By Claire Steckle
Editor’s Note: Claire Steckle currently plays for the University of Ottawa Quidditch, and was kind enough to guest write an article for the Quidditch Post about her thoughts on the Eastern Canadian Regional Championship that occurred on November 12-13, 2016 in Mississauga, Ontario.
Gender Play in Eastern Canada
There are three teams in Eastern Canada that I have noticed doing something rare and promising: they do not play the minimum number of non-male players possible. Before the snitch comes on, these teams will play three women on occasion, and after the entrance of the snitch, they often play four women. This can be seen in all of their games regardless of the level of competition, be it an uneven match, or a gold-medal game. These three teams are the University of Ottawa Quidditch (uOttawa), Guelph Quidditch, and McGill Quidditch, the top three finishing teams at this season’s Eastern Canadian Regional Championship. I am sure there are other teams that do this on occasion, and there are some teams I have not seen play this season, but these are the teams I have noticed that do it consistently. I believe this speaks to the strength of the female players that they are able to recruit to their teams, but also to how a quidditch team can become successful in Canada.
To be a strong team in Canada, you need depth. You cannot get by on the strength of a few individual players, or one line. You need to field players interchangeably without worrying that putting a female player on instead of a male player will hamstring your team. This use of female players also seems to correlate with a tendency to play as a unit. McGill has for years been a leader in Canadian quidditch both in playing its female chasers and using them effectively. uOttawa has a strong line of female chasers that it can play without worry, and arguably two of the best female beaters in Canada. Despite little recognition, Guelph also has phenomenal female chasers that can be relied upon to hold their own and clean up around the hoops.
The tendency of these three teams to field, and effectively use, female players is contrasted most markedly by Valhalla Quidditch, who had applied for an exemption to the new gender rule at the beginning of the season due to the lack of female players on its roster. Though it has since supplemented the number of women on its roster, Valhalla continues to capitalize on its exemption and seems to avoid playing more than the minimum number of females required in any of its tight games. Until Valhalla can learn to trust the women currently on its roster, there may be a threshold of play it cannot cross using the talents of its individual male players alone.
The Difference Between Valhalla and Guelph
Valhalla is regularly touted as a favourite to win tournaments, but has struggled to be a dominant team this season. You may ask how a team like Guelph with little to no name recognition can beat a team that boasts so many big names and talented players on its roster, and knock it out in the quarterfinals of this season’s eastern regional championship.
In my opinion, it is because these two teams’ style of play are opposites in many ways. Guelph is a team of highly underrated players who work incredibly well as a unit. I have rarely seen a Canadian team move the ball around the pitch as well as Guelph and take advantage of all of its quaffle players. The team has also been strengthened by the addition of beater Mathew Mcveigh, who has been easily incorporated into the Guelph machine. Guelph’s next step is to strengthen its beater corps with more aggressive play and strategy. It is a gritty team with occasionally hot heads, which can often work against it, but Guelph plays with a lot of heart and teamwork.
Valhalla differs from Guelph in a number of ways. It has considerable name recognition, is usually cool-headed during games, and, as a result, is able to avoid picking up unnecessary cards. What Valhalla needs to work on through the rest of this season is to emulate the teamwork demonstrated by Guelph. Whereas Guelph’s game capitalizes on passing around the hoops and effective use of female chasers, Valhalla’s is dominated by solo drives and a lack of passing. If Valhalla can foster more teamwork, trust, and passing amongst its players, it is likely to become a dominant team in Canadian quidditch.
Most quidditch articles rehash the same observations and showcase the same players again and again. Often these players deserve the recognition they receive, while in other cases they may not. I have not seen every team play this season, and I am a biased individual; as a result, I notice predominantly female chasers. Nonetheless, here is my highly non-exhaustive list of underrated players.
Most, if not all, of these players have no name recognition, and those that do are likely stronger than they are given credit for. This is an up-and-coming team that has been improving every year. If it can retain veterans for next season, I would not be surprised to see Guelph as the Canadian champion in 2018. Guelph deserves more recognition than it gets, but its players are unlikely to be individually recognized in part due to the team’s ability to work as a cohesive unit, from which no single player stands out among a field of equally strong players.
I was particularly impressed by the female chasers on Guelph who cleaned up around hoops, had reliable hands and great positioning, ball-carried well, popped up easily from big hits, and showed no hesitation to engage in tackles against much larger players. The female chaser line that represented Guelph at this season’s Eastern Regional Championship is rounded out by Ashley Cook, Nicole Jamison, Emma Dias, Tia Julien, and Alicia Cortes, in no particular order.
University of Ottawa Quidditch
uOttawa has name recognition for many of its players and has standouts who have earned the clout they receive. However, this recognition is given almost exclusively to uOttawa’s male players. For example, Alex Illing and Sophie Tremblay have been beating for uOttawa for four and three years respectively, but despite being among the best beaters in Canada, you would be hard-pressed to find mention of them anywhere in a quidditch article. Illing and Tremblay are largely responsible for uOttawa’s position as a top team. Unfortunately, their contribution to uOttawa has been eclipsed on the Canadian stage by former and current teammates.
The female chasers on uOttawa are no different in terms of name recognition. Although you may find mention of Karen Douglas as a member of Team Brazil at the 2016 IQA Quidditch World Cup, her name does not appear as often as it should in Canadian quidditch articles, despite playing for uOttawa for three years. She can chase and seek, which is a huge advantage to her team. Douglas also has excellent heart, good speed, reliable hands, and is often open for a quick goal if her teammates can find her. She potentially flies under the radar due to her lack of flashiness as a player, which can work in her favour on pitch.
Lastly, seeker Sheldon Harrison has had a stellar two years of play. He has had to step up after the graduation of Nick McKnight, another underrated seeker, and came through at the Eastern Regional Championship to get uOttawa out of some tight games.
McGill is one of the few teams whose male and female players are given equal recognition. However, some of its talented players do suffer from being eclipsed by bigger names. The male beater pairing on McGill poses a threat to any team they have faced for the last couple of years; Corey Collier and Vlad Steanta play a large part in McGill’s ability to remain a top team. Grace O’Brien is a strong chaser who is often overlooked. She is fast, has great endurance, good physicality, and good positioning and reliable hands, which is a deadly combination if a pass can make it through. Laurent Chenet is another underrated player for McGill. He has played for a few years, and though he is starting to become a more acknowledged player, he is still rarely mentioned in articles. He is a whirlwind of a player who can drive through and avoid tackles while scoring seemingly impossible goals.
Queen’s Quidditch Club
I know very little about Queen’s team this year. All I know is that when Hailey Yhap tried out for Ottawa Black Bears in the summer of 2016, I was incredibly impressed, and could not understand how I had not heard of her before. Truth be told, Yhap is the player that opened my eyes to the problems we have recognizing some players, and how many talented Canadian quidditch athletes fly under the radar. Whether she does not get the chance to shine on Queen’s or is just unrecognized in the shadow of other chasers, her lack of recognition is undeserved. She is yet another chaser with great defence and excellent hands whose team should work to find her on pitch wherever possible.
With the end of this season’s Eastern Canada Regional Championship, I look forward to seeing what the rest of the 2016-2017 quidditch season has in store. For many teams, eastern regionals was the last major tournament of the season. For other teams, they are now in the build-up to the Canadian National Championship in Victoria, British Columbia on the first weekend of April 2017. There are always difficulties with bringing a full roster across the country, and I am curious to see if eastern teams can bring enough players to accurately represent the talent on their teams. I am eager to see how the eastern teams evolve leading up to nationals, and how they square up against the teams of western Canada.