Off the side­line af­ter 45 years

When the Ti­cats face B.C. on Satur­day night, Dr. David Levy will be watch­ing from the stands in­stead of the side­line for the first time in 45 years

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - STEVE MIL­TON

Dr. David Levy takes his leave from the Hamil­ton Ti­cats

He’s not sure how he’s go­ing to han­dle sit­ting in the au­di­ence, watch­ing, af­ter 45 years on the field, help­ing.

“It’s go­ing to be very weird,” says Dr. David Levy, who has re­tired from the Hamil­ton TigerCats af­ter nearly a half-cen­tury on their med­i­cal staff, the fi­nal twoplus decades as head team doc­tor. “I think it’ll al­most be un­com­fort­able at first.”

Levy, who started the first pri­mary care sports medicine clinic in Hamil­ton back in1983 — a fi­nan­cial and pro­fes­sional gam­ble, given the rar­ity of such sport-spe­cific prac­tices at the time — con­cedes that the first time a player gets hurt in Satur­day night’s home opener against the B.C. Lions his first in­stinct will be to jump to his feet to help. He’s been do­ing that since he was a 21-year-old first-year Mac med­i­cal stu­dent, when the leg­endary Jim­mie Simp­son — a star player, then team trainer — in­vited him to help out be­hind head doc­tor Jim Char­ters and his as­sis­tant Nick Sik­say.

For the first time since he was an un­der­grad­u­ate, Levy will watch a Ti­cat game from the seats, us­ing the life­time sea­son’s tick­ets the team is pre­sent­ing him for his long, dis­tin­guished ca­reer with the team, not only car­ing for ath­letes and coaches — 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 12 months a year — but also teach­ing two gen­er­a­tions of as­pir­ing sports doc­tors the ins and outs of a sci­ence that barely ex­isted when he joined the Ti­cats for An­gelo Mosca’s fi­nal sea­son.

It will also be the first com­plete game he’ll watch with his wife Kathy, a mem­ber of the Burling­ton Sports Hall of Fame as a builder/ coach for her work with breast­cancer sur­vivor Dragon Boat teams. Twice she has been on world cham­pi­onship teams. Well, they did have that five min­utes to­gether in the stands dur­ing the 1996 Grey Cup, the last CFL ti­tle game played in Hamil­ton, but he was the Cup’s host doc­tor and had to spend most of his time on the side­lines.

“I’ve been blessed by hav­ing a great ca­reer, and it’s still go­ing,” said Levy, who has left the Ti­cats

but will con­tinue his pri­vate prac­tice, lo­cated pri­mar­ily at the David Bra­ley Sport Medicine and Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Cen­tre at McMaster. He will also con­tinue to work the side­lines with the McMaster foot­ball team, the Toronto Rock lacrosse team, and when col­league Dr. David Robin­son can’t make it, the Hamil­ton Bull­dogs.

“But I wanted to cut my hours back, and the Ti­cat thing is part of that be­cause I haven’t re­ally had any time in the sum­mer for 45 years. We have a cottage I never get to. And Kathy is very in­volved in Dragon boat­ing and I can start sup­port­ing her the way she’s sup­ported me with foot­ball over the years.

“It’s been a huge sac­ri­fice for her. We’ve never been on a hol­i­day when my beeper or phone hasn’t gone off. The ther­a­pists or the train­ers would call. Been part of our life all this time. (They’ve known each other since 1978, and been mar­ried since ’86.)

Levy will be hon­oured through­out Satur­day’s game, with the crown­ing touch be­ing the an­nounce­ment that the state-of-the-art clinic at Tim Hor­tons Field will be ded­i­cated to him.

“We’re re­ally ex­cited to name the clinic here the David Levy Sports Ther­apy Clinic,” said Scott Mitchell, Tiger-Cats CEO. “I couldn’t think of a more ap­pro­pri­ate thing than to name the clinic af­ter Doc. Where do you start with Doc Levy? The rest of us have been com­ing and go­ing and Doc has been the main­stay for those 45 years. He’s just done a tremen­dous job, and he’s an un­be­liev­ably re­spected per­son in his pro­fes­sion. His legacy will live on for a long, long time.

“We look for­ward to Doc be­ing able to en­joy the fruits of his labours by be­ing an alum­nus, a very promi­nent alum­nus.”

Levy says he’s “thrilled” that the clinic is to be named af­ter him es­pe­cially since, when he started his first sports in­jury clinic in 1983 on King St. East, he named it af­ter his fa­ther Daniel, who had just died that year. He comes from a med­i­cal fam­ily and his fa­ther and mother (Frances) were the first “med­i­cal cou­ple” in Hamil­ton.

He was in just the third med­i­cal grad­u­at­ing class at McMaster and says he was for­tu­nate to study at a new med­i­cal school with in­no­va­tive ap­proaches. He had a num­ber of men­tors in­clud­ing Drs. Char­ters and Siskay, who were also on staff at Stelco, Dr. Alan Bass, a phys­i­cal/med­i­cal re­hab spe­cial­ist who’d been team doc­tor for soc­cer gi­ant Liver­pool and Dr. Bob Jack­son who taught him the arthroscopy he’d learned in Ja­pan, which was then only a di­ag­nos­tic tool, and not yet a sur­gi­cal one.

“Mac was self-di­rected learn­ing and I was do­ing mine in an area that was very young in those days.

“They were very open that if it was an ex­pe­ri­ence I wanted to have, to go for it. So when­ever I wasn’t on call at the hos­pi­tal dur­ing my train­ing years, I was able to be with the Ti­cats. And the team physi­cians took me un­der their wing.”

His work with sports teams, in­clud­ing Mac’s from 1978 to 2001, was al­ways ex­tracur­ric­u­lar to his pri­vate prac­tice which dealt with sports in­juries to uni­ver­sity ath­letes and mem­bers of the com­mu­nity at large.

“It took awhile for my col­leagues to re­al­ize that I was there to treat ath­letes and send them back to their fam­ily doc­tor, “he says.

“When I went strictly into sport medicine a lot of col­leagues just thought I wanted to be on the side­lines at foot­ball games. But ex­er­cise, and sport, is medicine.”

Levy was in Calgary in 1975 when Ti­cat Tom Pate — for whom the CFL’s an­nual award for sports­man­ship and com­mu­nity ser­vice is named — suf­fered a late-game aneurysm from which he died three days later, one of his worst mem­o­ries. One of his best was when Dave Sauve, later the Ti­cat pres­i­dent, suf­fered a par­a­lyzed arm in a game but he was able to get him into im­me­di­ate care from a neu­ro­sur­geon and avert per­ma­nent dam­age.

There have been hun­dreds of other in­juries — an av­er­age of 15 play­ers need some level of im­me­di­ate postgame treat­ment — and just as many great times with the likes of foot­ball le­gends Bernie Custis, Ron Lan­caster, Terry Evan­shen, Darren Flu­tie, Ben Zam­bi­asi and Danny McManus.

They’re all in the Cana­dian Foot­ball hall of Fame and long­time Hamil­ton coach and broad­caster John Sala­van­tis feels Levy should be too.

“A man that’s spent 45 years with the same club,” Sala­van­tis says, “on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week has got to be rec­og­nized as a real builder in the CFL.”


Dr. David Levy is re­tir­ing from the Hamil­ton Tiger-Cats staff af­ter 45 years with the CFL team.

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