Trophies line a corner and a stained glass overhead spotlights a professional grade foosball table in a corner room of a suburban Victoria home.
The hardware tells the story Eric Dunn’s years at the top of the game in the province, nation and world.
Dunn was the first Canadian to reach the rank of pro-master – the top level on tour – and the first member of the Canada Foosball Hall of Fame.
When he was a high schooler in Moose Jaw, Sask. the lone local watering hole had table soccer – but it was popular with a rougher crowd than his. Dunn didn’t really find foosball until first-year university where there was a table in residence.
Despite rarely winning, he enjoyed it immediately.
The next year that catapulted in the other direction and he ventured out to the bars and started playing for $50 bar tab prizes.
“I used to skip classes and practise foosball for countless hours,” he said. “First it was just a fun game to play, but then I started to go to tournaments at bars to win bar tabs.”
After graduation from the University of Saskatchewan, he found work in Ottawa.
“Before I bought a bed or anything else I bought a table,” Dunn said with a laugh.
Canada didn’t have much in the way of pro tournaments, but those in the United States dated back to the 1970s. The prize money was good – routinely $30,000 to $40,000 and as high as $100,000 to split among top finishers.
“You’d hope to pay for your trip or expenses,” Dunn said. Small wins of titles or tourneys were a means to the long-term goal of becoming a pro-master.
As the sport grew, he developed leagues and promoted the sport wherever he lived – first in Ottawa, then the Vancouver area. He even developed an app (no longer in use) for scoring.
For many years he was the best in Canada and highly ranked in North America. Though not any more, he said with a chuckle.
“The current No. 1 player, I can’t beat him.”
The joy came in many forms, including crowds, cameras and cash, but learning about himself and the psychology behind the game many compare to speed chess.
“I would call myself a choker … that was another aspect I had to figure out,” Dunn said.
He studied and sought out professionals in the field, reading myriad books on the subject.
Part of the allure, he thinks looking back, was the pursuit of a goal – achieving pro-master but also perfecting the highly strategic game.
It was always about improvising, learning what worked and eventually solving the larger puzzle.
Dunn played two decades before retiring from competition in 2017.
“Maybe I just figured it out and that’s where the motivation was,” he said
Dunn still plays for fun, on the table in his Saanich home – under a custom light hand-crafted by Heather, his always supportive wife – as well as with friends.
Dunn was inducted Canada Foosball Hall of Fame this spring.
The inscription reads in part: “In recognition of Eric’s exceptional talent, dedication and achievements in Canadian foosball, including multiple national and international titles and his unwavering commitment to the growth and development of the sport across the country.”