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By Phil Hecken with Leo Strawn, Jr.
Gonna be a (relatively) short post today — just the lede, one sub and ticker — but it’s a great one: Part III of Leo Strawn’s fantastic look-back at the unis and helmets of the Canadian Football League. Hope everyone in the lower 48 (and Alaska/Hawai’i) had a wonderful Thanksgiving and, if you’re one of those types — survived Black Friday.
Let’s get right to the good stuff. Here’s Leo with …
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Cool and Unusual Helmets and Uniforms from the Great White North…East
By Leo Strawn, Jr.
As the CFL winds down toward the 104th Grey Cup, I will pick up where I left off, this time sharing some (I think) cool and (definitely) unusual Canadian Football uniforms from the eastern part of Canada.
I would be remiss if I did not mention Scott Grant of Ottawa, Ontario, whose photos have appeared in Leo’s World during the course of these Canadian football articles. Some of the older photos on his site are credited to Ted Grant, so it seems this is a tradition handed down through their family. In addition to looking for photos on image searches, I’ve poured through literally thousands of photos on Scott’s website, looking for references of old helmets and uniforms. His site is an interesting glimpse of CFL uniform history (and more specifically the Ottawa franchises, which we’ll get to shortly). You can check out (and order) his photos here. (If you do scour over them, be advised that not all of the names and years are 100% accurate, so you may have to do a bit of extra research for accuracy.)
Two weeks ago we began this journey north of the border, starting with a general overview in week one, then moving on to a more specific look at some helmets and uniforms from the western provinces last week.
Before checking out uniforms from the east, here’s a couple of updates from last week:
I wasn’t sure exactly what year the Roughriders changed from Regina wearing red and black to Saskatchewan wearing green and white because I was finding different answers on different sites. Wade Heidt offered this link regarding Saskatchewan history from the team’s website. It’s well worth the time it takes to read. (By the way, the answer is: 1948.)
Will S did some amazing research and posted in the comments regarding Calgary’s horseshoe helmets from 1960 and 1961 and another alternate Stampeders lid along with a BC alt helmet from 2003, none of which I had ever seen in any format other than graphic interpretations. Check out the photos and videos in last week’s comments by hitting the link for last week’s article. Thanks, Will!
As I noted previously, I’m essentially ignoring which franchise incarnation is which and just focusing on locations, but I will be mentioning a few more of the historical football clubs today. Also, as promised, the mono red uniforms for les Alouettes I ran across last week (too late to include in the first article) are in the section on Montréal! The last section of today’s piece features some preseason photos of CFL teams from the east and west.
Okay, time to sit back and crack open a Molson as we head East:
Hamilton: In addition to the Tiger-Cats, Hamilton was also home to other clubs of note, including the Alerts, who won the fourth Grey Cup, the first for the city of Hamilton, back in 1912. The Ti-Cats are an amalgamation of two clubs from Hamilton, the Tigers and the Wildcats. Hamilton threw back to the Wildcats, whose colours were red and black, a few years ago. The Tigers date back to the earliest days of football on the North American continent and from the club’s earliest days they had a penchant for stripes, a tradition that they have revisited over the decades. In addition to stripes, they also sported a large H on front of their jerseys during their early history.
At the time of the merger of the two clubs in 1950, Hamilton wore white or yellow helmets with a number on front. They were definitely yellow by at least 1954. In the 1957 Grey Cup, the Tiger-Cats were wearing their classic center striping (the guy in the circle of that photo is a fan named Dave Humphrey, who tripped Hamilton’s Dave Bawel on his way to the end zone after an interception). They kept that wide white/black/wide white striping pattern for decades, using it with blank sides, with numbers on sides, with the TC logo in the mid 60s and, starting in the early 70s, with the more familiar pouncing tiger logo. However, the first incarnation of that logo appeared for a single season in 1967 with a red star behind the tiger.
Another oddity regarding the pouncing tiger was the low position on the side of the helmet, sometimes nearly touching the ear hole. The shell colour was changed to black in the 80s, and the logo modified about a decade ago. Hamilton has worn a few notable throwbacks and alternates. In 2006, they wore these helmets in the Labour Day Classic. The Ti-Cats threw back to the TC logo on yellow shells in 2009. They reportedly wore a black shell variation also in ’09, though I haven’t seen a photo. (Anyone?) Their signature series helmets featured a logo on one side and a number on the other. That helmet also featured a tapered stripe in the center, which may have been a nod to an earlier helmet design (and another I need help with, this time on the year).
I suspect these cool helmets with a tapered stripe were worn prior to the classic white/black/white center stripes appearing around 1957, but it’s possible they were a special helmet worn in the late 50s or maybe even the early 60s (note the single bar facemasks.) For some reason, when I found that video I dated the screen shots as 1959, though now I can’t recall why. Those screen grabs come from this short video clip specifically referring to them as Hamilton while referencing their victory over the AFL Buffalo Bills in 1961, but the Ti-Cats wore their yellow helmets with the classic center striping in that game (that pic is also included in the section on CFL preseason photos, below).
Montréal: The largest city in Québec has also been home to several Canadian football clubs. The AAA Winged Wheelers became the first team outside of Ontario to win the Coupe Grey in the first game played for the Cup outside of Ontario, at Molson Stadium against the Regina Roughriders in 1931. (Not sure which team is which in that photo, sorry, but note the huge numbers on both teams’ jerseys.)
Taking a page out of the 1933-35 NFL Boston Redskins style guide, the Montreal Indians wore these in their inaugural season of 1936 and are the team wearing square numbers in this photo of a game with the Argos in 1937. The Alouettes were born in 1946 and may be the only team in history to wear three different designs on front of their helmet. The original Als wore these helmets, which featured their logo and were worn at least through 1948 when they donned these cool jerseys and pants for the first time in an exhibition game against the Brooklyn Dodgers of the AAFC. (Pic of that game is also included in the section on CFL preseason photos, below). It appears they wore those same helmets in their first Grey Cup appearance and victory in 1949.
By the time of their next Grey Cup in 1954, the logo was gone. In the late 50s, their red helmets featured a single white center stripe. For the 1960s, the Alouettes wore their second different design on the front of their helmets: lark wings that went across the side from the front. They threw back to this in 2009, albeit with the wings separated further apart. I noted last week that I had located a mono red uniform for the Als. They wore these for at least part of the 1964 and 1965 seasons.
After that, Montréal added dark green to their colour scheme. The early 1970s ushered in another unique look for the Larks, with a lot of emphasis on green. In 1974, the Alouettes dropped the green for blue and wore their third different helmet with a front design, winning their third Grey Cup in these lids. In ’75 they moved the logo onto the side of the helmet, but kept those beautiful jerseys into the early 80s. After fans endured a few years with the Concordes, Montréal returned to that later Alouettes logo for a season with a more ordinary jersey and nice overall look.
When Montréal returned to the fold, they added silver to their colour scheme with a new logo, throwing back to those late 1970s uniforms in 2010 and reportedly wearing an alt white helmet with the new logo that same year, though I haven’t seen a photo of that one. (Anyone?) More recently, Montréal has used these alternates as a nod to the 425 squadron of the RCAF who were known as the Alouettes. I wouldn’t mind if they used these helmets full time.
Ottawa: The Ottawa Football Club wore some simple striping in the 1920s and newsboy caps were obviously allowed as headgear. Those simple sleeve and socks stripes can be seen on the Senators in 1925, the year of Ottawa’s first Grey Cup appearance and victory. In the late 30s and into the 1940s, the Rough Riders added a swath of red (?) on the shoulders to go along with their simple sleeve striping. For at least part of the 1951 season, they wore striped shoulders (see entire photo in CFL preseason photos, below) reminiscent of Calgary’s look from the late 40s and early 50s. Ottawa’s jerseys were relatively simple in style for the remainder of the 1950s.
Beginning in the late 50s and continuing into the 1960s, the pants had this interesting stripe down the sides, and the east Riders later wore them with these innovative jerseys. Those unique pants remained a part of Ottawa’s repertoire for a number years, even when the Rough Riders began using the classic black shelled helmets with the R logo. After wearing red shells in the late 40s and a series of white helmets after that, Ottawa wore a few helmets you may not be aware of prior to wearing their classic R.
In 1961, they wore these cool lightning bolts on their helmets. That was the same season Winnipeg also wore bolts. Sadly, I haven’t found a photo of the two teams wearing those lids against one another. (Anyone?) The following season, the east Riders wore a variation of their 1961 look, changing the bolt design and adding black numbers below. During the 1963 season, Ottawa went to red shells and a bucking horse logo with a lot of subtle detail in the design. The following season would be the first appearance of the R helmets. But for part of the 1964 season, Ottawa wore a helmet I bet you’ve never seen: a black shell with red center stripe and a double R (one red, one white) inside a half red/half white ellipse on the sides.
After about two and a half decades of their classic helmet, the Rough Riders again went to a double R logo, this time with flames, then to this logo on gold and later on black shells. For the few seasons the Renegades existed, they used this helmet. Ottawa is now home to the Redblacks, and I have to say I like their helmets and logo. (Now if they would only change the nickname.) I also want to acknowledge the signature series plaid helmet for its uniqueness.
Toronto: The Argos, who became Dominion champions for the first time in the sixth Grey Cup game in 1914, have traditionally had a penchant for stripes much like their provincial rivals located 60 kilometers away. It looks like Toronto primarily wore hooped jerseys and socks into the 1930s. At some point during that decade, they began wearing jerseys with wide swaths of contrasting colour on their shoulders leading down to the cuffs and down the sides. The Boatmen wore this style throughout the 40s also, both dark and light jerseys, until around 1950, apparently always with white helmets.
The 50s saw a return to stripes, this time on the sleeves. Possibly for the first time, the light version of these jerseys along with the helmets appear to be Cambridge blue, although they did also wear white helmets with the light blue jerseys. It’s hard to tell from black and white photos, but there may have been a white version of this jersey, too. The Argonauts dropped the heavily striped sleeves for a more ordinary look starting in the mid-50s, wearing both light blue and white shells, at times with numbers on the sides, over the course of several seasons, including white numbers on light blue shells in 1960.
In the early and mid 1960s, Toronto, like other Canadian teams we’ve looked at, went through several different helmets, including three helmets with boat logos on white shells, and for all three I have seen graphics but no photos, with the exception of these two pics, each one showing a portion of each of the latter two of those linked graphics. (Anyone?) In 1964, the Argos began wearing their classic A on white shells, though not in every game.
By 1969, the A appeared on plain blue shells and stripes reappeared at least partway down the sleeve. They remained that way as the Joe Theismann era got underway in 1971. The Argos added stripes to the pants in ’72 and then also to the helmet in Joe’s final season in Canada, 1973. When A.D. played in ’76, the helmets were the same but matched with mono powder blue uniforms, at times. Around that time, the more familiar boat logo first appeared on blue shells, a helmet they would use for over a decade, followed by another rapid succession of different helmet designs. Eventually, the shield from that boatman logo became the logo as it is currently and has been for a little over a decade.
P.S. I mentioned this Argos helmet earlier and after I finished writing this and shipped it off to UW, I just stumbled across this circa 1963 photo of that helmet and wanted to make sure it was included!
CFL Preseason Games
CFL preseason games: In the course of putting this together I ran across a number of preseason photos and I thought I may as well share these too. (Some are also listed above but repeated here so the exhibition game pics are all in one section.) Here are some photos and newspaper articles for Canada v USA exhibitions: Alouettes v AAFC Brooklyn Dodgers in 1948. Ottawa v NY Giants in 1950 and in 1951. Toronto Argos v Chicago Cardinals in 1959, v Steelers in 1960 and v St. Louis Cardinals in 1961. The Als v Chicago Bears and Ti-Cats v AFL Buffalo Bills, both in 1961.
CFL exhibition photos include this pic of the 1963 preseason matchup between Calgary and Ottawa which featured a field full of blank red helmets (Riders with a black center stripe). Winnipeg and Calgary both wore blank shells in 1969 preseason. Anthony Davis played with the WFL Southern California Sun in 1975, so this must be a preseason pic with the Argos wearing blank blue shells in 1976. In 1971 and 1972, Ottawa wore black shells with a single red stripe. Plain black shells for the preseason east Riders in 1973, 1976, 1977, 1981, 1982, 1984 and 1992. They wore a plain gold helmet in the ’95 preseason and plain black with center striping the following preseason.
And…one final photo, just because this helmet would look so cool on the field! Plus, it reminds me of ol’ Captain Canuck!
This has been a major effort, but researching all of this was also an awesome journey. Sometimes it’s fun to see just how far the rabbit hole goes, though I must admit for weeks now I’ve been having the same recurring nightmare consisting of moose and beavers eating back bacon smothered in maple syrup in a midst of a blizzard! Thankfully, Rush is always playing YYZ off in the distance…
Sadly, due to circumstances beyond my control, I have to make a change in my approach to Leo’s World. Maybe I’ll be able to continue next year in a (roughly) bi-weekly mode, or maybe it will just be every once in a while that I surprise Phil with an installment and let him post it if/when he wants. But, for now, I’ve got some big, time consuming, fish to fry before I can get back to enjoying life. The quicker I can steamroll obstacles, the quicker I can get back to having spare time to devote to things in my life that I take part in purely for the fun of it…like Leo’s World. Hopefully I’ll at least be able to produce a Leo’s World or two later in the winter. We’ll see what the new year brings.
So, since I probably won’t have a Leo’s World to share in December, let me take the time now to wish everyone a happy and safe holiday season!
That’s all for now, though. Hope you enjoyed!
Till next time…
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Thanks, Leo — and thanks for all you’ve contributed to the blog over the past several months. Leo’s explained (kinda) his circumstances to me in private, and all I can say is let’s all hope everything works out OK. After Paul’s heartfelt piece this past Thanksgiving, and now hearing of Leo’s obstacles, I think we can all safely say we’ll be glad when 2016 is over. My best to you and yours Leo, and let’s all hope you’re back sooner rather than later!
Pittsburgh Penguins Go For The Gold
Yesterday, in a somewhat surprising move, the Pittsburgh Penguins had their 2017 Stadium Series jerseys (they’ll play the Philadelphia Flyers on February 25th at Heinz Field) revealed. They’re pretty gold.
Check out the screengrabs from NBC (who revealed the unis yesterday — you can click to enlarge):
As you can see, the Pens use the gold color they had from 1981-84, but the skating penguin is not inside of a triangle for this incarnation (maybe because they want the logo to be visible from the cheap seats?). Or maybe it’s just to sell more jerseys, I’m not sure.
Instead, they take the triangle and (in this example) use it for the “C” (Crosby’s jersey was shown).
I’m guessing the “A” jersey(s) will follow suit. Pretty nice. You can sorta see there’s a keystone logo on the left sleeve…
Let’s look at the sleeve:
Nice — inside the keystone (Pennsylvania is the “Keystone State,” if you weren’t already aware) is the logo “City of Champions” (how original) and 4 stars, signifying the four Stanley Cups the Penguins have won.
The triangle is replicated in the keystone, by two crossed hockey sticks, which is also a neat design feature.
So far so good. Unfortunately, we still need to see the back (which is apparently shown here).
Ugh. Why do teams constantly fall back on the faux-military font-tripe these numbers have? You want them visible from a distance, so in this regard, they’re good — but there’s not need to use this particular font-style. A simple block would have been more than sufficient. I can’t imagine this would be a selling point (or a deal-breaker, for that matter), but it seems a wee-bit overdone. And the color, style, and front/side of the jersey were so nice. The NOB also appears to be done in military font as well.
There’s also a patch on the right shoulder — it wasn’t shown but it’s likely the Stadium Series patch shown here.
Not bad overall. I love the Penguins in gold — perhaps this will become an new alternate once the Stadium Series is complete — and let’s hope if so, they’ll wear it as their LIGHT sweater against opposing dark sweaters.
Our pal Chris Creamer had a nice writeup here and you can also read here.
You can also look at a video of the new jersey here: