Apr 26, 2023
Grey Cup Champions Return to Ottawa. 50th anniversary celebration at TD Place and Reunion Dinner highlight CFL Legacy Weekend at Reblacks-Ticats game on July 28
A decade ago, at the most recent Reunion of the 1973 Champions, the great Ottawa linebacker Mark Kosmos described that inimitable edition of the Rough Riders as 'a team of character and characters.' And Kos knew what he was talking about; he'd earned a well-deserved place in both of those categories, himself.
Now, unfortunately, No. 50 is among the too-many members of that memorable group who can't be back in the capital to celebrate our 50th Grey Cup Anniversary this summer. Half a century ago, in the 1973 team picture, there were 46 of us in all -- players, coaches; clubhouse, training and office staff, and team executives. Today, there are only 22 survivors - 20 players, assistant coach Jay Fry (now in his 90's, he usually asks if he can bring a date) and our then-teenage ball boy, Ronnie, who's almost closing in on retirement age.
Ah, but what a team that was! And what an unlikely path we took to the Championship Game! In 1972, we had recorded a league-leading 11 wins, 3 losses before dropping the Eastern final to the ultimate Grey Cup champions from Hamilton.
To start the 1973 season, Ottawa was again among the favourites. We had two accomplished quarterbacks in returning starter Rick Cassata and Jerry Keeling, obtained after a Hall of Fame career in Calgary. Offensively, there was an experienced receiving corps, a veteran O-line and recently arrived from BC, star fullback Jim Evenson, considered the missing link to the Rough Rider attack.
And then there was Gerry Organ, place-kicker, punter and receiver; leading scorer in the East, Ottawa's Most Valuable Player and about to be selected Most Outstanding Canadian in the CFL.
But even all that offensive prowess ignored that the Rough Riders' true strength was our defensive team, known by one of the best nicknames in CFL history. To this day, 'Capital Punishment' still says it all. And if you had to play against them -- or almost worse, face them every day in practice -- the names in that lineup can still trigger a cold sweat.
Consider the D-line ... Sims ... Smith ... Laputka ... Brandon ... Piaskoski. The linebackers ... Kosmos ... Campbell ... Giardino ... Dever. The DB's ... Adams ... Marcelin ... Tosh ... Kruspe ... Woodward.
Yet for all of that --as anyone reading this knows-- when the 1973 CFL season began, the Ottawa Rough Riders lost our opening game ... then we lost our second game ... incredibly, we lost our third ... when we returned from Regina after a Western road trip, bewilderingly sitting in last place at 0-4, the South Side faithful targeted Head Coach Jack Gotta, chanting 'Gotta's Gotta Go!'
Of course, as you already know, this story was destined to have a happy ending. From worst to first ... we would lose just once more for the rest of the '73 season. We clinched first place ... then beat Montreal in the Eastern Final ...and in the 1973 championship game, the 61st Grey Cup, the final score was Ottawa 22, Edmonton 18.
Now, for the 22 surviving members of that team, if I'm writing this -- and if you're reading it -- it means that we've done something quite unlikely: that we're among the fortunate 22 who've survived for half a century to be in Ottawa this July 28 to celebrate -- and be celebrated for -- the 50th Anniversary of our 1973 Grey Cup victory.
We'll be in touch shortly to let you know what we're planning but for now, here are the broad strokes:
Thursday, July 27 - 6pm - 50th Grey Cup Reunion dinner in downtown Ottawa for each team member and a significant other.
Friday, July 28 - 11 am - pizza, beer and tall tales at the Prescott Tavern on Preston Street.
Friday evening July 28 - 7:30 pm - Redblacks CFL Legacy Game vs Hamilton on the field at TD Place. Recognition of the 1973 Grey Cup champions at half time.
Saturday, July 29 - noonish - BBQ chez McKeown at Kingsmere Lake - provided the O-line promises not to sink the dock like the last time.
We will be in touch with more details ASAP -- such as preferential hotel rates, restaurant location for dinner, how many tickets you need for the Legacy Game etc. Please try to let us know if you think you can come so we can make arrangements for the right numbers.
We're looking forward to seeing everyone because we always have a terrific time when we get together. And we're not getting any younger or better looking!
Your 1973 Grey Cup Championship Reunion Committee:
Dan Dever (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Jim Foley (email@example.com)
John Kruspe (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Bob McKeown (email@example.com)
Gerry Organ (firstname.lastname@example.org)
1973 Grey Cup Champions Team Photo
Grey Cup 1973 action - Rick Cassata throws to TE Tom Pullen
Captains Moe Racine and Wayne Giardino with Cup