Kosmos a local hero

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:47 AM ET

When Mark Kosmos was a kid growing up in Baltimore, he couldn't have found Ottawa on a map.

"There's no way I knew where Ottawa was. I didn't leave Baltimore until I was 17," remembered the 60-year-old yesterday.

As things turned out, Kosmos helped put Ottawa, now his adopted home, on the map.

The former Rough Rider and now prominent restaurateur was honoured last night with induction into the Ottawa Sports Hall of Fame.

He was inducted in a ceremony in the LeBreton Gallery at the Canadian War Museum along with cyclist Linda Jackson, the late Cecil Duncan, inducted in the builders' category, basketball's Hazel Miner and hockey's Phil Maloney.

Kosmos, a linebacker with the Grey Cup-winning Riders in 1973 and '76, is a throwback to the days when CFL players became a part of the fabric of the cities in which they played. He's in the Hall because of his exploits on the field, but, like other players of his generation, he has made almost as important a contribution to the city in his post-football career.

That would certainly be the case in the minds of the almost 200 people who are employed at the five locations of his popular Local Heroes restaurants around town.

"It's become a pretty big operation," Kosmos said yesterday as he took a break from overseeing renovations at the flagship restaurant on Clyde Ave. "But it's almost not a job. I joked that football wasn't a job because I loved it so much. Now to go into a business that feels so natural ... our customers are so gracious to us. We've been so lucky the way people have come in and appreciated what we've done."

Kosmos had other jobs during his football career. He worked in the furniture business during off-seasons and came close to moving back to Washington when his playing days were done, to work for a furniture company.

But the friendships he had built up here in Ottawa won out and he wound up in the restaurant business.

That might have been natural given his dad ran what Kosmos called "a greasy spoon," back in Baltimore.

The name "Local Heroes" occurred to him during his playing days. While he was with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, playing against the Rough Riders, he saw Paul Anka, wearing a wide-brimmed fedora, watching the game from the sidelines.

"He looked like a Mississippi gambler," remembered Kosmos. "I was a big Anka fan as a kid. After I got traded to Ottawa we were playing Montreal and we kicked their ass and he was there.

"I started to find out about famous people who were from Ottawa, actors, sports guys and talked about the local heroes. The name just clicked."

Kosmos said his induction into the OSHF is a "thrill I never expected. It's a surprise and a tremendous honour, but I'm the one who's benefited from being in Ottawa."

THE HONOREES:

Linda Jackson, cycling: She turned to cycling after a ski accident and got the racing bug. At 33, she chucked a six-figure salary in the investment business to pursue cycling full-time and wound up representing Canada at the Atlanta Olympics. She won a silver medal at the 1994 Commonwealth Games and a bronze at the '96 world championships and was a Canadian champ six times.

Michel Dessureault, fencing: The Gatineau resident represented Canada in three Olympic Games and owns Canada's best showing, a 10th at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles.

Hazel Miner, basketball: The native of Outlook, Sask., moved to Ottawa and became one of the most significant builders of the game here. She founded the Nepean Amateur Basketball Association in 1970 and the successful Ottawa Rookies program in 1973.

Phil Maloney, hockey: He grew up playing hockey in the Sandy Hill neighbourhood and went on to a 23-year pro career, including 158 games over five seasons with Boston, Toronto and Chicago. He finished up his playing days with the Vancouver Canucks of the WHL and went on to become the coach and GM of the Canucks from 1973-77.

Cecil Duncan, builder: The Ottawa native, who passed away on Christmas Day, 1979, helped create Ottawa's first senior hockey league and was a board member of the ODHA for 51 years. He was also a VP of the Quebec Rugby Union.


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