From the Cheap Seats: Red Bull Power 5

Montreal’s top university intramural hockey programs gathered on McGill’s lower field skating rink Thursday night beneath the downtown skyline to play their annual tournament. The stakes were high as teams from McGill, Concordia, Université de Montréal, UQÀM, École de Technologie Supérieure (ETS), and HEC Montréal’s respective intramural leagues faced off in an eight-team, double elimination bracket, with a $500 prize for the winning team. McGill, Concordia, and Montréal each put forth two entries, while ETS and HEC Montréal had one team per school. Supporters from all sides came out to brave the cold and cheer on their teams as they progressed through round after round of 10-minute games.

Sponsored by Red Bull, the event included some unconventional rules to pick up the pace of the games and keep the crowd engaged. Each team started out with four players on the rink and no goaltender. When a team scored a goal, a fifth player was added to their team and they remained in a power play until the opposing team scored a goal. At that point, the scoring team added a fifth player and the first team lost their fifth player, thereby reversing the power play.

This rule, combined with the small size of the rink and the unattended nets, led to a lot of action on the offence and many high-scoring games. The night’s most exciting moments came when games were tied at the end of regulation. Both teams would then choose their strongest player for a one-on-one, sudden death, winner-take-all faceoff. The first player to score would win the game for his team.

The crowd grew as the night progressed, drawn by the spectacle of an illuminated hockey rink in the middle of campus with passionate players duking it out in an exciting format. Music blared from the World War II-era Red Bull-restored Volvo Sugga truck, encouraging the onlookers to stay warm by giving them something to dance to and keep their bodies moving. Red Bull employees milled about the crowd, handing out free energy drinks to players and fans alike. Players from all teams socialized and cheered each other on in the spirit of friendly competition.

One by one, teams were eliminated and the field became smaller. The one ugly and potentially dangerous moment of the night came in a semifinal match between one of the McGill teams and the UQÀM team when a series of repeated collisions between two players led to a minor shoving match and a roar from the crowd. The scrum was quickly broken up by their teammates and the players laughed it off almost immediately.

The final was an all-McGill match up contested between the “Bucking Feauties” and “Just Butter.” Bucking Feauties were the definitive winners of the Fall 2014 intramural hockey ‘A’ division, going undefeated and outscoring their opponents by an average of more than three goals per game. That trend continued, as the Bucking Feauties heavily outscored Just Butter to win the 2015 Red Bull Power 5 in front of a what was a home crowd for both sides. 

The highlight of the night came just after the championship match, when the top two teams posed together for photographs, mixing up their teams in contrasting uniforms. They then revealed that before the game began, the teams had agreed that no matter what the outcome of the game, they would split the $500 winnings and head out for drinks all together. There couldn’t have been a more appropriate ending to the evening. The remaining members of the crowd cheered, clapped, and huddled close together against the winter air, enjoying the moment and readying themselves for the cold journey home.

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