Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Casey Wilson had just witnessed her first football game at Queen'sUniversity in Kingston. She had come a long way from Vancouver to attend the school, somewhat influenced by the guiding hand of her father Chris. She was thrilled with the event.

The Golden Gaels had trounced the highly-touted University of Western Ontario Mustangs 43-16. (One of the Bronx cheers from the undergraduate rabble frequently resounded from their stands: "Overrated!") She came fully garbed in Frosh tam and coveralls-affectionately dubbed as her "puke suit"-for obvious reasons. Even her father donned the attire, for traditional purposes.

Jimmy Allin hails from Corbyville, a transplant from Belleville. He played three years in the Belleville Minor Football League. Even then, prior to his teen years, it was obvious that he was an outstanding athlete. He was wiry, shifty and fast. (Last year, when commenting on a former Queen's player, Bryan Crawford, now with the Argos, one of the coaches told me, point blank:"You can't teach speed.")

Queen's jumped out to an early lead because of turnovers. At the beginning of the first quarter, the Western centre snapped the ball five feet over the punter's head into their end zone, resulting in a Queen's safety. Queen's led 23-1 at half time.

All of the graduating classes that were being honoured at Homecoming are afforded the pleasure of parading around the track from the graduate side of Richardson Stadium, to the undergraduate side. The students are most gracious in their recognition of us old dogs.

I finished up at Queen's forty years ago, but I felt like a kid in the parade.There were golf carts wheeling dignitaries and other graduates from the class of 1943-some even earlier! The antics of the Science frosh at half time merit a note. Mom and Dad are required to fork out more than a couple of hundred bucks for a beautiful yellow Engineers' leather jacket. This is, of course on top of tuition, roomand board, books, and the like-serious chump change.

The first thing the frosh do is dye the jacket purple. Then they paint their faces and their bodies purple. Then they rush onto centre field at half time-perhaps a couple of thousand of them, remove their beloved jackets, and commence swinging their garb and thumping the turf. It makes a wonderful sound, in unison. One you likely won't hear again for some time. At least until next year's Homecoming game.

Western clawed their way back into the game in the second half. Two quick touchdowns and the score tightened up at 23-14. The Gaels provided little offence. Again, after first and second down, they prepared to settle for a 41 yard field goal. Jimmy Allin knelt to receive the snap. They faked the field goal, and Allin ran around the corner for a first down. The Gaels capitalized on the break, and went on to victory.

Allin also picked off an errant throw late in the fourth quarter.The Gaels defence contributed to the win. Under a constant drizzle, they kept the Mustangs' attack at bay with four sacks, four interceptions, forcing five fumbles. A nostalgic tear wallows in the duct as one ponders the contributions of Gaels from yesteryear-those from the great teams of the '50s that I caught as an infant: Ron Stewart, Gary Lewis, Gary Schreider (a member of the Belleville Sports Hall of Fame). Teams from the Sixties that I watched as an undergraduate: Jim Young, (Dirty Thirty from the British Columbia Lions of the CFL). Don Bayne, Bayne Norrie, and the incomparable Cal Connor, who played seven years as a Meds student.

Mike Schad starred for Moira Secondary School in Belleville before heading to Queen's. After he left the school , he had a stellar career in the National Football League and the CFL. Along with Jock Climie, a fine player and now a polished football commentator, and Vince Panetta-volunteer coach with Hotch's Auto Parts in the BMFL, they formed the nucleus of great Queen's teams in the Eighties.

With the win, the Gaels now stand at five and zero. They have not done that since 1989. That was before Casey Wilson was born. But she will savour last Saturday's win the rest of her life. It is all part of the wonderful Canadian university football tradition.

James Hurst

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