500: Golden Bears and Huskies rivalry hits historic mark

    Alberta and Saskatchewan first played in 1911. Friday night's game in Edmonton will be their 500th all-time meeting

    By Connor Hood on January 31, 2018

    It’s become the ultimate rivalry in Canada West. A rivalry steeped in over 100 years of tradition, with countless championships, milestones, and iconic moments between the two. It’s a battle that epitomizes what makes university sport so great. And this weekend, the University of Alberta Golden Bears and Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey teams will take to the ice for the historic 500th time.

    It began in February of 1911 in Saskatoon. The University of Alberta skated to a 16-0 victory, marking the first of 326 victories for the Golden Bears over the Huskies. Since that day in 1911, the Bears and Huskies have met 498 more times, including in 242 Canada West games, 56 playoff games, and twice at the University Cup. 

    Few conflicts in university sport, let alone sport in general, can compare to Saskatchewan vs Alberta. The Queen’s University Gaels and Royal Military College Paladins have battled since 1886, in what is widely known as the Oldest Rivalry in Hockey. But neither program can come close to comparing to the success Saskatchewan and Alberta have had. The embodiment of the rivalry and continued success of each program came in 2005, when the two programs met in the University Cup Final in Edmonton, won by Alberta 4-3 in overtime. 

    “That’s for sure the best memory I have,” said Bears alumni Harlan Anderson (2003-2008). “It would be hard for anything to top that. I’ll never forget (Ben) Thomson scoring with 30 seconds left in the third, which was just an unbelievable shot off the wall, top shelf. No chance for the goalie. Then Thomson again in OT…We couldn’t really tell who had scored at the time, but we didn’t care, we were too busy jumping over the boards and skating over to celebrate.”

    The goal, understandably so, has become one of the most memorable goals in University of Alberta history. 

    “The fact that it was Saskatchewan didn’t make it any more important, but just the circumstances of the game itself – tying the game late and then winning in overtime – was pretty dramatic.” said Rob Daum, who was behind the bench for Alberta in the 2005 University Cup, one of his three national titles as head coach of the Bears. “Unfortunately for them, they just happened to be the victims in that circumstance.”

    Maybe nobody feels that way more so than Huskie goalie Thomas Vicars, who allowed both of Thomson’s goals. Because of a cruel twist of fate, however, it’s unlikely Vicars will ever forget that game, as he is now stuck on the same men’s league team with Harlan Anderson in Salmon Arm, B.C. 

    “He’ll never forget it, that’s for sure, and I won’t let him forget it,” Anderson said with a laugh. “I rib him a bit because I scored in that game too. On just a floater from the point. He never saw the shot, or so he says… so every once and I while I’ll throw a comment at him.”



    While the 2005 championship is one of the more memorable moments for Golden Bears, the Huskies have also had their fair of success against Alberta. Saskatchewan is just one season removed from their 10th Canada West title, a two-game sweep over Alberta. On a national level, at least for the past two seasons, the edge is firmly in Saskatchewan’s corner - a semifinalist in 2016, and a finalist in 2017. 

    “They’re always the benchmark. It’s how we find out if we are good enough,” Huskies head coach Dave Adolph said about the Golden Bears. 

    Adolph has spent 25 seasons coaching Saskatchewan, and spent another five as a player, winning the 1983 University Cup. Over his 30 seasons in Saskatoon, Adolph has been a part of 252 of the 499 all-time meetings.  

    “I have had so many vivid memories of the rivalry,” continued Adolph. “I remember the first game I played at Clare Drake arena. I remember the first time they scored a goal on us and played Elton John’s Benny and the Jets. Every time Alberta scored in their rink, they played that song. It was a critical decision all us young guys had to make whether we wanted to continue to listen to it, or if we’re going to push back and not accept losing.” 

    The 500th game between Alberta and Saskatchewan will go Friday, February 2nd at Clare Drake Arena. Puck drop is set for 7:00 p.m. in Edmonton, with the game also being streamed live on Canada West TV. 

    GOLDEN BEARS VS HUSKIES BY THE NUMBERS

    TOTALS

    GP

    AB WINS

    L

    T

    GF

    AVG

    GA

    AVG

    OVERALL

    499

    326

    149

    24

    2295

    4.60

    1551

    3.11

    CANADA WEST

    370

    242

    108

    20

    1717

    4.64

    1165

    3.15

    CW PLAYOFFS

    56

    35

    21

    0

    237

    4.23

    169

    3.02

    UNIVERSITY CUP

    2

    2

    0

    0

    7

    3.50

    4

    2.00

    NON-CONFERENCE

    71

    47

    20

    4

    334

    4.70

    213

    3.00