Birth of a rivalry: MacEwan hockey joins Canada West Conference

The men's and women's hockey teams from MacEwan University are the latest to join the Canada West conference, part of U-Sports, the National body that oversees Canadian University sports.

Teams from Edmonton's MacEwan University and the University of Alberta will compete head to head in 2020-21

Brett Njaa, right, celebrates with teammate Ryan Baskerville after scoring a goal in Game 1 of the ACAC semifinal against Red Deer College. (Matthew Jacula/MacEwanGriffins.ca)

A new rivalry could be brewing on the ice in Edmonton.

MacEwan University's men's and women's hockey teams have both been accepted into the Canada West Conference starting in the 2020-21 season, where they compete against the University of Alberta Golden Bears and Pandas.

Currently, the Griffin hockey teams are part of the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) and have won championships three years in a row.

The news didn't come as much of a surprise to University of Alberta Pandas hockey coach Howie Draper.

"We're certainly looking forward to the added excitement level of having another team in the city," said Draper. "We could possibly build a rivalry that's a little bit closer to home than say Calgary or Saskatchewan."

Draper says the leagues are pretty similar but the skill level in Canada West is slightly higher. He thinks there could be stiff competition for elite players.

Draper thinks the addition of MacEwan could lead to increased interest in University level athletics. He pointed to the cross-town rival game held every year in Calgary between Mount Royal University and the University of Calgary. 

Michael Ringrose, Griffins men's hockey coach, is excited for his team to make the leap to what he calls the "premier league" of university hockey.

"I think it's a huge opportunity for our program to take the next step. We've been building towards this moment for some time, so to finally have it be a reality is exciting."

The MacEwan Griffins have already been competing in the Canada West Conference since 2014 in basketball, cross-country, soccer and volleyball.