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'Battle of Waterloo' bringing out best in athletes

'The calibre of entertainment that both the Warriors and the Golden Hawks give in every sport is a secret in this town,' Peter Baxter, Laurier Athletic Director
battle of waterloo
Image from Wilfrid Laurier University

Who doesn't love some friendly competition?

It almost seems like a given that there's a direct competition between two universities located just down the road from each other.

But for those not in the know, it's surprising the current inception of the "Battle of Waterloo" only took shape a few years ago.

"We used to have a Battle of Waterloo football game for many years, back when we shared the stadium," says Peter Baxter, the Athletic Director at Wilfrid Laurier University.

"Even before my time, they used to actually have a Battle of Waterloo, where they would compete for a seagram cake, a small cake version, like a wine cake.  That goes back into the 50's from an old alumnist that told me that story."

A fine prize when you think about it.  A seagram cake, University Stadium being located on Seagram Drive in Waterloo.

But the look of today's "Battle of Waterloo" came to be after a meeting at Mel's Diner, involving Baxter, Waterloo Athletic Director Roly Webster, as well as both football coaches Chris Bertoia (Waterloo) and Michael Faulds (Laurier).

"We talked about a concept of having a Battle of Waterloo, but we would run it based on the competitions that Laurier played (Waterloo) in almost all sports," Baxter noted.

The competition started in the 2017-18 U Sports season, with 19 games counting towards the series, involving sports like soccer, rugby, football, baseball, basketball and hockey.

And with it, came a new trophy --- bragging rights too --- for the winners.

"It's quite a trophy actually," Baxter says, "It's got a big cannon, sort of symbolizing the battle and it's on a pretty heavy, wooden pedestal."

In 2018-19, swimming made it's debut in the battle, and curling has been added for this season, if they meet up in round robin play at the OUA Championship.

All in all, while Laurier has claimed the last two regular season series (11-4-4 in 2017-18; 12-7-1 in 2018-19), Waterloo could clinch the trophy Wednesday night in the fourth annual "Battle at The Aud" men's hockey game.

Waterloo leads the 2019-20 edition 8-5-3.

"I think that athletes on both sides, and both coaches, circle this game as wanting bragging rights so there's a little extra incentive in the rivalry," Baxter says.

"It's hard to fill The Aud with our attendance numbers, but if we get a thousand in there, then that's good," adds Dan Ackerman, the Communications and Game Day Coordinator with UW.

"That would fill our barn, no problem and that would do pretty well for Laurier's attendance numbers."

In the stands, and across the community, the battle has created buzz.

"The beauty of having two universities that are a five-minute walk beside each other, a lot of our students actually live together," Baxter says, "So it becomes a conversation in some residences, where Waterloo students live with Laurier students, but also it gives a rallying cry so that people can wear either their Golden Hawk (gear) to a game or their Warrior (gear) to a game."

"They've been well-attended for sure, especially soccer and rugby, those games have been very well attended cause of this," added Ackerman, "Our athletes appreciate the extra attention around it."

Ackerman says in previous years, they've even done some videos and mascot battles to drum up extra support.

This year, there wasn't much time for it, but it hasn't stopped the online chatter between the two teams.

"It's more fun than anything, creates buzz in the community," he said, "It's fun for the university to get involved too."

Things have been getting interesting with Waterloo catching up to Laurier in the last couple years in terms of the competition.

If Waterloo loses in hockey Wednesday night though, Laurier has an outside shot at climbing back.

However, they would have to run the table with the aforementioned curling matchup that may or may not happen.

If Laurier and Waterloo's curling teams meet in round robin play at the OUA Championship --- February 13-17 at the Guelph Curling Club --- it'll count toward the final tally.

The men's and women's basketball teams also meet up one more time, back-to-back on Saturday, February 15 at the Physical Activities Complex at UW at 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.

If there's a tie, the final scheduled competition of the year serves as the tiebreaker.

"The calibre of entertainment that both the Warriors and the Golden Hawks give in every sport is a secret in this town," Baxter says, "I think that any time I know of people who have come to any one of our games, be it over at Waterloo or here at Laurier, in any of our facilities, it's great family entertainment, it's great student engagement and entertainment."

"I encourage anybody to come."

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