These Nomads seek the ultimate pasture

Nomads ready for Canadian ultimate championships this week

Dave Pettenuzzo is part of the Nomads

Overlooking View Street, Dave Pettenuzzo’s office is well-decorated with national and world championship trophies.

The trophies belong to the Nomads.

This week Pettenuzzo is strapping on the cleats one more time as his team, the reigning world-champion Nomads, is competing in the masters division (over-33) of the Canadian Ultimate Championships, which run Thursday to Sunday on the grounds of Landsdowne middle school, Topaz Park, St. Michaels University School and Royal Athletic Park.

The 45-year-old has been playing ultimate Frisbee since 1990, and is a patriarch of the sport not just on his team, but in Victoria.

“It’s been a long, long journey for the Nomads,” Pettenuzzo said.

Ultimate tournaments allow a maximum of 28 players per roster, and the Nomads always fill the quota, he added.

“Some are newer to the team, but most of the guys go way back to the early days in the 1990s. And it’s more than a team. We’ve truly evolved into a lifelong brotherhood.”

Pettenuzzo joined the Nomads when he arrived here in 1993 and has since inherited a leading role with the team. He also founded the Victoria Ultimate Players Society, organizers of Victoria’s summer league, and current hosts for this Canadian Ultimate Championships.

The tournament is especially big for the Nomads, winners of multiple national and world titles in the open and masters (over-33) divisions. In 1997 the Nomads placed seventh at nationals here in Victoria. The majority of the team pulled double-duty as hosts for that event.

They’d like to win it here on their home turf, because if the Nomads have a home, it’s here.

“We’re also getting older,” Pettenuzzo said. “When a player retires due to their age, we say ‘they’ve gone to pasture.’ I’ve been thinking about it myself. A few guys have been talking about it.”

As a husband and a father to two boys, 12 and 8, it’s never easy for Pettenuzzo and the core of 20-odd teammates to get together for a tournament. But it’s about much more than that, he says.

“From the time Dave Martin founded this team in 1990-91, it’s been a tribe mentality,” he said, “a special bond as brothers.”

The original idea was to have a group of players who jumped in a van and travelled to tournaments. It turned into a world-class team, which is renowned for its play and for its spirit, part of the positive vibe that ultimate, a self-refereed sport, is meant to run on.

“We actually have get-togethers that aren’t for ultimate at all,” Pettenuzzo explained.

Twice a year the Nomads regroup for a non-ultimate reunion, one of them a disc golf tournament along the Lillooet River. The winner gets a green hoody, akin to the green blazer of golf’s The Masters.

The disc golf tourney will continue on, even if the team’s ultimate days don’t.

Naturally, it would be fitting to win one more national title, and on home soil, to boot.

“It would be nice. Certainly we’ve got some very talented players and we all know what to do.”

The Nomads are the favourite but face a tough division with Figjam (Calgary),  NSOM (Montreal), BDU (Toronto/Ottawa), FLOOD (Winnipeg), Pioneer (Calgary)  andVictoria’s own Republic. Vancouver’s infamous Furious George are favourites to win the men’s open category.

Vancouver’s infamous Furious George are favourites to win the men’s open category.

More than 1,500 players on dozens of teams will compete in five divisions, the men’s open and women’s open, mixed open, juniors (under-18), and men’s masters (over-33).

Locals playing for the Nomads this week are Pettenuzzo, Chris Carmack and Jeff Shields.

The rest live around B.C., parts of Alberta with one from Toronto.

“They all have history here but have moved away to enrich their lives in other places,” Pettenuzzo said.

The Nomads won the men’s open national title in 2001, 2004, 2005 and 2008, and in 2011 as a masters team. They won the men’s masters 2012 world championship in Japan last month representing as Team Canada, a roster largely different from the one that will take the field on Thursday.