October 30, 2012

Cauz: Thanks for the memories Ivor Wynne

I’m a bit of an anomaly when it comes to my rooting interests.

I’m an Argonauts fan who also roots for the Tiger-Cats as long as they’re not taking on the Double Blue. I have no love for the QEW, but I do have some love for both organizations.

Now before you rightfully accuse me of being a CFL Polygamist, let me explain.

When I think of Ivor Wynne Stadium, my first memories are of McMaster Football, not the Tiger-Cats. Not only was I student at McMaster, but I also did the radio play-by-play for the Marauders.

Photo Essay: Inside Ivor Wynne

As one of the most storied stadiums in the world prepares to close its doors, award winning photographer Adam Gagnon captures the charm of Ivor Wynne Stadium.

» Images: Inside Ivor Wynne

During my undergrad years, the team was so bad they would be routinely outscored by the baseball team; to say the team was irrelevant would be an understatement.

But then in my senior year the team hired Greg Marshall as their new head coach and he immediately transformed the entire culture of the team. I was covering the team for the school paper and would soon be invited to do the radio calls for the team, a job I held for nearly a decade.

I know this is sounding autobiographical, and I apologize, it will lead back to Ivor Wynne soon, I promise.

For most of those years the home games were at the University while the bigger playoff games would shift to Ivor Wynne. During my final days, the University tore down the old stadium to make way for the shiny new Ron Joyce Stadium.

That meant that every Marauder home game would now be at 75 Balsam Avenue. It was such a thrill to be calling games from a real life press box filled with free food, an excellent media relations staff and local media celebrities like Stephen Brunt exposing on the 40 time of Jesse Lumsden.

Now if I may indulge you for one more autobiographical moment, because I absolutely have to.

I can’t think about Ivor Wynne without reminiscing about my old broadcast partner, Dr. Donald Dawson … or as everyone called him Dr. Don. I could tell a thousand stories about his enthusiasm for the game, the times his near 70-year-old body would scale the sides of press boxes up a ladder just to get to the roof where the visiting teams were forced to call the games.

Did I mention he would also be carrying the majority of our broadcast equipment during his ascent? In so many ways we could not have been more different. He was 30+ years my senior, would not understand half of my pop culture references and had a far higher constitution for colder weather.

But we both shared a love for Canadian football and for the city of Hamilton. He passed away in the summer of 2010. So when I think about Ivor Wynne, Dr. Don will occupy my thoughts before Flutie, Montford or McManus.

I so miss those days of calling games with him. I miss being delighted the first time we got free pizza, I miss watching the growth of Ben Chapdelaine, Adam Archibald, Jesse Lumsden, Jason Pottinger, Chris Van Zeyl and so many more. I miss the small fraternity of fans we got to know who were at every home game. I miss Dr. Don.

I understand why moments like the Argonauts’ 43-37 Grey Cup win over Edmonton in the snow or the Danny McManus glory years are the prominent memories for most people; but for me it will be feeling like I was almost a professional broadcaster calling games with my friend at Ivor Wynne Stadium.
Now I can’t finish this article without at least one funny story.

I can’t remember the exact date, but it was during the 1997 season when the Argonauts, led by Flutie, were an absolute juggernaut. Hamilton on the other hand, well let’s just say that it was a transitional year.

Sitting in the stands with my friends we soon realized it was better to just enjoy every touchdown quietly while gulping back bad beer and shady hot dogs. I always got a kick out of the one mysterious fan with a mega phone who always knew when to bellow out insults at Paul Masotti.

I have no idea why Masotti was his target but this guy had his timing down. He could perfectly anticipate when those moments of dejected silence would fill the stadium. Now in writing there is nothing really funny of the line “You suck Masotti”, you just had to be there in the stands it was hilarious.

But the best moments were early in the fourth quarter with the score 88-1 (Mercy rouge).

The crowd, undeterred by the score would start chanting “Leafs Suck”. I always got a kick out of a crowd who still found a way to insult the city of Toronto.
Yes the stadium had a thousand warts, but I never went to games for luxury and comfort, I just went to watch football. Thanks for the memories.