The Argos are on a bye week, making it a good opportunity to share a few thoughts on the Canadian Football Hall of Fame inductions.
Fantastic to see that former Argo “Tricky” Dick Thornton was finally inducted, albeit posthumously. Thornton was a quintessential player of the 60’s in the mould of Garney Henley and Jerry Keeling, if not Jackie Parker. Like his aforementioned contemporaries, he played defensive back, receiver, returned kicks and even played some quarterback. He was especially adept at making interceptions and returning them for touchdowns. He was probably the best player in the 1971 Grey Cup which included a diving reception of a Joe Theismann pass. A game in which he intercepted Jerry Keeling and returned the ball to the Calgary 6-yard line where he made an unnecessary cut inside which allowed Calgary to prevent him from scoring. An ensuing fumble and then a botched handling of a punt return cost the Argos a Grey Cup and Thornton the keys to the car for player of the game. It probably also cost him induction into the CFHOF in his living years. An interception machine, he followed Leo Cahill to the Memphis Southmen where he finished his career in the World Football League. Thornton died in 2014.
Unfortunately, another Argo all star, Chris Schultz, also passed before he could be inducted. Surely this oversight will be rectified soon. Both men are at least as deserving as many who have already been inducted.
Speaking of which, there are some excellent candidates sitting on the sidelines in the Builders category, none of them even nominated. Earlier this season you heard me suggest 30+ year amateur coach and founder, Farhan Lalji. Here are two others who have been unduly overlooked.
Former Argo Dick Brown was born in Cleveland, Ohio, but played football at U of Toronto. He went on to play for Hamilton, Toronto and Montreal and was a member of the 1953 Grey Cup Champion Tiger-Cats. A good friend of Bernie Custis, he became a highly regarded coach for the Oakville Black Knights, Burlington Braves, Hamilton Hurricanes, and University of Guelph Gryphons. He was head coach of the Gryphons from 1970-1980 and an assistant for the 1984 Vanier Cup champions. He was also Manager of Athletic Facilities at University of Guelph for 20 years. A veteran of the Second World War, he fought in Holland for the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders.
Reciever Stu Lang was a star for the Queen’s Golden Gaels and then played 8 seasons for Edmonton winning five Grey Cups, proving that 6th round draft picks can matter. Like Dick Brown though his greatest contribution to Canadian football may have come after he retired from the CFL. Stu Lang is perhaps the biggest supporter of Canadian football in or outside the CFHOF.
While he previously coached the University of Guelph to success, he has quietly made huge donations, directly and indirectly, supporting amateur football. These have included large donations of $11 million to his high school and more than $ 10 million to Queen’s new football stadium and pavilion. He has also donated $21 million to the University of Guelph. In addition to countless other causes, he has donated $3 million to veterinarian outreach in northern Canada. Stu Lang was not only a terrific player and coach, he puts his money where his mouth is. Given that he has donated more than almost all CFL teams are worth its hard to imagine that the CFL office has not tried to interest him in buying a CFL team, if not the Argonauts themselves.
Lang’s donation to the University of Guelph was the largest in the school’s history. The university should be championing his nomination, and Dick Brown’s, to the CFHOF in the Builder’s category. It’s hard to fathom why neither have been nominated but the University has good reason to right the oversight.