> History - Battle of the Hill

Battle of the Hill - 40+ Years of Cross Campus Hockey

By James Cavanaugh, Edited by Eric Drummie

It was first thought that the 150th Battle of the Hill was played on Halloween (Oct. 31st) 2007 at the LBR (UNB won 8-3), actually that was game #155. Then it was thought that Feb. 10th, 2006 at the LBR (5 games earlier) was 'the game' - a 10-3 win by STU, but it happened to be game #149. The current date (as research keeps uncovering new UNB/STU games based on unbalanced schedules of the late 60s) was October 20th, 2006 at the York Arena - the only 'battle' game held there.

There are many intense sports rivalries throughout North America: Yankees - Red Sox, Leafs - Canadiens, Oilers - Flames, the list goes on. In Fredericton, there exists high school rivalries FHS - OHS, and more recently FHS - LHHS, but the premier rivalry is the annual Battle of the Hill which features the city's two university men's hockey teams, the St. Thomas Tommies and the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds.

STU moves to Fredericton

Before St. Thomas moved to Fredericton, the main rivals for UNB were Mount Allison and St. Francis Xavier. In 1962, a royal commission on higher education in New Brunswick recommended that St. Thomas University enter into a federation agreement with the University of New Brunswick and relocate to the campus of the latter institution. In 1964, St. Thomas completed the move to Fredericton from Chatham (which has since amalgamated into the city of Miramichi). And thus began the Battle of the Hill.

Prior to 1960, St. Thomas University was called St. Thomas College. They played their first MIAU collegiate game in the 1936/37 season.

In the early years of the UNB/STU rivalry, both teams played out of the Lady Beaverbrook Rink, on University Avenue, until the Red Devils (UNB’s moniker until 1991) moved to the newly constructed Aitken University Centre (AUC) at the start of the 1976-77 season.

Left - Lady Beaverbrook Rink (LBR) | Right - Aitken University Centre(AUC)
(Photo Credit - Left: UNB HIL Special Collections | Right: Fredericton Tourism)

In the fall of 2012, the St. Thomas men's and women's hockey programs moved into the new Grant-Harvey Centre on Knowledge Park Drive - this rink would host 9 games including the last one on February 10th, 2016, a 4-0 win for UNB.

The only other rink to host a 'battle' game was the York Arena for game #150.

Some non-Battle Seasons

STU has not played in the Atlantic University Hockey Conference (AUHC) every season since their move to Fredericton. STU was not a member of the AUHC for four seasons, from 1975-76 to 1978-79. The hockey team returned for the 1979-80 season – which marked their first season as the sole tenant of the LBR and their first competative visit to the Aitken University Centre (although they did play some exhibition games the previous season).

UNB Leads the Battle

The Varsity Reds have certainly had the upper hand in the Battle of the Hill over the years on both Regular Season and Playoff play (125-55-7 & 12-4). UNB's dominace has continued under Gardiner MacDougall including a playoff series victory against STU in 2002-03 and 2007-08 seasons. At one point, UNB had a streak of 36 straight wins, a combination of 5 exhibition, 3 playoff and 28 regular season games - over six seasons (2007-08 to 2013-14). The streak ended November 20th, 2013 in a 3-2 win for STU, at the AUC. UNB would then win the next 13 games before STU cancelled their program.

Playoff Battles

It is interesting to note that the teams did not first meet in a playoff match, in Fredericton, until the 1994-95 season when STU defeated UNB two games to one in the best of three series, including a 9-3 drubbing of the Varsity Reds in the third and final game of the series at the AUC. This series marked the first time they had met in the playoffs in over 40 years (1961/62) and the LBR sold out in 20 minutes (tickets had to be purchased in-person).

Since then, however, the two clubs have met five more times in the playoffs and UNB has won each series. UNB enacted revenge in 1999-00, the third rematch, by winning game three at the LBR with a 7-0 shutout of the favoured home team.

Cutline: 1996/97 Playoffs (second meeting) - Toby Burkitt celibrates Peter MacKellar's triple ovetime goal to win game two (4-3) and the series 2-0

Memorial Games

Both hockey clubs have annual memorial games to honour one of their own who passed away unexpectedly. Since 1994, STU has honored Lou Chabot every year in their second home game of the regular season against UNB (this is generally the only meeting between the teams after the Christmas break). In later years, STU chose to play different opponents given UNB's competative strength.

Mark Jeffrey Memorial Game

Mark Jeffrey played for UNB for four years and later came back as an assistant coach for the team from 1987-91, and was head coach for the last half of the '88/'89 season. Mark provided leadership, determination and inspiration and was a friend to everyone he met. Tragically, Mark died in the summer of 1991. His #17 Jersey was retired by the team at a memorial game that fall prior to the first UNB/STU game of the season. Initially it was thought that this would be a single game, but two seasons later, Head Coach Mike Johhnson started the annual Mark Jeffrey Memorial Game to continue honouring Mark and to assist in funding the scholarshop in his name. The game was traditionally UNB's second home game of the season against STU, but has included games versus Acadia & UdeM.

Both Mark Jeffrey and Lou Chabot had a significant impacts on the two hockey programs and the annual games are the quintessential Battle of the Hill match-ups for each club.

(Photo Credit - Eric Drummie, The Brunswickan

University Rivalries

Canadian Interuniversity Sports (CIS) men's hockey has many rivalry stories, such as McGill-Queen’s, Alberta-Saskatchewan, and RMC-West Point, but for Atlantic University Sport (AUS) and Fredericton in particular, the Battle of the Hill represents a unique rivalry between two teams that literally share a campus. Whereas McGill-Concordia, Dalhousie-Saint Mary’s, Ottawa-Carleton and MRU-Calgary are within the same city – they are physically separated by geography – not so in Fredericton. As such, it makes for a unique and very ‘local’ atmosphere when the two teams meet.

The Future - The End

The 175th game occured on January 18th, 2012 in the 18th Lou Chabot Memoral game at the LBR, UNB won 5-1. The 200th game was to occur in the 2018-19 season, but there will be no game due to St. Thomas shuttering their men's hockey program in the spring of 2016. The 'battle' ends at game 192 (a 4-0 shutout for UNB) played at STU (Grant-Harvey Centre) on February 10th, 2016.

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