Which Tiger-Cat Players will make the Top 50 of All Time?

Which Tiger-Cats will be named among the TSN Top 50 CFL Players of All Time? (announcement to be made during Grey Cup week)


Before I provide my analysis, here’s some things to keep in mind:

• There are 50 spots for the 185 candidates, meaning the average candidate has a 27% chance of being named

• There are 9 teams, meaning that if all had equally successful histories, each team would be entitled to 5.5 players on the list. Of course some teams have been more successful than others. I think Ottawa and Saskatchewan will be underrepresented, while Edmonton will be overrepresented. Hamilton’s glory days were in the 1960s, but we have to remember that Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal have also had eras of greatness. And those whose glory days were more recent will likely fare better among voters with shorter memories.

• In other words, like it or not, there will not be 15 Tiger-Cats among the top 50. We’ll be very lucky to have 7 or 8.

• Some roster positions will likely be overrepresented on the list (QBs, RBs, Receivers, LBs) while others will claim a disproportionately low number (especially O-line and perhaps DB).

• My list of Ticats only includes players who are probably most closely identified with our team. e.g. Tony Gabriel and Paul Bennett do not meet this criteria.

I’ve slotted players into three categories.
(to be continued)

Category 1: Shoe-ins

Category 1 is reserved for players whose absence would be an absolute travesty. I think there are only two Tiger-Cats in this category.

Garney Henley: Pound for pound, you could make a case for him as the best CFL player ever. Standout on offence, defence and special teams. 10-time all-Canadian – second best among the 185 finalists.

John Barrow: 16 all-star selections in 14 years. What else needs to be said? Outstanding two-way player.

Category 2: Great Chances

I wouldn’t be surprised if any of these guys made it, and all are deserving. But it’s also conceivable that any of them could be left off.

Joe Montford and Grover Covington: The most dominant defensive player of his era, and the all-time sack leader (although they never started counting sacks until the 1980s). But will both of these Ticats beat out the other D-lineman in contention? Besides Barrow, we have James Quick Parker, the Montford of his day; Dave Fennell, a Canadian who has the Dynasty going for him; the irritating Elfrid Payton; newly minted Hall of Famer Bobby Jurasin, and 9-time CFL all-star John Helton. I think there’s room for both Grover and Joe.

Ben Zambiasi: His combination of leadership and dominant play should get him on the list. But many other linebackers can make the same claim: Willie Pless, Dan Kepley, Danny Bass, Wayne Harris. I think Ben belongs on that list, but we’ll see if others agree.

Tommy Joe Coffee: His name appears on the wall of fame of two separate teams – Eskimos and Tiger-Cats (possibly a unique feat in our league). Seven all-Canadian selections is second only to Tony Gabriel among the receivers on the list. That should be enough.

Rocky DiPietro and Darren Flutie: Two former holders of the all-time receptions record. Consistent, reliable performers. But among possibly 8 spots for receivers, will these two beat out the following: Allen Pitts, Tony Gabriel, Ray Elgaard, Brian Kelly, Hal Patterson, Milt Stegall, Terry Vaughn?

Less Browne: All-time interception leader, 6-time all-Canadian. Should make the list.

Category 3: Long Shots

These guys all have a shot, but I wouldn't bet on any of them. If everyone from my first two categories makes it, that would already give the Tiger-Cats 9 spots on the top 50, which is more than we are likely to get.

Earl Winfield: I think his combination of being a premier special teams player (still second only to Gizmo in punt return TDs) and simultaneously his team’s #1 receiver makes him unique and should qualify him for the list. But he never got the recognition he deserved while he played, so I don’t anticipate him getting it now.

Paul Osbaldiston: We all know how great he was, but will he beat out the other kickers on the list? Ridgway, Passaglia, Cameron, Ilesic and Prefontaine all make very compelling candidates, and there can only be so many kickers.

Bernie Faloney and Danny McManus: Both were great players in their day, but the QB spot should be the most competitive of all. Flutie, Moon, Lancaster, Jackson, Parker, Allen, Dunigan, Calvillo, Clements. Tough to crack that list. Our boys – with a combined 1 all-Canadian selection and 2 Outstanding Player awards - could easily be overlooked.

David Shaw: With 5 all-Canadian selections he should be a contender. My concern is that you rarely hear anyone speak about him these days.

Cookie Gilchrist: Do enough people remember him?

Ellison Kelly: The only Ticat O-lineman on the list. Hard to assess his chances given how long he played. I don’t think O-linemen will claim their proportionate share (which would be 10 spots) among the top 50.

Angelo Mosca: He keeps his name in the news, which may garner some votes. But on the basis of his playing career, his 2 all-Canadian selections rank him low among his competition on the D-line.

End of analysis. Talk amongst yourselves.

Excellent analysis ExPat.

I agree with most of your selections and comments.

Garney Henley and John Barrow should be in for sure.

I'd go for Grover Covington over Joe Montford. Grover was the all-time sack leader and played with Hamilton for a longer time. Joe was great too but played for three other teams in his career. I don't think they'll both get on the final list. Many others to choose from on other teams as you note, and don't forget Ed McQuarters in Sask (though many will indeed forget him). I’d pick Grover.

Good call re Less Browne, I bet he’s in. I think David Shaw belongs, though he played well elsewhere after Hamilton and isn’t strictly associated with the Cats.

Ben Zambiasi was great, but there were so many other terrific LBs around the league over the years that I suspect he won’t be chosen.

No one will beat out Lui Passaglia as the kicker… not Ozzy, not Bernie, not anybody. That’s as it should be.

Rocky and Darren were great, so was Tommy-Joe, and Hal Patterson has as much claim to be chosen as a Cat as TJ does, since both played excellently elsewhere before coming to Hamilton. I think Hal clearly makes it as an Alouette, Tony Gabriel as a Rider. I predict only one of the Ticat receivers has a chance, if any at all… there are just too many great players for not enough positions.

I’d love to see Ellison Kelly get in, he deserves it. Hard to say, O linemen are not too visible as you point out.

As for QB, we’ve had some great ones, especially Faloney and McManus in his prime, but up against the likes of Flutie, Lancaster and Jackson I don’t see it at all.

All in all, I think we get about 5, not more.

Just to recap: Other than me and stevehvh, no one is interested in discussing how well the greatest ever Ticats stack up against the greatest ever CFLers.

But if I were to write a post attacking Lancaster, or Paopao, or Katz, or Desjardins, or Eakin, or Lumsden, or Yeast, or Mikey, or the moderators, then pretty much everyone would jump in.

(Perhaps one day I will give up on my quest to elevate the level of discussion on this forum. But not quite yet.)

Hope springs eternal, ExPat. Though I agree it's sometimes tempting, don't give up yet!

Don't give up Ex-pat.

I think both you and Steve make some excellent points. My problem here is that a)I tend to go with my heart on these things and b)A lot of these guys were before my time so I can't really compare them.

Keeping that in mind, I concur with your Shoe-ins category. I'd tend to include Grover in that category as well. I'd say Joe does have a good chance but if I'm choosing between him and Grover, Grover definately gets the nod. I'd also think Rocky would get the nod over Darren Flutie, but both are deserving of the honour.

Your assessment of Earl Winfield is band on (sadly). I think he's more than deserving, but he really didn't get his due at the time. I'd also be surprised if I didn't see Less Browne on that list.

Grover over Joe.... yes.
Tommy Joe.... I wish (He's on my jersey). A lot of his game was outside Hamilton though.
Kelly deserves it but if more than 1 O lineman makes the list in total I'd be surprised.
I also agree about Earl. He excited the faithful but he played in an era of great receivers and the 'Cats weren't among the top teams so he didn't get the recognition.

[b]Garney Henley
John Barrow
Grover Covington
Less Browne

That's it for the "jaw drops if they aren't in the final 50" list.[/b]

Ben Zambiasi
Joe Montford
Tommy Joe Coffey
Hal Patterson
David Shaw
Earl Winfield

These are my "outside shot" people. Hal Patterson's body of work (particularly in Montreal with Etcheverry) will garner him a lot of consideration. Winfield is in my top 3 of special teams performers with Gizmo and Johnny Rodgers (purely subjective).

There should be a all-purpose player category, in which case Garney Henley would be the hands-down guy. Three-way player? Sick. Just plain sick. Or "steeped," as the Tim Horton's tea woman might say. :smiley:

Ten-time all-Canadian (1963-1972 -- 10 straight years) -- nine as a DB, one as a flanker (1972). Wins the Schenley as MVP in 1972 as a flanker at the age of 37. Fifty-nine career interceptions. Played 55 minutes a game on-field time during some games in the 1960s. Unfreakingbelievable <<< the only adjective that really describes his value to the Cats' dynasty team of the sixties.

Mosca would head my "I want to go to war with him on my team" list. He didn't get the accolades he deserved. He elevated John Barrow's game and vice versa. I would take those two guys as interior lineman over any DT pairing in the history of the CFL.

Thanks ExPat for the thread. :wink:

Oski Wee Wee,

So, just to recap:

  • my two "Shoe-ins" were the top 2 Ticats on the list

  • 5 out of 7 of my "Great Chances" players made the list. Too bad about Ben and Rocky.

  • only 1 out of 8 of my "long shots" made it. Congratulations Angelo.

In my opinion, not too many surprises on the list. Which doesn't necessarily mean I agree with all the choices.