This Saturday, April 9th, at 4pm EST, the New York Empire make their 2016 season debut with a home game at Randall’s Island against the Ottawa Outlaws. Get your tickets here.
It’s finally here! Opening day. The fact that it comes against a team the Empire beat both times they met last season makes it that much sweeter. Last season, the Empire had the Outlaws’ number, winning both in New York and up in Ottawa. Those games were won on the backs of returning Empire players Sam Taylor and Gary Dixon, who were each featured prominently on the stats sheets.
The entire day is set to be quite the celebration of New York ultimate, with a hat tournament on Randall’s Island before hand, the Empire game right after, and then a YCC & GUM fundraiser afterwards hosted by DiscNY (details on both events below). But the highlight of this busy spring day is certainly the Empire’s season opener.
Here’s to the 2016 Empire, it’s gonna be good times (good times) [explicit].
Preparing for the Season
During this strange winter, preparation for the 2016 season has certainly been easier than the lead-up to past seasons. Snow has been less of an issue for training and practice purposes, and has been replaced by sunny (albeit, windy) nights and days. There are new faces on the team, and a new look on the field as a result.
“We’ve got a bunch of new guys with us this year with expanded skill sets,” said Head Coach Tom Gibb, “so over our 9 pre-season practices we added some new sets and terminology.”
Those new players include standout names from the ultimate-community at large like Sean Keegan and Chris Kocher. But it also includes mainstays of the NYC-ultimate scene like Chris Mazur, and Markian Kuzmowycz, which on top of the returning talent should kickstart this mob.
But it all changes when the team takes the field for the first time this Saturday against the Outlaws. There’s something different about stepping away from the practice field and facing real competition.
“The preparation for the first game, with so many new faces is all about become a ‘team’ – finding out who does what best and when,” said defensive captain Ian Guerin. “You’ll always strive to a better team, but farther into the season it gets a lot more detail oriented [than the pre-season].”
It certainly helps that the first game comes against a team the Empire defeated with ease twice last season, and at home. While the forecast for Saturday currently calls for rain, that shouldn’t take away from the team.
Be there for the start of the 2016 campaign this Saturday at 4pm on Randall’s Island.
“There’s really nothing like the bucolic majesty of Randall’s Island in spring,” said Gibb.
On the Outlaws
It’s the second season for the team from Canada’s capital, and this season the Outlaws boast 4 members of Team Canada Open and Mixed for World Ultimate & Guts Championship 2016. They’re hoping to build on some of their success from last season, and battle not only the Empire for a spot in the playoffs, but their fellow-Canadian teams, the Montreal Royal and defending division champion Toronto Rush.
“It’s clear who [the Outlaws’] difference makers are from watching video and I’ve cooked up a few things on D to counter what they try and do and make them uncomfortable,” said Head Coach Tom Gibb.
Those difference makers on the Outlaws? The list starts and ends with Derek Alexander, a player that has made quite the name for himself in Canadian and international ultimate with his play over the years. Last season the Outlaws, it was no different as he racked up assists, and had the second highest number of points played for the team.
Ian Guerin had a few specific memories of the enemy from last season. “What I remember most was the energy that the Outlaws brought. That and a couple of crafty throwers made for an excellent match.”
Alexander finds himself on the list of deft-handlers from Ottawa, he had almost double the completions as anyone else on the team, but the next-most prolific player on the Outlaws has to be Kielan Way. Way was either first or second in almost every other category, and especially in all the categories that count on the offensive side of the disc – assists, hockey assists, completions, goals, and points played. With Way returning to the fray for the Outlaws as well, be on the lookout for his on the field impact.
Players to Watch
As mentioned earlier, both Sam Taylor and Gary Dixon had huge games for the Empire last season when they met the Outlaws. They’re certainly players to watch for this game.
But also keep an eye out for Sean Keegan and Chris Kocher – two huge additions by the Empire this off-season that have been amongst the best in club ultimate for the past few seasons. They come with previous professional league experience, and should instantly strengthen the team no matter which side of the disc they find themselves on. Kocher played for New York PoNY, the club men’s team, last season, and his presence on the offensive line provided a needed spark. While Keegan brings championship experience after his time on Denver’s Johnny Bravo in club men’s ultimate, winning the title in 2014.
Important Number — 1
1 – This is game number one for the Empire, the start of their season. Fortunately for the team, this game is at home. For the Outlaws, and many other teams across the league, they have to start the season on the road.
The first game is the first real look at the team, and can be indicative of how the team will compete over the course of the season. As a team, you want to come out and look as fiery and unstoppable as possible. You want to shake away any demons that remain from the season prior, and set the tone for every game going forward. You want opponents to look at the results of this game, and tremble in fear.
It helps when you’re making your season debut in front of the home crowd in the best city on Earth.
Getting to the Game
4pm start time at Randall’s Island Field 10, aka “The Pit”
Get Directions Here — Get Tickets Here
Before the game, New York Ultimate is sponsoring a hat tournament. From 11am-3:30pm right before the game, there will be a hat tournament on the Randall’s Island fields. The tournament aims for 4/3 gender ratio, and each team is guaranteed 3 games plus placement. Bonus: you receive a ticket to the game as part of playing in the tournament.
Check the forecast for the day here.
After the game, come out for the DiscNY Spring Social and Fundraiser for a Speakeasy-themed night at The Folly to benefit YCC and GUM initiatives.
Games to Watch
The Empire aren’t the only team in the Eastern Division playing this weekend, get a clue on their opponents.
On Sunday, April 10th, the Outlaws head down to Washington D.C. to play the Breeze. It’s a back-to-back for the Outlaws, and the season debut for the Breeze. They’re the only other division opponents this weekend, but Week 2 brings us the season debut of the defending champion San Jose Spiders on Friday, April 8th as well.