Advertisement

Calgary women’s hockey headlines Crowchild Classic for the first time

Calgary women’s hockey headlines Crowchild Classic for the first time
WATCH: The annual clash between the University of Calgary and Mount Royal University men’s and women’s hockey teams draws thousands of fans to the Saddledome every year. As Cami Kepke reports, the 2020 showdown will have a very different look.

The annual clash between the University of Calgary and Mount Royal University’s men’s and women’s hockey teams draws thousands of fans to the Saddledome every year.

For the first time, the women are getting top billing at the Crowchild Classic.

READ MORE: Hextall on Hockey: NHL All-Star competition is a platform for the women’s game

Since the event launched in 2013, the women have played the 4:30 p.m. matinee game in the doubleheader while the men got the more favourable evening time-slot.

“A lot of people have class right up until 4 p.m. so having our game at 7 p.m. will actually allow people to get there on time,” MRU Cougars forward Kate Hufnagel explained.

“Because we played at 4:30 p.m., people would usually come for the third period to get seats for the men’s game,” Hufnagel’s teammate Anna Purschke said. “So we had this running joke where we always told everyone the men’s game was at 4:30 p.m. so they’d come to ours — and now it actually is.”

Story continues below advertisement

The Dinos, Cougars and Flames decided to make the switch after getting feedback from athletes and students.

It’s a show of support after big blows to women’s hockey in Calgary.

In 2019, the Calgary Inferno and CWHL folded.

READ MORE: Inferno’s championship season celebrated at Calgary City Hall while hockey league folds

Before that, the girl’s division was eliminated from the Mac’s Midget Tournament.

“There [have] been lots of strides to improve the game,” Purschke said. “This is a huge step with USPORT, Canada West and Hockey Calgary to have that support and feel like this is important, not only for us but for little girls who want to be like us.”

“It’s overdue,” U of C Dinos captain Paigle Michalenko said. “To be able to take that later time-slot means a lot for the game as a whole. Our team is excited and the girls are ready to go.”

Next Thursday’s Classic has the potential to break attendance records.

READ MORE: University hockey fans break CIS record at 4th annual Crowchild Classic

It has averaged nearly 12,000 fans for the two games over the past four years and is recognized as the largest annual gathering of university students in the city.

Story continues below advertisement

“I absolutely think this is going to be one of the best-attended USPORT women’s hockey games, if not women’s hockey games in general this year,” U of C athletic director Jason Kerswill said.

This isn’t just a one-off.

Going forward, the men and women will alternate headlining the Crowchild Classic, with the ladies taking top billing in even-numbered years and the men in odd-numbered years.

What won’t change is the boiling rivalry between the Dinos and the Cougars. Eight of the last 14 matches have been won by just a one-goal margin, including four overtime games.

The 2020 Crowchild Classic is on Jan. 30 at 4 p.m.