Return of the Panda
For the unfamiliar, the Panda Game is not what you think. You’re just going to have to stop picturing two black and white beasts jostling for position over the next slice of bamboo. This highly anticipated matchup is actually one of the most awaited university football games on the U Sports calendar year. Sorry pandas, best move over for some Ravens.
This is one historical clash with the first Panda Game dating back over six decades. In 1955, University of Ottawa student (and campus paper editor) Bryan McNutty had a, well, McNutty idea that would go on to make history when he approached an O-town jeweler named Jack Snow. Did he want a diamond ring? Nope! A gold necklace? Nada. Silver-plated goal posts? Uh-uh. He asked for a stuffed panda that would be named Pedro to serve as mascot for the UofO Gee-Gees. Bet you didn’t see that coming?
The beloved Pedro the Panda would be displayed in Snow’s shop with the crafty paper editor staging a false kid…err…pandanapping to occur by the team rivals. An early form of Fake News? Perhaps, but it worked! Pedro and the now yearly matchup both became iconic in the annals of university sports.
Need some proof that this just instant at 50’s novelty? Last year’s game between the Gee-Gees and Carleton Ravens was a record breaker! 23,329 filled TD Place to watch the Ravens snatch up their third straight victory (though Gee-Gees fans will tell you they stand taller over all with 32 wins over 16 loses). In the last three years, 54,000 students, alumni and fans have continued to share in the game’s popularity.
“This isn't just the most anticipated event for students and alumni, but for all of us at TD Place – it is always circled on the calendar," said Mike Cerha, VP Venues and Entertainment at TD Place. “Every year the crowds get bigger and the games get more intense. The atmosphere is electric, not just inside TD Place, but through Lansdowne."
Yes, the Panda Game has much excitement in its storied history. There’s the famed ‘Hail Mary” catch that broke the Raven’s losing streak back in 1994 and people still talk about the double OT heart-stopper that became the highest scoring match in the game’s history.
"The Panda Game is a tremendous event for university football and for our fans. We expect to represent our University in a first class manner," said Gee-Gees head coach Jamie Barresi. "This is the most important game of the season for us and we're very much looking forward to the day and the opportunity to line up on that field again."
Ravens head coach Steve Sumarah adds: "One of the best weeks of the year in Ottawa is Panda week. It brings out so much passion and energy in the city around university football, it is fantastic for our sport. The Ravens are looking forward to another exciting game and continuing our great rivalry with the Gee-Gees."
Both teams go into the coming came strong. The Ravens hold a season opener win against Queens and the Gee-Gees bested Guelph in an overtime stunner. Who’ll come out on top when these two collide again? Be part of the Panda Game’s next thrilling chapter September 30. Tell ‘em Pedro sent ya’!