After a 15-year absence, Carleton University’s Ravens football team resumed play in September with Canadian Interuniversity Sport – and with that comes the revival of a storied tradition known as the Panda Game played against cross-town rivals, the University of Ottawa Gee Gees.
The friendly match-up between the two football teams dates back more than 50 years. It has its origins in a little stuffed panda named Pedro, introduced in 1955 by a University of Ottawa student journalist to promote the rivalry (the natty stuffed bear was replaced by a bronze trophy in 1979).
The annual Panda Game quickly became a popular event, attracting as many as 15,000 fans to Lansdowne Park stadium – more than any regular season contest in Canadian university football. The game also became notorious for its drunken shenanigans, which sometimes threatened to derail the tradition, particularly after a tragedy in 1987 when a railing gave way at the stadium, causing 30 Carleton students to fall from the stands, some seriously injured. The last Panda Game was played in 1998.
This year’s game was scheduled to take place Oct. 5 at the new, smaller Gee-Gees Field on the U of Ottawa campus, while Lansdowne undergoes renovations in preparation for a CFL team in 2014. The U of Ottawa stadium can hold just 4,152 fans.
Gee Gees coach Jamie Barresi told a sports blog he’s happy for the return of the game, minus the hijinks of yesteryear. “I really do hope that some traditions are going to be buried,” he said.
Ravens quarterback Jesse Mills is also looking forward to the event. “It will be big. I have been talking to alumni and they are very excited about it, too. I think it’ll be tremendous.”