This season, the most anticipated meeting between the Mount Royal University Cougars and the University of Calgary Dinos will take place on Saddledome ice. On Feb. 7, the Dinos and Cougars will meet for the final games of the “Crowchild Classic.”
This school year marks the first year that both Calgary universities are competing in the same conference. MRU formerly played in the Alberta College Athletics Conference with smaller schools like SAIT and Keyano College.
The Crowchild Classic is a campaign inspired by Crowchild Trail — a road that both the U of C and MRU share — measuring the record of each university when playing against each other in a variety of CIS sports. The Classic is 17 games in total with the team that wins the most games claiming the title. Each school earns a point for a team’s victory in a particular sport. This year, the Crowchild Classic began on Sept. 16 with a matchup in soccer.
The U of C has already clinched this year’s Classic with eight wins, two ties and three losses in previous competitions this season. However, the games played at the Saddledome will surely be the most memorable part of the Classic this year.
The prize for the victor of this rivalry: a 68-kilogram cast iron City of Calgary manhole cover known as the “Medal.”
This icon of Calgarian university glory will become the symbol of the Crowchild Classic and is likely the heaviest medal in sports.
“We have looked at a lot of other cities across North America that have this cross-town university rivalry, but in Canada it is a little more limited,” said Dinos assistant athletic director Ben Matchett. “The real inspiration came from Los Angeles between USC versus UCLA — it was that kind of varsity feel that we were trying to engage with this.”
A cross-town collegiate rivalry is a great way of sparking interest in university athletics —tearing cities apart while simultaneously uniting them. It is easy to look to the NCAA for examples of this type of rivalry, like basketball games between Duke and North Carolina in the “Battle of Tobacco Road” or the University of Southern California Trojans versus the University of California Los Angeles Bruins in a battle for Los Angeles football supremacy.
Few would think Calgary has the capacity to support such a rivalry, but as of September 2012 and the introduction of MRU into the Canada West conference and Canadian Interuniversity Sport, the Dinos and Cougars are now intra-city rivals in the same collegiate conference.
The opportunity for the Dinos and Cougars to play a game at the Saddledome will hopefully spark interest from both campuses for the burgeoning Classic.
“It is huge just from a legitimacy perspective. It was the Flames that approached us with the idea before the lockout ended,” said Matchett. “They were committed to it, lock-out or not, and to get an organization like the Flames behind us is a fabulous opportunity for our student athletes, especially for the women’s team, and to showcase CIS hockey in this city.”
Dinos athletics have had a longstanding and well-documented challenge with attracting students to sporting events, with fan attendance often falling in the bottom third of the CIS. However, Matchett believes that this campaign may significantly improve student awareness about games and events in the following years.
“We have tried to appeal to students in as many different ways as we can, and what this is really appealing to is their pride,” said Matchett. “There are two things that will always galvanize students at the U of C: Bermuda Shorts Day and that we’re not Mount Royal. We’ve seen some early success with that.”
Despite the return of the NHL, catching live hockey isn’t something a lot of students are going out of their way to see or empty their pockets for. However, the Calgary Flames have generously made the game a free event, making tickets widely available all over both campuses for the next week. In addition to this already enticing event, the ticket is also good for no line, no cover at Cowboys following the game.
“The idea is that they want to create the best party atmosphere at the game as possible,” said Matchett. “This is an opportunity to get the same experience [as a Flames game], it just happens to be your team playing and it doesn’t cost you a penny to get down there.”
Earlier this season, the men’s team salvaged a split of their first two matchups with the Cougars, while the women’s team soundly swept both meetings back in November.
This series could have significant importance on playoff positioning as the Dinos men’s team is trying to secure a top seed for the CW playoffs and potential home-ice advantage. Both the women’s and men’s MRU teams will be looking to lock down a playoff spot in the final games of the regular season.
Dinos fans are encouraged to wear red as each school’s students will have a designated section of the Saddledome to sit together. Tickets are free and are available at the U of C bookstore, Stör, Bound and Copied, the Students’ Union, kinesiology client services and main alumni services office in the Taylor Family Digital Library. The women play at 5:45 p.m. and the men’s game is immediately after at 7:45.
The Dinos are looking to take down their cross-town rivals with the support of students behind them. Those coming to the Saddledome will see fast, hard-hitting hockey between two teams with plenty of history and a long future of intense competition.