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Extra Innings | Manches supplémentaire

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West Point Weekend 2008

Another View

By WJO

The 2008 edition of what has become known as the “West Point Weekend” was hosted by RMC over this past weekend. Seventy seven cadets, nine staff and three spouses made the journey north to engage in athletic competition and social exchange in order to help foster the ties of friendship between the two institutions. This year’s edition featured a tae-kwon-do competition, debating, and a sports tabloid.

Following its baffling, indefinite cancellation last year, the traditional hockey game between the two institutions was again conspicuous by its absence. As most of our readers know, the hockey game was the original vehicle for the exchange between the two institutions that originated in 1923.

For about 60 years, players from both teams shared sleeping quarters, attended classes with their counterparts, and attended a formal ball after the game. Sadly, in later years the sharing of the sleeping quarters by players fell to the wayside along with the cancellation of the ball for everyone involved. However, the game endured as the centrepiece of a weekend that included an ever-expanding list of activities.

Regardless of the score in a particular year, every game has been hard fought. Although “liberties” have been taken by players from both teams, for the most part there has always been a mutual respect between the players.

Although the game changed a great deal since 1923, it had captured the imagination and attention of generations of hockey people from all over North America, including senior politicians from both countries. Fans of all stripes with absolutely no connection with either institution were always curious about the out-come. Players on both teams looked forward each year to playing in what was truly a “classic”.

It is hard to convey the electric atmosphere created inside the Kingston Memorial Centre during a West Point – RMC hockey game. The over 3,000 spectators in attendance, included the entire cadet wing in “scarlets”, hundreds of West Point cadets in their “greys” and staff and loud bands from both institutions. The mixture of formal military pomp, the traditional rivalry, and Canada’s sport made it an event as opposed to just a game. With all due respect to the organizers of and participants in this year’s West Point Weekend, without the hockey game the weekend is only a shadow of its former self.

I am sure that I am not alone in wanting to see the hockey series resurrected. Perhaps with fresh faces at the College there will be fresh will….

2 Comments

  • Jim Watson

    February 12, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    Westpoint weekend without a hockey game leaves me empty and emotionless. The longest running international amateur hockey event should not be treated with distain. The hockey game was always the primary event during the weekend with debating, marksmanship (or other) taking on lesser roles.

    How did hockey get dropped? This has been under the radar and unpublicised. Why is that?

    Generations of cadets, and not just the players, from both Institutions have wonderful memories of that annual hockey tradition, a tradition worth reclaiming.

    I am looking for answers….who has them?

  • A.J. Braden, 23729 (RMC 07)

    February 12, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    While I would hardly say that the cancellation of the 2007 WP/RMC hockey game went “under the radar” (please refer to the archives to see the many press releases, comments from the RMC Club President, and various editorials), I would say that the reasons for the cancellation have escaped the memory of many, leading some to believe it was canceled on a whim.

    Mr. Oliver is right when he says that “sadly,” many of the traditions associated with the hockey game have slowly disappeared since the first match was played in 1923. In that respect, he seems to have unwittingly hit the nail on the head. The traditions have disappeared due to an animosity that has seemingly developed between the two hockey teams over the past number of years. The reasons for this animosity evade me, but I’m sure high on the list would be RMC’s inclusion of non-cadets on its roster – an issue that has produced many complaints from the West Point camp.

    If the original goal of the WP/RMC series was to foster goodwill between the cadets/colleges/countries, I wouldn’t say that the match in its most recent iteration was accomplishing that mission. I’m hard-pressed to remember seeing any of the players speak a word to each other during the post-game presentations in the lobby of the Kingston Memorial Centre after the 2006 game.

    Yes, the other activities (TKD, debating, etc) help, but there doesn’t seem like a lot of rhyme or reason to tossing both hockey teams into a bitter grudge match at the height of their respective seasons while each squad is fighting for a playoff spot in their respective leagues. Moving the game to a less stressful point in the season seems like a simple solution… maybe even in a different format?

    I’m not saying that the match should remain postponed indefinitely. I loved the excitement and atmosphere surrounding the three games I saw during my RMC career just as much as anyone else. I don’t believe there is anyone among us who doesn’t want to see a speedy return of the match. However, in trying to bring back the game, we need to refrain from romanticizing it, and seriously examine what we want the point of the game to be. In my opinion, it’s important that we bring back good hockey, friendly competition, and fostering camaraderie between two groups of young officers who in the coming years will be fighting our enemies side by side instead of fighting with each other over a piece of frozen rubber. Only then will the hockey game be back on track, and will West Point Weekend truly be “mission accomplished.”