GWC talent team as well as his influencer footprint in the gaming community,” said Chris Golier, the NHL’s vice-president of business development and global partnerships.
Utilizing online personalities such as ‘Nasher’ to reach the younger demographic is a positive for the NHL, even if the first real exposure to hockey is through video games. While participating in the sport can be expensive – and, in some cases, financially unviable for some families – pursuing esports and enjoying the sport in its video game format can come down to owning a video game console, which is a much smaller financial barrier. “There are so many people that are like, ‘I’ve never touched a hockey stick in my life, but I absolutely love the videos,’ ” Telfer said. “And that’s exactly what I’m trying to do.”
Is Telfer’s deal a sign of things to come for other NHL 20 streamers? Other noteworthy creators have built popular communities over the years and continue to hold strong, and he thinks it’s only a matter of time until things begin to take off in the community, though there’s still work that needs to be done.
“I think ideally, you’d want to have each and every NHL team run their own tournament, have a winner from that tournament, then go to a bigger tournament,” Telfer said. “That’s not something easy to pull off. It’ll be a few years down the road, but I think there’s potential for us to get there.”