Charlottetown, PEI (March 13, 2019)—Chris Huggan is getting worked up. The Director of Athletics and Recreation at UPEI is clicking through tabs on a spreadsheet on his computer, trying to make a point.
"Look, we have a different minor hockey team from the Island assigned to cheer on each of the eight university teams here for the tournament," he says. "Imagine what that's going to sound like in that arena. No matter who is playing, from wherever they come from in Canada, they'll have a crowd of kids screaming for them, cheering them on. I think that's exciting. That's what I think Panthers UN1TE is all about."
Huggan considers Panthers UN1TE to be the key ingredient to this week's 2019 U SPORTS Women's Hockey Championship, hosted at the University of Prince Edward Island. It's a concept he dreamed up two years ago as a guiding principal of the UPEI Panthers.
"UN1TE is a powerful word for me," says Huggan. "We want to bring together this Island around the UPEI Panthers. We have a really unique opportunity here, and that's what we're trying to capture."
The "1" is especially important to Huggan.
"One—be the best you can be," he explains, "be it as a student, athlete, or citizen. It's also the power of one. One person can make a difference; we've all seen it happen. And we have one university for this entire province. No one else can say that in Canada. So we can gather support like no one else."
With Panthers UN1TE in mind, two years ago, Huggan and his team shot for something big: to host a national championship.
"And we did it with the help of volunteers, organizations, individuals, and businesses from tip to tip," says Huggan. "It's no accident that our three honorary chairs come from Souris, Charlottetown, and Alberton. We wanted to reflect the entire Island, but also to tap into the contacts and resources from their respective communities."
In the last year, the UPEI Women's Hockey team has played games in arenas across the Island. They've built a fan base, and they've built relationships.
When the puck drops on the first game of the tournament Thursday, there will be 266 minor hockey players in the stands. Half will be cheering for the University of Guelph. Half will be cheering for the University of Manitoba.
"They're going to raise the roof," said Hugan. "As an athlete myself, I know how important that is—to have the crowd cheering me on."
The organizing team has been working for more than a year building support, and the Island has responded. This tournament will succeed based on the concept of Panthers UN1TE.
Special thanks must go to:
· Parkdale Sherwood Lions Club
· Rotary Club of Hillsborough
· Rotary Club of Charlottetown Royalty
· Boys & Girls Club of Charlottetown
· PEI Aboriginal Sports Circle
· Sport PEI
· Minor sports teams from across the Island
· Islands from across the Island
· More than 40 members of the Panthers UN1Te $100 club
Go Panthers Go!
Games begin on Thursday, March 14 at 3:00 pm with the championship game on Sunday, March 17. The UPEI Panthers head into the tournament seeded seventh, and will take on the l'Université de Montréal Carabins Thursday at 7 pm. Tournament passes and game tickets are available at the Eastlink Centre or online at www.gopanthersgo.ca/uswhctickets.
For media wishing to cover the U SPORTS Women's Hockey Championship, please contact Nicole Phillips to arrange for accreditation. Only accredited media will be allowed entry into MacLauchlan Arena.
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