By Jordan Kubichek
This past year, the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds Sports Club (UBC) of Vancouver, British Columbia has pulled up stakes from the Northwest region of USQ. This is due to a new ruling by USQ to remove the team from the region; there has been a recent push by the organization to include members only within the United States. The region has adapted to the change, but there have been ripples felt throughout the Northwest region in the wake of UBC’s removal.
Some players lament the loss of a friendly rivalry.
“UBC was one of the most competitive teams (it came in third last year at [the regional championship] and has played in two national [championships]),” said Megan Boice, president of the Western Washington University Wyverns (WWU). “Playing good teams makes all teams better.”
Wyverns coach Jacob Keith had similar sentiments to share.
“With the expulsion of UBC from USQ, the Northwest region lost a founding member,” he said. “[UBC] brings both a passion and love for the game that I admire.”
It has become increasingly apparent this year that while UBC may be gone, the team is far from forgotten. The Rain City Raptors of Seattle, Washington enjoy competing against the Thunderbirds whenever they can.
Siri Rigsby, a beater for the Raptors, recalls fond experiences.
“I loved having [UBC] in my region and I think it brought a lot of the competitive spirit we need,” she said. “I’m happy we still get to play with and against [UBC] frequently.”
Teams throughout the Northwest are still encountering UBC at scrimmages and tournaments largely due to the organization of the Quidditch Conference of the Northwest (QCON), which includes teams across the Pacific Northwest and Canada.
Austin Wallace, the club lead of UBC, has not noted a huge change since the move. Even with the team’s affiliation with Quidditch Canada (QC), he says the tournaments the team regularly attends have not changed much.
“We always go to all tournaments possible, regardless of what league we are in,” he said.
For the most part, UBC is able to keep up with US teams through invitations to nearby tournaments.
“With the addition of two Utah teams, and Boise not coming to Subdued Excitement [Bellingham’s annual tournament], I think it is pretty clear that we are missing out on a unique competitive opportunity by not being able to compete at USQ regional [championships],” said Wallace. “Overall, though, we have been able to build up our skills and we are happy with our competitive growth this year. The biggest difference for us will be going to Quidditch Canada National [Championship] instead of [US Quidditch Cup], especially since maybe only one team from Eastern Canada will send a full-strength roster.”
The budding organization QCON has proven useful for the US as well. Boice praised the collaboration.
“QCON and other cross-border play have helped us grow west of the Cascades,” she said.
For the most part, Boice views the removal of UBC in a positive light, noting that it has helped to develop Western Canadian quidditch.
Wallace also commented on the increasing quality of Canadian competition, noting that UBC had its first loss to any Canadian team this year against the Edmonton Aurors, who are consistently beating UBC in quaffle points. Additionally, the change in organization seems to be keeping the Thunderbirds on their toes.
“While we are technically the highest-ranked team in Canada, we certainly are not the favorites,” said Wallace. “We need to train really hard in the next few months for us to be able to hang with the major players from the east.”
It has not always been smooth sailing for the Thunderbirds. Directly after the move, they experienced backlash about the change to QC, and for a time it looked like they might lose their status as a Thunderbirds Sports Club.
“We were accepted as a Thunderbirds Sports Club on the assumption that we would be in USQ,” said Wallace. “When we were kicked out, QC didn’t meet all of the university’s standards as a national governing body, so we were put on probation.”
Wallace feels that as long as UBC stays organized, the team should not have a problem keeping its club status. He noted that keeping its status will help maintain the support of the university with things like financial funding and recruiting.
He also remains concerned about the effects a loss of club status could have, highlighting a potential disconnect to competitive quidditch on a larger scale.
“[Leaving USQ] could contribute to lower retainment as people don’t have a cross-country trip against the top teams in the world to train toward,” Wallace said.
The distance between teams in QC is also a problem. Two big hurdles for every Canadian team to overcome are challenges inherent to Canadian geography as well as a lack of cashflow.
“This country isn’t designed for students to compete in a countrywide league unless they are substantially funded,” said Wallace.
Despite the hoops to jump through, Wallace remains optimistic about the current quidditch climate.
“For QC, the league is definitely growing and maturing,” he said.
And although UBC is ranked among the top teams in western Canada, “I can’t say with any honesty that UBC is the clear best team in the region anymore,” said Wallace.
If the quidditch climate is carried effectively through independent organizations like QCON, teams are likely to crop up in more areas, which would do wonders to strengthen the region. According to Mitch Hatfield, co-commissioner of QCON, the long-term sustainability of quidditch in the Northwest is looking up.
“Our hope is that this conference will help new teams dip their toes into semi-competitive quidditch before diving into USQ or QC competitive quidditch,” he said.
Keith views QCON as a way to bridge the gap created by the removal of the Thunderbirds from USQ.
“I cherish the relationships I have made with UBC over the years, as both fellow athletes and friends,” Keith said. “The thing I love most about QCON is it has helped keep those bonds intact.”
Hatfield, who is also a beater for the Rain City Raptors, commented on the friendly rivalry between the Raptors and the Thunderbirds.
“I have a feeling this is one rivalry, and through it a friendship, that is going to outlast whatever the coming seasons bring.”
While UBC have been sent home to roost, the team certainly has not disappeared from the region. No matter what organization they belong to, the Thunderbirds remain formidable adversaries who will affect change through their ability to link the worlds of community and friendly competition.
Editor’s Note: Austin Wallace is interim CEO of the Quidditch Post.