Sure Shots

Published on September 5, 2012

by: Mitch MacDonald

Kevin Curry often finds it difficult to describe the sport of speedball to those who have never witnessed a match

After being dismissed as a fringe sport for years the game, and often referred to as the umbrella sport paintball, it is more structured than many would assume and has a growing popularity in North America.

"Paintball has always been considered a fringe sport," said Curry, adding  the notion is usually abandoned once an individual sees the sports. "Once they do it's ‘ah it makes sense now. It's not (played) in the woods.'"

There was previously only one paintball facility in P.E.I., Spike's Paintball in York, until a couple years ago.

The province now boasts at least six paintball facilities.

However, it would still surprise many Islanders that P.E.I. has a competitive paintball team, the Charlottetown Shock, in the RXL Atlantic Division of the Canadian Xtreme Paintball League (CXBL).

It would surprise even more to know the team, which Curry coaches, will be representing P.E.I. on a national stage next month when it competes in the NAX Finals from Sept. 15 to 16 at Commando Paintball in Ottawa.

The tournament will see four divisions in the multi-tiered league compete for the national championship.

The RXL division is the third tier, after the Elite and MXL divisions.

Currie, who previously played Elite, said the division can see players travel from areas as far as California to compete.

The Shock secured a place in the tournament after winning the Atlantic Division in its inaugural year.

The team will compete against the Niagara Aces, Stittsville Hired Heros, Mississauga Hate, Saguenay SPK and Essex Distortion

For many players, the team's inaugural season has been a learning experience with many sacrifices for a new sport they now love, said Curry.

"Some of the kids had never even played before when we were recruiting (last winter)," he said. "They've come a long way, they put a lot of hours of practice in . . . and it's not a cheap sport, either."

While the effort and sacrifice put in has been huge for some of the players, so has the payoff.

"It's probably the most exciting year I've had in paintball ever," said Adam Cole.

The 27-year-old Charlottetown resident is a veteran of the team, having played paintball since he was 12 and having played competitively for nearly as long.

Cole has also seen the growth of the sport take off  in recent years.

Along with that, he's also seen how the structure of the sport has evolved into maturity.

While rules previously followed a "hit an opposing player, earn a point" format, the game is now much more of a team sport requiring strategy.

However, paintball still has a bit of a stigma attached to those unfamiliar with the competitive and tightly structured side of the sport.

"A lot of people when they hear paintball, it means ‘go out in the woods and have some fun'," said Cole. "Everyone starts out like that but it builds into more of an actual structured sport."

Actually, paintball is similar to many other more mainstream sports.

"There's stands, there's a scorecard, there are pits for the players just like hockey benches," said Curry, adding that even some parents of his players were taken back when they realized how much there was to the sport. "(A parent said) ‘I've had no idea it was this structured, this organized' and that there was a chance that her son could compete on a national level.

"If it's not hockey, soccer or baseball it's hard for a parent to connect . . . it's just that initial perception."

The Charlottetown Shock will be looking to change that Island perception at the national tournament, after posting a 7-1 record through their eight regular season matchups.

"It's amazing to know how we played (all year) and how we came together as a team," added Cole.

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