When one of my sons heard this week on the news that Gary Schreider had died, he said to me: “Apparently he used to play for the Ottawa Rough Riders. I’ve never heard of him. Did he matter, dad?”
I said to my son: “Did he matter? Oh yes. He sure did. He mattered. I have a story that I’ll show you and you’ll see how much Gary Schreider mattered. All you need to do is read this one story. It’s all anyone has to read who hasn’t heard of Gary Schreider and wonders if he mattered.”
The story I will show my son is not some epic piece on the life and times of Gary Schreider, Canadian. It does not chronicle in detail his career as a two-way defensive back/fullback, and placement kicker with the Riders from 1956 to 1964 except for one season with B.C. and Hamilton in 1962.
It does not talk about the Rough Rider team record (tied with Wayne Giardino and Bill Sowalski) for most career touchdown returns on interceptions (three) that he still held when the team folded in 1996 — 32 years after his retirement from the game.
It does not talk about his Grey Cup victory in 1960 when he kicked a field goal and a convert in Ottawa’s 16-7 win over Edmonton.
It does not talk about his Eastern all-star honour that season.
It does not talk about his inductions into the Ottawa Sports Hall of Fame, the Queen’s University Hall of Fame. It does not talk about how he’d been a high school national track star, how he’d practised law in Ottawa after football, how he went on to become a Master of the Ontario Superior Court.
It does not talk about any of those because the story is about a game, just one game, and the newspaper clipping of it survives today, yellow and fragile, in my scrapbook from when I was a kid living in Montreal.
When my team was Ottawa, and brush-cutted, boyish-faced Gary Schreider, No. 22, was one who mattered to me, mattered to the Rough Riders, mattered to all young Canadian boys who on autumn days would go to the streets and the school yards with footballs under their arms, and dreams in their souls of making it to the CFL.
Gary Schreider. Did he matter? Here is that September 1957 story from my scrapbook that encapsulates why Gary Schreider mattered, game after game, year after year, for the Ottawa Rough Riders, and written by sportswriter Lloyd McGowan of the Montreal Star, the headline: “Schreider Sparks Riders Over Als.”
“A few pertinent points were proved here Saturday aside from the 17-16 Rough Riders well-earned win over the Alouettes before a record 19,998 fans at historic Lansdowne Park.
“It proved among other things that Canadian football players are just as good, or better, than the Amerks once you get past the American publicity and coaching.
“For instance, Gary Schreider was the outstanding player in the game with 11 of the 17 points scored by the Rough Riders. In a Merriwellian performance, Schreider posted 10 points in the last quarter with a touchdown, convert, and last-minute 35-yard field goal that brought the fans surging on to the fine Lansdowne striped lawn.
“The result proved...that Canadians Gary Schreider and Bob Simpson are a match for anything the American game can offer. With 16 minutes to to, Alouettes were in front by 16 points to the Ottawa collar...and then Ottawa went on to win it with sheer desire.
“In that frenzied foray, Gary Schreider went over for a touchdown from one yard, then converted it, then in the last minute of play, Schreider kicked a field goal from the Montreal 35.
“Before that, in this great game, it had been a personal affair between the Alouettes’ peerless Hal Patterson and Ottawa’s outstanding Bob Simpson.
“Pasquale Abruzzi, Ken Owens, and Hal Patterson were all Les Alouettes had in the infantry division. They failed to match Gary Schreider, Tommy Lewis, Don St. John, and Bobby Judd of the Riders.”
Gary Schreider. Dead at the age of 76. Alzheimer’s.
Yes, son. He mattered.