Quick thoughts on Gala Dinner

(L-R) Randy Dimitroff, Pat Tracey, Mike O'Shea, Stu Lang & Kyle Walters

(L-R) Randy Dimitroff, Pat Tracey, Mike O’Shea, Stu Lang & Kyle Walters

For the past few years I have been involved in organizing of the Gryphon Football Gala Dinner, so I have a pretty good idea how much time and effort go into pulling it all together. There certainly are times when some of us wonder if it’s all worthwhile. What I saw last evening assured me that it is.

Last night’s event was the fourth Gala we’ve ever held. This entire process only got started 40 months ago. We still have a ways to go to catch up to the OUA programs who have been running this type of event for a decade or more but I really felt that we gained some momentum last night. Here are just a few thoughts and anecodates from the evening:

  • This year’s recipient of the honoured jersey was Mark Brown‘s #21. It was presented to him by the previous recipients – Sam Benincasa and Mike O’Shea. Brown, whose Gryphon career covered 1975 to 1978, was introduced by another Gryphon great – Dave Lane.
  • The fact that Mark Brown was the son of long-time Gryphon coach Dick Brown made it all the better. His dad was a major part of the Guelph football program from the 1960s through the 1990s. Brown earned OUAA All Star honours as both a running back and a defensive back in consecutive years.
  • Kyle Walters delivered the keynote address. His speech was casual, conversational, passionate and low-key all at the same time. No one noticed, nor complained, that he spoke twice as long as was planned. Walters did a great job of connecting the program to its history as he talked about his journey from high school star in St. Thomas to CFL GM.
  • Speaking of his choice of Guelph, Walters said only one school really recruited him – Western. There was also only one school he knew he didn’t want to go to – Western. It was a high school physics teacher who recommended Guelph as a great place to study science.
  • It was Walters’ visit to the campus and watching the OUAA’s best running back of 1991 on TV [Guelph’s #33 Chuck Sims] that really helped him make his decision and had little to do with the fact that his recruiter Pat Tracey sent him a Chris Mumford playing card.
  • Tracey shared one of the night’s best stories, the one about QB Randy Dimitroff‘s best-ever throw. Heretofore unknown to many people, that was a snowball thrown behind the Guelph bench back in 1982 that knocked the cowboy hat off the head of Edmonton Eskimo coach Bruce Lemmerman.
  • Walters also spoke about the period after his 3rd year when, largely due to injuries, he thought about quitting football. It was an offseason, almost accidental conversation with a Guelph coach he didn’t even know very well [John Lepore– Rec Coach, member of the ’84 Vanier team]. Lepore told him quitting would be something he would always regret, maybe he should talk to Coach McNally about changing positions. Walters took that advice and two years later had a BSc degree and was playing in the CFL.
  • AD Tom Kendall

    AD Tom Kendall

    Among the people Walters thanked was Director of Athletics Tom Kendall who took a chance on him, giving an inexperienced coach his first head coaching job. Kendall spoke early in the evening and shared that the endowment fund for Gryphon football scholarships has grown to a million dollars but that amount only funds 1/3 of the maximum allowable scholarships. Kendall said that some additional scholarships are funded by donors who, if I understood correctly, provide $4000 per year over a 5 year agreement.

  • At the conclusion of the evening, Head Coach Stu Lang spoke of the need to raise the $2 million necessary to fully fund future scholarships for student-athletes who play  football at Guelph. Lang announced a plan to raise that money, with “the football program” matching dollar for dollar the money raised by Gryphon alumni and supporters. That is a serious opportunity and challenge to be accomplished in the next two years.
  • As a relative newcomer to the Gryphon family [2008] I love events like the Gala Dinner because it gives me a chance to meet people I’ve often only heard about before. It’s very nice to “put a name to a face’. Last night I enjoyed meeting Don Bagg, Mark Brown, Dan & Joanne Conroy, Peter Partridge Sr, plus several prospective recruits and  Donnovan Bennett among others.
  • One Guelph grad I didn’t have time to introduce myself to was Donald Ziraldo, in part because Ziraldo was kept very busy at the Ziraldo Estate Winery tasting table. I did enjoy a glass of his 2012 Reisling with dinner.
  • As if I didn’t already receive enough Duck Dynasty comments given the prodigious growth of my goatee since last Labour Day, I am right now wearing a long-sleeved Polaris camouflage shirt that came as part of a Victory Motorcycles clothing package I secured through the silent auction. That donation to the auction came from Nathan Body, owner of Burlington’s Peak Powersports. The best piece in the package is a zip-up Victory sweater that fits very much like a leather motorcycle jacket.
  • The silent auction selection was again impressive. I thought I was going to come away with 24 steaks & a Wellington Brewery gift basket, plus a signed Owen Nolan jersey, only to be ambushed in the final minute by Peter Partridge and Brian Cluff.
  • As was mentioned last night, Kyle and Rena Walters were celebrating their anniversary (14th?) last night. Someone from the Delta hearing that sent a bottle of champagne and chocolate covered strawberries to their room. Overall the Delta really stepped up their game. The evening had no glitches that I saw, and the food was superior to what we received last year or at the Wildman Dinner three months ago. Thank you!
Kyle and Rena Walters

Kyle and Rena Walters

This entry was posted in Friends of Gryphon Football, Gryphon Alumni. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Quick thoughts on Gala Dinner

  1. Great night..it was great to see some old friends and very impressed with the current football talent. Hope everyone enjoyed the 2012 Ziraldo Riesling organic table wine..I enjoyed pouring the wine personally to those at the opening event.
    Go Gryphons, Go!
    Donald Ziraldo

    • Bruna says:

      Thank you Donald Ziraldo for your kind donation of wine and personally hosting the wine tasting! It was a great honour to be served your delicious wine by you personally! The 2012 Ziraldo Riesling wine was delicious and enjoyed by all! Myself, along with Sharon Scarfone, collected the bottles at the end of the night and I am happy to report that very few had any left at all! Great indication that EVERYONE loved your wine! Thank you for showing your Gryphon pride and for supporting the Gryphons! As a parent of a current player, with another soon to join in September, I look forward to seeing you at our other Gryphon events! Come out to our home games and join us at our Gryphon tailgate events!
      Thank you again Donald Ziraldo!
      Bruna Ferraro, POP Group

  2. Coach Mike MacDonald says:

    Sounds like a great evening. I am sorry I could not attend due to a prior engagement so it is great to read about it Brad. Your blog is a great way to keep is all connected and updated. Great to see all those Guelph grads up on the stage and now beling the brain trust of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Nice to see Pat Tracey up there as part of the Blue Bombers staff, partly because it means I don’t have to scheme against all those crazy defences he has been throwing at me for Queens for the past 4 years!! Good luck Pat.
    Mike MacDonald
    Oline Coach
    Guelph Gryphons

    • No doubt your son told you he walked off with a 50″ TV last night.

      I really think you should tell him that that is something that should be left at home. Might not be safe to have that in off-campus housing. LOL!

      • Mike says:

        Don’t think that will be happening any time soon! He enjoyed the entire evening. Big thank you to POP!

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