By Misha Whittingham
After months of speculation and rumors, it has been confirmed that there will be a new organisation in North American quidditch: the Quidditch Conference of the Northwest (QCON). The brainchild of Serena Cheong and Mitch Hatfield, it was modeled after the massively successful NorCal Quidditch Conference, but it will be the first of its kind to incorporate teams from both Canada and the USA since the IQA split in 2014. The conference spans the majority of what is locally referred to as the Cascadia region, which encompasses British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon. As such, the new conference will include every team expected to be official in their respective leagues from that region.
For its inaugural season, QCON will include nine teams: The Portland Augureys, Rain City Raptors, Western Washington Wyverns, Emerald City Admirals, University of British Columbia Thunderbirds, British Columbia Quidditch Club, Simon Fraser University Quidditch, Vancouver Vipertooths, and University of Victoria Valkyries. These teams will participate in five, three-team series (i.e. two games per team per series) over the course of the 2016-17 season throughout coastal British Columbia and Washington. As a result, each team will play between eight and 11 games in-conference over the course of the season.
When asked about the post-season structure, Cheong said, “We are hoping to implement a playoff series style structure, akin to the National Hockey League, where teams will have to win a best of three, rather than the traditional single-elimination structure of most quidditch tournaments. Of course, this is all subject to change.”
The arrival of this new conference is a massive step forward for the development of quidditch in the Pacific Northwest. With an organised conference in place concerned with getting meaningful playtime to its constituents, the somewhat isolated Cascadian teams, who frequently report being ignored by their respective NGBs, may finally be able to develop and expand.
This view is certainly shared by Cheong and Hatfield, and it was one of the main reasons why they founded QCON.
“We wanted to create more opportunities for cross-border games to be more than just an ‘international friendly,’ and to also encourage development in this region by allowing more competitive gameplay,” said Cheong.
A consistent play schedule will certainly help boost the competitive ability of the current constituent teams. The promise of local play will help reduce the normally astronomical travel costs those teams suffer; costs will be additionally alleviated this summer by Victoria’s hosting of Canadian Nationals in 2017. When asked about QCON’s effect on the development of the region, Cheong said that it “keeps cross-border play alive, since the USQ Northwest and Quidditch Canada (QC) West regions are basically one big region anyway.”
In that vein, the developing teams in the region now have an affordable conference in which they can play. This could allow for the aggressive expansion of the conference over the next few years as the incentive increases for new teams to join. Next year alone could see the inclusion of a number of the five currently unaffiliated teams from Vancouver, Nanaimo, Seattle, and Victoria. With every major city in the conference except Portland hosting at least one tournament, QCON will be able to more deeply establish quidditch in the Pacific Northwest.
QCON will also likely begin to insulate the Pacific Northwest in terms of playstyle and external exposure. With a reduced need to play out-of-conference, teams in QCON will probably only need to venture beyond their immediate areas for regional and national tournaments. There are a number of consequences of that insulation. For starters, it will mean that it may become even harder to measure up QCON teams against national competition than before, as exposure to teams outside of the conference is reduced. This could mean that the teams from the Pacific Northwest come into national tournaments as strategic unknowns to their opponents and vice versa. Relatedly, QCON teams may develop their own unique style of play over time as they continually adapt strategically to each other and almost no one else.
Perhaps the greatest downside to the emergence of QCON will be not to its members, but to the teams in the USQ Northwest and QC West regions not included in the conference. Teams in Idaho, Montana, and Alberta may end up suffering a great degree of isolation as the coastal teams that used to trade long-distance trips with them find more local venues. In Alberta especially this could be harmful, as Quidditch Canada has mandated a certain number of official games be played in order to attend regionals in the fall. Without teams from BC to play against, that quota may become woefully difficult to achieve.
Regardless of its potential long-term effects, QCON will be here for at least one season. Over the next few months, the Quidditch Post will continue to analyze the development of this fledgling conference and keep you up-to-date on the events therein. In all likelihood, we are seeing the beginning of a new era in quidditch in the Pacific Northwest.