Jul 15, 2023
TD Place Wall of Honour. Rough Rider greats Dave Thelen, Gene Gaines and Greg Marshall have joined the 14 other legends of Ottawa football on the wall.
On July 15 Dave Thelen, Gene Gaines and Greg Marshall were added to the Ottawa CFL Football Wall of Honour.
There was a large gathering at noon featuring the 3 inductees and their families. Also attending were former teammates and other former CFL Ottawa players (many of whom wore their football jerseys), plus many other people with connections to CFL football in Ottawa.
There was also super support from the Redblacks since the attendees included Mark Goudie (President and CEO of OSEG), Adrian Sciarra (President of the Redblacks), GM Shawn Burke, and our Alumni contact Courtney Huestis (Manager of Product Marketing).
The 3 inductees and their families were introduced by CFL Ottawa Alumni Association’s President Jeff Avery while everyone was treated to the Prescott’s famous square pizza which was provided by the CFL Ottawa Alumni Association.
Comment about Dave
Russ Jackson, who also started his Rough Rider career with Dave in 1958, messaged “Dave Thelen was the key player in the Rider offense since in those days with the emphasis on the running game Dave was either the very successful ball carrier, carrying out fakes on play action plays, or making crucial blocks on pass plays”.
Anecdote about Gene
Michael O’Byrne, the former host of CTV Ottawa’s Mid Day news show told everyone about how Gene and Marion treated him when he was their neighbour when he was 12 years old.
BY MICHAEL O'BYRNE
When I was a young boy growing up in Ottawa in the 1960's I was a huge Rough Rider football fan. My heroes were everyone's heroes. #12, Russ Jackson, # 11 Ronnie Stewart, # 21 Dave Thelen, # 26 Whit Tucker, the list could go on and on. But there is one former Rough Rider who left an enduring and very personal impression on my life. # 22, Gene Gaines. Here's why.
I grew up in a very blue-collar neighborhood in Centretown Ottawa. Arlington Ave - between Bell St. and Cambridge St. Our backyard was a very narrow strip of dirt and asphalt. It backed onto the parking lot of an 8-storey apartment building. And that's where a long haired, pimply faced 12-year-old got to meet and befriend future CFL hall of famer Gene Gaines.
I'll never forget that late spring morning when I stepped out back and eyed the most beautiful car, I had ever seen parked right up against our chain link fence. It was a gold Buick Riviera. It had gold bucket seats and a sporty stick shift (yes, I hopped the fence to get a closer look). It also had a blue California licence plate. Then I saw the sticker the back window. It was red, white, and black. A cowboy riding a bucking bronco set on top of a football with the words Ottawa Rough Rider Player. But who was he? I was determined to find out.
Because I was such a big football fan, I knew the team practiced late afternoons. So, the plan was simple. Wait in the yard after school until he left for practice. It worked. There he was, this tall, handsome, very fit young football star who I recognized right away as #22, star defensive back and kick returner Gene Gaines. I remember just staring at him and I remember him saying "hello" with a big smile on his face. I had a mini football in my hand and I asked him if he wanted to play catch. I'm sure he didn't have the time. But he took the time. Just a couple of throws back and forth across that old chain link fence. That was the beginning of a memory that would last a lifetime for me. And the story gets better.
I went to as many Rough Rider games as I could on weekends and during summer holidays. I was one of those kids who sold you peanuts and popcorn and chocolate bars. They were coveted jobs and you had to show up at Lansdowne Park early on game-day to get one. One game day I was in the yard and Gene and his beautiful wife were heading off to the park for an afternoon game. He asked me if I was going to the game, and I told him I was about to walk over. He said if it's okay with my parents I could hop in with them. I remember being stunned and excited all at the same time. My parents had met Gene and said yes, so I hopped into the back of that beautiful Buick Riviera with my football hero. My friend. Gene Gaines.
After the game I hung around under the South Side stands by the door to the team dressing room. There were always a bunch of us kids waiting outside that black, red and white door hoping to get an autograph. Like all the players, Gene obliged every autograph request. When he spotted me, I'll never forget him saying, "do you want a ride home?" Man, did I feel special. All these kids clamoring for a signature, and I got an invite to ride home with Gene and his wife Marion in that beautiful Buick.
It wasn't the last time I got to ride along. Whenever I could go to a game that year I'd wait by the fence and he and his wife would always offer up a ride. And after the game he'd always offer that ride home. Man did I feel special.
How Greg became a Rough Rider
Bob O”Billovich (Canadian Football Hall of Fame) was not able to attend. O’Bie who played with Dave and Gene (and then coached against Gene for many years) said in an earlier phone call that he also recruited Greg when he was a Rough Rider assistant coach.
O’Bie’s older brother, Jack ‘Mad Dog’ O’Billovich, a noted middle linebacker at Oregon State where Greg played, told O’Bie that Greg was a player who would be perfect for the CFL, and that sure turned out to be true! Jack kept up on what was happening at his alma mater so knew about Greg.
At the Prescott Greg added to the story by noting that the Rough Rider contract was even mailed to Mad Dog’s bar and that was where he signed his first CFL contract.
That evening at TD Place, prior to the Redblack’s opening game with the Calgary Stampeders, the actual inductions took place.