A big thank you to Robbie Keith for the following submission on Ontario Veterinarian College [Class of ’51] alumnus Bernie Brennan …
As a 19-year old graduate of St Patrick’s High School in Ottawa, and winner of the Doran Trophy as the outstanding student-athlete, Bernie Brennan was recruited by the Ottawa Rough Riders. In his first year he won the Gruen Trophy for the Outstanding Rookie in the “Big Four” (now the CFL’s Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton and Montreal teams).
But veterinary medicine beckoned and he headed to OVC in Guelph where he starred in the backfield for the “Aggies” for five years, including Dominion Championships in 1947, 48, and 49. Bernie was part of one of the all-time great backfields in University of Guelph history, as he and his partners, Jack “Goomer” Raithby and Tony Calverley are all members of the U of G Sports Hall of Fame. These were the immediate post-WWII days and as Bernie noted in the press “It was right after the war and we had a lot of good players.”
On graduation in 1951, he returned to the Ottawa Rough Riders, helping them to a 21-14 Grey Cup victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders. As the Guelph Mercury noted Bernie said he was “paid $800 a game in those days. He earned a $1000 bonus for winning the Grey Cup. It was the most he had ever been paid for anything.” He went on to note “They always paid cash. After you showered you lined up for your pay”.
Bernie was also a hockey player of acclaim, playing on championship teams with the Kemptville Royals and Brockville Magedomas in the St. Lawrence and Ottawa District Hockey Association leagues. He was inducted into the Kemptville and District and Ottawa Sports Halls of Fame.
Following the Grey Cup victory Bernie retired from football to turn his attention to both large and small animal veterinary practice. But is was standardbred horse racing that became his passion. He was the “track vet” at the Rideau Carleton Raceway, he trained some standardbreds, he owned a share of the great Canadian pacer Cam Fella, and he served as a commissioner on the Ontario Racing Commission.
View Brennan’s Gryphons Hall of Fame profile page here.