Alumni Association | Spring 2023

Varsity Alumni Engagement Makes a Strong Comeback

Youngsters Elliot and Cohen Kaesermann wearing Thunderwolves gear and holding a Let's Go Thunderwolves sign

A short plane ride, rental car, an opposition rink, and many loyal Lakehead alumni. A perfect night for varsity sports. The Lakehead blue and gold scarf has returned to sporting events in places other than Thunder Bay and the desire of people to be back together is undeniable. The pride in the Lakehead experience is undeniable as well.

After COVID-19 cancelled the 2020-21 Ontario University Athletics (OUA) season and a reduced games schedule was announced the following year, the Lakehead University Thunderwolves varsity teams came back in 2022 with an ambitious full-season schedule. Alumni House staff and their on-the-ground ambassadors were quick to provide whatever engagement support they could.

I've personally seen games turn around based on the level of energy in the building," says Alumni Association Executive Director Mark Tilbury. "Fans in the stands is a tremendous boost for our teams when they are 'the visitors.' Having our alumni there makes it feel like a home game. We always encourage as many alumni as possible to attend games in their areas.

Since 2015, the Alumni Association has been encouraging alumni to attend varsity women and men's sporting events at venues in southern Ontario. At many events, cheers for the Lakehead athletes drown out the home team. The varsity engagement program has been a huge success.

The Alumni and Annual Giving office provides tickets and other swag. It is very interesting watching our alumni as they enter the various arenas. They are always amazed that we are giving away branded stuff. Many already sport their Lakehead scarves. But we have handed out a lot of new scarves this year, too. The enthusiasm is continually growing.

Our regular season took our teams to cities all over Ontario: Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Toronto, Guelph, Waterloo, and Kingston. Cumulatively, we had over 600 Lakehead alumni and their families registered to come out and howl with the Thunderwolves teams. Many brought their children. We always take the opportunity to ask them where they want to go to school. Most don't have a fast answer. We do! Lakehead!

We are most impressed by how everyone mingles at these events—chatting about the positive experiences they had at the Thunder Bay and Orillia campuses. We have had quite a few new "returnees" who are more than happy to join the various alumni chapters in different parts of the province as a result of turning up for a Lakehead game.

Lakehead employee Diane Robnik at a hockey rink

Recently, we had a unique experience.Our Ottawa Chapter has been fortunate to have a strong connection to the NHL Ottawa Senators Hockey Club through the influence of its team doctor, Dr. Don Chow (BSc'77) and his wife, Dr. Angela Chow (BSc'77/HBSc'78).

As in former years, the Chapter set up an event at a Senators game in February 2023. The fact that the Sens were playing the Connor McDavid-led Edmonton Oilers did not hurt the appeal. We had 45 people attend our event—one of our larger groups this year. As usual our swag table of scarves and toques was most appreciated. After the excitement of the game, the group met with Dr. Chow in the Sens bench area where he made a special effort for us despite having to treat not one but two players who'd received significant injuries during the game.

The calm, professional—yet enthusiastic—welcome given by Dr. Chow made the event truly special. The Chapter showed its thanks by presenting Dr. Chow with a unique Thunderwolves sweater. Who knows? It might be seen on the ice at a future Sens practice rink.

Our varsity teams have had an exciting finish to 2023. Some highlights to note: The Men's Nordic skiers won their second straight OUA championship banner, the men's basketball team lost a heart-breaking playoff match against Guelph, and the hockey team finished first in the OUA West before losing out to the Windsor Lancers in the playoffs. They compete for the bronze medal in the Queen's Cup, which may land them a berth in the national finals.

Didn't see an email from us on where to pick up your free tickets? Make sure we have your up-to-date email and phone number so you can receive your invitation when the varsity teams travel to your location! Email the Alumni and Annual Giving office at: or use our online form here.

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