If you’ve ever walked through Building 8 at MacEwan University’s City Centre Campus, you’ve probably seen quite a few students wearing maroon hoodies sitting at the tables near the staircase to the gym.
Many of them are athletes who play on one of MacEwan’s sports teams: hockey, soccer, basketball, volleyball, curling, golf, or cross-country running.
They’re also students who have to balance athletics alongside school, work and a social life. With everything on their plates, it would be understandable if any time they had left over was spent sleeping or relaxing.
Yet if you go to any of the Griffins’ home games, there’s a good chance you’ll see other MacEwan athletes in the crowd.
So far in the 2016-17 season, several Griffins teams have showed their support at men’s and women’s hockey and soccer games – this despite their incredibly busy student athlete schedules.
“To be in varsity sports, your time-management skills have to be spot-on,” women’s soccer coach Dean Cordeiro said.
Both men’s and women’s soccer teams play at Jasper Place Bowl, 15 minutes away from MacEwan’s City Centre Campus.
“Because we’re off campus, sometimes it’s a bit trickier for teams to come out and support us,” he said.
But Cordeiro said the other Griffins teams still make it out to women’s soccer games in spite of the distance.
“It’s great to see teams come out and support us (when they can),” he said.
MacEwan’s hockey teams faced similar issues with location last season. The men’s team played at Bill Hunter Arena, adjacent to Jasper Place Bowl, and the women’s team played at Confederation Arena on Edmonton’s south side.
With the new Downtown Community Arena opening this year, the teams finally play under the same roof — and in the same neighbourhood as MacEwan’s downtown campus.
For the women’s team, playing in their own arena meant two things: having their own dressing rooms for the first time in their team’s history, and playing much closer to campus. This could mean more fan support during the 2016 season.
For forward Shanya Shwetz, that support is instrumental for the women’s team.
“The crowd (can) give a different atmosphere to the game,” she said. “You’re going to skate just a little bit faster (and) win that extra battle, because they’re there to support you and you’re going to give them a reason to support you.”
Their new location also means they will likely see more support from their fellow athletes. Shwetz said that, while some teams made it out to games at Confederation Arena, being 20 minutes away from MacEwan’s downtown campus made the trek a bit tougher.
Still, Shwetz recalled the support her team received during last year’s playoffs, when many people from the athletics department came out to cheer them on.
“Last year we had our playoff game. Usually we get about 90 fans to our game,” she said. “But all the teams came out, and (some members of) Sports and Wellness did, too. They packed our stands.”
The support from other athletics teams means a lot to Shwetz and the rest of her team. As athletes, they understand the time management and effort it takes.
“It’s important when I see other athletes at our games. It gives us better community dynamic,” she said. “It’s difficult (to make our schedules work), but our coaches help accommodate that.”
Scheduling is a big part of it, but all sports at MacEwan have some kind of disadvantage when it comes to other Griffins athletes’ support. Soccer’s season starts earlier than others, but attendance is made difficult by the distance from campus. Hockey’s season also starts a bit earlier, when preseason and training are already in full swing for the remaining sports.
As for the volleyball and basketball teams, their schedules line up almost perfectly.
Since both sports play in the same venue, one sport will generally be away while the other is at home, unless the other team is playing across the river against the University of Alberta.
Despite these conflicts, teams still make it out to games because of the athletes’ willingness and desire to support those who support them.
With the opening of the new arena this year, many other athletics teams were out cheering for both the men’s and women’s hockey teams.
Perhaps the loudest of the bunch during the men’s home opener was the men’s basketball team. Basketball guard/forward Denzel James banged a garbage can and chanted “let’s go Griffins” to liven up the already boisterous crowd.
James and his team make a point to show up to as many home openers as possible — and he always makes a point to be as loud as possible.
“We don’t go to games to just sit there,” he said. “We go there to make it loud, (because) that’s the type of atmosphere I like to play in.”
Shwetz recalled a game the team attended last year at City Centre Campus. One of her teammates sometimes dressed up as Griff, the MacEwan Griffins’ mascot, during home games at City Centre Campus.
“She killed it,” Shwetz said, recalling how her teammate hyped up the crowd in the mascot costume despite the cooling system in the costume being broken. “We’re willing to support each other not only by watching (the games), but by going the extra mile.”
It’s going that extra mile that pushes Griffins teams to perform their best and reinforces the group’s cohesiveness. MacEwan continues to thrive as a “university with a community feeling,” and their athletics are no different.
“It’s a community within a community at MacEwan,” James said.
“It’s massive to have that type of support,” Cordeiro added. “It’s a little fraternity that we have.”
Photography by Eduardo Perez and Len Joudrey.