Students are back at school, and that also means some clubs will be starting up soon. Ambitious groups tend to get going in September, while some schools wait until the second semester.
2020 will have some interesting circumstances. Last year pretty much confirmed that a team must be active on the independent circuits to perform well at (Ontario) provincials and Nationals. Alberta and BC started joining in on the routines that Ontario and New Brunswick have, and hopefully the last few provinces can get on board too. More activity from elsewhere in Canada may be a counterweight to the lopsided Ontario results of the last few years.
For these previews, I have the obvious disclaimer that I am not an oracle or the declarer of your fate. Teams will continue to fly under the radar, but it is becoming more advantageous to have a known presence for the purposes of tournament seedings and schedules. I am also more hazy on the details outside my geographical vicinity. By province:
Max from UHill gave a preview of the province earlier this summer. I am not well-versed on his Southridge scoop, but St. George’s, Eric Hamber, and Sir Winston Churchill should continue to be challengers for Nationals spots. The top teams in the area will probably run a few tournaments off of the available independent sets, thanks to the help from UBC and the UHill team. BC was almost at the level of the Ontario teams last year, so we’ll see if they can make the jump come spring.
Alberta put up one of its best performances in recent decades by getting two teams in the top six (by my classification) nationally. Renert and STS will take some hits from graduation, but there is still a good group of younger players that competed for the junior provincial championships. Webber (returning most of their team) and Old Scona should also be in the mix.
I’m in the dark about Manitoba. The large number of teams clustered around Winnipeg should be a fertile ground for a couple tournaments, but it hasn’t broken through yet. The province as a whole has not kept up relative to the others since their peak around 2010, and national prospects don’t look great for the coming year. Unfortunately, it’s a long drive to Alberta, Ontario, or Minneapolis if a team is looking for a dance partner for a competition.
The elephant in the room in Ontario is the coming teacher labour dispute. Teachers are currently out of contract, and the political climate points towards some form of protest after the federal election is over. An outright strike last happened in the fall of 1997, but work-to-rule occurred in 2000/01 and 2012/13, which may be more likely to happen. Work-to-rule would drop school support of clubs, leading to either abandoned seasons or student-led squads operating under pseudonyms. The year could be difficult, and it would have quite an impact on all the independent events that originate in the province. UTS and Lisgar are expected to not be seriously affected because of their circumstances (though their tournaments may be emptier), and a few other private schools and dedicated public teams will pull through. Details on Ontario may wait until either the contract gets settled or we see how teams fare in the UTS tournament (October 19) and Lisgar tournament (February 8). In Ottawa, assuming teams go ahead, Lisgar and Glebe will continue to be provincial playoff threats, but Bell will drop off after losing that debut squad to graduation.
As I say every year now, I can’t predict Quebec.
KV still rules the roost, and they filled the junior tournament last year with players ready to move up for this season. Fredericton was the best non-KV junior team last year, but the second New Brunswick national team is actually not an easy prediction because it can be fairly competitive for that spot. New Brunswick plays several events over the course of the year, and KV usually travels to independent tournaments, so the province will be fresh competitively.
Cobequid’s return to the quarterfinals last year was some welcome news after several years of poor showings from the province, but it will still be a struggle to keep up. There are very few teams on the provincial scene, and they may need to tap into the New Brunswick schedule if they want to remain active. Another quarterfinal run this year would be a tough, but possible, goal.
Ontario will still be the big threat, especially with UTS active regardless of any circumstances. Martingrove, Central, and Glebe could be national threats if the season is stable; if not, Lisgar and Westmount will have the experience of getting through logistically difficult campaigns. BC is probably the best chance to break through that top 3 stranglehold, but KV and the Alberta teams will be in the mix too.
In summary, take all of this with a grain of salt. Things will become clearer once tournaments are actually played; for now, teams should focus on just starting up and shaking off rust. I do hope I can be proven wrong on this preview, especially if it means that new faces start appearing. Good luck in the coming season, have fun, and learn lots!