Canadians Really Like Hugs, I Guess

Smythe and Walker, sittin’ in a tree / Credit: Matt Dwyer Photography

By Mitch “Mitchelob Ultra” Hatfield

(Editor’s note: What follows is an op-ed and does not reflect the collective opinion of everyone at FBI blah blah blah, etc., etc.)

On July 9, 2016, 87 guinea pi…er… players will travel to Vancouver, BC to compete in the second-ever Vancouver Fantasy Tournament. These 87 players were split into six teams via an official draft on June 18. GMs were able to trade draft picks with one another, adding another layer of depth and Draft Day “realness” to the entire process.

In addition to the anticipated nerves that accompany playing with a brand new team for the first time, players were chagrined and excited in equal measure to learn that Quidditch Canada officials would be experimenting on them by implementing two “temporary changes” to the rulebook for VanFan. Happily announced on the morning of June 19 were two additional rules that reffing staff would enforce.

First was that the sidelines would now operate as hard boundaries. For the purposes of this piece, we’re going to call it the Boundary Rule. Second: “Two-armed finishes after tackles [would] be legal.” Here, it’s the Tackle Rule.

First of all, let’s discuss the scarier of the two rule additions, in my opinion—the Boundary Rule.

Hard Boundaries, Soft Boundaries, Who Needs Boundaries

How on earth will the game be playable with this change? What unforeseen consequences could this have? (Truly, they’ll be unforeseeable. Am I right?)

Absolutely all joking aside, I’m concerned. Can the game even survive this change? Having a sideline hard boundary could cause the collapse of organized quidditch as we know it. Instead of the light admonishment of players who purposefully drive out of bounds, now we will actually see gameplay stay on the pitch! How dare they force players to stay in the player area? “If you set one toe out of bounds, we will send you straight to the penalty box!” practices a Scheer-shaped ref at a training facility in an undisclosed location.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve slid along the “soft” player boundary because of a bludger, but with a rule like this, if I were to incidentally leave the boundary, would I actually be carded? Whose wise idea was this? I mean, really, whose idea was this? I don’t actually know because I’m lazy and did zero research.

And I honestly meant it when I said this was the scarier of the two implemented rules. The implications for the Boundary Rule, which shortens the field and constricts play, are more abundant than the implications of the Tackle Rule. Compound the two, and—welp. Think of teams whose strategies rely on wide spacing (something that the soft boundary allowed for). This boundary tightening is going to channel the sport into a drive-based game, with lots of big hits and tackles (great for highlight reels, not great for human bodies). Some people think this is a good thing, but, in the grand scheme of it all, a change from a diverse and growing sport into what would effectively be tackle-basketball is not exactly a change that I personally think this global community wants.

Tackling the Trajectory of the Tackle Rule

Additionally, the powers that be at Quidditch Canada appear to be ramping up for a huge rulebook change that will likely continue to distance themselves from the rest of the world—namely blatant, bear hug-style tackling. I mean, is Canada’s love of kindness and hugging really something we should push to the extreme of two-handed tackles? Okay, so for now, the rule reads: “A second arm may be used to complete a wrap once the wrap has been established, as long as the player performing the wrap remains mounted on their broom.” But! It’s a real short jump from that to a rule reading “You may two-arm tackle, but only at half speed,” which inevitably becomes “You may two-arm tackle at full speed.” Which, obviously, would lead to an increase in injuries.

Now you might be saying, this is a full contact sport; injuries happen. I would agree with you. In fact, I broke a leg because of an unfortunate accident involving an illegal slide tackle, so yes—injuries happen. However, the rules exist to protect players from as many injuries as possible, which is why for a long time, a two-handed tackle has resulted in a red card. In my five years’ experience of playing this sport, I have been witness to almost twice as many major injuries at QC-run and Canada-based tournaments as I have witnessed at any of the USQ or US-based tournaments I have attended.

In the 2015-16 season alone, I attended two Canadian tournaments—one in Kelowna, one in Vancouver—and, due to repeated illegal tackles, one of my teammates sustained a concussion and another broke a collarbone. And these are only a few of the upwards of fifteen or so major injuries that occurred at these two tournaments.

Clearly these tackles are dangerous and this decision shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s obvious that this is a sentiment shared by a number of players who signed up to play at VanFan and were drafted to teams before this announcement was made.

The official event page practically blew up after the announcement went live, and, among the series of comments, open letters, and reactions, two prevailing sentiments can be painstakingly sifted out (and it’s not a surprise what these sentiments are): people either love or hate this decision.

Ultimately, it sounds more and more to me like QC is trying to further remove themselves from the realm of international play.

“QuidCan is attempting to turn into the CFL while the rest of the world basically plays NFL,” said fellow quidditch loser Ryan Smythe, and honestly I can’t find grounds to contradict him. If a permanent change is made, even to a seemingly innocuous rule, the QC Gameplay department effectively condemns its players to being carded out of every international match they play in since every other NGB tries to strictly enforce the one-hand tackle rule in the interest of safety.

Unfortunately, each side of the argument makes good points. Those who are opposed either argue as I have in the interest of safety and international viability; those who are in favor will say that it’s what “the community wants.”

World Cup

My opinion is probably pretty clear by now if you’ve been paying attention: this is a poorly timed, and poorly conceived idea. It is further made more foolish by the fact that World Cup takes place less than a month after this tournament, and this tournament is one of the biggest draws for Team Canada players. It will be interesting to see if those players don’t drop due to the increased risk of injury.

Furthermore, I am not of the opinion or entirely convinced that these changes—and the direction they could take the sport—are something the entire global community is interested in. Despite all of that, I do not blame the tournament staff for these changes or the short notice of the announcement. Ultimately, this wouldn’t have happened if Quidditch Canada had not made the decision, so if I’m gonna point the finger, it’ll be straight at QC Gameplay.

If you think differently (or similarly), feel free to let me know. Just remember, I probably don’t care. Vancouver Fantasy II takes place—rule experimentation or no—July 9 at University Hill Secondary School. For more information (and to spy on the full discussion so far), check out the tournament event page on Facebook here: http://tinyurl.com/VanFanII

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