Nearly 70 hours before the Concordia men’s basketball team took the court against the Carleton Ravens in the gold medal game at CIS National Championships, a few dozen loyal Stinger fans boarded a bus destined for Halifax, N.S. With their team back at the big dance and competing for a national title, these people were not going to be denied their right to go there and back them up. Even if it meant a 15-hour bus ride to the East Coast.
Last weekend was the 18th consecutive year that the National Championships have been held at the Halifax Metro Centre. However, it was the first time since 2000 that Concordia University was sending a fan bus to the four-day event, which bears witness to some of the best basketball that is played on Canadian soil all year, to support the Stingers in their quest for the gold.
Although Stinger fans had been in full effect this season, supporting the team on their homecourt at Loyola Gym, a visit to the 10,500 capacity Metro Centre gave them a chance to show their undying support on a far greater level. They didn’t fail in their mission.
By donning the maroon and gold face paint, while chanting out the weekend’s most infectious catchphrase, “Who’s Your Daddy!?”, with the accompaniment of thundersticks hammered together, besides the basketball players, Concordia’s fanbase were the biggest stars of the weekend. While it wouldn’t be of any surprise to hear a Concordia fan stake claim to being the proudest and loudest, praise for their efforts came from all who were there. “It’s too bad they lost but they do have the best fans here,” was one of the comments overheard by Colin Scotland, a fourth-year forward with the Concordia men’s hockey team, who explained why there was such a strong contingent of fellow athletes who made the trip.
“We all have a very strong bond because we’re all working together for the same purpose,” he said. Trevor Cunning, one of Scotland’s teammates, echoed the sentiment. “They’ve been coming to our games all year and supporting us, so it’s nice to be able to come and see them and return the favour,” he said.
This bond was first made apparent after the Stingers came away with a 59-46 victory against the Brock Badgers in their semi-final match, which pushed them into the championship game. As the Stingers began to pull away down the stretch, the “Who’s Your Daddy!?” chant grew so loud it could easily be heard at the other end of the court.
After the Concordia players took a few moments to celebrate near their bench, and shake hands with their defeated opponents, they made their way to the Concordia fan section behind one of the baskets. Every player exchanged a high-five or handshake with anyone willing to offer theirs in congratulations.
“We have a great relationship with the players,” said Stuart Letovsky, President of Education for the Student Association and a self-proclaimed Concordia superfan. “There’s a symbiotic relationship where they sort of count on us to support them and feed them energy, and they do the same for us.”
While many might claim to be a big Concordia fan, Letovsky is the real deal, having organized three national trips prior to this season. This year he was able to get contributions from the CSU, CASA and ASFA to help make the trip as affordable as possible for those wishing to attend. At just $25 a head for transportation and lodging, Concordia fans were done right by the university.
Letovsky also said that he appreciates the ability sport has to bring a sense of unity to students, especially at a school like Concordia.
“Sport is an effective tool for harmonizing a school environment as opposed to politics, which play such a big role at Concordia.”
However, Letovsky wasn’t without some stiff competition in the superfan category as Tawnya Danis, a forward on the Concordia women’s hockey team, was left with a hoarse and exhausted voice after spending three days cheering for one particular player.
“I was so happy to watch him play here,” she said of boyfriend Ratsko Popovic, a fourth-year guard for the men’s basketball team, who led the team with 15 points in the victory over Brock.
“It’s amazing that we had the best fans here and we’re the ones that are a 15 hour drive away,” added Danis, who was sporting a “Who’s Your Daddy!?” T-shirt, which had Popovic’s #3 on the back and read YU-GO KID, in recognition of her boyfriend’s birthplace of Yugoslavia.
When it came to the championship game, even though Concordia came out on the losing end in 68-48 defeat at the hands of Carleton, which captured its third-straight national title, the Concordia faithful never stopped beating their thundersticks and shouting out words of encouragement.
At the end of that game, even though the result was far different from a day earlier against Brock, and even though some players had tears in their eyes, they still made their way to the fan section and they still put out their hands to receive the high fives. “Having the fans there was amazing,” Concordia forward Ben Sormonte said after the championship game, “we really couldn’t thank them enough for the support.”
Then, less than 20 minutes after the game’s final buzzer, the fans gathered back onto the bus. It was there Concordia superfan Stewart Letovsky pledged that if the team makes it back again next year, so would the bus.