Exploring the implications of viewing dance as a sport versus an art for McMaster Athletics and Recreation

The recognition dancers receive in the sporting community is contested both organizationally and from the perspective of the general public. Some may view dance as solely an art or form of entertainment. Others might not associate dance with the physical demands sports such as football or basketball demonstrate.  

Members on McMaster’s competitive and recreational dance teams often get overlooked in favour of other university athletes.  These struggles can be summarized by their classification as a club as opposed to a varsity team under McMaster's athletics and recreation department.  

Maddy Arnott, president of the McMaster competitive dance team, acknowledged the artistic components of dance but she also underscored dance’s athletic intensity. 

“We encourage all of our dancers and choreographers to be really creative and express your feelings. . . but to an extent, we are very athletic individuals. We train lots during the week and train at a varsity level to an extent, so it definitely has a physical and sport component to it,” explained Arnott.  

"We train lots during the week and train at a varsity level to an extent, so it definitely has a physical and sport component to it."

Maddy Arnott, president of the McMaster Competitive Dance Team

Per Arnott, members of the McMaster competitive dance team are expected to undergo at least six hours of training a week, including a one-hour intensive group conditioning class. Dancers also have the option to sign-up and participate in extra dances, which can add up to double this mandatory time. 

In preparation for their three competitions in March and end-of-year show in April, extra weekend practices and dress rehearsals contribute an additional layer of responsibility for members.  

Even with the difficulty and commitment required by members, neither the McMaster recreational nor the competitive dance team are officially considered varsity teams by the university.  

“As a community, it can also be difficult not to have other sports communities or things like that regard you as unathletic or high intensity. . . I do think that it definitely can be discouraging not to have other people view you as an athlete when you do put in that high level of training,” said Arnott.  

"As a community, it can also be difficult not to have other sports communities or things like that regard you as unathletic or high intensity. . ."

Maddy Arnott, president of the McMaster Competitive Dance Team

This lack of recognition has significant implications not only for dancers and their identities but also their finances.  

The Athletics section on McMaster’s impact donation page allows patrons the opportunity to provide merit-based athletic financial awards for athletes across multiple different sports. Donors may provide one-time or perpetual gifts to various sporting team funds laid out on the website. Neither the McMaster Recreational Dance nor the Mcmaster Competitive Dance Team are among those listed. 

According to the McMaster Athletics Eligibility page for student athletes, dance is not officially recognized as either a U Sport or Ontario University Athletics sport. Accordingly, scholarships and financial support for athletes provided by the university are also only offered at the discretion of U Sports and OUA policies.  

Within both the OUA model outlining G1, G2 and G3 sports, as well as the Sports Model Framework developed by U Sports, dance fails to match their criteria to be considered a recognized sport.   

Currently, both teams primarily raise money through student-led fundraising events to cover their costs. Last year the team organized a Christmas bake sale, a Fun Run, and a sticker sale in support of both Mac Dance and the McMaster Children's Hospital Foundation. 

The lack of sponsorship or external backers furthers the funding gap between dance and other McMaster Athletics and Recreation sports. This lack of financial support results in increased payment fees for expenditures such as costumes, competitions and transportation. Alongside impacts to their personal identity, these financial burdens on dancers make their recognition as athletes a critical topic of discussion. 

C/O Yoohyun Park

While lacrosse may be a game many Canadians are familiar with, its history often goes unnoticed

In 1994, by the National Sports of Canada Act, lacrosse was officially declared as the national summer sport of Canada. The term lacrosse came about in 1636 when French missionary, Jean de Brebeuf, compared the stick they played with to a bishop’s crozier, or la crosse. However, the game has existed for centuries, originally played by Indigenous tribes across North America, referred to as stickball, The Creator’s Game, Baggataway by the Algonquin and Tewaaraton by the Iroquois, both of which translate to “little brother of war.”

The Creator’s Game was an essential part of Indigenous culture and religion. This name came from the idea that lacrosse was gifted to the people by the Creator, the being responsible for creating everything on earth. As such, the game was used by the Iroquois to teach lessons, for instance, that everyone has struggles and that the key to survival is friends and allies. 

The other name, “little brother of war,” stems from the Iroquois using the game as a way to train young men to be warriors and to settle disputes without going to war. The game could include anywhere between 100 and 1,000 players at a time, playing until the predetermined number of points were achieved by one team. The game was vicious, injuring players with cuts, broken bones and the occasional death

Indigenous lacrosse was played with three to five foot long sticks made of wood and the netting was made of dried out animal hide. Alf Jacques is an Onondaga Turtle Clan lacrosse stick carver. Jacques explains the significance of the wooden stick in an interview with The Equinox. 

“You make that stick from nature. That’s a living piece of wood that you make that out of. The energy of that living tree then transfers to the player,” explained Jacques. 

This fits with the Iroquois culture and belief that, when a man dies, his lacrosse stick is buried with him. The first thing he does when waking up in the afterlife is to take the stick and begin playing. 

However, after the Indigenous people were colonized and assimilated into Canadian culture, so was the game of lacrosse. In 1834, a group from the Caughnawaga tribe demonstrated the game in the city of Montreal. In 1856, Canadian dentist, Dr. William George Beers, founded the Montreal Lacrosse Club and ten years later came up with an adjusted set of rules for the game including a rubber ball and newly designed stick. 

Allan Downey (Dakelh, Nak’azdli Whut’en) is a McMaster professor in the department of history within the Indigenous studies program. His first book, The Creator’s Game: Lacrosse, Identity and Indigenous Nationhood, traces the history of lacrosse in Indigenous communities and demonstrates how lacrosse is an example of the appropriation, then reclamation, of Indigenous identities. 

In his book, Downey describes why he played lacrosse, but also the inherent appropriation he recognized within the game. 

“When I was a kid, I was always told that field lacrosse . . . was a “gentleman’s game,” and we as players would be penalized if we swore. Later, I learned that this dated from an 1860s effort to construct lacrosse as a gendered white middle-class sport for Canadians who were naturalized as gentlemen,”

Allan downey

The book examines the process through which identity is created, articulated and the transformation within Indigenous communities as they continue to play their sport and maintain it as an Indigenous game amongst external and internal challenges. 

While lacrosse is a sport that may sometimes be overlooked in mainstream media, it is important to recognize its Indigenous roots and reflect on how Indigenous culture has shaped the Canadian landscape. There is still much to learn and many inherent biases to recognize and put aside as we work to reconcile the past and create an equitable future. 

Photos C/O @QuidditchCanada

By: Adriana Skaljin

The name Harry Potter is one familiar to most, given its prevalence in pop culture. The Harry Potter franchise’s beloved sport, Quidditch, has made its way into the Muggle (non-magical) world, having become a semi-professional sport.

On March 23 and 24, Quidditch Canada held their 2019 National Championship at Ron Joyce Stadium and Alumni Field. Fifteen teams from across Canada, coming from Ontario, Montreal, Edmonton and British Columbia, participated in the two-day tournament, bringing the sport to life.

“This is the second time that we’ve held the Nationals in Hamilton,” said Bethan Morgan, events manager for Quidditch Canada. “Last year, we held it at Tim Hortons Field. It is exciting to be back in Hamilton for a second year in a row.”

 

Morgan has been playing the sport for eight years, and has loved watching the sport grow. She began getting involved with Quidditch due to her love for the fandom and the impact that it had on her life.

“It makes me really happy to see [Quidditch] turn into a competitive sport… [one that] has become international,” explained Morgan. “It has grown a lot in Canada and it is cool seeing people come from all over to play.”

It is amazing to see the ways in which a community of Harry Potter fanatics has turned into a community of athletes. The sport encourages players from all backgrounds and demographics to participate, creating a diverse and welcoming environment.

“There are people that love Harry Potter and then people who have never even watched the movies,” said Morgan. “People from all different backgrounds and genders are welcome. I love how gender-inclusive the sport is, in comparison to others.”

This combination of community and a genuine love for the series and its fictional world is what drives the existence of Quidditch competitions, such as the one just held at McMaster.

C/O Kristen Walsh

 

“It is a very supporting and welcoming community of people and I think that is what motivated me to stay the sport, and become a better athlete,” said Morgan.

The game is made up of several positions: chasers, who drive the ball and get them through the hoops, beaters who combine tackling with strategy, and seekers. Each position appeals to different strengths, allowing people to excel and specialize in different areas of the sport.

“This is a sport that anyone can play,” said Morgan. “Our athletes train as though it is a professional sport, and I think that a lot of people are surprised when we tackle because it is a very physical game. We are trying to show that we aren’t just a book, we are a real sport with real rules and intense athletes.”

At the 2019 National Championship, the Ottawa Otters and the University of Guelph faced off in the final match. The Otters won the tournament, with a final score of 250^ to 200*. The Vancouver Storm Crows placed third, beating Valhalla Quidditch, a team from Toronto, in the bronze medal match, with a score of 100* to 50.

It is evident that Quidditch is not just a fictional sport created by J.K. Rowling, but rather a tough and competitive sport that anyone can excel at.

The Canadian National Championship is a prime example of the ways in which the combination of passion, community and athleticism can bring magic out from the pages of books and into the lives of fans and athletes.

Quidditch is definitely a sport to watch and one that deserves recognition in the world of international sports. This sport is definitely a ‘keeper’.

 

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Photos by Kyle West

By: Graham West

Hard work, toughness and focus are the key elements that have led to Hilary Hanaka’s outstanding success at the university level. After recently achieving the milestone of 1000 career points, Hanaka is looking forward to a season filled with promise.

Hitting 1000 career points is a huge career landmark and it meant a lot to Hanaka, although she stressed the importance the team has had in contributing to her being able to achieve it.

“It’s a pretty big milestone to hit and it means a lot to hit that point,” Hanaka said. “But, of course it’s a team sport overall, so I think I’m more excited to figure out where our team will end up this season…  it's obviously nice to hit that point, but I obviously wouldn’t have gotten to this point without the help of my teammates and my coach.”

http://www.instagram.com/p/BszRnMfBPy4/

It has not always been easy on the path to greatness for Hanaka as there have been challenges with balancing academics and being a varsity athlete.

“There are positives and negatives. Coming into first year, that was when the big adjustment hit,” Hanaka said. “Obviously, it’s a much bigger time commitment being on a varsity team and having classes every single day, practices every day and you’re away on weekends and just making sure you find the right balance to do everything.”

“With that being said, you’re surrounded by an incredible group of girls, coaching staffs,” Hanaka added. “We have so much support through the athletic department, so whenever things were going downhill, you always had someone to pick you back up.”

Hanaka’s experience with the difficulties athletes can face and her expertise on the court are some of the things that make her a great leader. Being there for her teammates on and off the court is instrumental to the success of the team and something that is incredibly important to her as well.

“Off the court is just as important as on the court when it comes to varsity sports,” Hanaka said.

“Being a veteran player, I’ve been around for five years so I’ve been through most of the things that bring you down and that go on. So just being able to be there for the girls is something that I really strive to do.”

“Just knowing that I’ve been in the position of a first-year, second-year, third-year and even a fourth-year player and things aren't always fun and games there’s always going to be those lows,” Hanaka added. "Being able to make sure the girls are aware that I’m always there for them, whether it’s something basketball-related, life-related, school-related, whatever it might be, that just because I’m a leader on the court, doesn’t mean I can’t be the leader off the court. ”

http://www.instagram.com/p/BtYum4ABzqm/

Whenever Hanaka’s career as a player ends, it will most certainly not be the end to her basketball career. When you have a particularly knowledgeable player who is a natural leader, coaching is always on the horizon. It is something Hanaka is interested in, and given her success as a player, seems very possible.

“I would love to be a coach. Growing up I’ve always been surrounded by basketball and it’s been a huge part of my life,” Hanaka said. “Being a player has been incredible, but I think I’m kinda ready to hang up the shoes and move forward. Hopefully down the road, coaching is something that I’ll be put into.”

Always one of the first people in the gym, Hanaka has had an outstanding career so far in the maroon and grey and looks to only improve. The team is one to watch as they continue to play their way to a return to nationals, with their eyes clearly set on taking home gold.

 

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Photos C/O Kyle West

What year and program are you in?

Isabelle: Second year, health sciences.

Tell us, what made you decide to come to Mac?

I: Planning for university in Grade 11, I wasn’t sure whether or not I was going to swim. So my initial interest in McMaster was because of the health sciences program, and it’s unique approach to interdisciplinary studies. However, as Grade 12 approached and started, I knew that I would miss the sport too much to stop before the varsity experience. The Mac swim team was one of the first recruit trips that I came on, and it was the one I remember the best because I felt at home and part of the family immediately.

Tell us a bit about the season so far? The team and individually?

I: The team has grown significantly compared to last year because quite a few first-years came in, especially on the women’s side. It’s been great to integrate them into the team, and having new training partners and a new dynamic is both refreshing and exciting as we prepare for [the Ontario University Athletics Championship]. I would say that this year, our winter break training camp in Florida was collectively viewed as the hardest training camp that the team has been through, and our hard work is starting to show in the pool as we begin to taper down and see positive results.

If you had to tell us one thing about yourself that people don’t know what would it be?

I: I eat at least one jar of peanut butter a week.

As the OUA Rookie of the Year, do you feel pressure to live up to everything you accomplished last year?

I: Receiving OUA Rookie of the Year last season was very humbling for me, because I came in with no expectations. This second time around, there is definitely pressure for me to perform because I do not want to let the team down, but I know it all comes down to stepping on the blocks and just leaving it all in the pool. I know that my team is there for me stroke for stroke, as I will be for them. If I can finish every race knowing for a fact that I could not have gone any faster, or tried any harder, I will be satisfied, and posting personal bests would be the cherry on top.

Lastly, what are your goals for this season?

I: I am very excited for both Ontario University Athletics and U Sports championships because the calibre of swimmers at both meets has increased, even from last year. To be able to compete with people who have international experience is an amazing, inspiring opportunity, and I would like to just go into the field and race with joy and make the team proud. I’m also swimming a couple of different races from last year, so I’m excited to reach outside my comfort zone and spice it up.

 

The 2019 Swimming OUA Championships will be held Feb. 7-9 at Brock University.

 

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Photo C/O Maxine Gravina

When you are one of seven kids, there are not many activities that are easy for all seven kids to participate. For the Schnurr family, running was the one that worked.

At the age of seven years old, McMaster’s cross-country coach Paula Schnurr found herself in a running club for the first time. Joining the Burlington Running Club, Schnurr soon found out that she was actually quite good at the sport. Fast forward to university, and Schnurr got a spot on McMaster’s cross-country team.

“There's something about running that makes you feel good physically, mentally and emotionally, especially being a part of a team,” said Schnurr. “When I was at McMaster as a varsity athlete, I made lifelong friendships from being part of the team.”

C/O Rick Zazulak

Aside from the forever friends that running gave her, being able to continually challenge herself and the nature of competing is what Schnurr really fell in love with. Her competitive edge led her to make the national team and represent Canada at the 1992 and 1996 Olympics for the 1500m, as well as two World Championships. Schnurr went on to win a silver medal representing Canada at the 1994 Commonwealth Games.

When her time as a runner came to an end, Schnurr turned to coaching. Starting her tenure with McMaster in 2009, her expertise has guided the Marauders to great success. Most recently, the men’s team found success in the 2018 cross-country season, coming in first at the Ontario University Athletics Championship, and third at the U Sports National Championship.

Her team’s triumphs led her to be named the OUA Men's Cross-Country Coach of the Year, making her the first woman to ever win the award, and McMaster’s second recipient of the award ever.

C/O Ian McAlpine

“I was very honoured because it is an award that the coaches vote on,” said Schnurr. “Winning that award is really a reflection of the kind of athletes that are on our team. Because, when your athletes are winning, it makes your coaching look good. So I’m honoured on how lucky we are and that we have a great group of student-athletes.”

The group of men and women she has the honour of coaching are a tight-knit group who often compare themselves to a family rather than a team. For Schnurr and her assistant coach Peter Self, who also happens to be her husband, they can not exactly pinpoint why the student-athletes who join their program all mesh so well together, but they are grateful for a team that enjoys being together on and off the track.

“I guess it's a bit of a reflection on the people that we are. We try to make good decisions on treating people well, and when athletes show up and work well, we're going to reward them by helping them be the best athlete they can be,” said Schnurr. “We feel good that athletes, whether they're winning championships or just making personal times, can walk away after their time here and reflect that they had a great experience while at Mac.”

Although some couples may find it difficult to work together, the two retired professional runners find balance in both their differences and their passion for running.

“I mean, we do disagree on certain things when issues come up, but we have a lot of respect for each other. Pete is very good at making suggestions on how we can change things for the better,” said Schnurr. “He pays attention to more of the details, and I'm more focused on the athletes and managing them. I'm the day-to-day person that they see and interact with, but he's the support.”

Winning such a high honour as Coach of the Year and coming in first provincially and third nationally, the thought of pressure would stay at the back of most people’s minds, but not for Schnurr.

“I don't feel a lot of pressure but I know the men put a lot of the pressure on themselves,” said Schnurr. “ Will there be a bit of pressure next year? Probably, because they are the OUA-defending Champions, but that's okay because the pressure is what makes athletes better.”

Instead of worrying too much about next year, Schnurr and the team’s next focus is the 2019 indoor track season. Unlike the outdoor track season, team goals begin to shift to individual goals. Whether it's running a certain time or making nationals, the men’s team again have top contenders for doing well this season.

“Our women’s team is still young and developing, but it's the men who are looking towards making nationals, as well as our relay teams,” said Schnurr.

Using invitationals like the Don Wright Team Challenge that took place at the Western University this past weekend, and competitions in Michigan and Boston to compete against some of the top American runners, the Marauders are doing whatever it takes to stay sharp. This way, by the end of February for the OUA Championship, and the second week of March for the U Sports National Championships, they will be ready to hit the podium once again.

 

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May 31 – Women’s lacrosse

Brandan Sweeney, who served as an assistant coach with the McMaster men’s lacrosse team since 2011, was named the head coach of the women’s lacrosse team.

He formerly served as the head coach of Queen’s team starting in 2004 while completing his master’s degree. Winning the OUA Coach of the Year award in 2005, the first Gaels coach to win the honour, his success continued for multiple years there and for a season with the University of Washington.

After obtaining his PhD from Queen’s in 2010, he returned to McMaster in 2011.

“It’s been a decade since my last head coaching post at the OUA level, and I’m looking forward to the unique challenge that it brings,” said Sweeney.

His priority and mindset seems to be centered on creating a positive student-athlete environment for his team to succeed in no matter what success might mean to them.

“For some, it’s winning, and winning is ideal. But why do many people play? They play for the team-building and to learn and develop, and for many, that’s part of their learning alongside their studies. We want to build a successful program where we learn how to be competitive and how to work hard, but also how to work as a team and develop those relationships and leadership capabilities.”

He will also serve as the head coach of the Hamilton Bengals U19 girls field program.

 

June 12 – Men’s volleyball

The men’s volleyball team, defending OUA champions, added two new names to their staff. The first is Ian Eibbitt, who has served twice as the head coach of the Team Ontario U18 program and returns to the provincial staff in 2017 for the Canada Games. The second is Aytac Kilic, former Turkish national team player, who has nearly two decades of experience as a player and a coach.

“We continue to provide tremendous resources to help develop our student-athletes and help them reach their potential,” said head coach Dave Preston.

 

June 19 – Women’s basketball

It was announced that the women’s basketball team would be participating in the Buddha Light International Association Cup tournament from July 25 to 30 at the Kaoshiung Arena in Taiwan.

Organized by the Fo Guang Shan Monastery, the tournament features eight women’s teams and eight men’s teams with representatives from the USA, Australia, France, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines and China.

“Being exposed to very different styles of play from all the different countries will be exciting.  I believe that as much as they will gain from the on-court experience, our team will also gain so much from the trip itself and being exposed to a different culture,” said head coach Theresa Burns.

This comes one year after the men’s basketball team participated in the men’s tournament there and achieved first place.

 

June 23 – Nike

Glen Grunwald, the Director of Athletics and Recreation, announced a new partnership agreement for McMaster athletics with Nike. This comes after the five year exclusivity deal signed in 2012 that made McMaster the first Nike school in Canada. Local distributor T. Litzen Sports in Dundas will continue to be the main servicer of the agreement.

“It is crucial that we have the support of great corporate partners, and it doesn’t get much bigger than Nike. We have done some amazing things over the life of this partnership, and I am confident even more is on the horizon,” said Grunwald.

In addition, T. Litzen Sports is donating a new scoreboard with video capability for the Burridge Gymnasium. It will be installed in the fall in time for the start of the 2017-18 varsity sports season.

 

June 27 – Men’s volleyball

It was announced that the men’s volleyball team would welcome the Ohio State Buckeyes team for two matches on Oct. 21 and Oct. 22. The last time they played was in Burridge Gym on Dec. 30, 2016 where the Marauders won the single match 3-0 (25-23, 25-16, 32-30).

Ohio State has won the last two NCAA national championships, and the Marauders have won the last five OUA titles. Since McMaster’s first trip to Columbus in 2014, they have won three of the five matches played.

“I can’t think of a better way to help prepare ourselves to compete for a National Championship in our own gym next March,” said head coach Dave Preston.

Special thanks to Fraser Caldwell, Sports Information Director, Bill Malley, Media Coordinator, and the rest of the staff at the Department of Athletics and Recreation for the information and quotes for all of the dates featured.

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On Feb. 21, a crowd of people poured into Hamilton’s Knights of Columbus hall to witness two and a half hours of choke slams, drop kicks and body slams. For what the event held by the Christian fraternity lacked in spirituality, it compensated for in reverence to the legends of wrestling that have come and gone: the larger-than-life television characters that brought together a passionate audience, and the performers that chose to follow in their footsteps. As the sound of bells reverberated through the small but packed venue, Hamilton’s Alpha-1 wrestling kicked off its seventh year of professional wrestling.

I knew that when I was signing up to cover Hamilton’s Alpha-1 Wrestling’s Big Year 7 event, I wasn’t walking into some kind of underground blood sport, but I got enough worried requests to “be careful” to understand that many people hold misconceptions about independent professional wrestling. Even at its most amateur level, professional wrestling is a carefully choreographed performance act. Training and schools are prerequisite to perform, and the organization itself has an impressive roster of long-time amateur wrestlers, and even featured names from major televised corporations like ECW and WWE.

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Alpha-1 Wrestling is owned by Ethan “All Ego” Page, a full-time professional wrestler himself, who spoke to me backstage about what it takes to throw together an independent wrestling company. “I go from country to country, state to state, I’m meeting different people in different cities and finding who the best wrestlers are and I’ll bring them all down to Hamilton because I trust them and know what they’re capable of and then we’ll produce the best wrestling show.”

Page shoots promotional videos and scripts the storylines that will play out in the ring. Just two hours before the event, wrestlers will meet, sometimes for the first time, and plan the choreography of their matches.

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Fake stories, real athleticism

Professional wrestling has had a long history of straddling the line between athleticism and entertainment, but you’d be hard pressed to find many forms of live performance art that is as visceral and raw as live wrestling. You can hear and feel every thud and slam of the ring. Every impact on the canvas mat violently shakes the ropes. Athletes are tossed both in and outside the ring, occasionally right into the feet of front row audience members.

You feel the impact of every DDT, pile driver, power bomb and frankensteiner. Every single slap and chop to the chest is punctuated by a Ric Flair “Woo” from the crowd.  As the audience taunted some of the in-ring villains (or any wrestler from Toronto), the performers replied with their own fair share of insults.

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Witnessing these performers execute increasingly complex and dangerous maneuvers is not for the faint of heart. That should be obvious, but the choreographed nature of professional wrestling still does not make the impacts any less real and the wrestlers shared stories of broken bones and bruises when we talked backstage.

“For people watching, some people kind of think, ‘eh, it’s not that physical, it’s not real so to speak.’ It’s very physical match, its very taxing on the body and depending on how long you wrestle in the ring it can be very exhausting, you can feel very beat up and sore,” explained Brent Banks. Banks has been wrestling in the independent circuit for eight years, and his experience was evident during his main fight. “The worst part is the next day after the adrenaline goes down after your match. You really feel all the bumps and bruises afterwards.”

“I’m meeting different people in different cities and finding who the best wrestlers are and I’ll bring them all down to Hamilton because I trust them and know what they’re capable of and then we’ll produce the best wrestling show.”

Despite a particularly brutal bout with the featured Nanzio of WWE and ECW fame, Page described another long list of his own current injuries and the constant risks involved, “Right now I have a torn shoulder; some guys that I’ve personally worked with have broken their necks and had to retire. Broken legs, broken arms, my wrist is broken right now, I’ve broken both my heels, my nose … It hurts to be a fake fighter.”

The four-walled drama

Despite athleticism playing a central role in “sports entertainment,” Page finds professional wrestling’s entertainment aspect most appealing. “It’s like a movie that has four different walls. So, you can sit at any point of the ring and it’ll be a different show every single time,” explained Page.

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Though certainly not high brow, professional wrestling is still best categorized as performance art, and like the devoted fan base of any artistic sub-culture, its supporters are as much in love with the spectacle as they are critical. An early mass of ticket holders outside the venue shared stories of meeting WWE and WWF superstars, but also avidly debated and complained about the current state of prime-time storylines, executive decisions and other behind-the scenes controversy. The attention to the show and all the decisions and work behind it is the same brand of fandom that we’ve come to expect from comic book geeks, cinephiles and gamers. The fights need to be executed as perfectly as possible, the characters need to entertain and the drama in and outside the ring need to give fans a competitor they can get behind.

The in-ring character is arguably just as important as the athletic prowess. Banks repeated a tried and true advice to creating an in-ring persona. “A lot of people will say that the best characters are just an extension of yourself, just turned up a little bit,” he said.

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Banks himself has transitioned from his previous iteration of the basketball inspired “Allstarter” to a less cartoonish persona that seemed to emphasize the technical prowess he’s built up in his eight year run. He went against Scotty “The Hacker” O’Shea for the Alpha Male Champion Belt, until an Anonymous “virus” donning the signature all black attire and Guy Fawkes mask jumped into the ring and busted a keyboard on both the wrestlers’ heads.

Earlier during the event, “Theory of Evolution” — a tag team composed of Jim Nye the Science Guy and Space Monkey (complete with monkey fur mask, tail and space suit) — brought some of the best moments during the event. Audience members threw bananas at them as they entered alongside the Beastie Boys “Intergalactic.” Nye tossed Space Monkey from the top rope to execute a crushing body slam, for science of course, and the two continued to win over the crowd spot after spot. The raw talent of the pair, and the absurdity of their personas made their loss of the tag-team title surprisingly painful.

“A lot of people will say that the best characters are just an extension of yourself, just turned up a little bit.”

In a similar vein, this audience witnessed the heartbreaking loss of Dick Justice, a freedom loving American police officer. Justice’s persona is a cross between Weird Al Yankovic and Paul Blart, with a heaping dose of tongue-in-cheek patriotism. Crowds egg him on with cries for freedom and ‘Merica, and his antics during the six-man free-for-all was a great comedic break from some of the intensity of the previous matches. Although the crowd chanted scores of asinine jokes based on Justice’s first name, the connection between the audience and the performers felt palatable after his loss when a young boy held up a hand drawn portrait to his favourite “Super Cop” as a sign of support. Justice lost his badge to the neon-pink 80s fitness junkie Danny Orlando, and triumphantly push-upped his way out of the ring.

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Why we fight

When I joined the performers backstage, I expected to receive elaborate stories of how they fell into the professional wrestling scene. Perhaps what I should have anticipated was the matter-of-fact attitude each of the wrestlers shared. If you loved wrestling as a kid, you started practicing some moves in your backyard and you carried that passion into adulthood, you are going to try and become a wrestler.

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Another wrestler, who requested to keep his name and persona a secret, expanded a bit more, “I’ve been a fan since I was a kid. I was always really small so I liked watching the smaller guys, and because of that I taught myself to flip off diving boards and high stuff in the snow just to emulate them … When I discovered indie wrestling I was like, this is an amazing, intimate, smaller setting, I think I want to do this.” He had a long history in martial arts, but dropped it in favour of his wrestling training, which he practiced every single day after work.

“I’ve done a lot of things in my life, like I grew up playing soccer, skateboarding, BMX, doing dumb things, jumping off high things and fighting, competitive martial arts and after all that, of all the things I’ve done, this is the most fun I’ve ever had. When I’m in the ring and leaving the ring, it’s just the greatest feeling. The adrenaline rush is like no other.”

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Page is fully aware of the niche nature of his trade, and recognizes the “trailer trash, male soap opera” stigma surrounding the culture, but despite this, still fully believes in the art of professional wrestling.

“Someone could land in your lap. Someone could get their tooth knocked out and you can catch it. It’s unlike any other form of entertainment. You won’t see that at a play; it’s all fake. Professional wrestling is something you can touch and it can touch you too.”

Photo Credit: Daniel Arauz

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Just off the intersection of John and King Street, Serve Ping Pong Bar & Lounge is an entertaining spin on the increasingly popular hobby bar.

Similar in premise to a pool bar or a board-game cafe, patrons can come for a beer or a bite to eat, then hit the tables for some casual or competitive table tennis. With Ping Pong balls scattered all over the floor and a pitcher of beer positioned next to a group of friends heavily invested in their match, the bar is a playground for adults to come and relax with some friends for the night.

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“It’s a good social experience, it’s something you can do with friends,” said Gianmarco Silano, one of four founding partners of Serve.

“Anybody can do it, you can be as good as you want, as bad as you want; people seem to have a great time with it.”

The bar, housed on the second floor of 105-115 King St. East, occupies 10,000 square feet of space in a building that once belonged to the Hamilton Spectator in the early 1900s. There’s a historic charm to the interior as well, with some brick-and-mortar contrasting with a more urban aesthetic.

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“I’d say [it has] a rustic-industrial kind of feel, but with newer touches to bring it up-to-date,” said Silano.

“We’re trying to keep the old with the new.”

The bar blends a lot of different elements beyond just its aesthetic, as it’s divided into a quieter sit-down area dotted with paddle-shaped menus, available for people to chat and watch the game, to the expansive floor filled with tables and blaring music.

The price to play is a touch expensive with each table at $20 an hour, but Serve has already been fairly popular amongst customers in its first several months.

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“It seems like everybody’s enjoying it so far,” he said. “Our crowd’s been awesome, people really seem to warm to the space; really good vibes from everybody. That’s something I’ve noticed in general from Hamilton, everybody seems to be very positive and supportive, especially if you’re starting a business.”

The space had been vacant for several years before Silano and his partners opened the bar this past October. According to Silano, the idea first came up when one of the partners first bought the building.

“It was so large and expansive that he had the idea to try and do a ping pong bar,” Silano said. “He loves to play ping pong, we used to play growing up in high school.”

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That premise of playing and competing with friends is what Silano hopes people will continue to come out for.

“It’s something to do in the winter; if you want to go to a bar, you can’t go to a patio, so if you know you’re stuck inside at a bar, you’re [at least] moving around, you’re competitive, you’re having fun,” said Silano.

“We also have that aspect where you can go watch the game or sit down at a table and eat something; you can experience it in different ways if you want to, and I just think it’s a fun thing to do.”

Photo Credits: Jon White/Photo Editor

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