Canada eh? When I first saw the Event dates for the upcoming 2012 NPPL season on a local paintball forum here on Vancouver Island, I had to do a double take. I quickly went through my mind just to make sure I hadn't just woken up from a coma on April 1. I concluded that the poster was just trying to be funny. I went to the NPPL website for confirmation, but I'm not particularly familiar with the site, so I didn't find anything. Now I was more sure the whole thing was a joke. This morning I found news about it on PBN and somewhere found a link to the Pro Paintball website, where I saw the same thing posted. Right there, middle of the season, in the middle of July, the NPPL had added a 5th date, and sure enough it was Vancouver.
I think I subconsciously cocked my head sideways and stared at the screen, much the same way my new dog does when she doesn't quite understand a situation. So I am trying to rationalize what thought process the league organizers went through to make this move. Is this a bold move, where the owners are saying, screw you!? We are not going to shrivel up and die. No! We are going to move forward. As a matter of fact, we are expanding.
Canada, has some untapped market in the competitive speedball area, that for sure. A smaller portion of Canadians play than their American counterparts. Vancouver's competitive paintball scene is small, but I guess that doesn't really matter. The NPPL draws from a fairly large geographical area. I'm sure there will be teams from all over Canada wanting to compete in the first NPPL event held in Canada.
Is the fact that the BCPPL (a close equivalent format to the NPPL), which ran for several years here in British Columbia and cancelled all remaining events halfway through the 2011 season due to low participation, an indicator of popularity of competitive paintball in Canada?
Canada is a large, sparsely populated country. Flights between Canadian cities are much more costly than between equivalent US distanced US cities. But for a onetime event, I have a feeling, there will still be quite a number of Canadian entries, mostly in the lower divisions of course.
But how about our American cousins? Are we going to see as many American teams/players at the Vancouver event? Costs to fly to Canada are higher than flying to an American city. The option to fly to Seattle, rent a car and drive several hours to Vancouver exists. It complicates things a bit, but can save some money (cost more time though). It's still going to be considerably more expensive then if the event were held in Seattle though, for instance.
Then there is the border between Canada and the USA. I think it may be the largest undefended border in the world (not 100% sure about this). But that doesn't mean that you can just walk over the border without stopping (well unless you trek miles off into the mountains in the interior of BC, in which case you might have a chance of making it undetected, and don't run into a drug smuggler). Passports are needed now. How many American players do not have a passport? I'm going to guess that it is quite a few. Maybe not the pros, but I'm sure there are lots of players that play in the lower divisions that may not have a passport and may not want to go to the hassle of getting one. Also, I believe any sort of criminal record at all that a person might have, will make it much harder, and possibly impossible to cross. I'm sure there are very few paintball players with any sort of record though, all being the upstanding citizens we are. Anyway, I'm not convinced that the participation numbers are going to rank up there with other NPPL events.
Then there are the vendors. One of the concerns I hear from both players and people who seem to know a bit about running large paintball events is the drop of vendor participation at events. How will the greater distances, costs, and border crossing affect that part of the equation, especially if they feel the player participation will be lower as well?
But give the NPPL credit for having guts, if nothing else. I'm sure, if the Vancouver event goes forward, it will be an NPPL Lite event, with fewer participants by both players and industry types. But you never know, maybe it will tap into a market here in Canada that has been floundering for many years. Maybe it will inspire Canadian kids to get off the couch and get out there and spend their hard earned money to practice and get involved in the game. The local scene here of players, many who have played at least some BCPPL events in the past, are all aflutter. But I don't think a few locals that couldn't keep a relatively small tourney scene together will be what makes an NPPL event successful.
I wish the NPPL much luck in Vancouver, but my head is still cocked a little sideways.