By Linda Scales
October means it’s Panda time in Ottawa … especially at the University of Ottawa and Carleton University. The Panda Game is one of Canada’s most popular university football matches, with two crosstown rivals facing off and bringing together students and the local community.
Although the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees may own the all-time Panda Game record of 33-14, the Carleton Ravens are 2-1 since the game’s return in 2013. But the culture of the event is all about fun and bringing the trophy, Pedro the Panda, home to the winning side. The game’s colourful past includes a few shenanigans, which the Gazette briefly outlines below in a selected history.
Fulcrum associate editor Bryan McNulty and sports editor Thomas White ask Jack Snow, a prominent Sparks Street jeweller, to donate a black and white stuffed panda bear to be awarded to the winner of a football game between the University of Ottawa and Carleton University. McNulty and White then organized the first “Pandanapping.” The result of the first Panda Game: 14-6 Carleton.
After uOttawa defeated Carleton 25-0, Pedro the Panda visits six universities across Canada and the U.S. There are rumours Pedro also travels to Peru, Mexico and Europe.
The non-aggression pact between the two universities prior to the Panda Game doesn’t hold. Student night raiders use toilet paper and paint to great effect.
The Panda Game is threatened because of student vandalism before the previous year’s game. In an effort to keep the game, organizers change the traditional pre-game “Hate Week” to “Love Week.” The hippie movement is in full swing and Pedro becomes a flower child at age 13.
Five greased pigs are released onto the Lansdowne Park field from a box marked “Carleton Pork Chops.” The Ottawa Humane Society lays charges against the uOttawa students behind the prank. The crosstown rivalry is very much alive, and the game continues to be known more for its pre-game shenanigans than for football.
The original Pedro is retired at 24 and replaced with a heavy copper replica. For the stuffed bear, this game is his last before going into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. The Gee-Gees win and bring Pedro home.
The PLO (Pedro Liberation Organization) kidnaps the poor bear. Based at Queen’s University, the PLO wants to humiliate uOttawa and Carleton, promote Queen’s engineering faculty and raise money for African famine relief. Pedro donates all of his profits to Africa after the well-publicized “Pand-Aid.”
In response to a 1987 accident, in which more than 30 Carleton fans tumbled two stories from the Lansdowne Park north side stands onto the concrete below when a railing gave way, heavy security and limited ticket sales are instituted. Both attendance and crowd spirit are low.
The uOttawa and Carleton teams do not know this, but they are playing the last Panda game for 15 years. Despite the strong 44-year-old Panda rivalry, Carleton retires its football program. It returns in 2013.
To celebrate the game, Pedro (the third) is reborn when the two universities commission local sculptor Dale Dunning to recreate the trophy. uOttawa is victorious, 35-10.
Carleton wins its first Panda since the renewal of its football program with a last-second 55-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass, winning 33-31. The fans immediately storm the field.
Some 17,600 people — the largest crowd at a regular-season Canadian Interuniversity Sport event — attend the highest-scoring Panda Game of all time. Carleton beats uOttawa 48-45.
2016 — What to know before the match
- Belleville native Derek Wendel, a 2015 Ontario all-star, is quarterback of this year’s Garnet and Grey. The head coach is Jamie Barresi.
- The Panda Game will be televised at 1 p.m. (EST) across Canada on City TV.
- Going into the October 1 game, the Gee-Gees are ranked seventh and the Ravens tenth (CIS).
- The 48th Panda Game will start with an exclusive pre-game party at the Aberdeen Pavilion. More than 900 will attend. Join the fun!
- For the second time, Panda will be played at TD Place Stadium. The Gee-Gees fan section will be in the north side stands.
- The weather is forecast to be 17 C and cloudy with a chance of showers.