Sunday, April 19, 2015

Canadian Nationals and the Wild West

By Serena Cheong

The inaugural Canadian National Championship was held from March 28-29, 2015 in Burnaby, British Columbia after a long deliberation process. Various factors went into the decision to hold Quidditch Canada’s marquee event on the West Coast, though the primary reason was to promote and grow the sport of quidditch in Western Canada.

The geographical proximity between Canada and the United States meant quidditch would inevitably spread to Canada first. According to Quidditch Canada’s website, McGill University became the first quidditch team in Canada in 2008, and the first western Canadian teams (University of British Columbia and University of Calgary) were founded in 2010. Since then, more teams have formed in British Columbia, Alberta, and Winnipeg. As of the 2014-15 Quidditch Canada season, there are five official league teams in the Western Region, most of which only became competitive teams this season.

As a newcomer to the quidditch scene, my first experience with quidditch was in the fall of 2013. However, I did not truly become immersed in the sport until the Global Games were held the following summer in my hometown of Burnaby, British Columbia. It was then I had the pleasure of watching quidditch at its highest level, and I also experienced the warmth of the international community. While the Global Games might have greatly increased my interest for quidditch, it was preparing for and playing in the Canadian Nationals that solidified my love for the game. Needless to say, I was ecstatic when I found out that the National Championship was going to be in Burnaby.

Having the National Championship in the West made the tournament and Quidditch Canada something real, something to inspire those of us living here. As most of the western teams are relatively new (out of the five league teams, only Simon Fraser University and University of Victoria were not formed this season), most players on those teams are also new to quidditch. The relative closeness of Canadian Nationals provided a concrete goal for new teams and players to work toward while also allowing for a relatively cost-effective trip for new players still getting their feet wet in the sport (money is a bit tighter when one is trying out something new). This is also the first official tournament for many players in the Western Region; the distances between teams make it difficult to travel and play other teams, and the lack of certified head referees in the region means that official games are rarely played. Speaking from personal experience, it usually takes participation in an official game to truly be hooked and to experience the full intensity of quidditch. There is nothing quite like the adrenaline rush as you play another team in a meaningful game.

Having Canadian Nationals in the West not only solidifies the commitment of players who are already interested, but also increases the exposure quidditch receives in the Western Region. This tournament alone has generated a significant amount of print, television, and radio press. Allowing the general public to see high-level quidditch at Canadian Nationals that they may not have seen otherwise will help increase awareness and legitimacy of the sport. The region is still in the stages of infancy, so increased media exposure allows for easier recruiting and thus allows for these newly formed teams to grow in quantity and quality.

Although there is much to be done, quidditch in Western Canada is growing exponentially and will eventually catch up to its Eastern counterpoints, perhaps sooner than most would expect. Already, there are some vast improvements. The Vancouver Vipertooths and Simon Fraser University taking third and fourth, respectively, at Canadian Nationals provides a solid foundation to continue growing the sport in the Vancouver area. I see an increase in British Columbia university teams in the coming years, and efforts are already being made to expand to the province’s other colleges and universities. The Alberta Clippers, led by the leadership of experienced quidditch players such as Chris Radojewski, will most likely continue to grow their various development teams in the hope to eventually become league teams. Meanwhile, the Winnipeg Whomping Willows will bring back valuable experience from Canadian Nationals and continue to bring quidditch to Manitoba and hopefully Saskatchewan. Soon, every Western Canadian province will have at least one competitive team.

Many will doubt why the tournament was not held in the East, where there is a higher density of competitive teams, but allowing the West to host Canadian Nationals this season made it possible for the Western teams to go to Canadian Nationals. As we saw in previous seasons, Canada Cup was primarily an Eastern Canada event: it was held in Eastern Canada, and mostly Eastern Canadian teams attended. Having Canadian Nationals in the East this season would most likely (again) result in a lack of Western representation, and also lack inter-region competition. The Canadian National Championship should not only be where the best teams in Canada compete for the national title, but should also be a place for interregional play.

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