Heading west in search of fame and fortune, you find only the west.
Disillusioned, you settle in Moose Jaw, a city so swept up in civic pride
and ambition that it was named after a bone, rather than an entire beast.
Years later, settled comfortably in amongst the hustle and bustle of
metropolitan Moose Jaw, you decide to start your own rugby club. Searching
for a name, you decide against the obvious choice: The Moose Jaw Moose.
Moose may be noble, majestic, even deadly creatures, but their preferred
method of killing prey - by toppling drunkenly through car windshields -
seems to be a poor analogy for the kind of sports team you're trying to
build. And so the Moose Jaw Tigers are born.
You weren't that bright, but at least you weren't lonely: When the Calgary
City Rugby Football Club changed to the Calgary Tigers in 1908, it became
the third Tiger-titled Football/Rugby Team (the Hamilton Tigers being the
second) among the fractured and oft feuding sports organizations that would
eventually become the CFL.
Indeed, the Tiger, that feared predator that
stalked the lush Canadian savannas, loomed large in the Canadian sports
psyche. Sadly, both Tiger related sports teams, and the Tiger itself -
eventually driven to extinction by the ever-expanding continental railroad
and encroaching urban centres - would not survive in Canada. In 1950 the
last of the dynasty, the Hamilton Tigers, were amalgamated with the Hamilton
Wildcats. Unsure of which cat best represented their new approach to
football, the two teams compromised by combining the two titles, and thus
the Hamilton Ti-cats were born. Today you'd be hard pressed to find many who
remember the glory days of the tiger, in sport, or in the treacherous
Not so the Canadian contingent of soldiers sent to Cuba to deal with
marauding Spaniards in the late 1800's. The Canadian Rough Riders were the
heroes of the Spanish-American War, imitated but never equalled by the squad
of the same name led by Theo Roosevelt: a New York police commissioner
quickly and deservingly relegated to the trash bin of history. Cashing in on
the popularity of our boys in Cuba, Ottawa named its team the Rough Riders
in 1898 and adopted the same red and black colours as the Canadian regiment.
The Span-Am War still popular in 1912, the Regina Rugby Club decided to
change their team colours to red and black as well. The switch-over was
completed some twelve years later when the team name was also changed,
though Regina cleverly distinguished themselves from the Ottawa team of the
same name and colours by omitting the space between "Rough" and "riders".
A year later in 1925, the Ottawa Rough Riders, sensing a coming
Spanish-American War backlash, became the Senators. The Senators lasted but
two seasons before a hockey team of identical name and similar jersey was
discovered; one which predated the football team by more than a couple
decades. After briefly considering becoming the Ottawa Napoleon the Thirds,
in an effort to cash in on rampant nostalgia for the Franco-Prussian War
(1870-71), Ottawa instead reverted to the Rough Riders. In 1996 the CFL,
weary of the fiscally inept Ottawa team, revoked the Rough Riders' membership
and would likely have run then-owner, the clueless Horn Chen, out of town on
a rail had he actually spent enough time in the city for a suitably angry
mob to be gathered.
Today, a deal to bring Ottawa back into the CFL under the ownership of a
group headed by Lacrosse Impresario and Toronto Maple Leaf executive, Bill Waters is all but completed. One
detail that remains unresolved is the naming of the re-established Ottawa
team. History buffs and many CFL fans, understandably disgusted at the
prospect of a CFL that would continue to field nearly ten teams, all with
different names, are in favour of the return of the Ottawa Rough Riders.
Standing in the way however, is the aforementioned, and possibly not
entirely clueless, Horn Chen. Amazingly, and counter to all common sense,
the CFL did not retain ownership of the name "Rough Riders" when they
disbanded the team. Horn Chen, incomparable sore loser and current owner of
the "Rough Riders" name, is apparently asking for several hundred thousand
dollars for the rights to use the name. Bill Waters and company are not
likely to dish out so much extra cash after having to raise ten million
dollars for the Ottawa franchise - this in a league which has seen several
teams bought and sold for an even dollar.
The time is right for a return to the glory days of Canadian football - a
time when feral cat calls reverberated through this large and empty land.
With the courage, bravery and valour of our Span-Am War heroes safeguarded
by the green and white Saskatchewan Roughriders, we must turn our attention
to preserving another Canadian icon, one which has all but disappeared from
our collective memories.
Ladies and Gentlemen: Let's hear it for your Ottawa Tigers!
Matthew Dorrell is uncomfortable with the word Argonaut.