Mount Royal University’s team holds special game for remembrance

On Nov. 17, the Mount Royal University Cougars men’s hockey team had a game against the Lethbridge Pronghorns where they won 3-2 in double overtime.

It wasn’t just any other game for the Cougars, however, as they had a special Remembrance Day ceremony to honour those who risked their life for their country. The team wore commemorative jerseys and had a ceremonial puck-drop, along with a band for the Department of National Defence to play the anthem.

Head coach of the Cougars, Jean Laforest, said it was the idea of the men’s hockey alumni chapter. They think of a special game each year, and this year the outcome was the post-Remembrance Day ceremony.

“Obviously we want to do something to host an event that had meaning to it. We couldn’t think of a better cause than that and it’s a fantastic situation and timing,” Laforest said.

Idea for the game

Glenn Ruhl, chairman of the information design program at Mount Royal University and member of the Cougar Men’s Hockey Alumni Chapter, said he thought it was a good idea to pay homage to our veterans. It was fitting because Remembrance Day just passed and Mount Royal University is built upon a former air force base.

Tim Campbell, No. 15, dumps the puck in as Mount Royal’s Eric Galbraith, No. 16, looks on at the Remembrance Day game.

Photo by Neil Hilts

Ruhl said he sees it as an important way to get the public to see first hand what the athletes do and to show good support.

“We’ve done it to generate faculty support for student athletes to show their dedication and the commitment they bring which can serve as a model. Also, it’s a big spirit builder for involvement with the community and bringing the community to the campus to see what students are involved in,” Ruhl said.

Age of soldiers

Laforest also mentioned that the players on the Cougars are of the age that they would have been required to go to war.

“Realistically, if you look at the age our guys are at, they would have gone to war if we were back in that era,” Laforest said. “It’s looking at it like we’re pretty fortunate to be playing hockey, where we had guys the ages of our players making the huge sacrifices for us to have an opportunity to have freedom and to play hockey, and to have the rights and privileges that we have.”

Kevin Knopp, team captain of the Cougars, agreed with Laforest and said he knows how lucky he and others are to be playing hockey.

“You look back and I guess some of them were even younger than us like 17 or 18 and heading off to war. It is really crazy to think that something has happened in our part of history,” Knopp said. “I’m sure most, if not all the guys on the team would have no excuse and would be in the situation where they would have to fight for their country. It’s something to put into perspective and something for our demographic and age group to take the honour and value in it.”

Cougars’ captain Kevin Knopp, No. 28, battles Lethbridge’s Tyler Skauge.

Photo by Neil HiltsThe players had a big role with this game, of course, and it’s something they should be proud and excited of, said Ruhl.

“Something important for the players is knowing the memory and the honour from the scholarships were young people that gave their lives,” Ruhl said. “That resonates with them as a particular area of impact and why we need to keep these traditions alive. That has a big impact, not just on he people in the stands, but the players as well.”

There are scholarships set up in their name for each of the 28 former MRU students or staff that passed away in war.

Family connection

Knopp said he was excited to wear the dedicatory jerseys and the team considered it a great opportunity.

“It means a lot. I know a lot of guys that had relatives that did a lot of fighting. It’s a huge honour to do this as a part of Mount Royal and I think everyone sees it as a great opportunity,” said Knopp.

Knopp added: “I had a couple of sets of great-grandparents who fought in wars for Canada overseas and had the opportunity to see some pictures and old artifacts. It’s something my family has always taken so seriously and always been really interested in it. Obviously from that standpoint there is some personal connection.”

Laforest said he believes that people do not think enough of those who gave their lives.

“I think it’s a gesture and token that goes spoken only once a year, but it should be something we try to remember on a more regular basis.”

nhilts@cjournal.ca