When I was a ten year old snot-nose, growing up in Richmond, I used to spend hours running around in our long, half acre back yard. I loved it when my dad would cut the grass from side to side. I imagined the wheel marks to be lines on a football field. I’d run end to end, dreaming I was a CFL star. Yes, with very little NFL invading our TV space, the CFL was my passion. I wish I could properly convey to people how important the league was then. If you’re 30 and under you’d never believe it.
One day I’d be Johnny Rodgers, the next I’d be Larry Highbaugh. But when it came time for me to drop back and throw it deep, I was always Ron Lancaster. Lancaster’s passing yesterday at age 69 leaves a deep void but it’s also a day to remember and celebrate a legend.
My dad grew up in Saskatchewan. He loved the Roughriders and brainwashed me into loving them too. At 6 months of age, I was apparently propped up with pillows on the couch – I had a very heavy baby head - watching Lancaster and the Green Riders beat Ottawa to win the 1966 Grey Cup.
I would eventually grow to become a fan of my hometown team, much to my dad’s chagrin, but in those early days, we both idolized the Little General. If you loved the way Doug Flutie played, you’d have loved Lancaster. Like Flutie, the 5 foot 5 Lancaster wasn't tall enough to play quarterback but would always seem to find a man downfield. If no one was open, he’d run around with those stubby legs until someone was. He was lethal. When that didn’t work, he‘d just hand it off to George Reed, who would routinely drag 5 defenders for 8 yards every time he touched the ball.
Lancaster would go on to be a very good CFL coach, executive and broadcaster. But I’ll never forget him as a player and the childhood joy I felt, pretending I was ol’ number 23 in green. I’ll never forget the childhood comfort of watching Saskatchewan’s games with my dad.
If I put together my own montage of great sports moments like the one beneath this entry, you can be sure it would include a ton of Lancaster highlights. TSN looks back at Lancaster's life here.