You know you’re in Canada when you see a grown man parading around a dimly lit community rink, hoisting a taxidermied goose above his head in celebration of a good-natured but fiercely contested game of beer-league hockey.
You know you’re in Jasper when that odd occurrence becomes an annual tradition.
Yes, the seventh annual Bigfoot Kokanee Classic, a.k.a. The Kokanee Bigfoot Cup, a.k.a. the MPL vs. Sawridge Grudge Match (an event this epic goes by many names) took place at the Jasper Activity Centre on Tuesday evening last week, in front of an enthusiastic crowd of about 50 fans.
Many of the faithful came carrying homemade signs in support of their teams, both of which battled valiantly in pursuit of the tournament trophy and bragging rights for another year.
The match was close until the third period, when MPL unleashed a flurry of goals in quick succession. Despite some last-minute heroics, Team Sawridge could not recover from the onslaught and was ultimately defeated by a score of 15-8.
This marks the second year in a row that Mountain Park Lodges has defeated the Sawridge Inn and Conference Centre in the inter-hotel hockey showdown. Sawridge still holds the edge in total wins, however, taking four of seven since the Bigfoot Cup began in 2006.
“It helps create a healthy working relationship between the hotels, as well as igniting a little rivalry,” Sawridge operations manager Tony Bielec said of the annual event.
“It is a fun game with only the trophy and bragging rights on the line. We all get together in Champs (Lounge) afterwards for some beer and wings, much like a giant staff party.”
And while the match is fundamentally a friendly one, players can’t help but take it seriously.
“Over the last few years the game has become slightly more competitive,” said Clayton Anderson of MPL, who admitted that his side has increasingly turned to “ringers” in the form of talented ex-staff-members or others with “somewhat faint” connections to the hotel chain.
Case in point: Ryan Titchner. The former MPL employee put puck after puck behind Sawridge goaltender Phil Boudriau.
Titchner was named MVP of his team while Boudriau, playing in goal for the first time in an organized hockey game, was named Sawridge MVP.
Bielec noted that, in addition to their rookie goalie, the Sawridge team consisted of three players who “have not laced ‘em up in quite a while.” Still, Sawridge is not above adding a ringer or two to the roster, themselves.
“We do augment with either family members or past staff of the Sawridge as our pool is much smaller than MPL,” Bielec said. “As you know, they have five hotels to draw from.”
After the final buzzer, Team MPL carried their mascot, a mounted Canada goose, out onto the ice in celebration of their historic victory.
Why a goose, you might ask?
“Like the Canada goose, we are very vocal on the ice and in our locker room,” Anderson explained. “Like that of a flock, our bond as a team is eternal.”