Guelph pair playing
BY NED BEKAVAC
Eric Blanchard moved from Guelph to Toronto for sport.
No, he is not a Toronto Marlies blueliner with dreams of suiting up for the Maple Leafs, nor is he an aspiring soccer striker looking to hit the pitch for Toronto FC.
Blanchard plays ultimate.
And, now, he’s playing it professionally.
“I didn’t think it would ever happen, I never dreamed there would be professional ultimate,” says Blanchard.
But here it is.
Blanchard and Andy Kubinec, both of Guelph, are members of the Toronto Rush roster for the 2013 season.
The Rush, starting in April, is playing its first season in the American Ultimate Disc League.
The AUDL started in 2012 with eight teams. There are now 12 and they play in two six-team divisions. Toronto’s division-mates are the NJ Hammerheads, DC Breeze, New York Empire, Philadelphia Phoenix and the Rochester Dragons. The Rush will play its home games at Varsity Stadium, which has a capacity of 5,000.
Blanchard, Kubinec and their Rush teammates will have travel and expenses paid for, and they’ll receive “modest” salaries, says Kubinec. Players, of course, will have other jobs, says Blanchard.
Blanchard first got introduced to the game back when he was a student at John F. Ross CVI.
A soccer player at the time, he got invited to play the disc-chucking sport, and the rest was history.
“I fell in love with it,” he says.
That love remains. So much so that Blanchard moved to Toronto so he could play ultimate for a highly competitive team there.
When word got out that Toronto was getting an AUDL team, Blanchard and Kubinec, teammates on the
Guelph-based MuD coed team that won provincials last year, knew they had to give tryouts a try and making the team would be, well, the ultimate.
“I didn’t want to miss out on the chance to be” part of the inaugural team, says Blanchard.
“It’s a dream come true.”
Kubinec, a former District 10 basketball all-star at St. James high school, really got into the game while at the University of Guelph. While the sport has grown immensely over the years, there are still those who can’t grasp its appeal, and Kubinec says he often spends time explaining the draw of the game to others.
He says: “It has the athleticism of basketball, the free-flowing nature of hockey, and the big plays of football or basketball.”
Kubinec lives in Guelph and works full-time in Hamilton. Combo that with Rush games and practices, and he knows he’s in for a hectic summer.
“It will be pretty crazy,” he says.
But, of course, worth it.
“It’s exciting,” says Kubinec of the chance to play pro. He adds that he’s looking forward to taking on all those U.S. teams – Toronto is the league’s lone Canadian club – and “playing against the best they got.”
To that end, Kubinec knows that games will be pretty physical, and the Rush are preparing for that in their practices. While most levels of ultimate are self-officiated, AUDL tilts actually have referees. Loyal players of the sport will tell you that one of its shining characteristics is its huge levels of sportsmanship and camaraderie.
But that’s not to say that tempers can’t flare, especially at the higher levels of competition.
“I’ve seen guys get ejected from tournaments,” says Blanchard, with a laugh. “Sports happens, right?”