April 23, 2013 by Charlie Eisenhood in Preview with 0 comments
The history of Vancouver Ultimate over the past decade is storied: three USA Ultimate Club Championship titles in the 2000s for Furious George, a strong presence on the ’08 World Champion Team Canada, and a reputation for being fierce competitors. This year, the city adds a new bullet point to their resume: a professional team in Major League Ultimate.
The Vancouver Nighthawks are one of four West Coast teams in the MLU, and currently the only Canadian team in the league. The teams brings a depth of experience from playing at the highest levels of the sport; most of the roster comes from Furious George, either current players or alumni.
“A lot of that informs the basis of how we run our team,” said Andrew Lugsdin, the General Manager of the Nighthawks, who played for Furious for over a decade.
“I think Vancouver Ultimate is a respected group of players because they play the game hard but have respect for the game,” he added.
The team brings together the city’s best talent, from young athletes to veteran playmakers. Many of the names are familiar from the current Furious roster: Morgan Hibbert, Oscar Pottinger, and Nick Menzies. The speedy Mark Leduc also returns to the Men’s game after a stint playing Mixed.
But they also added some experience from past teams: Mauro Ortiz, Kirk Savage, and Mark Roberts. Those three players were all on the starting offensive line for Team Canada that won the World Championships in 2008.
“They want to be part of the early stages of being a piece of building up the first professional team in Vancouver,” said Lugsdin. “They want to be involved with something special.”
Vancouver is somewhat unusual among big metropolitan ultimate communities because people that move to the city tend to settle down. That means that players often grow up and remain in the Vancouver scene, often from high school up into the club level.
The team will play its home games at the Thunderbird Stadium in the University of British Columbia campus. “The stadium itself is a gorgeous venue,” said Brian Gisel, Nighthawks Operation Manager. “It’s a nice west-facing venue for watching the sun go down.”
They opened their season this past weekend in Seattle, a team they will face four teams during the Spring. They lost the game after falling into a big hole in the second half, but rallied back late to keep it interesting. The two cities have had a long-standing feud, both due to proximity and their frequent matchups in the USA Ultimate club circuit. “I do expect that rivalry to be a battle for us all season long,” said Lugsdin.
This season may also be an opportunity to continue to rehabilitate the Vancouver ultimate image after gaining a reputation for excessively physical, chippy play, a stereotype that was confirmed for many by an ugly Team Canada game at last year’s World Championships. Furious George made a successful effort last year to focus on playing with spirit, but there’s work to be done.
Lugsdin says the team is looking forward to an exciting first season. “I think it’s going to be an unbelievable year,” he said.
The Nighthawks host the San Francisco Dogfish in their home opener on Saturday at 7 PM PCT.