RMC set to take on U.S. Military Academy on Saturday

The longest running international hockey series returns to Canada on Jan. 23 as the two prestigious military institutions, the Royal Military College of Canada (RMCC) and the U.S. Military Academy (USMA), square off for bragging rights in the annual West Point Exchange.

In the spirit of friendly competition and camaraderie, every year close to one hundred RMCC cadets visit the USMA at West Point in New York for a few days while a similar exchange of cadets takes place from West Point to the RMCC in Kingston.

The highlight of this program is the Winter Sports Day, held this year on Saturday Jan.23. The event includes a wide variety of sports and activities including judo, broomball, soccer, chess, debate, flag football and ball hockey.

Of course, it is widely acknowledged that the historic hockey series between the two institutions is the main event of the day. According to tradition, each country alternates playing the host nation and this year is Canada’s turn. Dating back to 1923, patriotism and pride intertwine to give this series a different edge for both spectators and participants.

“The patriotism is a huge part of why this gets built up. There are people in Kingston who don’t necessarily have a tie with the military but like to take part in the event because of what it represents,” said Guy Dube, Varsity Manager at the Athletics Department RMCC.

The series was first established in 1923 by Lt.-Gen. Archibald MacDonnell and the superintendent of West Point, Douglas MacArthur, who later became the general of the U.S. Army.

“They believed a friendly yet challenging sport contest between the two academies would build upon relationships that had been forged between Canada and the U.S. on the battlefields of the Great War [World War One],” explained Navy Lt. Jennifer Fidler, RMCC Public Affairs Officer.

The games went on a five-year hiatus in 2007 due to scheduling conflict but returned in 2011. The U.S. is currently the reigning champion taking the last four wins but to this day, the competition is taken very seriously by both nations.

“For the longest team people always joked that teams could lose every game but if you beat West Point it was a successful year. So, it’s very much on the radar. It’s a huge event for the school to take part in,” noted Dube.

Adding to the atmosphere of the event is the exchange between the bands of the two academies, both taking part in combined practice sessions and playing together.

“It’s a pretty unique event and with the bands playing it gives it that flavour, big event atmosphere,” stated Dube.

For Dube in the 15 years, he’s been at the RMCC the two games that stick out to him the most were the 75th game in 2006 when the game ended in a 3-3 tie and the games in 2001, the last time the RMC won in an overtime victory.

“It’s a very unique event…You have the added element of going up against another military academy, which doesn’t happen for us in Canada obviously, being the only military institution. So, we have that added element of going up against counterparts from other countries.

And you have that obvious national divide, Canada versus the U.S., so it brings a lot of different elements to the event itself from the participant’s perspective. For a lot of them it’s their one opportunity to compete to represent their country against the U.S,” said Dube.

The RMCC Paladians and USMA Black Knights from West Point will face off for their 80th game on Jan. 23 at 7:30 p.m. at the K-Rock Centre in Kingston.

Above Photo: In 79th meeting for the Challenge Cup (2014), the Army Men’s Hockey team faced off against the Royal Military Academy at Tate Rink in the Holleder Center, Jan. 24. Army jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead in the first period, and never slowed down. In the end, the Black Knights defeated the Paladins by a score of 8-0, taking home the Challenge Cup, marking their fourth straight victory in the series. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy Bunkley, USMA Public Affairs)

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Mishall Rehman

Originally from Atlanta, GA, Mishall is a freelance journalist pursuing her passion for writing in her new homeland Canada. She currently lives in Trenton, ON with her husband.

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