Separated by little more than 140 miles of roadway (that’s 225 kilometers for you metric-heads) and a single border crossing, Seattle and Vancouver are two of the most dynamic powerhouse Ultimate cities on the continent. Their proximity has fueled a heated rivalry between their respective elite club teams, one that has swung pendulously between good-spirited competitiveness and outright acrimonious defamation.
Some Ultimate historians may know its origins, but few are really quite sure when, where, or how the rivalry started. “I think the rivalry goes back so long that it’s ingrained into Vancouver Ultimate to rival Seattle…it’s embedded into their culture,” said Rainmaker Tyler Kinley.
Nonetheless, the two cities have continuously been dubbed “the Northwest’s best rivalry,” and fans can definitely expect that rivalry to bleed over into the professional sphere.
Nighthawks fans should know, however, that Seattle has never been beaten at home in a single-match setting. They took on the Japanese Buzz Bullets in 2007 at the Emerald City Classic and swatted them away 17-16; they manhandled the German National Team in 2008 17-10; and last year Seattle defeated the Australian Dingoes 17-15. Oh, and did you see the Western Conference Preseason Showcase?
Seattle and Vancouver have met one another many, many times in the club scene, but they’ve since graduated to a new level of playing, a professional one: Major League Ultimate. With this new professional platform for the best club players, one might reasonably expect a new attitude and relationship between the two cities, one marked by a bit more mutual respect even as it carries the knowledge of past tensions.
Kinley said in 2011 that the Seattle-Vancouver rivalry “is one of the great club Ultimate rivalries,” and for better or worse, that rivalry has been carried, kicking and screaming, into the professional scene. The first verbal salvo came from Vancouver’s Morgan Hibbert, and three Rainmakers took a few moments to respond.
Reid Koss indicated that Hibbert’s words will have little affect on the Rainmakers. He said, “I think Morgan Hibbert’s trash talking was something that is very Canadian in terms of being able to build themselves up and being very aggressive. For us, that’s something that doesn’t matter as much. We focus on ourselves, we focus on things we can control, and we’ll go out and play whoever lines up against us. I don’t care where they’re from, Oregon, California, or Canada. They’re just another team to us.”
Phil Murray concurred, stating, “Morgan Hibbert’s trash talk was interesting. He did it very early in the season, really I think before they even had a roster. And, you know, I just want to say to Morgan Hibbert, ‘Let’s do it on the field, let’s see what happens.’”
Kinley, who has a few more years playing against Vancouver Ultimate under his belt made his response with a wry smile on his face: “Morgan’s terrible. His trash talking? It’s a joke. Morgan’s a joke.”
Kinley says this in jest of course. No one expects this to be an easy game. Koss emphasized the fundamental nature of Vancouver Ultimate as “very hard working. Their cutters are some of the hardest working cutters that we play against. We know they’re going to run harder and make bigger, longer cuts than we’re used to, and they’re going to make us tired. And their throwers, they’re generally going to make good decisions. You can tell that they’ve worked together a lot, and their timing and their decision-making is much stronger than most teams we play.”
So what should fans expect come game day? According to Murray, they’ll see a jubilant Seattle and a frustrated Vancouver: “I think Vancouver Ultimate loves to hate how much fun we have. Even off the field, on the sidelines, every time we get really excited and really happy, they get more and more hateful.”
Seattle’s neighbors to the north are worthy competitors. Will Seattle adjust their defensive strategy from the preseason match to handle the Nighthawks’ strong cutting style? Will Vancouver be able to contain the Rainmakers’ tightknit handler group? Get your tickets now for Saturday’s game at Chief Sealth Stadium (2600 SW Thistle Street), and stay tuned for a more in-depth matchup analysis, coming soon.