By Courtney Butler, Serena Cheong, Kayla Ross, Nathan Ross, Alex Scherger, Lisa Tubb, and Austin Wallace
The Quidditch Canada 2017 National Championship was on April 1 and 2, 2017 in Victoria, British Columbia. With guest writers Alex Scherger and Lisa Tubb, the Quidditch Post looks back on what we learned from Canada’s marquee tournament.
Before all the controversies at US Quidditch Cup 10, there was OTGate. It was overtime in the semifinal matchup between two top-tier eastern Canadian teams, Valhalla Quidditch and Guelph Quidditch, that was cut short by a very quick snitch catch by Guelph. At first, it appeared that Valhalla was protesting the snitch catch, which may have been caught with both hands on the snitch, but it soon became apparent that there was a larger issue at hand. The timekeeper had released the seekers almost a minute into the overtime period, a whole 30 seconds later than the time required by the rulebook. It was argued that because the snitch was released later in the game that this would give one team an advantage over the other – more time to score points, gain, or maintain bludger procession. After extensive discussion with all the officials, the timekeeper in question, and even a call to “Toronto” (an NHL analogy), it was ruled that the call on the pitch stood, sending Guelph into the finals.
OTGate is, in the end, a very good lesson on how this game is still growing and the unforeseen circumstances that arise from it. The real lesson learned is that this sport is still in desperate need of volunteers to flesh it out, because we saw what a lack of viable snitch runner options and rookie timekeepers can lead to. It would have also been nice to have official clarification on why the overtime period was not overturned (i.e. replayed) with correct seeker floor timing in place, but in the end, both teams had an extra 30 seconds to contest for bludgers and points. If anything, a 15–minute period after matches should be allowed for contestability in matches above the level of pool play, after which a decision must be made to allow for game play to continue. The communication could have been handled better by everyone, but if we are looking at getting a new precedent set, we may be taking the wrong things away from it. The focus should be on producing more dedicated volunteers outside of officiating, rather than on the short–term fix.
- More Parity than Expected
There was a general consensus that there were two tiers of teams, and that the games really could have gone either way in those groups of four. With the four teams that were in the semifinals, anyone could have advanced and it would not have been a huge shock, compared to maybe if the Calgary Mavericks had actually defeated Guelph and played for a medal (though that came close to happening, as Calgary was within snitch-range in its game against Guelph). The balance of power may not be the right term, but quidditch in the west is becoming more prominent. With the Quidditch Conference of the Northwest (QCON) and Alberta quidditch efforts both taking off, there is a lot more quidditch to be played now, instead of just relying on Quidditch Canada (QC) official games. With that, the amount of play, practice, and strategy is giving teams a better idea of what this is and is allowing for more growth. It makes everyone in the west play better and stops a juggernaut from running away. University of British Columbia Thunderbirds Sports Club’s (UBC) monopoly may be over, but the Edmonton Aurors are well aware that they are in no way miles above UBC; they played a really close game that could have gone either way and were able to pull out with the snitch catch when it mattered. Not to take away from their deserved win, but it is fair to say that UBC and Edmonton are essentially equals, with the winner of the matchup determined by a mix of chance, snitch play, and whoever makes the catch.
With regards to the lower bracket, traditional mid-tier teams (Simon Fraser University Quidditch and University of British Columbia Quidditch Club) had abysmal showings at Nationals, while Calgary and the University of Victoria Valkyries (UVic) exceeded expectations to finish fifth and sixth, respectively. Again, UVic’s rise from the bottom has been well–documented by those who have followed QCON play post-regionals, while Calgary’s ascent seemed to be bolstered by actually having a full roster. With both SFU and UVic expecting to lose key players in the off-season, the balance of power within the mid-tier teams in the west may shift again.
- Grit vs. Speed
It became very apparent early on that the eastern teams were playing a lot more physically than the western teams. The sole exception was UBC, which was undoubtedly the most physical western team and had many players who were not afraid to hit right out the gate. This stems from its seasons in USQ against American teams that play a heavier brand of quidditch, and also the coaching style of Lendl Magsipoc, who has an extensive rugby background. Edmonton, on the other hand, was less physical but played a very fast game and had a lot of speedy players. This created matchup issues for Guelph, as they could outrun the latter team, which definitely showed in the final when Edmonton got a lot of their goals off of fast breaks. Edmonton’s speed playing style may actually be what won it the final. Calgary, which gave Guelph problems on Day Two, also deserves a shoutout, as its players were not afraid to step up and be physical and took hits well.
It was also interesting to see the different dynamics that played out in games between teams from the same region vs. teams from different regions. Guelph already had a few wins over Valhalla going into the tournament, indicating that they have matched up well in the past. But when it came to playing against western teams, it appears, at least statistically, that Valhalla was more adaptable to the different playing styles. In fact, the only team it lost to the entire tournament was Guelph, whereas, as mentioned above, Guelph seemed to struggle more in adapting to playing against western teams. Though Guelph was the most physical team present at Nationals, its lack of speed burned it when playing against a more drive-heavy western region, which relies heavily on forcing fast breaks to score. Injuries to its bigger players on Day One did not help, as Guelph’s signature physicality took a hit on Day Two. In fact, Calgary kept its play-in game against Guelph within snitch range, which was unexpected, to say the least.
- Snitch Don’t Kill my Vibe
While we keep in mind that some of the country’s best seekers were competing at Nationals, the snitches’ on-pitch duration, for the most part, was far too short. The potential argument of unfamiliar snitch/seeker matchups hardly holds water, and while every athlete has their off days, the consistent quick catches were disheartening. This was especially apparent in both semifinals, as well as the gold and bronze medal games, which were all within snitch range.
There may be a few reasons for this, as this did not seem to be an issue during the Western Regional Championship and throughout the regular season. Outside of Jared Martin (who was the snitch runner for the championship game) and the combination of David St. Germain and Raunaq Singh, the Vancouver area lacks depth at snitching. It relies heavily on USQ’s Northwest region for snitching help, and it would be fair to point out the noticeable absences of Abe Nurkiewicz and Marcus Toomey. A related issue is that other than Martin and St. Germain (who was only present on Day One), all of the snitches were playing snitches, which means that they snitched immediately after playing. With those two attending, the other snitches would be well–rested so that the more experienced snitches mentioned above would get slots instead of lower-tier snitches. This was seen in the discrepancy between the snitches’ on-pitch duration on Day One and Day Two.
The bottom line is that many players and spectators (both at the venue and watching the livestream) expected much more at a national level tournament. This raises some questions about whether snitch training camps would benefit the game and if greater volunteer subsidies would encourage more high–level snitches to attend (perhaps some from across the border). The combination of the above suggestions could increase the number of non-playing snitches in the area, which would be greatly beneficial for long and gruelling tournaments, especially at regionals and Nationals.
- Livestreaming and Expanding Beyond Gameplay
The 2016-17 season saw Quidditch Canada livestream both regional championships and the Canadian Nationals for the first time in its brief history of existence. The streaming quality was, or close to, high definition, and rightfully received universal praise, and provided a bridge between east and west for those who could not make the trek to Victoria. In addition, these games were archived for future viewing purposes, perhaps even for further statistical analysis and/or scouting of other teams. For an organization so hurriedly put together after the IQA/USQ split, the high–quality livestream is one of QC’s great achievements.
As we continue to improve all aspects of quidditch, certain areas regarding the filming and streaming of games could impact the future of our sport. The first is live commentating, which has already been implemented and vastly improved from the early days of quidditch commentating, as seen at Nationals this season. One noticeable area to improve upon is the standardization of quidditch-specific vocabulary, which will make the game more accessible across regions and to the less quidditch-inclined folk who may be tuning into games. Another suggestion would be to have both play-by-play and colour commentators, with more accessible information (including relevant statistics and roster details) for both commentators to add more flavour to the broadcast. Of course, these changes will not happen overnight, but these are good goals to strive toward.