The friendly rivalry between Ottawa's two largest universities is at least 50 years old, and has its foundations in a little stuffed panda.
The annual Panda game quickly grabbed the attention of the nation. The game attracted more fans than any regular season contest in Canadian college football. Fan attendance at Lansdowne Park, the game venue, peaked at 16,000, surpassing attendance at the Vanier Cup that same year. Pedro became a football ambassador. He traveled to nine different universities across Canada and parts of the United States. Pedro has been parachuted into Lansdowne Park, kidnapped and held hostage by Queen's University's PLO (Panda Liberation Organization), buried in a soccer field, nominated for president of the Carleton University Students' Association, formally mentioned in a debate in the House of Commons, appeared on CBC's "Hockey Night in Canada" and transported to the game in an armoured Brinks truck.
Some of the more famous (and infamous) moments in the history of the annual Panda football game include:
1955 - Bryan McNulty, a University of Ottawa student and Fulcrum associate editor, decided to promote the rivalry between his school and that other university in Ottawa. He asked a local jeweller, Jack Snow, to donate a panda to be used as a Gee-Gee mascot. McNulty later convinced Snow to display the panda in his front window and then organized the first "Pandanapping".
1956 - Pedro runs for president of the Carleton Students' Council. The former Gee-Gee mascot loses. Witnessing the humiliation of their former mascot, the Gee-Gees were determined that Pedro should be returned to his natural parents. The following year, Ottawa University slaughters the Ravens 44-0.
1958 - Pedro sets off on a world tour after the University of Ottawa defeats Carleton 25-0. He visits McGill, Dalhousie, the University of Western Ontario, the University of British Columbia, UCLA and Alabama State. Rumour has it that Pedro even went to Peru, Mexico and Europe.
1967 - University of Ottawa and Carleton University students each organized a series of commando raids against one another. Vandalism damage reaches its peak and the future of the Panda game is threatened.
1968 - To save the Panda game, and possibly in response to the hippie movement, organizers changed the traditional "Hate Week" prior to the game, into the timelier "Love Week". Pedro became a flower child at the tender age of 13.
1977 - During half-time, five pigs were released onto Lansdowne field from a box marked "Carleton Pork Chops." The Ottawa Humane Society pressed charges against the University of Ottawa students responsible for that prank.
1979 - Pedro retires at 24. The tired panda goes to take a rest at the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in Hamilton. A heavy copper replica is built to carry on the tradition.
1985 • Pedro is kidnapped by the PLO (Pedro Liberation Organization), based at Queen's University. The kidnappers' objectives were to: 1) humiliate both universities, 2) raise money for the African cause and 3) promote Queen's engineering faculty. In the generous Panda game fashion, 1985 was also the year in which Pedro donated all of his profits to African famine relief in the well-publicized "Pand-Aid."
1987 - A tragedy marked the 1987 Panda game. A defective railing gave way on the north side of the stadium at Lansdowne Park, causing 30 Carleton students to fall from the stands. One female student broke her neck and spent 20 days in a coma. Many others suffered serious injuries. The future of the Panda game was again in jeopardy.
1988 - In response to the 1987 tragedy, a policy of heavy security and limited ticket sales was instituted. Attendance at the Panda game reached an all-time low with security officers practically out-numbering the students. Both universities suffered financial losses. The traditional parade to Lansdowne was practically nonexistent and the crowd was mediocre, both in attendance and spirit.
1992 - Trailing 6-3 with only minutes to play, UofO's pivot Wayne Jacobs hit fouth year receiver Tom Casagrande with a 35-yard touchdown pass to put the Gee-Gees ahead. Running back Carlo Disipio added another major in the final seconds on a bruising run, to give the Gee-Gees their fifth consecutive the Panda game win. More than 6,000 fans were on hand.
1998 - Last Panda game ever to be played, as the Carleton Ravens retire. A great rivalry and tradition ended.