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Grey Cup comes to Labrador West

Former Ottawa Roughrider Gerry Organ signs an autograph for Menihek Student, Nash McGrath.
Former Ottawa Roughrider Gerry Organ signs an autograph for Menihek Student, Nash McGrath.

It was an exciting day for football fans in Labrador West recently.

Despite being around since 1909 the Canadian football League’s top prize, the Grey Cup, finally made its first appearance in Labrador.

Many wondered why the coveted prize was making its way to Labrador in the first place, but soon discovered the Labrador West connection. The Ottawa Redblacks won the Grey cup last November defeating the Calgary Stampeders 39-33.

The team, which only joined the league in 2014, is owned by Jeff Hunt. He lived in Labrador City from 1978-1982, at which time he attended Labrador City Collegiate.

"It's great to be back here, to see the town again, to meet old friends and to spread the word about Football." Hunt told the Aurora.

However, Labrador City is a town where very little football was played, especially at the time Hunt lived there, so how his interest in football got started is fascinating.

In 1981, then Ottawa Roughrider Gerry Organ visited Labrador City to speak at an event sponsored by the Labrador City Salvation Army.

Jeff Hunt heard the motivational speech, met Organ and he told the Aurora “before that I knew practically nothing about football.”

Organs speech inspired Hunt and motivated him as well.

Several years’ later Hunts family moved to Ottawa.

"My dad and I got season’s tickets to the Rough Riders games, and the fact that I had met Gerry Organ and was inspired by him was a big reason why."

The Roughriders eventually folded, and so did a follow up team the Renegades.

But Hunts passion for sports (he also owns the OHL team the Ottawa 67’s) and football inspired him to lead the bid for a CFL franchise for Ottawa, and the rest is history.

The Redblacks played their first Game in 2014, and just three years later won the Grey cup. Hunts OHL team has also been quite successful.

To help celebrate the victory and to promote football, Hunt visited. Corner Brook, Labrador City, Wabush, and St. John’s.

Hunts entourage also included Redblacks wide receivers Brad Sinopoli and Greg Ellingson, along with well-known veteran Sportscaster Brian Williams. Williams who is with TSN is hosting a program about Hunt, which will air at a later date.

The whirlwind tour included a visit to Menihek high school, a public appearance at the local arena to meet with people and to give people the opportunity to get their pictures taken with the cup.

Later in the evening, an event was held at a local sports bar.

Between all that, there was still some time for Hunt to meet with some of his former schoolmates.

One of them, Paul Donnelly, returned from Ontario at Hunts invitation.

"It was great to be here with Jeff, to see the cup in Labrador City, and to meet up with old friends," he told the Aurora.

Donnelly figures there will be a few more football fans in the area because of the visit.

Another highlight of the visit to Labrador West was the return of Gerry Organ, the former Roughrider who inspired Hunt with the speech he gave in Labrador City in 1981.

"You never know how you and your actions or words can inspire somebody," Organ told the Aurora. “It's wonderful to know that maybe something I said or did" was an inspiration to Hunt.

Organ says he was honoured to be a part of Hunts visit to Labrador West. He also shared some words of inspiration and encouraged the students at Menihek high school to try their hardest, and to try to always do their best.

While in the area, members of the Labrador West football club also had a chance to meet with Hunt.

It seems the sport of football is gaining some attention in Labrador West.

The visit by Jeff Hunt, Gerry Organ, Brad Sinopoli, and Greg Ellingson and of course the cup seems to have turned that interest up a notch or two.  

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