Friday, March 27, 2015

Canada Nationals Come to Burnaby

By Andy Marmer

Quidditch Canada hosts its first-ever national tournament this weekend in Burnaby, British Columbia. The tournament features seven teams: two from the more-developed Eastern Region and five from the more recently developed Western Region. From the East, Regional Champions McGill Quidditch and mercenary team Toronto Avengers are making an arduous trek across the country, while Western Regional Champions the Alberta Clippers, Winnipeg Whomping Willows (both making a massive journey to the event themselves), UVic Valkryies, SFU Marauders, and Vancouver Vipertooths will represent the junior region. The seven teams will face off in a round robin with a championship game to decide the inaugural Canadian champion.

The two Eastern teams enter the tournament as heavy favorites, though both will have their fair share of difficulties to overcome. McGill, the only full-season Eastern team, will be bringing numerous players from their B team, the still impressive Canada’s Finest. While not bringing the strongest team could prove problematic, the two squads still practice together and, given the experience of McGill, it’s tough to see another team walking away with the title.

If any team can disrupt McGill it will be the Avengers. Led by Team Canada star Devin Dutt and North Star beater Erin McCrady, the team is made up of a collection of Eastern Canada players whose teams elected not to attend the event but who still wanted to compete for a National Title. This team will have to overcome the struggles that many newly forming teams face, having never played an official game alongside one another; however, to a certain extent, raw talent is a potent force on its own. Even if they cannot overcome McGill, the Avengers are a safe bet for the silver medal this weekend.

The Alberta Clippers, a community team, and recently crowned the first-ever Western Champions, are led by a pair of ex-Eastern stars in Chris Radojewski and Michelle Ferguson. Both have proven themselves in the Ottawa scene and bring great experience to the Clippers, who dominated the Whomping Willows over three games at the regional championship in February. The Clippers draw from three smaller local programs (the University of Calgary Mudbloods, the Central Alberta Centaurs, and the Edmonton Aurors) and are a bit of an all-star team themselves, albeit one that has been practicing together for some time. Isolated in the prairie provinces, it will be interesting to see how this team fares against teams that exist among more competition in the British Columbia and Ontario/Quebec areas.

The Whomping Willows certainly struggled against the Clippers at the West Regional Championship, and there is little reason to think that they have improved in the past month. Coach and all-star seeker Adam Robillard, from the University of Ottawa program, will be a key addition to the team. But with insufficient talent surrounding him, exacerbated a roster limited to only 12 players, they will be outmatched by more experienced foes. The Whomping Willows are attending more for the experience than to win a title, but expect them to take a lot back to Manitoba and use this weekend to build for the future.

That leaves us with the three British Columbia teams. They potentially have the weather-based advantage, as the current forecast is calling for rain all weekend, conditions these three teams play in year-round and will be used to.

One of the oldest of the British Columbia squads, the SFU Marauders, are one of the more experienced squads in attendance and have competed against USQ Northwest teams a few times this year. The team, as has been common in the West, has struggled with numbers, and the same will be true at the National Championship where roster size could lead to exhaustion. SFU has struggled so far this season with losses to the Vipertooths, and Valkyries at Dobby Cup and in an unofficial contest with the Clippers at Komrade Kup.

SFU is not the only team with history on its side, however. The University of Victoria Valkyries sent multiple players to World Cup V in New York City, but have subsequently made a minimal impact on the wider quidditch world, failing to continue to make a name for themselves. The team has struggled this year, losing to local rivals SFU and splitting a pair of games against the Vancouver Vipertooths. 

The Vipertooths are, bar the Avengers, the newest team attending the tournament. Boasting a strong beater line, led by former Harvard Horntails beater Gillian Manley, the Vipertooths have a chance to make waves at this tournament and perhaps catch other teams off guard. A top four finish would not be unexpected from this squad, and they may prove to be British Columbia’s best hope of snatching glory and making the first Canadian National tournament one to remember for the host region.

The tournament organisers would like to acknowledge that the event is being held on the ancestral, traditional, and unceded territories of the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓-speaking Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh peoples and the Sk̲wx̱wú7mesh sníchim-speaking Squamish peoples.

Mathew McVeigh and Jill Staniec contributed reporting 

Editor's Note: Erin McCrady was previously erroneously reported as being a member of Team Canada and the unofficial contest between SFU and Alberta Clippers was previously said to have been at Clash in the Cascades. Both of these errors have been fixed.

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