It usually is an emotional time when professional sports teams say goodbye to a player who represented a big piece of their heart and soul.
The Argonauts, this afternoon at a downtown Toronto restaurant, likely will bid adieu to three players who were blood-and-guts types during their time in Double Blue.
The careers of linebacker Mike O'Shea, centre Chad Folk and safety Chris Hardy will be "roasted and toasted" today, the club said in a release last night. It's another way of saying the three are hanging up their football cleats and heading off into retirement. Only O'Shea was thought to be hedging a bit.
O'Shea, 38, started his CFL career in 1993 with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and is the longest-serving current player in the CFL. The North Bay native won three Grey Cups with Toronto. Speculation about O'Shea's future in the game started after the Argos' 2008 season finale when he shared a bottle of Jameson's with several teammates, but he was ambiguous about his intentions. O'Shea spent all but four of his 16 years in the CFL as an Argo. O'Shea is the Argos' career leader in tackles.
O'Shea was relegated to special teams under Don Matthews last year, and when the Argos acquired linebacker Zeke Moreno last week, O'Shea's days with the Argos were done. In 2007, O'Shea was named an all-time Argo at middle linebacker.
Folk, 36, has spent his entire 12-year CFL career with the Argos, helping the club win the Grey Cup in 2004 and 1997.
Though Folk has been contemplating retirement for a while, his non-future with the Argos became clear when the club recently signed free-agent centre Dominic Picard. Two years ago, Folk was nominated as an all-time Argo at centre.
Hardy, also 36 and also a 12-year veteran, spent the past six seasons with the Argos after playing for the Edmonton Eskimos for six years. Hardy was a special teams captain but saw spot duty for much of 2008.
Part of the Argos' reasoning in signing offensive lineman Murphy and bringing in Moreno was because the two will be positive influences in the locker room.
With O'Shea, Folk and Hardy gone, there undoubtedly will be a leadership void in the room.