Cauz’s Uniform Vault: Ottawa REDBLACKS

If you are going to do an article on the history of Ottawa Rough Riders/Renegades/REDBLACKS, you have to start with Russ Jackson. There really can’t be any debate on this, can there? CFL fans have been waiting half a century for another Canadian to have the sort of impact at quarterback that Russ had since he retired in 1969. Speaking of retirement, Jackson’s best statistical season came in his final year, where he put up over 3,600 yards and 33 touchdowns in just 14 games.

Photo courtesy of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame

Can we spend some time on his glorious single bar helmet? How much protection could it really have given Russ against the likes of All-Star defenders (and all future hall of famers) like John Barrow, Peter Neumann or Wayne Harris? Judging by the dents scattered all over on this helmet it is safe to assume that Russ did not do as much sliding as he should have on his 738 career carries. Russ’s helmet looks like something a World War II pilot would have worn while flying over the English Channel.

One final tidbit: I loved the giant overcoats that players used to wear to stay warm. Today it is all about heated benches and space heaters but in the 1960’s it was all red capes.

While you are here why not go check out Marshall Ferguson’s piece on his day with Jackson?

Photo courtesy of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame

Not sure what has my attention more on this one, the odd red and white colour combination or the fans in the background. Let’s focus on the football first. There is a lot going on with this look from a 1964 game against the Montreal Alouettes. There are stripes going on all over the place, including a black one on the shoulders that looks really out of place. You know those football movies where the producers had to use fake teams, with fake uniforms because the league wouldn’t give them permission to use the actual teams? That’s what fullback Rick Black looks like as he carries the ball. I feel like I’m watching the Ottawa Dragons take on the Montreal Thunder.

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As for the fans, notice the complete absence of any official team merchandise? This was an era before teams wised up to the fact that fans would pay money to buy jerseys with their favourite players’ name and number on it. Do you see even one fan wearing a Roger Kramer jersey? I see lots of shirts and ties and semi-formal attire among the fan base but no team colours.

Quick little fact: Rick Black was the team’s punter during his rookie season before switching to full-time fullback in his second year. What a unique start to a football career, to go from kicker to fullback.

Photo courtesy of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame

I will never grow tired of old school-looking running plays. Yes the ability to pass is more important for winning offensive football but I’m allowed to pine for the days of yore where offensive lineman all shot forward in unison as running backs mashed into the line of scrimmage. I know this style of offence is not as aesthetically pleasing but come on, you have to enjoy uniforms caked with mud. Nothing screams we’re-gonna-score-five-yards-at-a-time than white pants that look like they’re about to be used for a Tide commercial boasting their product can get out even the toughest muddy stains.

For the younger fans out there, that running back getting the handoff from Russ Jackson is none other than Hall of Famer Dave Thelen. Dave was the Eastern Division’s leading rusher in 1959, 1960 (lead the entire league) and 1965. Fun fact: Dave was drafted by the Cleveland’s baseball team but decided to take his talents north to our nation’s capital.

Then there were these  logos for the short-lived Ottawa Renegades. I have no idea what the point was for the first one. Is this what a “renegade” is supposed to look like? This foreboding character resembles the villain in some sort of Old West Country movie. The other logo is of course an angry beaver, because you know the beaver is for some reason one of our national symbols. I feel like not a lot of time was spent on the latter. Much like that iteration of the Ottawa franchise, let’s never discus this again.

(Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Where better to finish off than with a uniform from the 2016 Grey Cup winning team? This shot is moments after Greg Ellingson scored on a 26-yard reception during their 35-23 Eastern Championship win over Edmonton, which Greg celebrated with a perfectly executed snow angel. This image just screams Canadian Football doesn’t it?

These uniforms are the opposite of the 1964 version. I will never be mistaken for a fashion critic but I like the simple pattern here. Everything makes sense and the colour scheme works with the name of the team. The “bad” uniforms are ones where it looks like the people designing them are overthinking the process. Also, these uniforms prove you can have subtle advertising on the jersey without the world ending as we know it.

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