By Mark Colley
The past two years have been a whirlwind for the Ottawa Outlaws.
The professional ultimate frisbee team playing in the American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL) didn’t play in 2020 due to COVID-19 and faced only Canadian teams — from Montreal and Toronto — in 2021. Now, as the Outlaws approach the midpoint of their 2022 season, what they hoped would be a championship run is turning into a developmental year.
Ottawa has a young roster. More than half of its players were born after 1997, with the youngest being born in 2003. This youth — combined with a missed and compromised season — amounts to an inexperienced team, according to seven-year Outlaw veteran Nick Boucher.
“We have a really, really young roster of guys and a lot of guys who, because of COVID, haven’t had multiple years of AUDL experience,” Boucher said. “Getting their feet wet, getting them adjusted to the game in a way where they’re not so reactive, they’re able to assert themselves, is a main goal we had as individual players.”
Ian Wallace, who studies human rights and social justice at Carleton University by day and plays for the Outlaws by night, is in his second year with the team. Wallace is part of the substantial portion of the roster that is facing American teams for the first time.
“We didn’t know what to expect coming into this season,” Wallace said. “I’m a young kid and seeing all these amazing players on other teams, it’s a little nerve-wracking.”
Boucher said the team’s primary objective was to make the playoffs this year, but they also had smaller goals for player growth.
The Outlaws have started the season 1-4, taking a 24-21 loss to the Montreal Royal in their latest game at the Ravens Perch at Carleton last Wednesday. It drops Ottawa into a tie for last place with the Toronto Rush in the seven-team AUDL east division.
Ottawa was outscored by Montreal in both the first and second quarter but rebounded in the second half, closing the deficit to only two goals. The Outlaws ultimately couldn’t make up the difference.
“There’s adjustments all game long that you can make, but I think in this game we had a difficult time adjusting,” Outlaws coach Hagan Riglin said. “We came out with good energy, I think we came out with a lot of focus, but we just weren’t able to close in the end.”
Boucher echoed that message in a pep talk after the game.
“To be a team that wins in this league, you have to be able to sustain your efficiency and your energy for four full quarters,” Boucher said when describing the message to the team. “That’s sort of the takeaway we got from this game. We won the second half but we lost the first half by enough that it didn’t end up mattering in the end.”
Ottawa has now lost four consecutive games since its opening day 21-19 win over the Boston Glory on May 6. Regardless of what’s happening on the field, the crowd is still having fun.
Outlaws games are narrated by a PA announcer with a personality, who makes it clear which side he’s on when announcing plays. There’s also a Yo Mama joke told every quarter.
“Yo mama so old, the amount of candles on her cake caused global warming,” one young fan declared gleefully into a microphone. The crowd ate it up.
In the first half, fans won a pizza every time the Outlaws scored. At half time, attendees were welcomed on to the field to throw frisbees. And after the game, Wallace donned a cowboy hat as the Outlaws’ player of the game.
Wallace, from Ottawa, said he started playing ultimate when he was 11 and grew up watching the Outlaws.
“It’s great. I get to play against some of the best players on the east coast,” Wallace said. “It’s really helped my development not just as an athlete but as a person, just meeting new people, having new work ethic, and just really aspiring to achieve my goals.”
The Outlaws have seven games left this season and will return to Ottawa on July 2 after a road trip to Boston and New York City. The goal for the team moving forward will be to get back to the basics.
“Doing the fundamentals right,” Riglin said. “Doing the things we’ve been working on in practice, focusing on those things and making sure that we’re getting them done.”
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