Regardless of the score at the end of the game, the Steel Blade Classic is a staple of Brock’s Homecoming celebrations. The game is enjoyed by faculty, staff, as well as past, present and future students.
The annual Steel Blade Classic hockey game was held this past Friday, September 13, 2019 at the Meridian Centre in downtown St. Catharines. By all accounts the event was a huge success, save for the 4-1 loss the Badgers suffered at the claws of the Guelph Gryphons.
Going into the game however, Brock men’s head hockey coach Marty Williamson was more concerned with getting the chance to play to the crowd of over 4,000 cheering fans than whether they won or lost.
“It’s an exhibition game, it’s the first game for Guelph and us, so both teams are going to be rusty to some extent, this is nowhere near a finished product. But the excitement of the game really makes it fun and exhibition games aren’t always a lot of fun, sometimes they are more routine, but this is anything but routine. It’s a fun hockey game,” said Williamson.
Badgers in attendance were also pleased with the game.
“Steel Blade was super fun—the energy at the Meridian Centre is amazing. It was so great to see thousands of students all rooting for Brock. It was such a show of Badger pride. It’s also a great way to support Brock’s athletic teams. It’s definitely a Brock tradition you can’t miss,” said Kailene Jackson, a fourth-year political science and sociology student.
The massive size and scale of the game means that a great deal of planning and coordination between various organizations is required to make sure the whole thing goes off without a hitch.
The folks at the Meridian Centre were barely fazed by the massive influx of students for the game. As their Director of Marketing Kay Meilleur explained, they coordinate events of this size and even bigger, be it games for the Niagara IceDogs or large concerts, on a regular basis. Though she did acknowledge the high level of coordination and intricate planning that has to take place to make sure this event runs as smoothly as it does each September.
“It’s an event that is unique because basically we have 5000 students in the building during the event and we need to make sure that we prepare as best as we can for that. This is now our third or fourth year doing this event so we kind of have everything down pat and everyone feels a bit more comfortable on both ends. We [had] probably 100 staff in the building [during the game] between guest services, food and beverage, etc.” said Meilleur. “There’s many different facets of an event like this. There’s the food and beverage component, we have to work with Brock, there’s the alumni buffet for about 450-500 people. There’s a lot that happens behind the scenes.”
As part of homecoming, the inclusion of alumni is a major aspect of the event.
“The Steel Blade Classic is a great opportunity to bring students, alumni and our community together to cheer on our Brock Badgers. This game attracts a lot of alumni, and especially our Badgers hockey alumni who are eager to see their Badgers score a win,” said Shelley Huxley, the director of alumni relations at Brock.
There is also a major community aspect to the Steel Blade. This year, one dollar from each ticket sold was donated to the Brock University Students’ Union (BUSU) Food First program, which looks to address food and health insecurity among Brock students. The program provides $25 grocery store gift cards for undergraduate and graduate students in need up to three times and a single time per semester respectively.
BUSU is also grateful for the event, as BUSU President Bilal Khan noted.
“Steel Blade provides a great opportunity for our students and community to gather at Meridian Centre and support our Badgers at what is our most prominent sporting event of the year,” said Khan.
Based on the success of this years games and the years prior, it’s likely that Brock’s partnership with the Meridian Centre will continue for years to come.
“This is one of our best partnerships. Brock has been a great partner since the Meridian Centre opened. We would love to see more games in here with Brock, anytime we would be able to host a Brock event would be a bonus,” said Meilleur.
However, Williamson is skeptical of the prospect of holding more games at the Meridian Centre during the season, as he felt that it might begin to lose its significance if you have too many games of this size.
At the end of the day, however, it appears that all parties involved are pleased with the current arrangement and are happy to see the Steel Blade Classic continue in its current form for years to come.