When it was first announced that the Syracuse Orange would be headed north of the border this summer, the question became, "who will we play?" When the answer given was, amongst other teams, the Bishop Gaiters, Ottawa Gee-Gees and Carleton Ravens, it wasn't any clearer.
So, I turned to my source for all-things Canadian sports, Andrew Bucholtz. Andrew fills us in on who these teams are, what kind of talent we might expect to face and what Syracuse fans should do while in Montreal and Ottawa...
So far, we know that Syracuse is going to scrimmage the Bishop Gaiters, Ottawa Gee-Gees & Carleton Ravens. What kind of teams are we talking about here, all university teams or is there some semi-pro action mixed in there?
The Gee-Gees, Ravens and Gaiters are all university teams. They play in the highest level of post-secondary competition in Canada, Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS). Carleton is a CIS dynasty: they won their 9th (a CIS record) national title this spring, and won the championship game 92-42 over Lakehead. Ottawa also had a very good season this past year, earning bronze nationally (they lost to Lakehead in the national semifinals, then beat Acadia in a bronze-medal game). Bishop's hasn't quite been at the level of the Ottawa and Carleton programs recently, but they're not bad either.
What the hell is a Gee-Gee (other than something Josh Wright briefly was)? And while we're at it, what the hell is a Gaiter?
A Gee-Gee is supposedly named for a quick-starting horse (specifically, the first horse out of the gate), which is why Ottawa's logos are rather equine. It also can stand for the school colours, garnet (essentially dark red) and grey. However, this is a common question, and a frequent way to mock Ottawa. Where I went to school (Queen's) and at other OUA schools, "What the eff's a Gee-Gee" (except the uncensored version) is a common chant during games against Ottawa, so visiting Syracuse fans can feel free to use that.
Gaiters refers to a type of boot covering Anglican bishops wore until the 20th century. Bishop's was originally an Anglican school (from founding in 1843 through 1947, now non-denominational), so that's the connection. I'm not sure if they are regularly mocked for this, but they should be.
Syracuse has a decent track record of recruiting Canadian talent, how important are the high school and college basketball leagues in Canada?
There's a lot of good Canadian basketball talent, but most doesn't come through the Canadian system. We have good Canadian AAU teams, where a lot of it starts. Then most top players go to US basketball preps and then the NCAA. Andrew Wiggins did this, and I think most of SU's Canadians have as well. I know Andy Rautins played high school ball in NY. A few guys, like Gonzaga's Kelly Olynyk, stay in Canada for high school and then go NCAA, but that's rarer. CIS is good-quality ball (lots of grads of it go pro in Europe) and fun to watch, and at the top levels (Carleton, Ottawa) it has teams that can give even good NCAA teams a game (Carleton's done very well in these exhibitions in the past), but the top-tier Canadian players tend to go to the NCAA.
In cities like Montreal and Ottawa, is there any kind of Syracuse fandom? Are there U.S. college teams that have stronger followings?
Syracuse probably has one of the best Canadian followings of any NCAA team, thanks to historical success, proximity to the border and the numbers of Canadians who have gone there (both athletes and regular students). I'd expect some support for the Orange from locals in each of these games.
For any SU fans visiting both cities, what high-level things should they be aware of?
Montreal is a fantastic place to visit, and one of my favourite cities. Many bars and clubs are open all night and serve alcohol with breakfast, so it's easy to have fun. The Metro (subway) is a great way to get around. There's also lots of awesome music, and some of the world's best poutine (Ed. - Don't even get Boeheim started). SU fans should try this Canadian delicacy if they haven't: gravy, fries, cheese and sometimes meat, what's not to like?
Ottawa also can be fun. There are some great bars there, especially Zaphod Beeblebrox (a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy themed place that's also one of the city's best bars for live concerts), and some excellent museums (Canadian War Museum, the Museum of Civilization and more). A lot of the city quiets down at night, though, so go to areas like the Byward Market if you're looking for a good evening out. Also, don't expect to catch transportation to Montreal or Toronto late at night: at least when I was there last (fiveish years ago), no buses or trains left the city after around 8:30 or so.
Finally, unrelated to anything we're discussing, what the hell is a RedBlack, other than something that sounds like Dan Snyder's ill-concieved replacement for Redskins?
"RedBlacks" is the new name for the Ottawa CFL team (starting play in 2014). Many hate it. The first team there was the Rough Riders, but they can't use that: the Saskatchewan Roughriders vetoed that, presumably tired of "two Roughrider teams" jokes. Red and black were the Rough Riders' colours, in reference to logging (the new logo is a buzzsaw, reflecting this) and Teddy Roosevelt's troops. RedBlacks sounds dumb though, so many of us will be calling them by their French name: "Rouge et Noir".