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Fuelling our fire

by , | Mar 5, 2024 | In The Mag!, Sports | 0 comments

Let’s make the Griffins’ den roar once more

Deep in the belly of Rogers Place, far from the main arena where thousands of fans pack the stands 75 nights a year for Oilers and Oil Kings home games, lies a small, unassuming ice rink. The City of Edmonton’s logo is at centre ice, and the Oilers and Oil King’s logos are plastered on the wall underneath an old LED scoreboard. Upon first glance, one would assume that this tiny barn was used for the pro teams’ practices or by the community. And, you’d be right; that is the main purpose of the Downtown Community Arena. But, to the left of the Oilers logo and above your heads, you might see, for the first time, the blazing maroon of the MacEwan Griffins. For 17 weeks a year, this is our house.

Photo of Brianna Sank

When the men’s team scored the championship-winning goal at the end of the 2019-20 season, Griffins fans, family members, and classmates leapt from their seats, screamed, and pounded the boards as the players’ gloves and sticks scattered on the ice. With the following Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) season being cancelled due to the pandemic, the legendary three-peat marked good things to come for the Griffins upon their 2021-22 entrance into U Sports’s Canada West league.

Brianna Sank, the current goaltender for the women’s hockey team, remembers the crowd. “That support and pride is what you always strive for,” she says.

Three years ago, MacEwan moved from ACAC to U Sports, the primary sports-governing body for Canada’s top universities. Before the switch, the Griffins demolished their opponents, with both the men’s and women’s teams claiming three league hockey championships in a row.

“They had high status and were a really strong team,” says Sydney Hughson, the senior and current women’s captain.

The men’s goaltender Thomas Davis says the U Sports league as “a lot faster.” 

The team that takes the ice each weekend plays hard and fast, electrifying the building whether they win or lose. But, the on-ice passion falls on deaf ears and empty seats. It’s a student ghost town with the majority of ticket holders being family and friends. Back in the ACAC, that was very different.

The men’s goaltender Thomas Davis says the U Sports league as “a lot faster.”

“The guys are bigger, and they care a bit more. They skate harder, and our regime amped it up. There’s mandatory workouts and a personal trainer,” he says.

It’s no secret to anyone invested in college sports that the process of entering a new league comes with some growing pains. And, that’s been true for MacEwan who is now at the tail-end of their third season playing against Canada West powerhouses like the University of Alberta, the University of British Columbia, and the University of Calgary. 

“The competitiveness of the league is a big difference,” adds Kole Gable, the senior and men’s captain. “There are a lot of good players that you don’t realize are still playing hockey in college. It’s nice to put yourselves up against that level.” 

Seeing MacEwan students absent from the bleachers is disheartening. The players give 100 per cent out on the ice, showcasing their unwavering commitment to representing you. They deserve the same electric student atmosphere one can feel in arenas such as the University of Alberta’s Golden Bears rink. A community built by the student body adds fuel to the teams’ fire and boosts the game-day experience. 

“It’s gritty and hard work…” says Hughson. “It doesn’t matter if you’re first or last or how many points you have; it’s about who’s willing to show up and work hard in that game. That’s what MacEwan’s known for.”

Our Griffins teams’ dedication is unquestionable. Such hard work should be acknowledged with the kind of earnest support that no one brings like rowdy uni students. Get together as “Griff Nation” and foster an atmosphere that not only boosts the team’s energy, but also show that camaraderie and pride that defines MacEwan. It’s time for us to take the enthusiasm our players demonstrate on the ice and reciprocate it in the stands. Let’s make our presence known in our house.

MacEwan needs students back in the stands come the 2024/25 season.

“As a student, you have a vested interest… this is my team representing the school, ” says Giancarlo Zenari, a student who cheered on the men’s team on Jan. 26. “Seeing people you see around campus but in a different context… it was a lot of fun, I really enjoyed it!” 

Veterans of college hockey know that this sport brings energy to schools and the surrounding communities.

Photo of Jesse Jack

“In my first year, we were in Morden, Manitoba, which is a small town, and the whole community came there,” says star player Jesse Jack as she remembers the most electric atmosphere she played in. “It was good to see how much a community came around and supported women’s hockey. I think it’s nice to see how it’s growing.”

MacEwan needs students back in the stands come the 2024/25 season. Show up and cheer until your lungs give out, whether it be to see men’s player Ethan Strang and his questionable tape job (pointed out by forward Carter Chorney), or to hear the faint echo of “Sad Boy Country” coming from Jack Parker’s phone (or not, as his aux privileges have been revoked). As you head out the door, don’t forget to put on your right sock and shoe before the left in order to mirror the women’s equipment routine. Any Griffins game is sure to be stuffed with laughs, smiles, and an overall electric night.

Cheering on our Griffins teams isn’t just about the game itself; it’s a demonstration of MacEwan pride. Every weekend, as the puck hits the ice, let’s don our maroon-and-white, paint our faces, and scream our hearts out. When our players skate, they skate for us. The community we can foster as students is unlike any other league. The closest connection any of us will likely ever have to our favourite sports teams is being a simple fan. We’re never going to be Oilers players. But, we will always be the MacEwan Griffins.

Photos by Gerard Murray

Avery Chilton

The Griff


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