The 2016 version of the Friends of Gryphon Football‘s regional receptions, aptly re-named The Yates Cup Victory Tour, kicked off Thursday night in Niagara. The event, hosted by alumnus Peter Partridge, was held at the fancy St. Catharines Golf & Country Club. Four more Yates Cup Victory Tour stops are scheduled for other cities over the next 7 weeks.
Toronto – Thursday, February 18, International Plaza Hotel
Guelph – Friday, March 4 – Wellington Brewery
London – Wednesday, March 23 – German Canadian Club
Oakville – Thursday, April 7 – Peak Powersports
This is the third year that the Friends of Gryphon Football is trying to bring the Gryphon Football program to the Alumni and supporters around Ontario in the off-season. These events are an opportunity for the Gryphon family to socialize, talk with the coaching staff, meet some of the Gryphon players and incoming recruits, and learn what is going on within the program. There is no better way to stay informed during the off-season.
While these are FoGF events, and spearheaded by FoGF President Randy Dimitroff and myself, the support of the coaching staff has been outstanding. Stu Lang hasn’t missed any of the seven events held to date. He has already RSVP’d to all of the 2016 events for which invitations have gone out. New head coach Kevin MacNeill has told me he will make every effort to attend all of this year’s events. Off the top of my head I think Bill Brown is another coach with a perfect or near perfect attendance record. Incoming Director of Athletics Scott McRoberts has already committed to attend two of this year’s receptions.
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Some other highlights:
♦ Kevin MacNeill made it sound like he is more about maintaining continuity than making big changes. But he made it clear he will not satisfied with this new plateau and still wants to go beyond. MacNeill did refer to Adam Grandy as the Defensive Coordinator when he was introducing the coaches present, confirming what I had suggested would happen. Asked about the budget for helmets & jerseys going forward, he said there would be some surprises for this season.
♦ MacNeill told the audience that 10 Gryphon players have been invited to the CFL’s 2016 evaluation combines. A related question was about the challenges of having to replace many key players and which players were stepping up and standing out in off season workouts. MacNeill rhymed off the names of several players [Johnny Augustine is one I remember] but QB James Roberts is the one who gives him the most comfort looking forward. O-Line Coach Mike MacDonald is very happy with some of his young players – he feels he has two future CFL players on the left side of the line in LG Andrew Pickett and LT Jaylan Guthrie.
♦ Randy Dimitroff valiantly tried to coax retiring coach Stu Lang to come to the microphone and say a few words. He declined several times, preferring it would seem to stay in the background and let K-Mac handle his new role on his own. But Lang was more than happy to talk with alumni and parents in small groups throughout the evening.
♦ MacNeill answered questions about the new $8.5 million Football Pavillion. He highlighted some of its features including a 3,400 square foot dressing room and game day facilities for alumni. The construction fence was to go up the next day and work would be moving full speed ahead soon. It will give Guelph the best football operations facilities in the CIS.
♦ Thanks to the support of the football program and several corporate partners [Wellington Brewery, Alltech Canada, Chocolate FX] there were plenty of door prizes to be given out. Alumni Mark Antonelli, Zack Silverthorn, Mike Millar and Julian Tropea were among the winners. The parents of several current and former players also lucked out with Mark Farquharson, Dan Millar, Catherine & Jim Palmer and Dave Brennan claiming door prizes.