A lack of snow and a brief respite from Arctic-like temperatures outside didn’t dampen the enthusiasm inside for Upper Canada College’s annual Winterfest on Jan. 23.
Things kicked off at 1:30 p.m. in the pool, where a Prep swim meet included the hosts, Crescent School and The Sterling Hall School. The splashing continued with a U14 dual meet, with all of the boys having a wet and wonderful time as they worked on their various strokes.
Prep boys were also active in all three of the College’s gyms, as basketball teams from various age groups and skill levels honed their shooting, passing and dribbling proficiency while getting their competitive juices flowing. Basketball isn’t an easy game, especially for the youngest students, but enthusiasm can go a long way in making up for shortcomings in size and skills.
The Grade 5 hockey team shared a 2 p.m. start time with their fellow Prep swimmers and basketballers, while older students prepared to gather in Laidlaw Hall for a 3 p.m. spirit assembly.
Old Boy Greg Meredith ’76, who went to the University of Notre Dame for four years before playing four years of professional hockey — including two stints in the National Hockey League with the Calgary Flames — was invited to speak to the students. He told them about things he learned from hockey that helped him after he hung up his skates and received an MBA from Harvard Business School and went on to a successful career with several companies in the financial world.
Meredith stressed to the boys that they should: have faith in themselves; not be afraid of challenges; listen to people who can make a difference in their lives; have fun; and conduct themselves with honour. He ended his talk by leading a chant of “Clear eyes, full heart, go Blues!”
Meredith later talked to the varsity hockey team in its dressing room before its game against the Nichols Vikings, for which he dropped the puck during a pre-match ceremony at centre ice of the Mara Rink. He stuck around to watch the Blues at a VIP reception with fellow former varsity hockey players in the William P. Wilder ’40 Arena & Sports Complex’s Foster Hewitt Foundation Lounge.
The spirit assembly continued with the Blue Army pumping up the energy level in Laidlaw Hall, as well as videos, games and announcements. Things came to a close with varsity athletes linking arms on stage and singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”
Students filed into the Hewitt Athletic Centre to see the varsity basketball team take on Crescent School at 4 p.m. It was a defensive battle where a Blues victory was made possible by late, clutch free throws by Jalen Butler and a half-court shot by Crescent bouncing off the rim as time expired. Final score: UCC 43 – Crescent 42.
A handful of other hockey and basketball games took place simultaneously before there was an early evening lull in the action. Some folks used that time to sample the fare from food trucks parked outside or from the concession stands at the arena. It also presented an opportunity to purchase spirit gear from the Blues Booster Club and buy raffle tickets for a chance to win Toronto Maple Leafs and Raptors tickets and a signed Dion Phaneuf jersey. Others took advantage of a family skate in the Mara Rink before the varsity hockey game began.
This is a rebuilding year for the varsity Blues, who are tied for last in the six-team Conference of Independent Schools Athletic Association and were taking on the third-place team from Nichols. The squad that made the journey across the border from Buffalo went up 1-0 in the first period and added three more unanswered tallies in the second frame. UCC got on the board to bring the crowd to life early in the third, but it was too little too late and the game ended 4-1 in favour of the visitors.
Here are all of the other scores from Winterfest:
U10A basketball: Crescent 20 – UCC 18
U10B basketball: Crescent 30 – UCC 22
U10C basketball: Crescent 26 – UCC 20
U11 basketball: UCC 47 – Crescent 39
U12B basketball: UCC 38 – Country Day School 31
U13A basketball: Crescent 55 – UCC 34
U13B basketball: UCC 50 – Crescent 31
U14 basketball: UCC 46 – Crescent 42
U16A basketball: UCC 45 – Crescent 24
U16B basketball: UCC 45 – Royal St. George’s College 36
Grade 5 hockey: UCC 1 – Our Lady of Perpetual Help 1
U14 hockey: UCC (Grade 8) 4 – UCC (Grade 7) 0
U16B hockey: St. Andrew’s College 3 – UCC 0
Junior varsity hockey: Nichols 4 – UCC 1
Here are some Winterfest photos: