Steen set to hang up cleats

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:29 PM ET

Who writes about a referee before the game instead of after it, as we all did with Mr. Ireland after Jake’s Mistake — which Doug Flutie confirmed at his Hall of Fame induction cost the Edmonton Eskimos the Grey Cup against Toronto in 1996?

This game’s for you, Bud.

Bud Steen, in his 30th year as a CFL referee, it was announced Tuesday, will work Sunday’s Grey Cup at Commonwealth Stadium.

He’ll be the first Edmonton referee ever to work a Grey Cup game. And it will be the last game of his career.

Steen, during his 30 years as a CFL official, wasn’t eligible to work in more than a third of them. The Eskimos were in those Grey Cups.

He couldn’t work any of 27 Western Conference playoff games during his career, either. The Eskimos were in those.

They have a rule.

“It goes back to 1983 and the Eastern Final,” Steen explained.

“There was a very close call that fans from Hamilton took considerable exception to — one fan in particular. The call which went against the Tiger-Cats, was made by an official from Hamilton.

“There was a threat to the lives of his children. His kids needed police escorts to go to school.

“The league said ‘Holy smokes! Something could happen here.’ From that point on, if you lived in the city of one of the teams involved, you couldn’t be on the field in a playoff game or a Grey Cup game.

“Because of the Eskimos success, I ended up working a lot of playoff games in the East. I’ve had seven Grey Cups. A guy like Dave Yule did 15. I always kid him that was because he lived in Nanaimo.”

Steen isn’t bitter. He agrees with the rule.

“If I pooched a call in a Grey Cup game involving the Eskimos, I’d have to move,” said the Edmonton lawyer.

“I’d have sheep poop or what ever it was Paul McCallum’s neighbour dumped on his driveway in Regina after he missed the field goal in a Western Final. I talked to Paul about that. He had to move his family out of Regina. He felt it was impossible to continue in school,” he said of the now B.C. Lions kicker.

There were a stretch of years there when Steen figures it wasn’t just the Eskimos keeping him out of the Grey Cup.

“I think the fact I led the formation of the Canadian Professional Football Officials Association and went against some of the governors to get the officials recognized, respected and properly remunerated no doubt cost me.”

But it worked out in the end. And this is the end.

“I’m really happy,” said Steen.

Tom Higgins picks his Cup officials by the entire crew which does the best job during the season. And by happy circumstance nobody on Steen’s crew had to be subbed because they’re from Regina or Montreal.

“Let’s be clear: this Grey Cup assignment was not handed out as some sort of farewell or thank you,” said director of officiating Higgins.

“Bud will be on the field because his crew graded out at the top over the course of the season. The Grey Cup is about the best in our league and while all of our officials have worked hard and done well this season, this crew has earned this prestigious assignment.”

Earlier this year Higgins saw to it that Steen was able to work the 500th game of his career here. But that was one thing. This is another.

“I know this is on merit. It really reflects the hard work of seven men on my crew.”

The league announced that following the Grey Cup, Steen will become the supervisor in Edmonton, replacing Bill Wright, who has been chosen supervisor for the Grey Cup. It will be Wright’s final game after 31 years. A former on-field official, he’s been part of the CFL in some capacity for 49 years.

“Bill kept telling me he’s been keeping the chair warm for me. He’s been waiting to retire. Bill is finally gonzo alonzo.”

The crew includes side judge Rob Skaggs and line judge Rob Hill, both also from Edmonton, who will be working their first ever Grey Cups. Umpire Ritchie Miller of Winnipeg is also in his first. Back judge Carey Anderson of Langley, B.C. and field judge Brian Chrupalo of Winnipeg are working their second and head linesman Boris Velcic of Calgary will work his third.

“Having a chance to go out on top is absolutely the best thing a guy could do,” said Steen.

Have a good one, Bud. We don’t want to be writing about you after the game.

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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