10 reasons to start your Saturday nights at the rink
Coach Bert Gilling and fans speak up about Cougars hockey
The Cougars men’s hockey team destroyed their University of Lethbridge opponents 7 – 0 on Saturday, Sept. 27. The women’s team won their second game, on Oct. 5, against the University of Calgary in a shoot out. This year’s teams mean business during their first season as full Canadian Interuniversity Sport members. For hockey fans, students and non-fans alike, Mount Royal University hockey is a great way to kick start your weekend. Have you ever been to a game?
Walk down the halls of MRU and unless you’re reading the posters, it’s hard to tell that it’s game day. Unlike other universities, blue and white pride is no-where to be seen.
Bert Gilling is the new men’s hockey coach. MRU’s fan base is a lot different than what he’s used to, having coached for 19 years in the United States.
“There is tremendous support and pride in the U.S. for high school and collegiate sports. Athletics are celebrated and are often viewed as the front-porch to those institutions. Campus students would line-up for hours to get the premium seats for the student section,” says Gilling.
He is responsible for getting the guys game day ready, but Gilling is also is actively involved in student and alumni engagement. He says that any school can build its sports pride and that MRU is no different.
“I’d say that MRU has the potential for a very strong fan base. I see the images from the Crowchild Classic game, at the Scotiabank Saddledome, of around 6,000 students mostly decked out in blue and white, cheering and having a great time. I see evidence of what it could be here all the time.”
It only takes one day to catch the hockey fever. Here are 10 reasons why you should start your Saturday night at a Cougars hockey game and show your pride a bit more this season:
1. It saves you cash
Games are cheap entertainment. If you did not yet know that all Cougars games are free of entry with a MRU student ID, now you know. Also, the Cougars hockey teams play a mere ten minute walk away from campus, across Crowchild Trail at the Flames Community Arenas. No cab fair — enough said. The home opener had free Weaselhead wings offers, free swag giveaways and cheap 50/50 tickets. Friday’s game, on Oct. 4, featured the chance to win a free GM Shaganappi car.
2. There is beer
Right above the Cougars’ arena is the Olympics Bar and Grill. The bar features a selection of on-tap brews and a food menu all at decent price. You can’t bring your beer to your seat, but you can catch a window seat in the bar. You can even play a game of foosball or pool in between periods while sipping suds.
3. The hockey is unreal
This isn’t your average hockey league. MRU has an excellent tradition in hockey, with both coaches and players. “Did you know that there are a number of former Canada West head coaches who are now currently head coaches in the National Hockey League? Some coaches include Mike Babcock, Detroit Red Wings; Willie Desjardin, Vancouver Canucks; Bill Peters, Carolina Hurricanes; and Barry Trotz, Washington Capitals. All of the players on the Canada West teams have played either major junior hockey or junior A hockey in Canada. Many player on the team will have the opportunity to play professionally when their University careers are complete,” says Gilling.
4. Off-ice activities are growing
More promotions are to come this season and some students even start up on-location tailgates with DJs and BBQing. This year the team is adding more flash to games.
“We are working with Calgary Light and Sound to enhance the in game/party atmosphere. We are also communicating with local establishments to partner on events for students to have some fun and get together for pre and post-game activities,” says Gilling.
5. Get a stronger university experience
Maria Bocaranda, taking English at MRU, came to the home opener with some classmates. She has only been to Canada for nine months, and hockey helped her get closer to campus. “I started going to Cougars games last winter. Since hockey is the main sport here, I wanted to learn more about it. The experience here is really good. I don’t play any sports, but I really like coming out to watch. Every student should come to a game to feel more connected to the university.”
6. The atmosphere rocks
Former Cougars basketball player, Nikki Golding, showed her support at the home opener. She loves the environment.
“Excitement and enthusiasm are contagious. For me, I just love sports. I have a competitive nature, so I love to watch. It’s a really great space to meet like-minded people and to socialize.”
Deanna Klooster, second-year criminal justice student, also cheered the men on at the opener. She’s a huge hockey fan, but says everybody should come out.
“The atmosphere here is so exciting. These games are really great starters to get into the sport. Really, it’s for everyone, even if you don’t like the sport. The games are a lot fun, and the spirit is awesome. Anyone could get into it.”
7. It makes a great date night
It’s chilly in a hockey rink. This means getting cuddly. Plus there is enough going on that there is never an awkward silence. Taking people to games that may not know much about hockey provides a ton of conversation points too. You can even purchase some decent food and grab a few drinks all in one stop. Where the night takes you after is up to you — maybe you might even score.
8. You can network
Men’s hockey alumni and current assistant coach for the Estevan Bruins, Darnell Glass says there are always sports people hanging around the rink.
“After a while you start to get to know the regulars, and socialize with people who play on a variety of teams. For networking, these games are full of hockey and other sports alumni. Everyone here is really friendly and willing to chat.”
9. Arrive together, leave together
Glass is a long term hockey rink veteran and has started many great nights at the arena.
“I love coming back to watch the games because it brings up a lot of good memories. It’s nice to have a top shelf bar here, you can just come out have a couple beers. A lot of the time, we stick around after the game then head out together afterwards.”
10. You get up close.
The rink is intimate, and you don’t have to squint to see the puck — no matter where you are in the rink.
“You can tell this year the guys are really working hard. It’s really some great fast-paced hockey. It’s a small rink and you’re really close to the action. You’re missing out if you’re not here,” say Glass.
Was beer already mentioned? Learn more about both hockey teams and find the schedules at mrucougars.ca.