The Panda Game is one of the most anticipated of Canada university football events. (Submitted image)
A tradition like non-other in Canadian university football, the annual Panda Game, powered by Insurego, in which cross-town rivals the Carleton University Ravens and the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees meet for a thrilling battle of athletic prowess with school pride on the line, is set for October 5 at noon (12:00 p.m.). Tickets for the 2019 Panda Game go on sale August 23 at 10:00 a.m. at TDPlace.ca, by calling 613.232.6767 X1 or in person at the TD Place box office.
A new modern-day record crowd of 24,470 packed TD Place in 2018 for the 50th edition of the Panda Game to witness another thriller as the uOttawa’s Gee-Gees reclaimed Pedro the Panda in a 38-27 win over the Caleton Ravens. The Gee-Gees have the all-time record of 33-17, but Carleton had won the previous four since their return in 2013, with the four consecutive victories also establishing a school record (uOttawa’s best run was seven wins in a row between 1957 and 1963).
“This event has become one of the most anticipated sporting happening on the calendar, and not just for students and alumni, but the whole city lights up around this game,” said Mark Goudie, CEO of the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, owner/operator of TD Place. “Every year the crowds get bigger and the games get more intense. The Panda Game is such a fantastic showcase for the sport, the universities involved and our venue; there is always a great energy that permeates TD Place on that day!”
The first Panda Game was played at Lansdowne Park in 1955 and continued annually until the 1998 season. The Ravens returned to the gridiron in 2013 with the Panda Game returning to Lansdowne in 2014. Since then the rivalry has lived up to its lore treating students, alumni and fans to a ‘Hail Mary’ game-winning catch giving Carleton their first Panda Game win since 1994 and a double-overtime thriller (48-45) when Carleton edged uOttawa in the highest-scoring result in Panda Game history.
Over 102,000 students, alumni and fans have experienced the Panda Game over the last four years at TD Place.
“Each year we know it’s going to be a battle,” said Jamie Barresi, Head Coach of the uOttawa Gee-Gees. “This is a game that the whole campus and football community looks forward to and we recruit kids that want to play in this game.”
The Gee-Gees enter the 2019 season with a strong core of returning players including seven starters on offence and 10 on defence. Those returning players come off of a 6-2 campaign in 2018 which netted a second place finish in the OUA regular season including a 38-27 recapturing of Pedro at TD Place. The Gee-Gees poised to once again compete amongst the nation’s best in 2019.
“The Panda Game is an exciting date on our calendar every year,” commented Steve Sumarah, Head Coach of the Carleton Ravens. “It’s a great opportunity for the players and fans to keep our healthy rivalry alive. The Gee-Gees give us a challenge every year and we expect the same from them this year.”
The Ravens will be entering their 7th season of play following their 15-year hiatus from CIS football. With the graduation of the “First Class” of Ravens, the program is settling into a more normal routine. Change in the players and some changes in the coaching staff has brought a new beginning to the “Second Wave” of the Ravens.