Atlanta Havoc Co-Owner Chris Duffy

10/09/2017

Chris Duffy & The Atlanta Havoc

 

“I’m looking forward to getting down to Buford and helping make that a winning organization because that’s what it’s all about.”  

Chris Duffy

On Oct. 2, 2017, it was announced the AAL had placed an expansion team in the Buford City Arena in Buford,

Buford City Arena

Georgia. The Atlanta Havoc is operated by veteran arena football owner and NASCAR star Tim Viens. Veins is the owner of the Vermont Bucks, whose team won the Can-Am Championship in 2017. When that league merged with the Arena Pro Football League, and later the Supreme Indoor Football League to form the brand-new American Arena Football League, the Vermont native joined the league’s staff. One of the former APF teams who joined the league is the Florida Tarpons. Despite moving their operations north to Lakeland Florida, the team still only had one playing partner within an 8-hour drive of their home, the Georgia Doom. The Doom began life as a travel team in the National Arena League. Once their season concluded, they applied for membership in the upstart AAL. When their arena lease with the Macon Coliseum was completed, their affiliation was granted. Even with those teams relatively close to each other, the league realized it still needed another team within reasonable travel for the Tarpons. Thus, the Atlanta Havoc were born.  

NASCAR driver Tim Viens pointing to his Vermont Bucks logo

It didn’t take long for Viens to hire veteran football coach and former Vanderbilt standout Wide Receiver, Boo Mitchell to run their football operations. Additionally, joining Viens, is investor Chris Duffy. Duffy, owner of the largest Bail Bonding service for the state of Florida, was a Jacksonville Sharks season-ticket holder and sponsor. He wanted to either eventually become part of the Sharks ownership group, or possibly own his own team. He said, “Over time, I grew to love the sport more and more. It kind of grows on you. Even as a fan I wanted to be more involved so I decided someday I would own my own team.” Because arena football is an intimate sport, fans have the opportunity to interact with the players and coaches. Duffy became friends with the High Country Grizzlies Head Coach Josh Resignalo. The Grizzlies had recently joined the AAL, and Coach Res introduced Duffy to the league staff. Eventually, it was decided he would join Veins as the co-owner of the Havoc. Said Chris, “Looking at the AAL and comparing it financially to the NAL, I realized they are both very professionally set up leagues. Because I had a very good feeling about AAL President Jack Bowman, and I was comfortable with the size of the league, I decided it was where I wanted to be. Jack filled me in about the league and got me in touch with Tim. I met with him several times, and we talked over the phone for hours. Eventually, he gave me the opportunity to join with him in Buford.”

Havoc Co-Owner Chris Duffy

In the future, Duffy wants to own his own team and even considered locations for an NAL team in both the South and the North. At one point, he was considering Greensboro, North Carolina, and Portland, Maine as possible locations. “I was very interested in both.” He said, “I’m certain they (the NAL) will find other investors because I’m not the only person who’s interested. Those would be two terrific venues for any arena football team but after doing my research about Bufford and knowing people in the North Atlanta area, I really saw this as an opportunity of a lifetime.” At first, Chris will spend his time learning the ropes. He said, “While I am the co-owner, I need to learn as much as I can because eventually I want to own my own team.” While that might be off in the future, it’s never to early to plan for it. He continued, “I didn’t want to be the guy who comes into the league and has the money to open a team just to say he owns a team.” More often than not, that approach leads to teams folding and owners losing their investment. “I don’t want to be that guy.” Duffy said, I need to learn everything from pushing the broom to writing the checks. Then, when I feel ready, and there’s an opportunity I might branch out.”  

Would you toilet paper this guys trees?

As a native of the Boston area, Duffy has considered the idea of owning a team near his childhood home. He said, “I spent about an hour on the phone a few days ago trying to figure out if it was feasible. We looked at everything from Boston University to TD Garden, and it’s just too expensive. I think there’s a team possibly talking about Worcester right now. The guy came up with a great name called the Boston Brawlers how cool is that?” He continued, “I grew up in the town of Bellingham, and I moved to Medfield during my high school years. I am a big Patriots fan, a big Red Sox Fan, as well as Celtics, and Bruins fan. Anyway, I lived down the street from Coach Raymond Berry, and from Patriots Hall of Fame offensive lineman John “Hog” Hannah. As stupid high school kids, for the 1985 Super Bowl, we went over there and toilet papered Hannah’s trees.” Laughing, he says, “We thought we were saying congratulations and go team but he was not happy with us. I ended up raking his yard for the whole summer to make up for it.” Today, he owns a house in Centerville on Cape Cod and spends Christmas at home because he said, “Christmas in Florida is just not the same.”

Coach Res

With the recent National Anthem protests and the obvious struggles of the NFL, Duffy said, “There will always be football somewhere as entertainment. I think it is important and Tim agrees; we should try to give back to the community. That might mean a Teacher’s appreciation night, or a Veterans night, and maybe after game concerts included for the ticket price. However, we also agreed if any of our players kneeled they’d be fired.” Another way of generating fan interest would be getting kids involved directly with arena football. He continued, “I want to do something that’s like Pop Warner for arena football. The same day we play, the field will be down anyways, we might be able to get kids together and do a youth arena football league.” Duffy said, “Coach Res has been talking about it, and I think it’s a great idea. It gets the kids involved and educated in arena football rules, but it would be indoors, no bugs and the carpet is softer than the ground so it would be safer.” Given the worries about football injuries, having the kids play indoors seems like a no-brainier of an idea. Given that outdoor football is much less intimate than the in your face, sometimes in your lap indoor game, parents might find the idea of watching their kids play in the comfortable seats along the boards more attractive than metal bleachers under the hot sun. Besides, as Chris points out, “It’ll be cool.”

The AAL will release their schedule sometime in the next few months and are expected to play a 10 or 12 games each with the top two teams from each division qualifying for the playoffs. Atlanta’s Southern Division playing partners are the Florida Tarpons, the Georgia Doom, the Upstate Dragons, the Triangle Torch, the Cape Fear Heroes, and the High Country Grizzlies coached by his friend Coach Josh Resignalo. The Northern Division is currently made up of the Richmond Roughriders, the Glens Falls Gladiators, the Rochester Kings, and Tim Veins original team, the Vermont Bucks. The league is still hoping to add a team or two to the Northern Division, but if that doesn’t happen, with 11 teams, the AAL will be one of the largest leagues in the country. While everybody is excited to see the new league get going, Chris Duffy said, “I’m looking forward to getting down to Buford and helping make that a winning organization because that’s what it’s all about.”   

Statement from Tim Viens:

“I am excited to have a great partner in Chris Duffy.  It says we are creating something special when a smart businessman looks at both options on the east coast and decides to put his money with our team and league.  I look forward to a joint effort on really doing something special in the Atlanta/Buford market.”