Panda: 50 games of rivalry and antics

Posted on Monday, September 24, 2018

uOttawa fans and Pedro at the Panda Game.

I spy…Pedro among uOttawa fans in the stands at the 2017 Panda Game. Photo: Gord Weber

By Linda Scales

A 50-game Canadian classic, the Panda Game is a fierce but friendly football rivalry between uOttawa and Carleton University and a highly anticipated Ottawa fall tradition. Not to mention the team that wins the Game receives the bear-shaped trophy named Pedro — and earns some serious bragging rights.

In celebration of the match’s anniversary, we’ve compiled 50 interesting facts and photos.

♦ The 50th edition of the Panda Game kicks off at 1 p.m. on September 29, 2018, at Ottawa’s TD Place stadium.

♦ Started in 1955, Panda has become one of Canada’s most enduring and popular university football matches, anticipated each fall by uOttawa and Carleton students, alumni and local fans.

Newspaper front page.

The Fulcrum’s front page on October 19, 1955, reveals the real story behind the “Pandanapping” incident.

♦ As the mastermind of Panda, SFUO’s publicity director Brian McA’Nulty wanted to encourage the rivalry between the two universities. He accepted the “donation” of a three-foot stuffed black and white panda bear from Ottawa jeweller Jack Snow back in 1955.

♦ Named Pedro, the stuffed toy became the game’s mascot and was its first trophy. Pedro has been replaced twice since 1955.

♦ Forty-seven Panda games have been played at Lansdowne Park, now the location of the TD Place stadium.

Off-field Panda shenanigans

♦ The week preceding the game is often referred to as “Panda Week.”

♦ The game’s reputation as an alcohol-fuelled excuse for a party and its cross-town antics have caused many headaches through the years.

♦ Also in 1955, Brian McA’Nulty — in cahoots with Carleton — organized the first Pandanapping, the kidnapping of Pedro from Mr. Snow’s Sparks Street jewellery store display window to attract publicity for the game. It was the first of many off-field Panda shenanigans.

♦ After uOttawa defeated Carleton 25–0 in 1958, Pedro the Panda visited six universities across Canada and the US. There have been rumours he also travelled to Peru, Mexico and Europe.

♦ Pedro has also been held for ransom, parachuted into Lansdowne Park, buried in a soccer field, formally mentioned in the House of Commons and transported to the game in an armoured Brinks truck!

♦ During their victory celebrations, players of both teams have handled Pedro, signed their names on his fur in black ink and pinned him with pennants. He has character!

♦ A non-aggression pact signed between Carleton and uOttawa in 1965 attempted to curtail Panda antics, but it didn’t stick.

♦ Commando raids organized by students of both universities in 1967 put the future of the Panda Game at risk.

♦ In the wake of student vandalism before the 1967 match, organizers subsequently attempted to save the game. In 1968, they changed the traditional pre-game “Hate Week” to “Love Week.” Since the hippie movement was in full swing, Pedro became a flower child at age 13.

♦ In 1977, five greased pigs were released onto the Lansdowne Park field during half time from a box marked “Carleton Pork Chops.” The Ottawa Humane Society laid charges against the uOttawa students behind the prank.

♦ In 1985, the Pedro Liberation Organization (PLO) kidnapped Pedro. The PLO (Queen’s University engineering students) wanted to humiliate the two Ottawa universities, while promoting the Queen’s engineering faculty and raising money for African famine relief. All game profits from “Pand-Aid” were donated.

♦ In 1987, when a stadium railing on Lansdowne Park’s north side gave way, more than 30 Carleton fans were injured — some seriously — after tumbling two stories to the concrete below.

♦ In response to the previous year’s accident, security was enhanced and ticket sales were curtailed in 1988. Both attendance and morale were low that year.

Fierce competition

uOttawa football player catches the ball with one hand.

Gee-Gees player Carter Matheson in the 2017 game.

♦ The Gee-Gees own the all-time Panda Game record of 32–17 wins to losses.

♦ Although Panda is a regular season game for both football teams, winning it is definitely all about the bragging rights it brings.

♦ 1975 was a magical year for the Gee-Gees. In addition to triumphing at the Panda Game, the team won the Vanier Cup, the national championship of Canadian university football. (uOttawa won the Vanier Cup in 2000 as well.)

♦ Twenty-one players from the 1975 winning team were selected in the CFL draft, a Canadian Interuniversity Sports record, a draft that included Neil Lumsden, Doug Falconer, Eric Upton and Jeff Avery. The team’s head coach that year was former CFL’er Don Gilbert.

♦ The last game with the original Pedro was in 1979. The Gee-Gees were victorious in that match: 28–16. After being replaced by a heavy bronze replica, Pedro was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.

♦ The Gee-Gees’ own the Panda record for the longest winning streak — seven years, between 1957 and 1963.

♦ The Gee-Gees also own the record for the greatest margin of victory, 44–0 in 1957, followed by 42–0 in 1959.

♦ Despite the popularity of the Panda Game, uOttawa and Carleton played their last match in 1998 because Carleton retired its football program. The Gee-Gees won the last showdown 59–17 and brought home the bronze Pedro, which was then retired to the University of Ottawa Archives.

♦ To celebrate the return of Panda in 2013, with the return of the Carleton football program, a third version of Pedro made from brushed aluminum was created by local sculptor Dale Dunning. uOttawa was victorious: 35–10.

An RCMP officer carries the new Panda trophy onto the field.

In 2013, the new Panda trophy was escorted onto the field by an RCMP officer.

♦ The 2014 Panda game was the first of the “modern-era” games, played at the TD Place stadium.

♦ Carleton snatched victory in 2014, winning 33–31 with a last-second 55-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass that costed a uOttawa victory. It was the Carleton’s first Panda Game since returning to football.

♦ To this day, the 2014 game is technically unfinished, because Carleton fans stormed the field before the extra point could be kicked.

♦ A record crowd of 24,420 people attended Panda in 2017 (beating the previous year’s record by 1,091). Carleton’s Ravens won 33–30 in double overtime.

In 2018

♦ Once again, uOttawa’s Alumni Relations is pulling out all the stops for the Panda Game by offering game tickets and a pre-game party at Lansdowne Park’s Aberdeen Pavilion. Order your tickets.

♦ uOttawa’s traditional colours, garnet and grey, had local sports media calling the university’s teams by the colours’ initials, “GG.” Don’t forget to wear garnet and grey to the game!

Gee-Gees cheerleaders standing in formation.

uOttawa’s cheerleaders in formation at the 2015 Panda Game at TD Place.

♦ Going into the September 29 game, the Gee-Gees are 3 in 1 and the third placed team in the Ontario University Athletics conference. The Ravens are 4 in 1 and the OUA’s second-placed team.

♦ Gee-Gees fans will be in the north side stands.

♦ The Gee-Gees’ head coach is former uOttawa quarterback Jamie Barresi (BSc ’81, BEd ’84).

♦ First-year quarterback (and history student)  Sawyer Buettner will lead the 2018 Gee-Gees squad against Carleton.

♦ This year’s contest will be televised live on CHCH.

♦ Despite fond memories of past traditions, there will be zero tolerance for visible signs of impairment under the TD Place alcohol management policy. Also, alcohol cannot be brought into the stadium, but fans aged 19 and over with valid photo ID can buy alcoholic beverages inside.

♦ The weather on September 29 is forecast to be 15 C and a mix of sun and cloud.

♦ Be loud and proud! Use #BringPedroHome when posting about the game on all your social media accounts, check out the sweet Panda Snapchat filters too.

A crowd of fans cheering in the stands.

The 2016 Panda Game chalked up record attendance, subsequently beaten in 2017. Photo: Ellen Bond

Newspaper front page.

A November 2, 1965, newspaper article about Panda shenanigans.

The 1977 Gee-Gees football team on the field.

1977 uOttawa Gee-Gees.

An illustration of Pedro the Panda.

Pedro the Panda, the mascot of Ottawa’s annual Panda Game

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