EOTFOA Wraps up 2016 at very special Christmas Banquet

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After more than eight months on the football field, even the officials need a party.

And that’s what 74 officials and guests had on Saturday at the EOTFOA 2016 Christmas Banquet. Making this year’s event even more special was the participation of Alex Mateas, an offensive lineman with the CFL Grey Cup Champion Ottawa RedBlacks.

Having a member of the Grey Cup champs for dinner is one thing. Having a local boy, who played his minor, high school and junior ball in Ottawa, is another completely. During his youth, many of our members looked through his facemask at Alex. For most, though, this was the first chance to meet him in person. Or at least, in a social setting like this.

Mateas is, put simply, an outstanding ambassador for both his team and football in general. On the same weekend he attended our banquet, Alex also acted as an ambassador for Christie Lake Camp. Shows the kind of character he has.

“Anything I can do to help build football, and especially if it’s for the kids, just ask,” he told me several times. And clearly he’s walking the talk.

Alex spoke about growing up in a soccer family, and how it took a while for his dad to accept that football was his true passion. But, as Alex became a star in the “barbaric sport” as his dad used to call it, the family came around and now are his biggest boosters.

Poking fun

He talked about playing major college ball at UConn in the United States, where crowds for college games surpass even what he now plays in front of in the CFL. And he talked about the thrill of playing pro ball for what is now his hometown team, for a RedBlacks organization recognized throughout the league as a premiere franchise, and winning a championship.

And yes, he poked fun at the stripes. At one point, he reached into his back pocket(s) and pulled out a couple of hankies. As he tossed them into the air willy-nilly, he drew a big laugh from the audience.

What impressed his audience the most, however, is that Alex stuck around for the evening. Well after 12:30 a.m., he was still hobnobbing with the officials and their guests. He’d signed dozens of photos showing him with the Grey Cup as souvenirs. Thanks for EOTFOA official Jeff Morris for the photos, from his newspaper the Barrhaven Independent.

EOTFOA wants to say thanks for Alex for joining us. We’d also be remiss in not thanking official Paul Graham, who through a couple of close friends, was able to invite Alex to be our guest.

Before we close, a few notes for non-members, or fellow officials who weren’t able to attend.

  • Hearty congratulations to our “Most Improved Officials” in 2016, Ken Joly and Justin Andrews (Editor’s note: This corrects an earlier version which contained an incorrect name). Outstanding work, guys.
  • A huge thank you to referee-in-chief John Pinches, who was honoured for his tremendous dedication to football and officiating. John’s job is more-than-fulltime some weeks, and it can be very difficult. He handles it with professionalism and grace.
  • We had 69 officials work games across Eastern Ontario in 2016.
  • We officiated more than 670 games, resulting in over 2,700 “assignments” to our members.

The evening was a fantastic wrapup to our 2016 season. Enjoy your time off, guys and gals. Training will be starting in late winter, and we’ll be back on the field probably by end of April.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all.


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