The everyfan’s guide to the Ottawa Redblacks in the Grey Cup championship.
Every sports organization gets involved in charitable causes. And why not? The teams win friends — not to question their altruism, because they really do contribute a lot — and the causes gain valuable time in the spotlight and other benefits.
But the speed with which the Ottawa Redblacks have cemented themselves into the broader community might only be matched by their surprising arrival at the Grey Cup championship in just their second year in the Canadian Football League.
As their website declares, the Redblacks take pride in their work with public education programs, youth clubs, community efforts and not-for-profit organizations throughout the Ottawa-Gatineau area. Like the Ottawa Senators, they’re building ties well beyond sports.
They’ve got bench depth, too. After a sore knee forced Henry Burris to back out of an Oct. 27 launch party for the Tamir Neshama Choir’s first CD, defensive lineman Moton Hopkins was happy to substitute for his quarterback.
Great choice. The choir is made up of adults with developmental or physical disabilities, and Hopkins, a 290-pound tackle with a soft voice and mild — off the field — bearing, has a younger brother, Matthew, with severe autism back in Texas. Their close relationship helps Hopkins have a special rapport with people with disabilities, as proven by the all-around smiles after he joined the singers in a rendition of Lean on Me.
Hopkins, who played for the Alouettes before being selected in the Redblacks expansion draft and was active in causes such as the Friendship Circle of Montreal, was modest about his involvement.
“There’s so many people out there who do things for people who can’t do them for themselves,” he said in an interview that night with Rogers TV. “It’s a beautiful thing and if I can be part of it, I love it.”
The Neshama Choir (its name is Hebrew for “soul”) was formed 15 years ago by the Tamir Foundation, an Ottawa-area charity supported in part by the Jewish community.
Tamir executive director Mark Palmer says he was impressed by the easy way Hopkins related to the choir.
With the Redblacks reaching first the East final and now the Grey Cup, choir members and foundation officials have been sending Hopkins messages of encouragement — and to their delight, getting messages back.
“It goes to his character,” says Palmer. “He’s just a first-class guy.”[caption id="attachment_591818" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Redblacks mascot Big Joe gets a squeal from Noah, 5, and a big hug from Miller, 4, in August.[/caption]
Big Joe, chainsaw crew stay home
Big Joe, the Redblacks mascot, isn’t going to Winnipeg. The team says his job is at home, leading the Redblacks Nation at the TD Place arena, where the game will be shown on a big screen. (Or maybe they couldn’t find a plane with enough headroom for the extra-large lumberjack.) The chainsaw team that cuts off a wooden “cookie” for every Redblacks touchdown isn’t going either.
Admission to TD Place on Sunday is free, but you’ll need to get an advance ticket (also good for free OC Transpo service) at www.capitaltickets.ca. As of Friday evening, there were about 600 tickets left. Doors open at 5 p.m.
The cup’s capital roots
Should the Redblacks win on Sunday — and yes, of course they should, but you know what we mean — they’ll be returning the Grey Cup to its rightful home.
Like hockey’s Stanley Cup, the football trophy was donated by a Canadian governor general in residence at Rideau Hall, in this case Albert Grey, the fourth Earl Grey, in 1909. (He’s not the tea guy — that was Charles, the second Earl Grey and British prime minister from 1830 to 1834.) Crafted by Birks Jewellers from sterling silver, the cup cost $48 — a pretty good deal even for the time.
The football trophy has been back in Ottawa nine times, most recently in 1976 (the Ottawa club also won three Canadian championships before the cup was introduced). The Stanley Cup, in contrast, was secured as many as 11 times by the original Senators (a couple of the wins are debatable because of the way the championships were structured). The last time was in 1927, when Ottawa won a raucous series over the Boston Bruins.
Like its hockey counterpart, the Grey Cup has been knocked around. Its base has been broken numerous times by celebrating teams, and the cup itself nearly melted in a 1947 fire in Toronto. Both cup and base were stolen from the Ottawa Rough Riders offices in 1969, and recovered two months later after league officials refused to pay a ransom.
Why would they, when a replacement was only $48?