Growing up in Ottawa, it was tough being a Tiger-Cats fan. My parents were from Hamilton, so I ended up supporting the Ticats. But my sister cheered for the Rough Riders, as did almost all of my friends. This led to some great family rivalry, especially when Ottawa and Hamilton met in the playoffs.
Another problem with being a Ticats fan in Ottawa was that I seldom got to see the team play due to local television black-outs. The networks tended not to televise Toronto or Hamilton home games – the games would be blacked out in their biggest market, so why bother showing them at all – and all Ottawa home games were blacked out here. So when Hamilton came to town, I would try to go to the game. (I guess that was the point of the black-outs, wasn’t it?)
End-zone tickets were available through one of the grocery stores at a great price, so when we went to a game, that’s where we’d sit. And that provided the best seat in the house for my favourite Ticats memory. This was in Garney Henley’s hey-day, back when he played both directions, and returned punts as well. It just seemed he was on the field for the whole game.
Henley was having quite a game that day, and I remember that he had already made a number of great plays. But the one play I really remember was a double-reverse that had gone bad. Or at least that’s the way it looked to everyone in the crowd. Zuger had handed off to the running back on the reverse, who had flipped the ball to Henley coming around from the flanker position. Unfortunately, the Ottawa defence wasn’t fooled and had him bottled up. The crowd around me, my sister included, started cheering, knowing he was going to be caught for a loss. Suddenly, I noticed a lone Hamilton player wide open in the end-zone right in front of us, and pointed him out to my sister just as Henley stepped back and threw a perfect spiral for a touchdown. It seemed like I was the only person in the stands making any noise – the Ottawa fans were totally stunned.
I recently read a biography about Garney Henley, and it mentioned that he had hurt Ottawa in almost every conceivable way that game, with an interception, knock-downs, punt returns, running, and receiving. But it was this touchdown pass that I still remember to this day.