Ottawa Gee-Gees are champions on and off the football field

By Craig Skinner
The University of Ottawa Gee-Gees are champions, but not just because of their 2000 Vanier Cup win against the Regina Rams, 42-39 on Dec. 2.

On their way to the Vanier Cup the Gee-Gees were also crowned Ontario-Quebec Intercollegiate Football Conference champions — thanks to their Nov. 11 win on the road, 26-9, over the then top-ranked Laval Rouge et Or — and Churchill Bowl champions. The Gee-Gees won the Churchill Bowl with a 20-15 victory over the McMaster Marauders in Hamilton Nov. 18.

The Gee-Gees showed the skill of a championship team, cruising through the regular season, compiling an 8-1 record, and followed this success with an easy 50-3 first-round playoff victory over the McGill Redmen.
But what really makes the Gee-Gees champions is the dedication and perseverance they showed along the road to the Vanier Cup.

In their big showdown with Laval, Phill Côté, Ottawa’s star quarterback, went down with a sprained left ankle late in the first quarter while trying to break a tackle.

The Gee-Gees didn’t give up after losing Côté. Instead, they handed the ball to backup quarterback James Baker.

Gee-Gees coach Marcel Bellefeuille said in an Oct. 27 Centretown News story that Baker would “play a big role down the stretch” for the Gee-Gees.

He was certainly right.

Baker led the Gee-Gees to an upset victory over Laval, with the help of an outstanding performance from his defence, completing 13 of 22 passes for 139 yards.

He followed this effort with another winning performance the next week against McMaster, passing for 201 yards.

The second-stringer-turned-star graciously returned to the bench for the Vanier Cup and watched the healed Côté excel in his final university game.

Côté completed 16 of 18 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns, and ran for two more scores, helping his team build a 35-10 halftime lead and hold on for the victory.

Thanks to this spectacular performance, Côté was named the most valuable player of the game.

But true champions prevail on the field as well as off, and when it comes to personal battles, the Gee-Gees have had their fair share.

Centre Darryl Hazenberg didn’t play much in his first few seasons with the team, suffering hamstring and hip injuries.

His friends told him to quit. But he never gave up on his dream and has developed into a key contributor to Ottawa’s offensive line.

Receiver Adam Maheu maintained the positive outlook of a champion even though his football career was effectively ended when he took a hit that fractured a bone at the base of his neck during a game against the Queen’s Golden Gaels Oct. 7.

Not only was Maheu’s football career threatened, but when a blood clot formed, creating pressure on Maheu’s spine, his life was also in danger. The clot, fortunately, has since dissipated.

Maheu admits he misses playing football, but says he feels fortunate to be alive.

In a Nov. 17 Ottawa Citizen article the 20-year-old said, “A lot of people have died from that kind of injury or have ended up in a wheelchair. I was quite lucky.”

The Ottawa Gee-Gees football team has shown the city what it takes to be champions — in football and in life. They’re Vanier Cup champions, and so much more.