Feb 22, 2023
Ted turned 90 last June and his family asked some of us to write a note about him to mark the occasion.
Ted Smale is 90
Ted turned 90 last June and his family asked some of us to write a note about him to mark the occasion. Noted Ottawa Sports Historian Jim McAuley also did some research and the result was 10 pages of information about Ted from Ottawa newspapers. My profile of Ted is mostly based on Jim’s research with thanks to the late Bill Westwick, Eddie MacCabe and Jack Kinsella.
Russ Jackson recently told me that when he and Dave Thelen joined the Riders in 1958 that Ted made them feel right at home with his very warm welcome. As Eddie MacCabe wrote, “Ted is an exceptional ball player, but just as much he’s a really fine person, a good citizen, and a man you’d like to have as a neighbour.”
How Ted got to Ottawa
On July 19, 1956, the Toronto Argos who had made Ted their 1st draft choice from the University of Toronto, traded him to the Ottawa Rough Riders. Smale, a 6-2, 195-pound end had been in Ottawa for some time employed with Atomic Energy as an engineer. Coach Frank Clair and his assistants, not to mention Smale himself, were all smiles on hearing the good word. The acquisition of Smale, along with Lou Bruce, gives Riders two of the top ends from the Intercollegiate League the previous season. Ted could both play football and have a full-time job since the Riders, in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, did not practise until late in the afternoon.
Smale, in fact, probably wouldn’t even have been a football player if he hadn’t possessed a mixture of determination and stubbornness in his makeup. Every time Smale turned out for football at Humberside Collegiate in Toronto, he wound up getting cut until his final year, when he finally made the grade. “No one will believe it,” says Ted, “but I made it as a punter.”
At U of T, where he was twice an all-star, a member of a title team, and captain in his final season, he was also cut the first year. The afternoon he remembers best was against Western when he caught seven passes for 103 yards and two TDs.
Rough Rider career
Ted played for the Ottawa Rough Riders for 7 years from 1956 to 1962. Ted’s first year was also the first year for Coach Frank Clair and his assistant Bill Smyth. Ted’s first two years he played defensive end though he hadn’t played more than 30 minutes on defence in high school or at college.
On September 7, 1957, Coach Frank Clair said that Lou Bruce and Ted Smale, both Canadians, are the finest pair of defensive ends he has had on one team.
In 1959 he was switched to offensive right end. The legendary Bobby Simpson was the left offensive end. For one thing, ends must be able to catch passes and also must be strong enough to block. This was so important since in those years the Riders were more of a running team with Hall of Famer Dave Thelen often going off tackle where the end must make a key block. Ted must have done a great job since Dave ran for 1,339 yards in 1959 and then 1,407 in 1960 (both years in a 14 game schedule). In 1959 Ted also caught 24 passes for 490 yards and 2 TDs.
From the Ottawa Journal (written by Eddie MacCabe in August 1960). “And lounging about in civvies was one of the finest ball players in the country, big Ted Smale, out with damage to his Achilles tendon. There’s nothing of the “big hero” side to Ted. He just doesn’t seem to realize how good he is. He’s a real player’s player, a coach’s player. He’s big, tough, fearless, and fast. He can play defence or offence; he does everything he’s asked, and he does it willingly and well.”
Ted suffered a very serious knee injury part way through the 1960 season that ended his season. Unfortunately for Ted, that was the year that the Riders won the Grey Cup in Vancouver.
Special knack for getting into the end zone with fumbles!
Ted picked up 4 fumbles between 1956 and 1958 which resulted in TDs. Hall of Famer and Ted’s teammate Kaye Vaughn only ever scored one TD (the good news was it was in the Riders winning Grey Cup game in 1960).
On October 20, 1956, the Ottawa Rough Riders beat the Toronto Argonauts 37- 26 at Lansdowne Park. In the third quarter, with the ball scrimmaged at the Riders’ 43-yard line, Lou Bruce blocked a Jerry Doucette kick. Ted Smale dribbled the loose ball down to the Toronto 12-yard line before picking it up and going in for the touchdown.
On September 22, 1957, the Ottawa Rough Riders defeated the Toronto Argonauts 55 -14 at Toronto. Ted Smale fell on a Tom Dublinski fumble in the end zone for one Riders’ touchdown.
On October 14, 1957, the Montreal Alouettes downed the Ottawa Rough Riders 32-24 at Montreal. Ted Smale scored off a blocked kick by Larry Hayes.
On August 7, 1958, in an exhibition game at Lansdowne Park, BC Lions’ Ray Lackner dropped a punt, and the ball took a perfect ‘Argo bounce’ into Ted Smale’s arms. Smale grabbed the ball on the 30 and crossed the goal line standing up.
Career outside football
Ted retired in 1990 after 35 years working Atomic Energy as an engineer. He finished up in charge of the Particle Accelerator Group working on a project for cancer therapy.
Ted supported many youth activities over his career. These are just a few of his appearances: -
On September 27, 1958, Tom Pullen, who later played for the Riders, led his Glebe team to a Little Big Four win and prior to the game Ted was introduced to the players and then kicked-off.
At a 1960 CAMP PONTIAC REUNION. One hundred boys and leaders were on hand for the annual Camp Pontiac Boys reunion and Ted was the guest speaker.
In 1962, Ted stressed the need to balance athletics and education in a speech to the Boy Scouts and Cubs of Bell’s Corners at the annual Father-Son Banquet. An audience of about 240 gave Smale and fellow Rider Bruno Bitkowski a warm reception.
90-year-old Ted Smale played in the 2022 Alumni golf tournament with Canadian Football Hall of Famer and former teammate Dave Thelen, former Ottawa Mayor Jim Durrell, and Bruce Hillary. In many previous years he was joined by Russ Jackson in his foursome.
In earlier days Ted was a feared golfer at the Kanata Golf Club and among many successes he won the men’s club championship in 1969 in the 36-hole final.
In 1975 Ted carded a 69 to help win the Ottawa District Golf Association best-ball tournament at the Rideau View Golf Club. Smale teamed with clubmate Fred Drummie for a low gross of 66.
Ted and Dot have been married for 68 years and have 4 children and 10 grandchildren and 7 great grandchildren. The children are Doug, Dawne, Karen, and Randy. In an ironic twist Randy was born September 8, 1960, when Ted was in Civic Hospital for knee surgery. His wife, Dot, gave birth three floors below—which evened the Smale team to two boys and two girls.
CFL Ottawa Alumni Association
When the Ottawa Alumni Association reformed in 2002 Ted was the Treasurer and had the data base system created that Dan Dever still uses today. Ted is still very active and attends most monthly Huddles at Local heroes where for many years, on his way home to Kanata, he used to stop for some ice cream.