One could argue that the most important position on the football field is that of an official. Without referees, umpires, line judges, field judges and others, games simply could not be played in the CJFL. However for their extreme importance, officials are often yelled at and verbally abused by coaches, players and fans alike, yet they continue to do an excellent job on the field.
The CJFL is proud to announce the first ever official to be given the honour of a CJFL Life Member Award.
Brian Small contributed a great deal to the CJFL on and off the field as a referee from 1983-2002. He was named the first ever Prairie Conference Referee-in-Chief and held that position for 19 years, stepping down just this past fall. He not only officiated games on the field during his career, but was also responsible for scheduling officials to be at all the other Conference games each week. Brian is a huge advocate for the sport of football and specifically officials.
He has had a distinguished career that has spanned more than 25 years and has officiated all levels of football including the CJFL and a stint in the CFL from 1993-1997 during the expansion to the United States. His resume is impressive officiating a Canadian Bowl, an Atlantic Bowl, a Hardy Cup and his final game, the 2002 Vanier Cup. Brian also served as the Referee-in-Chief for Canada West of USports creating training programs that both leagues continue to use.
Just prior to the 2011 Vanier Cup Brian was honoured with the Sydney Halter Award for his “Outstanding Contributions to Football Officiating” which included his extensive training program for the development of better officials. This award is not given out each year.
“Officials are always the unsung heroes of the CJFL,” says Commissioner Jim Pankovich. “I’ve known Brian for several years and his long-term commitment in developing new officials in Western Canada through various training programs has been outstanding. Brian helped create officiating standards in the CJFL when it comes to selecting which referees officiate our Canadian Bowl each season. We owe a great deal of debt to all of our officials each and every year as they not only make our game safer but they actually make it possible. Without our dedicated officials across the CJFL we wouldn’t be able to play. On behalf of the CJFL, I would like to congratulate and thank Brian for everything he has done for our game, this is well deserved.”
The CJFL Life Member Award is saved for an individual that has contributed a great deal to the CJFL and Brian Small certainly has done that. Officials today in Western Canada are much better trained and equipped thanks to his programs and love for Canadian amateur football.
Congratulations Brian Small.
The CJFL has been in existence since 1908 taking on many forms, but always keeping the core values of providing young people an opportunity to play highly competitive post-high school football across the country. Several of the current 18 CJFL franchises are able to boast a rich history as part of the CJFL for many, many years.
So relatively speaking the GTA Grizzlies are still one of the youngest franchises, playing in the Ontario Conference. They first became a full CJFL member in 2014, calling the largest city in Canada home. When they first began play they would call Father Henry Carr Catholic Secondary school home before moving to their current location of Etobicoke Centennial Stadium.
Heading into just their third season in 2017 the team rebranded to their current blue and white colours to reflect their growing partnership with the Toronto Argonauts. That season they also launched their new logo that we know them by today.
In their first six seasons they have qualified for the CJFL playoffs in the last three straight years, but are still looking for that first playoff win.
Speaking of the playoffs, one of the most exciting moments in Grizzlies team history came on October 13, 2018 with a playoff berth on the line. The Grizzlies were hosting the Ottawa Sooners and needed to beat them by at least 19 points to advance to the post-season. The stadium was packed with high school students cheering on their Grizzlies to an impressive 39-0 shutout punching their ticket to the playoffs.
Despite their youth, the Grizzlies program has already produced some talented players including Michael Sanelli and Kelvin Muamba who are in the CFL playing for the Montreal Alouettes and Saskatchewan Roughriders respectively. Last season’s (2019) CJFL Rookie of the Year Harvey Mafuta could be joining them in the CFL ranks in the not too distant future.
Former head coach Mark Houlder is more proof that the Grizzlies recipe for success is working. Houlder was recently elected to the CJFL Executive Board to lend his experience and expertise to move the league forward in various paths. He was the head coach of the Grizzlies in 2019, but with this elected position, he has had to step down from coaching but will no doubt assist the club in their search to fill the vacant role.
The Grizzlies find themselves in a unique position in the Toronto area, and have just now started to make a name for themselves. Sure they are in the most populated area in the country, but there are several Universities and other opportunities for young football players coming out of high school to continue to play. With that said and their most recent success, the Grizzlies will no doubt start attracting more players once they are able to get back to normal recruiting and practicing following the pandemic.
The club has the right people in place to grow their team into a consistently competitive franchise once football resumes.
Quick Grizzlies Facts:
Conference – Ontario Conference
Location – 56 Centennial Park Rd, Etobicoke ON
Grizzlies President – Karen Escoffery
Head Coach – An announcement is coming soon
Stadium - Etobicoke Centennial Stadium
Motto – Keeping the Dream Alive
Social Handle – @gtagrizzlies / @gtagrizzlies_
Primary Colours – Dark & light blue, and white
During a game, getting to the quarterback for a sack can be difficult. The offensive linemen are just the first wave a defensive player needs to bust through. Then of course a running back can offer a second wave, and then the quarterback’s internal clock of getting rid of the ball before a sack can be recorded.
Due to these factors when a sack is recorded, the defence celebrates. However, when one player compiles more than one sack in a game it can be record setting.
Throughout CJFL history there have been several players that have recorded more than one sack in a single game, but there is a plateau in which only six players have reached. Collecting five sacks in a game is an incredible feat and hasn’t been done since 2012. The first player to reach this milestone was Ron Zammit of the Hamilton Hurricanes in 1982, 39 years ago.
The top 5 all-time defensive lineman leaders for sacks in a single regular season game are:
1 – Steven Doege – 5 for the Okanagan Sun (BCFC) in 2012
2 – Evan Foster (pictured) – 5 for the Langley Rams (BCFC) in 2009
3 – Jim LaPointe – 5 for the Okanagan Sun (BCFC) in 2001
4 – Adrian MacKenzie – 5 for the Richmond Raiders (BCFC) in 1990
5 – Ron Zammit – 5 for the Hamilton Hurricanes (OFC) in 1982
6 – Dave Gebert – 5 for Regina Rams (PFC) in 1985