CFL to hon­our veter­ans at Re­mem­brance Day games

Winnipeg Free Press - - 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

1 p.m. CT for a mo­ment of si­lence to hon­our Canada’s veter­ans. The league will also pay trib­ute dur­ing both pregame coin tosses, 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,” said Black. “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.

“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... and I know no bet­ter way than by re­mem­ber­ing our troops while play­ing a foot­ball game.”

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

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 Tiger-Cats.

That con­nec­tion cer­tainly res­onates with CFL board chair­man 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 ’31 Grey Cup at Var­sity Sta­dium. At 20, Mel Law­son be­came the youngest win­ning quar­ter­back in Grey Cup his­tory.

Eight years ago, 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.

“When I look back on play­ing 10 years in the CFL, that’s the thing I’m most proud of,” he said. “To be rec­og­nized for the work I do in the com­mu­nity, for giv­ing back the trust and re­spect of my team­mates, coaches and peers across the league, at the end of the day that’s why you play this game... and to be rec­og­nized for that is truly hum­bling.

“Stand­ing on the stage and see­ing how proud my fam­ily was, my mom, my dad, my brother and sis­ter and my wife and daugh­ter, and know­ing I’m in this po­si­tion be­cause of the val­ues they in­stilled in me and the be­lief they had in me, it’s so much big­ger than your­self. It’s truly an hon­our, and is the thing I’m most proud of in my ca­reer.”

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.

“They’ve leav­ing the comforts of ev­ery­thing we have in Canada be­hind to help spread Cana­dian val­ues and ideals around the world,” Black said. “But they’re walk­ing into to­tally un­known sit­u­a­tions and sac­ri­fic­ing all the comforts and safeties we have, so we don’t have to go through that.

“You never think about that un­til you go over and see it for your­self and re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate it. We’re not even at war right now, and we have peo­ple who are do­ing these things to help us. You’ve got to be grate­ful for that.”

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