Canadian Football Hall of Fame returns history to the hands of fans

The photo was taken at least a century ago — it might even be from the first Grey Cup game ever played in Hamilton — and Mike Samuel is taking it “back where it belongs.”

The president of the Hamilton Hurricanes junior football team was among the bargain-hunters when the Canadian Football Hall of Fame opened one last time Sunday to offer its remaining mementos and display fixtures for sale.

Samuel, whose team practices at the Hamilton Amateur Athletic Association Grounds on Charlton Avenue West, found a massive picture of a Grey Cup game being played at the HAAA Grounds.

“We can’t get dates but it was the HAAA before the old grandstand burned down,” says Samuel who, for a modest total of $105, purchased the hockey-net-sized reproduction plus a smaller photo of the HAAA executive from the same era. “But it’s definitely from the early 1900s.”

The Grey Cup game was held at the HAAA site in 1910, ’12 and ’13 and Samuel thinks being reminded of that bit of history will impact his young players.

“It’s a heritage site and there’s plaque there honouring it as a Grey Cup site,” he says. “When we have rookies come out now we say, ‘You guys are practicing on hallowed grounds, even though it might not look like it.’ Then we bring them over to the heritage plaque and they can’t believe it.

“We’ll put this picture up in the clubhouse to pay homage to that heritage. That’s where it belongs anyway.”

Ryan Goodale, meanwhile, figured all the remaining Edmonton Eskimo memorabilia belongs in his fan cave.

Although born and raised in Hamilton, Goodale has been an Edmonton Oilers and Eskimos fan since the early 1980s, when he was barely more than a toddler. His mother liked Wayne Gretzky, kick-starting his Edmonton fascination.

He was able to pick up display glass and name tag for Eskimos legends JC Sherritt and Fred Stamps, plus a poster of the Eskimos 1993 double overtime Grey Cup win, a large flag from the 1987 Grey Cup in Edmonton, and a big photo of Eskimo running back Jim Germany being tackled by Toronto Argonaut players.

Hall of Fame executive director Mark DeNobile says the six-hour sale attracted between 170 and 200 buys and “about 90 per cent of the material available was sold. We’re very happy. A lot of people were happy with what was available, and had good things to say about what the Hall has meant.” About 30 people had gathered outside the downtown hall by the time the doors opened at 10 a.m. A couple had been there since 7:30 a.m. for the first-come-first-served event.

Although they amplified their own collections of Canadian football souvenirs — at rock-bottom prices — many of the prospective buyers admitted to a sense of melancholy over the Hall leaving downtown for a smaller operation at Tim Hortons Field.

“It is sad,” said Tiger-Cats season ticket-holder Lorna Rushton. “I used to come here and look at the busts. And I enjoyed it when they had the ceremony out in front of the building and now they don’t have it any more. And they used to have the Hall of Fame game in Hamilton. You used to see all the new Hall of Famers go around the stadium in cars, and you even had the chance to meet those players. It’s kind of sad.”

Fellow Ticat subscriber Paul Smith said moving the Hall to Tim Hortons Field will enable “fans to get a better idea of what’s available and what they’ve done for the league, but it won’t be as elaborate as it is here. It’s a bit sad that we haven’t supported it enough and we’ve lost the Hall of Fame weekend we had every year. The Ticat locker-room sale draws more people than this did … and that’s a downer.”

Smith was after programs from the 1976 Grey Cup program because his friend Bob Richardson of Hamilton played in the game and the 1971 Grey Cup “because I just like to revel in the way the Argos lost that one.”

Both were gone by the time he reached the stash of programs for sale.

One of the biggest surprises was the number of Argos fans snatching up memorabilia. Some live in Burlington, others were from Toronto proper.

“They don’t show much interest in the team during the year,” Smith said, “but I guess these are the real diehards.”

As the stock disappeared quickly off the shelves in the first hour of the sale, it felt like everyone there was a diehard.

Steve Milton

Steve Milton

Steve Milton is a long-time columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2012.
Steve Milton
Steve Milton
About Steve Milton (211 Articles)
Steve Milton is a long-time columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2012.

4 Comments on Canadian Football Hall of Fame returns history to the hands of fans

  1. I had alot of fun down there today. Cannot believe what I managed to grab for my own collection. Really glad I had this opportunity.

  2. Sheldon Kates // February 1, 2016 at 12:25 am //

    Mr. Milton
    The city of Toronto has hosted the most Grey Cup games with 46, including 30 of the first 45 games played.[48] The first game was held on December 4, 1909, at Rosedale Field.

  3. Didn’t even know this was going on, if I had I would have taken a look.

  4. Sheldon Kates // February 2, 2016 at 3:08 pm //

    That iws why the CFHOF is in fiancial ruin, incompetatn management!

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