This past Monday saw the global unveiling of Toronto’s new Overwatch League franchise—Toronto Defiant. To celebrate the franchise’s launch, Defiant held a party in Toronto’s beautiful Berkeley Church. Open to the public, the event’s 350 tickets were sold out almost instantly.
Fans were lining up outside the venue in the cold Toronto fall weather hours before the unveiling began, and the event itself was packed throughout the night. During the launch, Defiant’s logo and in-game skin color palettes were revealed, with many of Defiant’s staff at the event to speak to fans, including the team’s general manager Jaesun “Jae” Won and head coach Beom-joon “Bishop” Lee.
Dot Esports had the chance to speak to Jae and Bishop at Defiant’s launch party, discussing the city of Toronto, the upcoming OWL season, and their goals for themselves and the team.
Why choose Toronto to be the representative city for your OWL team?
Jae: “I mean it’s more like Toronto chose us. It felt like us and Toronto were the perfect fit for each other. Basically us, the management team, and investors felt that Toronto, and Canada in general, was an untapped market. We felt that Toronto deserved to have their own franchise team, and we’re really glad and excited to bring this to the city of Toronto.”
Bishop, you were the head coach of London Spitfire until you left during season one. What made you choose Toronto Defiant over the other OWL teams, new and old?
Bishop: “Well, part of it was timing. After I was fully ready to join the league again, I did get some offers from previous league teams, but I guess I wanted to join an expansion team. Firstly to prove myself, and I kind of like the challenge of being an underdog, because expansion teams have to create a new team from scratch. But other than that, Jae approached me, and we spoke for hours on gaming philosophy, what our visions were, and what we wanted in a team, and all of that clicked. So Toronto was an instant [choice] for me, it didn’t require much thinking.”
What did you learn during your time coaching in the OWL that could be brought into the upcoming season?
Bishop: “So results are important, but the process is, in my opinion, even more important. I feel like a lot of coaches, myself included, really underestimated the humanity factor in players. Yes they are professional players and they do have to perform at their best at all times, but as the coach there is so much more you can do to bring the best out of players. And I feel that a lot of that has to do with outside of game external things. This time I feel like, with that knowledge and experience I had building the London Spitfire and bringing them a stage one victory, I can do better. And with the Defiant we’ll be looking to grow as a team.”
What is your opinion of Toronto and its fans?
Jae: “I think [Toronto] has a fantastic fan base, and I think they’ve been kind of starving for their own home team to root for. You know like before in season one obviously they rooted for certain players they may like, or teams based off just watching the games, but I think they’re actually really excited to have a home team to root for. The fans have been great, the energy has been fantastic, and it just inspires us to go back and keep working really hard to make this team something they can root for once the season starts.”
Bishop: “I did not expect this when I was first told I’d be flying here. I was like “okay just do a couple Q&As and that’s it.” But here in Toronto it has been amazing. The interactions with fans have been huge, and I’m just wishing the players, coaches, and entire staff were here because what I felt tonight wasn’t pressure. It was me wanting to now return the favor. So after this I’m going back to Seoul, Korea on Sunday. I’ll be working hard with the players, and i’ll make sure to tell them that there are a lot of people rooting for us.”
Aside from Toronto, there are fans based all around the world who currently root for other OWL teams like London Spitfire and Seoul Dynasty. How do you plan on bringing those fans over to Toronto Defiant’s side.
Jae: “I mean the easiest way to get them on our side is to compete and do well, and obviously to make sure that our players do as much as they can to interact with their fans online. But you know, results do tend to get the fan base and so we will work really hard to make a winning team, because everyone loves a winner.”
Bishop, earlier tonight you said that Defiant have already begun practice. How’s that been going so far?
Bishop: “Well we’re not absorbing a pre-established team, we’re bringing in individuals we think have a lot of potential, and that can grow. We’re also looking at synergy, Scrim-wise, it’s been a little over a week of practice. We’re currently finalizing our trials, and we’re looking to actually start synergizing. It’s a growing process. We’re not gonna start winning right off the bat, but i’m happy to say that the potential that we saw is starting to show.”
You mentioned the team has been practicing, and doing tryouts in Seoul. Is it safe to assume that Defiant’s roster is going to be all Korean?
Bishop: “I can’t comment on that right now, but what I can say is on Saturday we will be revealing a couple of our players.”
A big part of Overwatch esports is the interactions between teams and fans. Will we see the Defiant players make their way to Toronto, similarly to other teams like NYXL?
Jae: “While we don’t get to see exactly what their said plans are, [Defiant] does have a lot of plans, especially in the Toronto area for fan viewings. Definitely [Defiant] wants to do as much of that as possible in order to engage Toronto fans. Obviously by 2020, all the teams are expected to come home, so that’ll be big. A lot of Toronto fans would be excited to see the games, because you know it’s not always easy to go to the Blizzard arena in California haha, so it’ll be great to have home games.”
Do you have any specific goals you’d like to achieve during this upcoming OWL season?
Jae: “Well clearly our long term goal is to win season two. That’s a very lofty goal but short term wise it’s basically prep the players the best we can to be ready for the season, which starts on Feb. 14. It may seem like a long time from now, but it really isn’t.”
Bishop: “For me, other than the obvious goal of striving to make our players win, and have that strong team, I want my players to grow as individuals because a lot of them don’t have any experience abroad. This will be something for the players to look back upon when they grow up years down the line like “hey back when I was in the States I met these people. I had these experiences.” Basically just widen their mind, and have that cosmopolitan view on things. And I think that will help them.”
Lastly, do you have anything to say to all the Defiant fans?
Jae: “I would just say to all our fans that obviously people are going to have preconceived notions about the team, and as an expansion team you generally come in as an underdog. But we just want our fans to know that both the coaching staff and players are working really hard to make them proud.”
Bishop: “We will be going into every match hungry. We’re going to show that fighting spirit, and hold true to the name Defiant.”