Toronto Defiant, Vancouver Titans to begin OWL seasons Feb. 15, 16

(Blizzard)

The first opponents the Toronto Defiant and Vancouver Titans will face in each new Overwatch League franchise’s history have been determined.

Announced Wednesday evening, the Defiant will take on the Houston Outlaws on Feb. 15 at 1 p.m. EST/4 p.m. PST and the Titans will make their debut against the Shanghai Dragons on Feb. 16 at 1:30 p.m. EST/4:30 p.m. PST.

The Defiant and Titans are among eight new expansion franchises joining the OWL for the 2019 season, and are the only Canadian outfits in the professional esports league.

The announcement of the Defiant, Titans and rest of the league’s Week 1 schedule took place as part of a larger preview show on the OWL’s official Twitch page, where some additional information was revealed:

• The regular-season schedule has changed to 28 games instead of 40, but the season will still be broken up into four stages.
• The league’s all-star game will take place after Stage 2, so it’ll be more in line with traditional sports as a mid-season event.
• There will be road games.

Of these three points, the most interesting is the unveiling of road matchups.

Last season, the OWL’s very first, all games were played out of the Blizzard Arena in Los Angeles, despite the regional nature of the league’s teams. It was expected that 2019 would operate much the same way, with real home-and-away contests not getting implemented until the 2020 season.

It looks like things have may changed there, however.

Seeking clarification on the matter, Sportsnet reached out to both Toronto and Vancouver for comment. The Defiant referred Sportsnet to OWL league representatives who said more details regarding home and road games would be revealed on Dec. 12.

The Titans, on the other hand, offered the following statement:

“For background, the 2019 season and all regular season games will be in Burbank, Calif. (same as last year). If there are opportunities during the season to host an event at Rogers Arena we will let the community know at a later date.”

So there appears to be something in the mix.

The fact that Vancouver did allude to the possibility of hosting at Rogers Arena if an opportunity comes knocking also adds further fuel to the fire of the Titans hosting some OWL matches at Rogers Arena, something that was relayed to Sportsnet as a goal of sorts when the then-unnamed Vancouver OWL team was first announced.

“We certainly haven’t solidified anything yet, but [Rogers Arena] is our home,” said Adrian Montgomery, the president of Aquilini Entertainment. “This is where our Canucks team plays, this is where our lacrosse team – the Vancouver Warriors – play and we’d like this to be the home of all of our sports teams.”

For the Defiant, a home location isn’t as easy as it would be for the Titans. OverActive Media, the Defiant’s ownership group, doesn’t own an arena like Aquilini Investment Group does and don’t appear to have the ability to host OWL matches even if they were pegged to do so.

It’s a problem that OverActive Media says is looking to get fixed with company president and CEO Chris Overholt telling Sportsnet back in September that he and his team have “several venues in mind.”

Regardless whether the Defiant and Titans host games during their inaugural seasons they’re both teams that look ready for the season to start with each having already announced their full rosters.

The first day of the 2019 OWL season is slated for Feb. 14, 2019.

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