Why Did the Vancouver Canucks Ban Fortnite?

A generational divide appears in pro sports

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Alexander Edler / Derrick Leung/Getty Images

Last week, the Vancouver Canucks made headlines by banning Fortnite on the road. It was a decision that the Canucks claim was made by veteran players to improve team chemistry. The ban is the most recent development in the conversation about gaming's role in traditional pro sports. Earlier this year, Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek claimed that a Fortnite addiction almost ended a promising prospect’s career and several outlets reported that officials in the OHL—one of the NHL’s top developmental leagues—recommended that their players "scrub references to the game from social media accounts." In hockey circles, the online game became something of a curse word, a phenomenon which has exposed some generational fault lines.

That's Patrick Laine, the 20-year-old Winnipeg forward and an avid Fortnite player. That habit that didn’t seemingly affect his strong second season in Winnipeg. When it comes to the nature of the Canucks’ ban, Laine’s probably right. But this exact conflict has also arisen in baseball; when Boston Red Sox pitcher David Price got diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, many were quick to pin the blame on Fortnite:

But Price has been playing games his whole life and most of the consternation seems to be coming from critics much older than Price. Whether Fortnite had anything to do with the injury or not is impossible to say. However, when players party a lot less than their predecessors, the battleground of teams vs. gaming during downtime should be a fascinating modern tension to watch.

"I don't think Fortnite's the problem," Leafs forward Zach Hyman told ESPN. "I think that you can get addicted to anything. If you're sitting there playing Fortnite for 12 hours a day, it's probably not the best thing for you, but if you play it like a normal person—one or two hours a day—then you're fine. … If you're going out all night [partying], you're addicted to going out. That's not good either."

As diehard gaming and gaming culture continues to gain more cultural prominence, the Canucks’ ban has all the markings of an organization trying to treat the symptom, not the disease. Some teams are even embracing Fortnite. Maybe it's time to let the old ways die.

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