Tsuut’ina Nation and MRU Cougars partner to celebrate sport

Cougars hockey games taking place at the 7 Chiefs Sportsplex

The 7 Chiefs Sportsplex and Chief Jim Starlight Centre.

The 7 Chiefs Sportsplex and Chief Jim Starlight Centre is a world-class sports and event facility for local, national and international sports tournaments, conferences, conventions, trade shows and events. Photo courtesy 7 Chiefs Sportsplex and Chief Jim Starlight Centre Facebook.

University sports are back after a lost season and a new agreement between neighbours is making the return to play even more inspiring.

The Tsuut’ina Nation and owners and operators of the 7 Chiefs Sportsplex and Chief Jim Starlight Centre have inked an agreement with the Mount Royal Cougars to bring varsity hockey to the First Nations’ arena this fall.

Rob Godfrey, manager of varsity athletics at MRU, has led the initiative to get ice time at the centre. He says the sportsplex is an outstanding facility and there is tremendous opportunity to grow the partnership and ongoing work has been “tremendous thus far,” Godfrey says.

Cougars Athletics and Recreation has had a long-standing relationship with Tsuut'ina Nation through co-operation with the Grey Eagle Resort and Casino, which is the host hotel for all visiting varsity teams, families and recruits.

The expansion from hospitality to athletics is one small example of the University’s broader Indigenous strategy, in which MRU is committed to rebuilding the relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Calgary and across the country.

“Much of our work is on the heels of a greater partnership between the Nation and the University, but to continue exploring opportunities specific to Cougars varsity athletics is especially exciting in light of the recent focus and investment into truth and reconciliation in our country,” Godfrey says.

Cougars vs. Dinos on Oct. 30

Two exhibition “crosstown smackdown” games have already taken place at the Seven Chiefs Sportsplex. The Cougars women’s hockey team faced off against the University of Calgary Dinos on Sept. 11 with MRU finishing it off with a 2-1 final score. The men’s team took a 4-3 loss to the Dinos on Oct. 2.

The Cougars women’s hockey team will again compete against the Dinos at the 7 Chiefs Sportsplex on Oct. 30. This rematch will be part of regular season play, as well as honour the lives lost at residential schools and the many missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people.

Mount Royal Cougars women's forward Tianna Ko.

Cougars forward Tianno Ko skates with the puck in a game against the Dinos.

“We are working with the Iniskim Centre and the 7 Chiefs Sportsplex to have a member of Tsuut’ina Nation drop the puck for the ceremonial face-off for the fans in attendance,” says Katya Sodamin, manager of marketing and partnerships with Cougars Athletics and Recreation.

“There will be a moment of silence and our players will be wearing orange stickers on their helmets. We’re also holding a fundraiser and fans will be given an orange ribbon to wear in exchange for their donation,” Sodamin says.

Former Calgary Hitmen forward and current councillor for the Tsuut’ina Nation, Brent Dodginghorse will organize two groups of Tsuut’ina youth hockey players to compete during intermission.

“We are also working with the Iniskim Centre to invite Indigenous MRU students and their families to attend the game,” Sodamin says.

Cougars women's hockey head coach Scott Rivett says the team is excited to play in the beautiful new rink.

“Any time we get the opportunity to play our crosstown rivals the team gets up for those games, but to be able to do it in this wonderful building and with a big crowd to support both teams, I am certain it will be a game everyone will remember,” Rivett says.

All are encouraged to come out and enjoy the matchup on Oct. 30 at 6 p.m. at the 7 Chiefs Sportsplex and Chief Jim Starlight Centre. Before attending, read the facility’s COVID-19 guidelines.

Fans are welcome to purchase their tickets for the event online beginning Oct. 8 at mrucougars.com. Mount Royal students, employees and members of Tsuut'ina Nation receive free admission to the event with ID.

Next year, Cougars versus Dinos hockey games will continue to set the stage for Calgary’s largest celebration of university sports — the Crowchild Classic at the Scotiabank Saddledome — which is scheduled for Feb. 3, 2022.

Watch: Crowchild Classic 2020 montage.

Oct. 7, 2021 — Rob Petrollini

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