How each OUA team got its name: Part one

uOttawa, Carleton, UOIT, Lakehead, and York

Taking a look at how each OUA team came to name itself on the field.

At its inception in 1906, the Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union (CIAU)—the first formal Canadian intercollegiate athletics league, now known as the OUA—had only four members.

Over a hundred years later, following a rich history of intercollegiate competition between schools across Ontario, that membership has grown to an admirable 20.

Although not every member of the contemporary OUA was—and still is—a member of that initial four, each of the OUA’s current teams bears at least one piece of connective tissue—a name and mascot they rally behind.

To explore how these teams arrived at their rallying symbol, over four separate installments, The Journal’s Sports section will be looking at each OUA team and uncovering the meanings behind their mascots.

uOttawa Gee-Gees

One of the four initial teams that made up the CIAU in 1906, athletes belonging to the University of Ottawa (uOttawa)—or Ottawa College, as it was known then—were referred to, according to the prevailing habit of the time, by the school’s colours.

The same then as now, members of Ottawa College wore garnet and grey—two colours which, when abbreviated to their first letters, read “GG.”

uOttawa’s mascot story doesn’t end there. Although referred to as “gee-gees” by name, they eventually became “gee-gees” by moniker, too, after adopting a racehorse—commonly known as a “gee-gee” in British slang—as their principal mascot.

Carleton Ravens

Another Ottawa-based university, Carleton’s name and mascot would also be drawn from the colour of their athlete’s jerseys, but this process wouldn’t come to pass until some growing pains took place on the football field in the 1940s.

Taking the gridiron for the first time in 1945, Carleton’s football team initially didn’t have the budget to support a dedicated team uniform. This led to them borrowing sweaters—jerseys—from numerous other Ottawa football teams to support their roster, none of which were the same colour.

Eventually, Carleton was able to purchase a uniform set of jerseys, and they chose black as their primary colour. Their team’s name, the Ravens, was coined by their school newspaper shortly thereafter.

York Lions

When York University began participating in intercollegiate athletics in 1968, they chose a rather unconventional mascot to represent them on the field of play: the Yeoman.

Yes, drawing on Canada’s rich English roots, York decided to pay homage by adopting the ceremonial guardsmen of the Tower of London—known as the Yeoman Warders, or “beefeaters,” colloquially—as their symbol.

After 45 years of Yeomanry and a notable pushback from woman athletes who were referred to as “Yeowomen”—a term that doesn’t exist in any dictionary—the name was changed in 2003 amidst a university-wide rebranding.

Following this rebranding period, York athletes have been known as the Lions—kings of the iron jungle—ever since.

Ontario Tech Ridgebacks

The youngest university in the OUA, Ontario Tech University (Ontario Tech), has had the same name and mascot since their entrance into sport in 2006—the Ridgebacks.

Native to Africa, the Rhodesian ridgeback is a large and muscular hunting dog often used in the pursuit of large game. Members of Ontario Tech believe the ridgeback’s famous instincts, strong will, and natural confidence perfectly encapsulate the attitude of the university and its students. It was also chosen by a consensus vote.

The ridgeback was also found to be a rather fitting mascot given Ontario Tech's proximity to the Oak Ridges Moraine, a geologically significant landmass near the university’s location in Oshawa.

Lakehead Thunderwolves

After its opening in 1965, Lakehead University’s athletes were initially known as the Nor’Westers, a name that paid homage to the Nor’Wester mountains located directly south of Thunder Bay, the city where the university is located.

Yet, as legend has it, during a particularly thunderous uproar made by students one day in 2001, a Thunderwolf—a wolf indigenous to certain regions in Northern Ontario—travelled all the way up from the Nor’Wester mountains to inspect the noise made on campus, and the university’s athletes have been known as the Thunderwolves ever since.

Legitimate testimony corroborating this tale, however, has never been released.



January 31, 2022

An earlier version of this article referred to Ontario Tech University as the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. 

The Journal regrets the error.

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