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Panda Game: Finding Pedro the Panda (… sort of)

By Josh Lemoine on September 28, 2016

I’m sure you’ve seen the ads everywhere. The Panda Game is this weekend! The annual football game between the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees and the Carleton University Ravens is heading into it’s fourth edition since its rebirth in 2013.

However, the “Panda Game” dates back to 1955, when a stuffed panda (named Pedro) was chosen as the face of the game, and its prize.

The following very serious special report on Pedro aired on Apt613 Live on CHUO 89.1 on Tuesday, September 27:

Pedro had quite the career. He was the victim of many “pandanappings” by uOttawa students, Carleton students, and Queen’s University’s Panda Liberation Army. He’s been buried under the field at Lansdowne, parachuted into a game, travelled across North America, and even had a failed bid for president of the Carleton Students’ Council.

panda-game-ticket-courtesyofcarletonarchivesandresearh

Pedro was retired in 1976 and replaced by a bronze panda trophy based on Pedro’s likeness (that trophy has also been retired. The teams now play for a fancy aluminum “Pedro” trophy). The whereabouts of the original Pedro since then has been a source of debate. There were reports that Pedro was in the care of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, or the archives of one of the universities. None of these reports were true.

Apt613 was able to obtain a new picture of the original Pedro, and confirms that he is actually in the possession of an old friend of a prominent Gee-Gees alumni, both of whom wish to remain anonymous. Pedro doesn’t need to worry about any more pandanappings.

Since the Panda Game returned in 2013 after a 15 year hiatus (Carleton did not have a football team during that time), the game has regained much of its former glory. Last year, 17,956 fans packed TD Place, the most since 20,000 people watched the 1987 edition.

According to Sue Hylland, uOttawa’s Director of Sport Services, this growth was expected.

“The growth was expected as uOttawa has put more focus on its football program again, and Carleton has also done the same, reviving its program with its alumni. Both schools have become more progressive with promotions. We are also partnering with OSEG (Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group), who are helping to promote the games more too. All positive things.”

2014 Panda Game, photo by Marc Lafleur.

2014 Panda Game, photo by Marc Lafleur.

With the game being televised nationally, the game allows for increased promotion and visibility for both schools. The game is likely the biggest stage the athletes will play on all year, and it has provided that stage for decades. A former Gee-Gee spoke to us about the experience playing in the Panda Game back in the 70’s.

“You were just very aware of the importance of the game to everyone at school during that lead up week, and of course we were always being told the same by our coaches during our practices. I’ll always remember our classmates were all planning their Saturday Panda day activities during that week before the game. We, of course, couldn’t partake until after the game. You never forget playing in front of such a large crowd for the first time at Lansdowne Park.”

That alum hasn’t been surprised at the Panda Games’ successful resurgence either, attributing several social and community factors.

2015 Panda Game, photo by Nicholas Galipeau.

2015 Panda Game, photo by Nicholas Galipeau.

“I think like most successful games, it’s a combination of the school rivalries, the history of the game, the fact that high school and minor football programs around the city get involved, and the location creates even more of a spectacle. It doesn’t hurt that the last two games have come down to the very end to decide the winner.”

Last year’s game was a nailbiter, with Carleton winning 48-45 in double-overtime. That game followed the 2014 edition, which ended in a last-second “hail mary” touchdown pass for a Carleton win.

This year, Ottawa (ranked #7 nationally) will be looking to take back the Pedro trophy, while Carleton (#10) will be looking for the “three-peat.” Whatever happens, you can bet football fans are in for another fantastic game.

This year’s Panda Game is Saturday, October 1 at 1:00pm at TD Place. Tickets are available online, or at the TD Place box office.

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