OVC Challenge Cup Takes Centre Ice

Gryphon Frosty Mug event celebrates OVC hockey history

A silver trophy built by Prof. Brad Hanna for the Ontario Veterinary College's annual student hockey tournament will be displayed during the Gryphons' Jan. 20 Frosty Mug game as U of G's varsity team plays tribute to OVC's 150th anniversary.

Biomedical sciences associate professor Brad Hanna likes building things. So when he heard several years ago that 2012 would mark the 150th anniversary of the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC), he wanted to mark the occasion by making something unique.

For inspiration, he reached back to his own student days. “When I was a student at OVC, the highlight of the year was the student hockey tournament that we called Challenge Cup,” he says. “There was a trophy, but it was a cheap thing – plastic hockey players on a warped wooden base.”

Hanna decided that he’d honour OVC’s longevity by building a truly spectacular trophy for that tournament. And he did.

His inspiration was a faded photo of the 1931 Stanley Cup, which had a much smaller base than the one attached to it today. Coincidentally, 1931 was the first year that OVC’s Challenge Cup tournament was played. “It’s the oldest extra-curricular event at OVC,” Hanna says. “Not surprisingly, it’s also the oldest veterinary hockey tournament in the world. And it has run every year since 1931, even through the war.”

With that photo as his guide, Hanna began checking auction websites and eventually purchased a silver bowl in Toronto that looks remarkably like the Stanley Cup. The maker’s hallmark shows that it is solid sterling, made in Sheffield in 1904.

Next step: build a base modelled on the 1931 Stanley Cup. Hanna had never worked in silver before, so he began asking people for advice. “I saw Prof. Keith Betteridge in the parking lot and asked him if he knew someone who did metal work, and he gave me a strange look,” Hanna recalls. “I had no idea that his wife, Lois, holds the Order of Canada for her work as a silversmith.” Lois Betteridge encouraged Hanna to go to the Haliburton School of the Arts to learn the skills he’d need.

“I’d never even lifted a metal-working hammer before, but I enrolled at Haliburton in the summer of 2010 and showed up with my bowl, a sheet of metal and my photo of the Stanley Cup,” says Hanna.

Before turning his hand to silversmithing, Prof. Brad Hanna created several stained-glass windows, including this panel and four others that were installed at the Ontario Veterinary College in 2006. Photo by Martin Schwalbe

During that course, he created one section of the trophy’s base. Two more were made during the winter of 2010 under Lois Betteridge’s direction, and Hanna returned to Haliburton in summer 2011 to complete the largest section of the base.

“In 2010, one of the other students timed my rate of hammering for a few minutes and estimated that I probably struck that piece of metal about 15,000 times over the course of a week to shape it,” says Hanna.

In between all that hammering, he was also researching the history of the Challenge Cup tournament. “I talked to a couple of hundred alumni.” He also pored over student newspapers to find information about the winning teams. Their names are now engraved on the cup, which has room left to add the winning teams for the next 40 or so years. Hanna’s last step is to add a copper plate bearing the OVC logo to the bottom of the base.

The finished Challenge Cup will get its first official outing on Friday, Jan. 20, at the Gryphon “Frosty Mug” game, when the Gryphon men’s hockey team hosts the Laurier Goldenhawks at the Sleeman Centre. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m.

It’s an annual event for the Gryphons, allowing fans to enjoy a beer at the licensed Sleeman Centre. Gryphons’ communications manager Dave Easter offered to highlight the OVC tournament this year in recognition of the college’s 150th anniversary.

The trophy will be carried out by DVM student Dave Renaud, and 1952 grad Tony Calverley will perform the ceremonial puck drop. The OVC Challenge Cup will also be featured in videos and photos on the scoreboard during the intermissions.

Hanna says some OVC alumni have chipped in to help pay for the engraving. In return, interested alumni will be invited to present the cup to the winning teams each year. OVC’s 82nd student tournament runs through March, with finals on March 30.

Hanna adds: “This has been one of the most enjoyable projects I’ve ever worked on. It reminds me of the fun I had when I played in the tournament as a student in the 1980s, and I hope students today are still enjoying it that much.”

See the new OVC Challenge Cup on display Jan. 20 when the Gryphon men's hockey team hosts Laurier at the Sleeman Centre. Photo by Keith Betteridge