Toronto Esports Club embarrasses itself over name debacle
By Brittney MacDonald, Life & Style Editor
Last summer, the Overwatch League (OWL) announced that they will be adding two Canadian teams to their roster: Vancouver and Toronto.
The OWL is a professional videogame league centred around Blizzard’s massively popular first-person shooter Overwatch. The new teams are set to debut this coming April, but not everyone is happy about it.
On October 24, it was announced that the Toronto team will be called the Toronto Defiant. However, upon their name reveal, Blizzard requested that the Toronto Esports Club, a semi-pro team, drop the “Toronto” from their name in OWL-based competition. Blizzard called for this change due to the fact that the Toronto Defiant, as the major league team, has exclusive title rights.
To throw in some context, Toronto Esports Club is part of the Contenders League, which is a minor league similar to a semi-pro or college basketball team. In fact, Toronto Esports Club was in partnership with the Boston Uprising—another OWL team—as their academy or training team. However, Blizzard requested a name change in order to avoid confusion regarding association.
Earlier in the year, the OWL demonstrated its intent to differentiate itself from other professional videogame leagues by having specific, city-based teams instead of more generic region or country-based teams. Blizzard claims that when an OWL team slot is purchased, whatever host city claims it has also purchased exclusive naming rights. In the case of Toronto Esports Club and the Toronto Defiant, the use of the patron city was deemed too similar for two teams that are not even associated with one another.
Needless to say, Toronto Esports Club was not pleased. Owner Ryan Pallett went to Twitter, publicly challenging the Toronto Defiant to an exhibition match on October 29 over use of the city name. However, OverActive Media—owners of the Toronto Defiant—revealed that they had nothing to do with the request and that it is ultimately Blizzard’s decision.
What did Toronto Esports Club do? Essentially, they said that they were taking their ball and going home. In a public tweet released on November 12, Toronto Esports Club said, “We have been informed by Blizzard that we will be forced to remove ‘Toronto’ from our brand in only 6 weeks. Mid Contenders season 3. The reason cited: @TorontoDefiant have purchased ‘exclusive naming rights.’ We will be leaving Overwatch effective immediately. Good riddance.”
At this point in time, the Boston Uprising, the OWL team who partnered with Toronto Esports Club, reminded Pallett and his staff that it’s not actually their ball. The Boston Uprising is owned by Kraft Group, whose president of gaming, Chris “HuK” Loranger, took to Twitter to address the issue. Loranger reminded everyone that all player and staff contracts in regard to the Contenders League team, as well as the use of the Contender’s League slot, is actually owned by Kraft Group. Therefore, the team itself will continue on under new management and independent of Pallett and the Toronto Esports Club—and obviously, with a new name!