Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Little General leaves the battlefield for the final time

..."Our league has lost its 'little general'. And our country has lost a giant of a man," --CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon, on the passing of Ron Lancaster.
Thursday marked another day for memories and a time for another a celebration of life, as the news quickly spread of the passing of one of the league’s most iconic figures.
Ron Lancaster, the Little General, who became a folk legend in Saskatchewan and a Canadian football treasure across the nation died at the age of 69 suddenly overnight, leaving a family and a legion of football fans to mourn his passing.
His name gets added to a rather remarkable roll call this season, as he joins Bob Ackles, Earl Lunsford and Leif Pettersen, to name a few, who all made major contributions to this game that still resonates across the land despite the many challenges that try to bring it down.
His time in the CFL has been one of the key elements of league building. Perhaps the most respected figure in Canadian Football to ever take to a CFL field, arriving in Ottawa in 1960 where he and Russ Jackson battled for the starter’s job in the nation’s capital.
While we think of quarterback controversies as big things now, in 1962 Ottawa fans took sides like few have since. Making for as close as a civil war as you might find in the stands, they were spilt in their allegiances.
A good portion feeling that the smallish import from Pennsylvania was the most likely candidate to lead a very talented Ottawa team to numerous Grey Cups, the other side just as determined to voice their support for the homegrown pivot, tenacious in their defence for Russ Jackson.
Back in a time when the CFL was the driving sports obsession of Ottawa’s, the Lancaster/Jackson era provided for some of the most heated passions that the CFL might ever hope to see stirred.
In the end, and as history has since accounted for, Lancaster was shipped west to Regina, where three years later, with a trio of now legendary Rider names in Reed, Campbell and Aldag, the Saskatchewan Roughriders won their first Grey Cup.
The 1966 watershed moment for the Green Riders, as Lancaster led his squad to a remarkable victory over those same Ottawa Roughriders that he once suited up for, a Grey Cup win that forever carved Lancaster’s name into the history books of Saskatchewan.
His place on the honour roll of the prairie province will never be replaced, and while his time as a head coach with the Riders provided for one of the few disappointments in his professional football career, there were never any lasting hard feelings from Rider fans, his iconic status forever planted in the soil.
In a province where football is a religion, Lancaster was always their Bishop, parish priest and slightly cocky altar boy all rolled up into one small but dynamic package.His lifelong love for the Canadian game would continue through the years, from his time as one of the best colour commentators on TV, providing that encyclopedic knowledge of the game and delivering some of the best analysis that would ever come through the television.
He returned to coaching with Edmonton where the Grey Cup would once again come into his possession and again with the Hamilton Tiger Cats, turning a woeful franchise into a Grey Cup champion in short order.As the years passed by he remained with the Cats, in a variety of management positions, his frustrations apparent as the Cats struggled to regain their once terrifying and championship form.
He had suffered a couple of medical setbacks over the last few years, a bout with bladder cancer which he successfully conquered and most recently a diagnosis of a return of the scourge for Canadians, though in the end it would appear that he would pass on from a heart attack, leaving us behind to share our heavy hearts with a lifelong extended CFL family.
The tributes have been flowing through the day, all of them fitting for a football player who redefined the way our game was played and became the template for the scrambling, inventive game that it is.
The passing of eras in Canadian sport have their timelines outlined by the players that dominated them, for Canadian football, Ron Lancaster’s timeline coincided with many of the greatest moments of the game, a highlight reel of lengthy proportions and of much great emotional connection to the history of the game.
From the days of Jackson, Parker, Etcheverry and Faloney, through the Theismann, Flutie, Allen and Moon eras, the CFL has been fortunate to see some legendary performances at the Quarterback position.
But for longevity, records and importance to the league, none has had the long term impact that the Little General has had; his passing leaves another large hole in our game, a gap that probably will never be filled, but leaving us with memories of Number 23 that will also never be forgotten.
Regina Leader Post-- CFL legend Ron Lancaster dies at 69
Regina Leader Post-- Lancaster leaves memories to last lifetime
Regina Leader Post-- Lancaster truly one of the game's greatest
Regina Leader Post-- Lancaster was 'a players' coach'
Regina Leader Post-- Fans haven't forgotten Lancaster's contributions
Regina Leader Post-- CFL legend Lancaster remembered for 'unmatched' commitment to league Regina Leader Post-- Fellow CFLers remember Lancaster fondly
Regina Leader Post-- Lancaster's comeback victories
Regina Leader Post-- Lancaster through the years
Regina Leader Post-- Loss felt in Riders' front office
Regina Leader Post-- Lancaster will always be a Rider
Regina Leader Post-- Mueller following in footsteps
Regina Leader Post-- Lancaster's impact felt in RIFL
Regina Leader Post-- Photo gallery
Regina Leader Post-- Jim Hopson on the loss of Ron Lancaster
Hamilton Spectator-- Ron Lancaster's death felt across the CFL
Hamilton Spectator-- Legendary CFL coach and player Ron Lancaster dead at the age of 69
Hamilton Spectator-- Fans, players mourn loss of Ron Lancaster, one of the 'greatest' in the CFL
Edmonton Journal-- Eskimos mourn loss of Ron Lancaster
Ottawa Citizen-- CFL legend dies at age 69
Ottawa Sun-- Goodbye to a legend
Vancouver Sun-- Lancaster a legendary gentleman
Vancouver Sun-- Lancaster truly one of the game's greatest
Vancouver Province-- CFL legend Lancaster remembered for 'unmatched' commitment to league
Vancouver Province-- Riders remember Ron
Winnipeg Free Press-- Legendary CFL player, coach Lancaster dies of cancer
Toronto Star-- Tributes pour in for 'Mr. CFL,' legendary Ron Lancaster
Montreal Gazette-- Alouettes remember Lancaster
National Post-- Tributes pour in for CFL great Lancaster
National Post-- Lancaster truly one of the game’s greatest
National Post-- Time to carve another face into Mount CFL
Globe and Mail-- Remembering 'The Little General'
Globe and Mail-- Lancaster was one of us
CBC Sports-- CFL fans remember Ron Lancaster
Sportsnet-- Legendary Lancaster dead at 69
TSN-- CFL Mourns Passing of Ron Lancaster
CFL Website-- CFL loses its 'Little General'
CFL Website-- Commissioner's statement on the passing or Ron Lancaster
You Tube-- Life and Times of Ron Lancaster Part One
You Tube-- Life and Times of Ron Lancaster Part Two
You Tube-- Life and Times of Ron Lancaster Part Three
You Tube-- Life and Times of Ron Lancaster Part Four
You Tube-- Life and Times of Ron Lancaster Part Five
You Tube-- Life and Times of Ron Lancaster Part Six

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