How did the team begin and what was the progression to Pro?
The progress was very interesting and took a while with a lot of changes in the 2003 to 2006 years. If you think back to 2003 the kids were 13 and 14 and we sponsored 2 teams at the time, I moved up to Amateur and the kids stayed in Novice. In 2003 we joined the two teams to go to World Cup. We ended up winning Div 3 XBall. That was when we decided to try and take the team and create the best we could with the local talent in Alberta. It just progressed from there and we started going to NPPL events as Division 2 and played our first full year in 2005. That year the NPPL announced in 2006 it was only going to allow 1 team to advance from Division 1 into Semi Pro and Semi Pro took the top 3 teams to Pro! I will always remember sitting down with these kids aged 14 to 17 or so and we had two old guys Ryan O'Connor and me as the leaders! The team then was Zachary and Zane Yachimec, Anthony Fiazza, Danny Simmon, Matt Brown and Blair Boothe. I proposed to the team we move right up to Semi after 2 events and see how we can do, we got thumped the first two events! We had teams running down the field at us just shooting us off the field but we made the playoffs in Miami that year and learned a lot!
The next year Josh Davey and Danny Miller joined the semi pro team and we ended up making the top 3 to advance to the Pro Division. In 2007, we finished 2nd in HB (our first pro event) losing out to Bob Longs team.
What challenges do you face being coach/owner of a professional paintball team?
It’s all mental at the level we play, it’s no different in any pro sport the players are all excellent and you have different talent on different teams. It’s getting those players to believe in each other and the talent to work as one and see the vision of winning! Dynasty has it figured out with all the years of aspirations. They make each other believe it and when you believe it will happen!!
How is it coaching your sons?
There is nothing like it! When a father can play right up along their sons to make it to the top as in Pro paintball there is no better feeling. I know there were times they wanted to sit me when I was having a bad day but I told them no I was playing! I think I had more good games than bad ones back then! I just wish more Dads and Moms played with their sons as Joanne and I did and it has and is still great!
It’s been awhile since we’ve seen you jump on the field and play, any plans of jumping on anytime soon?
It may come back to me as I have just had a hip replacement done in Jan of this year but it has been a problem for me for 2 years. It feels great now and I should have had it taken care of right away so we will see.
When recruiting new players, what qualities do you look for?
They have to fit in with the mentality of the rest of the group. A great Example is Ryan Moorhead, right out of the gate he fit in and brought a lot of desire to the team. Some guys have come and gone and again it’s not only playing paintball what happens off the field matters too.
That brings up a good point that the paintball industry sees a lot of people coming and going, what do you attribute you staying in the industry to?
We currently have two teams that I sponsor and the desire from the Impact Echo team has been incredible! They are the next team to go pro as long as the desire is there. Players come and go and you need leaders to keep it going and to pass it on. Impact Echo and Edmonton Impact have great leaders that keep those teams together and they keep looking for the talent to play. I am there to support them as long as they want to play!
Do you have any challenges balancing being on the NPPL board and a team owner/coach?
No not at all, I just never thought I would get as involved as I did!! Keeping 7man and the NPPL alive has been very gratifying for me as I believe in it so much. It is just paintball but another game that is so interesting to play and dynamic! I think the 7man race to is going to grow from what I have seen in just the first event in HB the Semi and Pro players just love it!
What do you see as the main differences between the NPPL and PSP?
Top down, just like any organization, there are always going to be differences when you have two competing leagues. I feel that the NPPL is willing to look at change and carry several different formats to cater to all types of players in today’s paintball world.
Why did you decide to only participate in the NPPL this year?
There were a few reasons. It was a year that the two leagues decided to go to 10 events and some of our guys could not make the time for both events. We have lost Josh Davey to his work load, he still has the desire to play but has already missed two events, Zachary has college, Zane just took over an accessories shop we operate, Josh Ouimet has a new job coming, Ryan has college and Tim Montressor just graduated and is currently job hunting. It may have meant adding players that had to play on one team and not the other, which I did not want to go thru. We decided to play the NPPL and play some world events. We are going to play in the Italy Championship in Prado and maybe one in Asia. I also felt that with us playing a 7man race style event that it was very close to the 5man and we were just duplicating in ways.
What are your thoughts on how the merger talks went?
I am not sure how to respond to that, as we the NPPL were there to move forward and to make it happen but in the end I think it really came down to control and I really don't disagree that someone or some group that wants to work together can make it happen . It just could not happen with the people that are there today in the PSP and the NPPL.
In your personal opinion, where do you see the industry going?
It is a very interesting business; I have seen guys be very successful with it. I believe it starts with the field owners in a big way and I sense we need to see a bit more organizing. Like a take from baseball or soccer where you can join a league and play organized games on a weekly or monthly basis. Right now I see birthday Parties, Stags, playing with your buddies. It all starts with the kids who are in for the long term, you need them engaged but we need them back more often.
Tell me a little about your other business?
I currently own 7 Automotive Franchises, Honda, Chrysler, Acura, Nissan, (2) Mitsubishi, BMW, MINI and a CAp-it Truck Accessories Franchise. I originally worked for my Father in the Honda store back in 1985 full time after playing 5 years in the Minors for Chicago Black Hawks and the Edmonton Oilers. I took the stores to 7 after starting a Chrysler store on my own in 1988. I was 28 years old and was working 7 days a week back then and scared as hell!!
And you also own a paintball field, correct?
I own the Indoor building that I lease to Paintball Action Games. That all started when we had to drive 2 hours to play Paintball in the winter every weekend! We first looked to rent a place to support Edmonton with an indoor and it was very difficult to find so I invested and designed a building for Paintball. We opened it in 2003 and it has been a very important part of the Paintball Scene in Western Canada.
How is the paintball industry/scene in Canada?
I think the market has been up and down, we cannot forget it is an expensive sport and when the economy is not at its best, it’s going to suffer, but I have seen a resurgence in our market and our local field owner Roger Chan of GoPaintball/ Paintball Action games has done a great job of making it happen and creating a market for paintball again.
Do you see any parallels in running successful businesses and running a professional paintball team?
For sure, you need to rally the teams all the time and it never ends in keeping people happy and enjoying what they do. I am a big believer in giving your people the proper tools to do the job. It can mean a proper office or a proper piece of equipment. Even when I played hockey, you need a good pair of skates and a hockey stick that you have confidence in.
Where do you see Impact in the next 5 years?
I personally have pulled back in a few ways but the support is there to get the team to practice and to have everything they need for the season. It will be there as long as I have the players that want to lead and keep competing; I truly love these guys and the things we do keep me young!
What would be the best advice you could give a beginning team?
Don't be afraid to keep advancing as a team! What I mean by that is, move up in the levels you play, you learn so much so fast when you play a higher level as a team. You may get your ass kicked but you learn. Impact played Rookie, Novice and Am and lost a lot at all levels but persevered and became the great team they are today.