LETHBRIDGE, Alta. – A long standing Canada West women's rugby rivalry between the Lethbridge Pronghorns and Alberta Pandas will take on a new meaning this season with the inaugural Ric Suggitt Memorial game.
The first installment of the memorial game will take place Saturday, October 14th at the University Community Stadium, with kick-off slated for 2:00 p.m. MST. The match-up will also be one of the Canada West Games of the Week on Canada West TV, and will be free for all viewers online on Canada West TV.
This past summer the Pronghorn family and the rugby community was rocked by the sudden passing of Pronghorn rugby head coach Ric Suggitt. Affectionately known as "Sluggo", Ric was about to start his third full season with the Pronghorns and was a larger than life figure that has left a lasting impact on both the Pronghorns and rugby community as a whole.
In addition to coaching the Pronghorns, Suggitt had an impact on both schools' head coaches and being originally from Edmonton, touched many teams and players in the Edmonton area.
The Pronghorns and Pandas combined to win the first 16 Canada West Championships and nine CIAU/CIS Championships in total. The Pandas won the first seven Canada West Championships (1999 to 2005) followed by the next six being claimed by the Pronghorns. The Pandas also won the Canada West Championship in 2012 and 2013.
Neil Langevin was the first head coach in Pronghorn history and led the program to three straight national titles from 2007 to 2009 and six straight Canada West Championships (2006-2011). He agreed to return to the program this past fall.
"Sluggo has had direct and indirect influence on the Pandas and Pronghorns since the inception of both programs," said Pronghorn head coach Neil Langevin. "He has been involved in the coaching setup for both programs and served as a personal mentor for me for over 20 years."
In addition to having a hand in the rugby development in Alberta and Canada as a whole, Suggitt had an impact on many coaches in the university game, including Pandas head coach Matt Parrish.
"I have been coached by, coached with and coached against Ric since I came to Canada 20 years ago," said Parrish. "As my wife Heather and Jenn (Ric's wife) played together as well, our families are close."
Two more former players of Suggitt's, Maria Gallo (UBC) and Colette McAuley (Guelph) currently coach U SPORTS women's rugby teams.
"Although this weekend will be a tough day for many of us, I love that Ric's memory will remain for years to come in this game and trophy between our schools," continued Parrish.
Neil and the Langevin family have graciously donated a trophy that will be presented annually to the winner of the Canada West regular season game between the Pronghorns and Pandas going forward.
This weekend's final conference game for both teams has serious playoff implications on the line as well. Entering the game, the Pronghorns (1-2) lead the Pandas (0-3) by four points for fourth place and the final spot in the Canada West tournament. With a win, the Pronghorns could move up to as high as third but a Pandas win potentially could eliminate the Pronghorns from the tournament depending on bonus points and points for and against differential.