News of J-Rab’s decision to leave Russian Legion to play for Tampa Bay Damage spread quickly through Facebook on December 19, 2011. Within minutes after learning the news, I observed an overwhelming number of posts congratulating Justin Rabackoff for his choice to sign with Tampa Bay Damage, the PSP World Cup 2011 Champions as well as an overwhelming number of posts of disappointment regarding the loss of this talented Russian Legion player.

I must admit, because I am a huge Russian Legion and Art Chaos Moscow fan, this news hit me hard. How could this be? Was there some sort of mistake? Wasn’t it just months ago I was cheering for him as well as the other incredibly talented pro paintball players of Russian Legion while watching the live webcast of PSP World Cup 2011? My heart fell to the bottom of my stomach as I kept reading reports of his decision to leave Russian Legion. It sunk even further when I found out he left the RL family for the team who beat them at PSP World Cup 2011 – Tampa Bay Damage.

What did Russian Legion have planned? Did they know this was coming? Many questions filled my mind and very few answers were found until the next day when I learned that Russian Legion definitely had lost a major player but was picking up two new players for 2012.

Excitement built up on December 20, 2011, shortly after TonTon announced on their Facebook page, “We are pleased to announce that Jason Wheeler signed with TonTon for the 2012 season. He will play with TonTon for the Millennium series and the French National League (Best Wish for him with RL for the PSP season). Instantly I identified RL as Russian Legion and started asking people in the paintball community if this was true. Was Russian Legion really going to be adding Jason Wheeler #19 of London Nexus? The answer is yes and was later confirmed by Jason Wheeler on his own Facebook page when he wrote, “Just so people know before they ask I’ll be playing for Boston Red Legion in the PSP and TonTon in the Millennium Series.. привет and bonjour.” This was enough for me to almost fall of my chair when I read it. He is an incredible player and I am ever so happy that he will be playing for Russian Legion in 2012.

This was enough to get me out of my slump. Russian Legion did have a plan, as they always do. What I did not expect was more exciting news about Russian Legion’s roster for 2012. Within the same day, Axel Gaudin announced on his Facebook page the following, “(Axel Gaudin) is proud to announce that I’m going to play with Russian Legion for PSP next year. Amazing!” I learned on December 23, 2011 through a Twitter Tweet from Russian Legion (they are known as rl4you on Twitter and well worth following) that the news was true. Their tweet announced, “We have two new players. The Englishman Jason Wheeler and French citizen Axel Gaudin.”

For me as well as many others, it is sad to see J-Rab go and I wish him the very best. Yes, I did get some crap from paintball friends on my own personal Facebook page when I posted the following on December 19, 2011, “Dear Justin Rabackoff – Thank you for your many amazing accomplishments while playing for Russian Legion. – Please understand why I will not cheer for your new team (Tampa Bay Damage). RUSSIAN LEGION FAN 4-LIFE!” It’s just how I am about the team I admire. Truthfully, I very much wish J-Rab the best but am much more excited about what the future holds for Russian Legion in 2012. Go Russian Legion!

Photo: Go Beyond Photography