Continuing our Red Bull Proving Grounds organizer introductions, we met up with Pavel, the organizer for the Montréal region. After talking with Vancouver on the West Coast, it was interesting to get some insight into the East Coast Canadian area, and how they feel about the upcoming event.
Pavel Szczypior: I have been organizing events for the local community for the past 3 years. When I came in the scene it was at the ending era of USFIV, where the scene slowed down, so I started doing these events on a regular basis to keep the hype alive.
John “Zidiane” Silvia: What events are those?
Pavel: It is a series called “Underground Hype,” a monthly event that we kept the name of for the Red Bull Proving Grounds series.
Zidiane: How long have those events been running? Just before Street Fighter V?
Pavel: The first one was in November 2014, so a little over a year before SFV came out. It didn’t attract much people, but we still kept on running them, and eventually had more and more attention. We eventually had surrounding cities gathering for the monthly events; we’ve seen on a regular basis Ottawa show up for the challenge, Quebec City and Toronto.
Zidiane: Nice. How did you get started doing that? Was there already structure, or did you just decide to start up?
Pavel: To advertise, we mainly used the Facebook group page “MTLSF” that Pierre had built up over the years, which made it a lot easier to spread the word. After a couple of events, I acquired some material, monitors, cables, banners, and Pierre hooked me up with his streaming equipment. Since then we worked on bigger events like MAT, LanETS, and DreamHack together.
Zidiane: Where is Underground Hype held, exactly?
Pavel: Underground Hype was always held at the same location. I searched a lot before to find a nice cheap venue, one that had everything we needed. It usually is used for war veteran meetings, but after talking to the owner he let us have a chance to host there.
The place was really nice, you could bring your food and all. As a big plus, you could go along the hall and there was a bar where the owner could serve us alcohol. A lot of the players in Montreal like to have a good drink. For the Red Bull event though, we had to search for another venue, something bigger and nicer that would represent Red Bull more adequately.
Zidiane: Ah, I see. Where’s the new place you transitioned to?
Pavel: It is called “Centre St-Pierre,” located at the edge of Montréal’s downtown, much bigger, and offers us 2 projectors to play on.
Zidiane: So, you mentioned people coming from nearby cities to play. Just how far away have people traveled to participate?
Pavel: Well, other than the surrounding cities less than an hour drive away, we had Québec City which is a 3-hour drive, Ottawa which is 2 hours away, and Toronto which is about 6 hours away. Toronto is a big drive, but there has always been a big friendly rivalry between the 2 cities. Before Underground Hype during the Street Fighter IV era, there were also people coming from NY and Boston, where even Spooky came up to stream one of the events.
Zidiane: How many players would you say you normally get, and what kind of games do they mainly play?
Pavel: For the Underground Hype events, it was mostly all about Street Fighter, but we do once in a while have side tournaments for 3rd Strike, UMvC3 and Guilty Gear. As for size, an average event would hit about 60 attendees. Some people just come down to spectate and grab a beer and chill, but we did hit around 100 attendees a few times.
People were always welcome to bring their own console too, for other fighting games that we did not have.
Zidiane: Sounds like it regularly brought in quite the crowd. Was that the reason Red Bull noticed you guys? How did the whole Proving Grounds deal come about?
Pavel: We were referred to the Red Bull Proving Grounds from a local Toronto organizer, Justin Baisden. He was always in the scene, he came to our last MAT event held in September, which was really a great event that I think Justin enjoyed. When the Proving Grounds project came around, he was the one that referred us to Ken, representative at Red Bull.
Zidiane: He’s the TO for the Red Bull qualifiers going down in Toronto, correct?
Pavel: Yes, correct.
Zidiane: You mentioned having players come in from Toronto to support your scene as well. You guys must have a very good relationship as scenes. How does it feel knowing both of you guys are getting the chance to compete?
Pavel: It is great! Even though there is a rivalry between the 2 cities, after the events all the rivalry is put behind and everyone just comes together for a meal or a drink. It is really one big family between the 2 cities.
We really appreciate Justin putting in the word for us for the Red Bull series, Montréal always had a great competitive scene with strong players, and now those players get a chance to shine on a higher level right from their hometown which is really great. Montréal is getting a chance to be recognized as an FGC scene.
Zidiane: I heard some similar things from the other Canadian team over in Vancouver. They mentioned a rivalry among Canadian regions, in addition to this East vs. West drama. Do you play against those guys often?
Pavel: I’m not sure if the local players get a chance to battle it out against the Vancouver scene online, because locally the two cities are each on the opposite side of the continent. There are times where they get to face each other in tournaments like Canada Cup Gaming, and I recall also last year an event held in Toronto called EGLX, but honestly I am not really familiar with the Vancouver scene…
Zidiane: Well, they expressed that Canada tends to consider itself apart from the whole East Coast vs. West Coast mentality that sparked this whole event. Do you guys feel the same way, or do you feel some kind of loyalty to the Eastern Legion?
Pavel: Well to put a bit of fuel here, I think that the East owns the West in Canada as far as the competitive scene goes in the fighting games. But yeah there might be a bit of rivalry when it comes to it, but once outside Canada, when the players go to big events in the US or elsewhere, there are there to represent their country–Canada–so it is one goal no matter where you come from in Canada. But the rivalry inside the country between East and West is really not as strong as it may be in the US…
Zidiane: Alright. So, moving away from other regions for a bit, only 3 of your players are going to be making it as Team Montreal. If you were forced to choose, which 3 players do you say are making it to represent you guys?
Pavel: First off, I think Chi-Rithy will definitely be placed in top 3 as strong player overall, competitive since the 3rd strike era, and winner of last year’s Canadian Cineplex championships.
Second choice would be Snafoo, a famous Dhalsim player who stuck with his character since the beginning of SFIV, really defensive type of player, a wall in other words.
My third pick for this one would be FluxWaveZ, a brand new player in the scene that came along with SFV that no one has ever heard before, but managed to put the strong local players on their toes with his R. Mika, a young generation of a player that shows a lot of promise in the scene and upcoming events.
I might be wrong in the predictions but those would be my picks, there are a lot of local players to look out for, Rami, freddyl0c0, LordJimmyBones, DraeYomiGames, Coton, TJ… This competition will bring out the best of these players, they will be faced against a lot of hungry players looking to prove themselves and to get a chance to represent their city for the team battle at the end, so even though they are close friends locally, it will really be interesting to see them face other.
Zidiane: Interesting, we’re seeing a lot of new young players coming out of the woodwork for these events. What do you think of the competition? Any opinions on the other regions of Team East Coast?
Pavel: The US has a strong competitive scene with a lot of exposure, Montréal on the other hand has that competitive scene but with no exposure. I think this may work in our favor, as they won’t expect Montréal to be so strong. The local players here keep on training, attending regular weekly events and sharing their techs with the community, and they know a lot of the players that they will be facing. I have strong faith in our local players and I cannot wait for them to explode and surprise everyone on that team battle event.
Zidiane: You’re going with the unknown underdog angle. Should your lack of exposure turn out to be a blessing in disguise and you win the round robin, you’ll be up against one West Coast team. It might be Vancouver, or it might be a more traditional West Coast team. Any thoughts on who you’d want to fight, or if you’d like to avoid or be matched up against specific regions?
Pavel: For sure the west coast will be packed with big names, but some of the local players, Chi-Rithy, Snafoo, Rami, have already faced big names before and managed to come on top. If a kid like FluxWaveZ comes out for our top 3 he may be fazed by the big names, but his teammates will be there to relax him. These old-school players have traveled a lot and are not easily intimidated, they have seen a lot in their career so I’m positive in their skill and mindset whoever will come across. Those players are looking forward for that challenge, the bigger the name the bigger the thrill. If at the end it turned out that we’d be facing Vancouver in the final round, let’s just say we have no doubt that we’re the best in Canada.
Zidiane: Okay. That’s about all the questions I had. Was there anything else you wanted to let people know before you go?
Pavel: For sure the players will be out there for the challenge, to represent their city and make a name for themselves, so it will definitely be a show not to miss.
If you enjoyed hearing about this TO, be sure to check out the other interviews we have with other regional organizers: Chicago, Texas, NorCal, & Vancouver. You can also read more about some of Montréal’s Street Fighter V players mentioned above in our two-part interview with the MTLSF scene from last year.
[Feature image courtesy of Ray Arzaga]