CFL to stop, hon­our war vet­er­ans dur­ing first play­off game

The Peterborough Examiner - - Sports - DAN RALPH

Toronto Arg­onauts de­fen­sive back Matt Black fig­ures it’s only fit­ting the CFL play­offs be­gin on the same day Canada remembers those who’ve made the ul­ti­mate sac­ri­fice for the coun­try.

The Hamil­ton Tiger-Cats will en­ter­tain the B.C. Lions in the East Divi­sion semi­fi­nal be­fore the Saskatchewan Roughrid­ers host the Win­nipeg Blue Bombers in the West Divi­sion con­test, as Canada marks the 100th an­niver­sary of the end of the First World War.

The CFL will com­mem­o­rate the day by stop­ping the Hamil­ton-B. C. game at 2 p.m. ET — 11 a.m. Pa­cific time — for a mo­ment of si­lence to hon­our Canada’s vet­er­ans. The league also will pay trib­ute to vet­er­ans dur­ing the pre-game coin toss in both con­tests and play­ers will wear a poppy de­cal on their hel­mets.

That’s all sig­nif­i­cant to Black, a 10th-year de­fen­sive back who has won two Grey Cups with the Ar­gos. The 33-year-old Toronto na­tive has also re­ceived the Jake Gau­daur Vet­er­ans’ Tro­phy, given an­nu­ally to the CFL player who best demon­strates the at­tributes of Canada’s mil­i­tary per­son­nel.

“The CFL, for me, is some­thing that’s so Cana­dian through and through. It brings so many di­verse and dif­fer­ent back­grounds to­gether and we cel­e­brate some­thing that’s so Cana­dian, this game of foot­ball that we’ve been play­ing here for so long,” he says.

“I think it’s good the (CFL play­offs) are hap­pen­ing on Re­mem­brance Day be­cause it can bring Cana­di­ans to­gether. It’s an op­por­tu­nity to re­flect on what are Cana­dian val­ues and ap­pre­ci­ate the fact that our val­ues come from our di­ver­sity and our dif­fer­ences and that we cel­e­brate those. That’s what makes this coun­try so spe­cial and so great . ... And I know no bet­ter way than by re­mem­ber­ing our troops while play­ing a foot­ball game.”

The Tiger-Cats are but one ex­am­ple of Cana­dian foot­ball’s long his­tory with Canada’s mil­i­tary. The Ti­cats were formed in 1950 with the merger of the Hamil­ton Tigers and Hamil­ton Wild­cats.

The Tigers had been the town’s high­est-pro­file team, play­ing in the In­ter­provin­cial Rugby Foot­ball Union against Toronto, Ot­tawa and Mon­treal.

Hamil­ton also had a num­ber of dif­fer­ent en­tires in the old­est league in the coun­try, the On­tario Rugby Foot­ball Union. Both leagues had the right to chal­lenge for the Grey Cup

Both the IRFU and ORFU sus­pended play from 1916-18 for what was then re­ferred to as The Great War, and the 1915 Tigers were the last Grey Cup cham­pi­ons prior to that hia­tus.

Ac­cord­ing to The Hamil­ton Spec­ta­tor ar­chives, very lit­tle foot­ball — then more com­monly called “rugby” — was played any­where in the city dur­ing Novem­ber, 1918, partly be­cause of the war, but also be­cause of an in­fluenza epi­demic. Hamil­ton Col­le­giate lost a high school se­ries to Univer­sity of Toronto Schools; and the Hamil­ton divi­sion of the Jr. ORFU had its play­offs in Novem­ber, with Vic­to­ria Yacht Club win­ning, but the next round of the play­offs was can­celled be­cause of a flu-in­duced ban on pub­lic meet­ings.

The Wild­cats played in the On­tario Rugby Foot­ball Union from 1941 to 1947 and the In­ter­provin­cial Rugby Foot­ball Union from 1948 to 1949. They were formed in ’41 to fill the void cre­ated when the Hamil­ton Tigers ceased op­er­a­tion that year be­cause a num­ber of their play­ers had joined the army.

The team was re­named the Hamil­ton Fly­ing Wild­cats in 1943-44 to re­flect the Royal Cana­dian Air Force per­son­nel within its ranks. The Tigers re­sumed op­er­a­tion fol­low­ing the Sec­ond World War and the two clubs later merged to form the TigerCats.

That con­nec­tion cer­tainly res­onates with CFL board chair Jim Law­son. His fa­ther, Mel, played quar­ter­back with the Wild­cats and scored the win­ning TD in the club’s 23-14 win over the Win­nipeg RCAF Bombers in the 1931 Grey Cup at Var­sity Sta­dium. At 20 years of age, Mel Law­son be­came the youngest win­ning quar­ter­back in Grey Cup his­tory.

Jim Law­son’s grand­fa­ther, Charles C. Law­son, owned the Wild­cats in the 1940s and was a key fig­ure in the merger that formed the Tiger-Cats.

In 2010 the CFL in­sti­tuted the Jake Gau­daur Vet­er­ans’ Tro­phy. Gau­daur is the long­est-serv­ing com­mis­sioner in league his­tory (1968-1984), but also flew for the Royal Cana­dian Air Force in the Sec­ond World War.

Black re­ceived the award in 2016 and said it re­mains a ca­reer high­light.

Black, who clinched Toronto’s stun­ning 27-24 Grey Cup up­set win over Cal­gary in Ot­tawa last year with a late in­ter­cep­tion, was among a group of CFL play­ers and per­son­nel who vis­ited Cana­dian troops in Lviv, Ukraine and Mar­seilles, France be­fore the 2017 sea­son.

The aim of the trip was to help boost the mil­i­tary per­son­nel’s morale, but Black said it was the armed forces of­fi­cials who pro­vided the in­spi­ra­tion.

Win­nipeg head coach Mike O’Shea also has mil­i­tary ties. The four-time Grey Cup cham­pion (three as an Ar­gos player, an­other as a Toronto as­sis­tant coach) and the Cana­dian Foot­ball Hall of Famer’s fa­ther, Michael, served with Bri­tain’s Royal Air Force as a nav­i­ga­tor-bom­bardier in a de Hav­il­land Mos­quito dur­ing the Sec­ond World War be­fore com­ing to Canada.

“My dad didn’t talk a lot about the war, but if you asked some­times he’d tell some sto­ries,” O’Shea told Ed Tait, the Bombers’ di­rec­tor of con­tent, last year. “He came to this coun­try be­fore I was born, but his pride in Canada was ob­vi­ous.

“Peo­ple that serve, with­out even talk­ing about it, just ex­hibit a cer­tain amount of pride for their coun­try. It’s why they serve and it’s one of those things that res­onates with me.”

Coach Lew Hay­man, cen­tre, en­cour­ages his Toronto RCAF Hur­ri­canes play­ers dur­ing the 1942 Grey Cup game. He led them to an 8-5 vic­tory over the Win­nipeg RCAF Bombers, his fourth of five Cup wins.

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