Off years, or non-worlds years, feel strange. For some teams it’s merely prep for next year when qualifications for Worlds are decided. For others it’s their first time and it’s the culmination of years of effort; this may also be as far as they make it. But it’s missing something, almost as if we’re recharging. This year CUC 2016, in Edmonton, is missing something more.
That something is the Mixed division which shall meet in Hamilton a week from now. The divisions playing in Edmonton are: Junior Women’s, Junior Open, Open, Women’s, Masters Women’s, and Masters Open. The Masters Women’s division has grown to 8 teams and now matches the Masters Open division in size. While the Open and Women’s division allow up to 16 teams they have shrunk in size to 14 and 12 teams respectively. If you look at the list of teams that showed up there are many familiar names but also some big names missing. Which begs the question: where is everybody?
Generally speaking many of the elite teams do not show up in a non-Worlds year. Four years ago in Victoria Furious George was the exception otherwise teams like Traffic, GOAT, Furious, Union (Mixed), and the now defunct Capitals focus their energies on the US series. Sometimes players show up on teams with different names so as to not damage the elite teams’ brands. This year there are elite players sneaking onto teams like Mio Grape and Sneaky House Hippos making them teams to watch. There are also out of town elite players choosing to play on their home teams this year. So while the top teams may not be there their players certainly are, for the west at least. There is a distinct lack of representation from the east but that is not new in non-Worlds years.
The other event impacting the lack of elite teams affects the Masters division the most. The USA Ultimate Masters Championships were held this past week in Aurora Colorado with Terra (Women’s, Toronto), Mint (Women’s, Winnipeg), and Flood (Open, Winnipeg) participating. Of those three only Mint shall appear at CUC giving Terra and Flood an edge in recovery time for CUC 2017. Will Mint’s decision come back to bite them next year? Time will tell.
So what we now have is opportunity. Teams that chose not to attend have opened up spots to those that are developing. This is an opportunity considering how fierce the competition shall be next year (Club World’s qualification). It’s an opportunity for teams to see different styles and face the rigors of a longer tournament. Finally, and most importantly, it’s an opportunity to meet and interact with players that you do not know.
So what can we expect in each division? Strong performances by BC teams, challenges from those in Alberta, and an outside chance for everybody else.
You can watch Ultimate Canada’s live streaming here: http://sportscanada.tv/ultimatecanada/watch-live