Coach Doug Hargreaves and quarterback James Rutka.
The football game is always a major focus for the Homecoming weekend. But a bunch of Gael football players will be reuniting in Kingston to celebrate a game that took place 35 years ago in Toronto this October. The athletics department is hosting a reunion for the Gaels’ 1978 Canadian championship-winning football team.
Spending hours on the practice field, battling on game day and then hoisting a championship trophy forges strong bounds and creates lifelong memories.
Quarterback James Rutka says he still keeps in touch with his old teammates and plans to be in Kingston to celebrate the championship, which in 1978 was known as the College Bowl. (In 1982, the name was changed to the Vanier Cup).
“(That championship season) was special for me as it was the most talented group of players I have had the privilege of working together with in my football career,” says James, now a surgeon and professor at the University of Toronto. “We did not lose a game the entire season … the championship was played in Toronto (my hometown) so that was special, too.”
The Gaels went a perfect 10-0 that year and faced the UBC Thunderbirds for the championship in a game televised on CBC. Two key fumbles cost UBC the game – one on their own 13-yard line and the second on a punt return in the final minutes of the game. The Gaels went on to a 16-3 victory in front of 19,000 people at Varsity Stadium and linebacker Ed Andrew was named game MVP. The team was coached by Doug Hargreaves.
This isn’t the only sports reunion taking place during Homecoming. On October 5, there is going to be a 12-hour swimming relay taking place at the ARC pool, a men’s basketball 3-on-3 tournament, a cross country and track BBQ and women’s basketball alumni game. These will be followed by a reception and silent auction at 7:30 pm in the Underground (formerly Alfie’s), honouring teams 1985-86 to 1989-90. On the October 18-20 weekend, there are alumni games for lacrosse, soccer, water polo and sailing.
You don’t need to win a championship to form a lifelong connection with your teammates.
“The experiences the players face together are what help form the strong bond,” says Gaels women’s basketball coach Dave Wilson, who will be refereeing the alumni versus alumni game. “Varsity sport can be incredibly difficult, mentally, physically and emotionally. Going through these experiences together, finding enjoyment and satisfaction in one's accomplishments along the way, and knowing that you have teammates that were there supporting you every step of the way, is a powerful feeling.”
Queen’s Athletics has a full list of all sports-related alumni events as well as Gael CIS games taking place during the two Homecoming weekends.