The 2010 Canadian Ultimate Championships, emanating (I do not think this word means what I think it means) from Sherbrooke, Québec, will be a very Eastern Canada-centric Nationals this year, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the mixed division, where only 1 team (Swarm) represents Canada West of Ontario.
ONYX and Rip, coming off very impressive results at the World Ultimate Club Championships are the prohibitive favourites entering CUC, but after that, the field is wide open.
ONYX (Quebec City) was created as a merger between Q (Open) and Mauvaises Herbes Ultimate Club (MHUC) in 2008. This merger paid immediate dividends, with consecutive silver medals at CUC in 2008 and 2009. They put their silver polish to great use in a wonderful run at the 2010 World Ultimate Club Championships (WUCC) in Prague, reaching the finals before taking 2nd place yet again.
They hope this is the year they finally break through with a 1st place finish, practicing their gold medal ceremony with tournament victories this year at Mixed Easterns (Boston) and Mixed Up (Ottawa).
Julian Chapdelaine (#88) deserves special mention for the non-profit organization he founded, Ultimaction, in 2004. Through his efforts, Ultimaction has helped introduce over 5000 students and 200 teachers to the wonderful sport of Ultimate, and helped establish junior programs and high school leagues throughout the province.
MuD (Guelph), seeded 8th, is in their 1st year on the competitive scene, and are the first team to represent the Guelph Ultimate Players Association (GUPA) at CUC.
Their season started with a 4th place finish at TUF, and they showed that result wasn’t a fluke, with 3rd place finishes at both Northern Flights and Mixed Up. Of note at the Mixed Up tournament: Wayne Root scored the Universe point victory over RIP, defeating his own wife’s team (Bryanne) in the process. Rumour has it that Wayne is still awaiting a home cooked meal.
F Bomb (St. John, NB) is another CUC virgin, having begun touring in 2008 after a conglomeration of SCUM, Beaver Liquers and some players from chief rival Spawn decided to play nice rather than butt heads.
With 2nd place finishes at both Junebug (Edmundston, NB) and Atlantic Regionals, F Bomb is coming in on a roll, and hopes it carries over to a quarterfinals appearance on Saturday.
Rounding out the A pool is Short Bus (Montreal), who are also making their inaugural CUC appearance, having finished 19th at TUF, 10th at Frisbeefest (Trois-rivieres) and taking the final bid to Nationals.
ONYX is the favourite in this pool, and frankly, it would be a shock to see them not have an easy day one. The battle for the 2nd spot in the pool (and the 1-1 carryover record to power pools) will be a tight one between MuD and F Bomb. Despite this being their 1st year of existence, MuD has quite a bit of touring experience on their roster in Chris Sanderson, Eric Blanchard and Ashley Morrison (Liquid), and Wayne Root (Karma), and they will need those players to ensure the rest of the team doesn’t get caught up in the moment.
RIP (Montreal) started in 2005, and has improved every year at CUC, peaking with a bronze medal finish last year in Winnipeg. After a strong 2010 season that includes a 2nd place finish at Bell Crack (Philadelphia), 5th place at the Boston Invite, and an impressive 10th place showing at WUCC, RIP feels they are peaking at the right time entering a “home” CUC, and are hoping to break through to a Sunday appearance this year.
Word from Captain Kirsten Niles is that Julie Blais may just be the greatest wrestler at these Ultimate Championships; apparently Hugo Lefrancois is the man to contact regarding verification of this fact.
Bytown Flatball Club (Ottawa) has had quite a bit of turnover, with 7 new faces as BFC attempts to regain elite status after their silver medal performance at the 2007 CUC in Toronto.
With 6th place finishes at the Toronto Ultimate Festival (TUF), Northern Flights (North Bay) and Mixed Up, as well as a 5th place finish at Gender Blender, it would appear that things are status quo for BFC.
BFC will be relying upon the veteran leadership of Justin Lee and Mike Vautour to help reach their goal of a top 5 finish this year.
Tabasco (Montreal), with an average age of 36, actually wanted to enter the Masters Regionals, but filed the wrong paperwork, and was stuck in the Mixed division instead. Fortunately, they still qualified, and come into CUC seeded 10th.
With some strong results this year (won Frisbeefest, 3rd at Comedy of Errors), and some not as strong (5th at TUF and 10th at Mixed Up), it certainly has been an up and down season for Tabasco.
A strong quarterfinal appearance is not out of the question for this team, who is dedicating this tournament to the memory of teammate Mila Oh, who passed away this spring after battling breast cancer.
Swarm (Winnipeg) rounds out pool B, and, as the lone Western Canadian representative, have already achieved their goal of finishing as the top Western Canadian team at Nationals (kudos!).
This may not be your typical 15 seed however, as they have bolstered their roster, which is returning to CUC after a 1 year hiatus, with some players from Pandora (Saskatoon), Wreckhouse (St. John’s, Nfld) and 3 post-Regional adds from BigFish (Ottawa).
Their unique style, often playing 4 women/3 men to play to their strengths, has led them to a 3rd place finish at Regina Riot, 6th at Beat the Skeeters (Winnipeg), 2nd at Flatland Ultimate and Cups Tournament (also Winnipeg) and 5th at Disc Odyssey (Saskatoon), and, they hope, a power pool appearance on Friday.
Like ONYX in pool A, it would be an upset should RIP not win this pool, and BFC should finish a solid 2nd; the big matchup will be Tabasco-Swarm for the final power pool spot. Swarm may have more overall talent, but will be introducing a lot of the team to one another on Thursday. Tabasco’s chemistry and experience may carry the day in this matchup.
Mayhem (Hamilton) surprised many with an 8-0 performance at the Ontario Mixed Ultimate Championships (OMUC), taking the overall 3 seed at Nationals, despite losing star receiver Trevor Henry to Maverick (Open division).
They have spent this season emphasizing the use of their overall depth more than they have in the past, and they feel that it will pay off this year with their 1st semi final appearance at CUC. They are feeling so good, in fact, that noted curmudgeon/captain Chris Mackie recently took home a spirit prize.
Spawn (Fredericton) is another team looking to break through with a semi final appearance this season, and feel they have the right mix of youth and experience to pull it off. 9th place finishes at Get the Led Out (Portland, ME) and Mixed Easterns have allowed them to test themselves against the top competition in the Northeast Region of the United States Ultimate Association this summer.
Tundra, part of the Ultimate Experience tiered competitive system in Toronto (with Zen and Mars Meets Venus), is similar to Spawn in that they have a nice collection of youth and experience. Clancy Budiak-Jarvie brings back some big game experience from her stint with Canada’s U23 team last month in Italy.
18th place at Poultry Days (Versailles, OH), 8th at Northern Flights, 7th at Mixed Up and 6th at ON Regionals indicate that Tundra may not be quite ready to break through to a top 6 finish yet.
Hard (Montreal) is an AUM league team that has been comprised of friends who played on various touring teams. This year they decided to give it a go together.
Handlers Nicolas Restropo (Mephisto) and Mike Sibthorpe (RIP) bring big game experience, to ensure that Hard doesn’t get overwhelmed by their environment.
Their results thus far this year, 4th at Frisbeefest, 2nd at Comedy of Errors, 9th at Mixed Up, show that this is likely the best bottom seed in any pool, and are capable of scoring some big upsets this week.
This pool should be fun to watch play out, as there are no inconceivable (and that word does mean what I think it means) results after Thursday’s games. I’m leaning towards Mayhem and Hard to take the top 2 spots (not necessarily in that order). Spawn-Tundra for the final power pool slot will be exciting and could come down to Universe point.
MONSTER (Toronto) is looking to improve after a disappointing quarterfinal exit last year in Winnipeg. The addition of handler deluxe Greg Lang, who I believe has played in every CUC to date, has provided some very nice results for MONSTER this year, with a 3rd place finish at TUF, and 2nd place finishes at both Mixed Up and OMUC.
Big Hammers (Toronto) returns after a year’s hiatus from the touring scene, and they returned with considerable flair, taking 2nd place at TUF, 3rd at both Gender Blender and OMUC and 4th at Mixed Up.
Folks attending the Saturday night party should hope that Hammers bring their very impressive game of Human Foosball along with them, a favourite at Gender Blender this year.
Wreckhouse (St. John’s, NFLD), the 1st Newfoundland/Labrador team to qualify for CUC, is making it consecutive trips this year, hoping to improve upon last year’s 13th place finish; and NBS (Trois-riviere/Sherbrooke) is only participating in the Canadian series this year. These teams round out the pool, which I would expect to follow seed.
I would be very surprised if we did not see an ONYX-RIP final, but after that, the rest of the quarterfinalists, heck, the semifinalists, could come from any seed from Mayhem to Tabasco, as well as my dark horse pick, Hard.
Forced to choose, I’ll go with MONSTER and MuD in the semi finals, and Mayhem, Big Hammers, BFC and Hard to round out the quarters.