Tribute to Leo Cahill may have a ring to it

GEORGE GROSS, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 10:29 AM ET

Limping Leo The Lip might be wearing his first ever Grey Cup ring, after all. That's the wish of Argonauts co-owner Howard Sokolowski, a 52-year-old football enthusiast who became a Leo Cahill fan in 1971 when the late Leon McQuay fumbled on Calgary's 11-yard line, depriving the popular coach of a well-deserved Grey Cup.

"I have admired Leo since then," Sokolowski said. "This year, he has done a lot for us (as a goodwill ambassador). He gave a boost to the team and the fans. We were really happy with what he did for us. If he feels like coming back next year, I'll be thrilled.

"We honoured him this year by calling the $10,000 high school coach of the year trophy the Leo Cahill Trophy. Also, I think he deserves to get the Grey Cup ring and I will talk to my partners (co-owner David Cynamon and president Keith Pelley) to make it happen. It would be something to present the ring to Leo on the field next season."

Cahill, who was leaning on a cane while talking to me on the telephone from Sarnia, was obviously pleased. More so because he has his hands full with his ill son, Terry, and his own physical problems.

"Getting the Grey Cup ring would be great and a real honour," he said. "Right now, however, I'm leaning on a cane because I walked my dog who was pulling me on the icy road and I fell on my replacement hip. It hurts a bit and if it doesn't improve, I'll have to have it X-rayed."

It didn't take Cahill long to turn the talk to football and the Boatmen in particular.

"I enjoyed my year with the Argos," he said. "I spoke at various places, did television interviews and whatever I could to help the club.

"But other than that, I kept a low profile."

To the surprise of many, Leo The Lip did not attend the Grey Cup game in Ottawa, nor the parade up Bay St., and the rally at Toronto City Hall.

"I watched the game and the celebration on TV, and I would have loved to have been there," he said. "However, my son is pretty sick and I just didn't want to leave him. He's now in hospital."

Which of the teams he once coached could have won the Grey Cup, I asked? To my surprise he said:

"Our 1971 team just missed winning by a hair. But it was the 1972 team that could have won the Grey Cup. Unfortunately, that year, we lost five top players to injuries, including Joe Theismann, Timmy Anderson and Jimmy Corrigall -- all with broken legs.

"As for the '71 team, people tend to blame Leon McQuay. They shouldn't," he said. "Leon was probably the best athlete I ever had. He was also pretty ill when he played. Dr. John Palmer was our club doctor and he told me that if Leon got any worse, we would have to take him to a hospital. On that play in Vancouver against Calgary, he hit his sore elbow and the ball squirted loose."

How would he look at the 2004 Grey Cup champions and can he compare them to one of his teams?

"The 2004 team is a bunch of really good-looking athletes," Cahill said. "It isn't only the quarterbacks and running backs, but also the linemen and linebackers who stood out. And the Argos' specialty teams were excellent.

"Then, take coach Mike (Pinball) Clemons. He surrounded himself with a good staff and the players believed in him. Pinball inspired the players and was their spiritual leader. I was certainly pulling for the team all the way."

What about next year?

"It's up to the team," he said. "I told them that I would enjoy coming back, but the decision isn't mine. Keith Pelley told me that he wanted me back, but it wasn't an official commitment. We'll see."

It sure will be nice to see Leo receiving a long- deserved Grey Cup ring at the 55-yard line.

GROSSLY ABBREVIATED

Donations to the Sun's Variety Village Christmas Fund are arriving and we appreciate it. Among yesterday's donations was one for $125 from old friend Colin Lorimer. He also sent along $75 for Peter Worthington's Save the Victoria Cross Fund. Both cheques were in one envelope. "To save 49 cents," cracked my Scottish friend ... Some of the world's great oldtimers will play in Bratislava, Slovakia, against Slovan on Dec. 4. The golden oldies include Vladimir Krutov, Sergei Makarov, Erich Kuhnhackl, Steve Shutt and Larry Robinson.

VARIETY VILLAGE DONATIONS

Dr. Tom Pashby $100.00

Dick Bradbeer & Associates $100.00

Edward & Ruth Miller $50.00

Ross Peacock $10.00

Peter M. Parise $10.00

Rick Booth $100.00

Dave Clarke $5.00

Greg Brown $5.00

Teresa Ouellette $20.00

Carl Anderson $10.00

Mary Sullivan $10.00

Ed Rankin $10.00

Bill Sholdice $10.00

Mary Bobinac $25.00

Jehangir Medora $10.00

Francis Sharon $10.00

Dale Ben $10.00

Eva & Joe Adams $102.00

Bob Blanchard $10.00

George Oliver $25.00

Ken L. Schlechter $5.00

James E. Millar $50.00

Darcy J. Mann $20.00

Diane Warner $40.00

Garry Lummis $10.00

Mike Lummis $10.00

Teri Lummis $10.00

Ann Smith $10.00

Colin Lorimer $125.00

TOTAL $912.00

TOTAL TO DATE $912.00


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