By Ben Waldman
The fifth place game at the CIS Final 8 tournament between the UBC Thunderbirds and the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees started off a bit later than anticipated on Saturday.
Just as the anthem singer was about to start belting O Canada at the top of her lungs, the fire alarm went off and the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre was evacuated.
Quickly, the crowd congregated outside the main entrance. With fire trucks in the background and the players standing in confusion, the Thunderbird marching band — set to perform at halftime — started playing.
Drum major Fred Cholowski saw a crowd that needed to be entertained
Cholowski assembled his players, and the fans and basketball players mixed to watch a big-band treatment of contemporary hits.
“It was really wonderful, any time we get a crowd hyped up for a game and get noticed in front of that big of a crowd is always exciting,” Cholowski said.
During the roughly 20-minute delay, the Thunderbirds and Gee-Gees stood amongst the fans. UBC star Jordan Jensen-Whyte smiled for pictures with young children. David Wagner, a fifth-year forward for the Thunderbirds, shook his head. “This is what happens for your last game ever, Dave,” a fan called out.
Cholowski, a gangly redhead with a bouncing afro, paced back and forth with intense enthusiasm. The marching band has about 70 songs in their repertoire and played a few of their favourites.
Good thing it was a false alarm, or else Cholowski’s choices might have seemed a bit sardonic; The band played The Weeknd’s Can’t Feel My Face and captivated the crowd with a rendition of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ Can’t Hold Us, which features the line “Throw our hands up like the ceiling can’t hold us.”
“Well,” Cholowski giggled. “I guess the building couldn’t hold us in that moment.”
The game began after the Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services inspected the premises and declared a false alarm.