Wayne Morales [far left] and his brother Gary Morales [far right] met up with one of the gamers from the NHL online community at the 2012 EA Sports Challenge in NYC.

Centennial College grad preparing for 2nd EA Sports Challenge

Imagine making some extra cash just by playing video games.

That’s what Wayne Morales did last year at the 2012 EA Sports Challenge series for NHL ’12 where he finished in the top four to earn $10,000 US.

And he can’t wait to do it again with NHL ’13.

“It’s going to be in Vegas [this year] so I’m planning to go big and bring a whole entourage with me if I make it,” he said.

The 2013 challenge will give away the same prize money that the 2012 event awarded in New York City.

EA’s Sports held it’s first annual event last year. The competition consists of a three-game series involving EA Sports properties NHL, FIFA, and Madden NFL with all three games offering a combined $1 million in prize money.

The winner of NHL ’13 will receive $70,000 of the 200,000 purse.

In order to participate, gamers play a $10 entrance at the Virgin Gaming’s website where players compete against each other online through Playstation 3.

Morales, who goes by the user name “blakeleafs11,” won four games from Sept. 2011-Jan. 2012 to qualify.

The 24-year-old then received an invite to the challenge in April. He was joined on the 10-hour bus ride to New York by his brother Gary, who also qualified.

“When I won, I felt like an NHL superstar and felt good about myself to be able to show my friends and family that playing video games isn’t a waste of time for me because I can make some serious cash playing it,” he said.

Even though Wayne Morales won a significant amount of money, it wasn’t an easy road to the semifinals. He lost in the first round and was eliminated, or so he thought.

“We were so down in the dumps,” Wayne Morales said. “We were so excited and wanted to get something out of it and we were about to go home with nothing.

“It was such a roller coaster ride of emotions,” he continued.  “When we first got there, we were excited to play our first match and I think the my nerves got the best of me.”

But it wasn’t over yet. Organizers of the event decided to give players who lost in the first round another chance from a raffle – meaning both Morales brothers were send back to the second round.

“It was a very lucky day,” Morales said.

However, Gary Morales lost again in the second round and walked away with $1,000. Wayne Morales cruised through each round until he lost in the semifinals.

Born and raised in Toronto, the recent 2012 Centennial College graduate always had a love for hockey and gaming.

He began playing NHL ’94 on the Sega Genesis when he was five-years-old and found the Virgin Gaming website in a flyer advertising the tournament.

“I decided to join because I knew I was one of the handful of players in the Virgin Gaming online community that had a good chance at winning it all,” he said. “Even though I was considered a favorite in my head, I was just hoping to win a few rounds and go home with a decent amount of cash.”

Morales’ proudest moment during the tournament was his comeback victory in Round 2.

He was losing by three goals with five minutes left to play in the third period but came back and scored three within that time to force OT.

“I don’t think I’ve ever celebrated as much as I have [at that moment] ever in my life,” he said looking back. “It was an unreal moment of accomplishment.”

Even though Morales is a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs, he used the Vancouver Canucks team to carry him through the tournament.

“I like the Leafs but it’s hard to win games with the team because their players aren’t as good.”

However, since NHL ‘13 came out two weeks ago, he has been playing with the Leafs team, but will switch back to the Canucks once he competes again.

The qualifying round for EA’s second annual event starts Sept. 25 and Morales already has his eye on the grand prize.

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