NTCI boys of ’62 relive their championship season

THEN AND NOW: Returning members of the 1962 Norseman football team, top, that won the city championship regroup for an updated team photo, below, in as close to the same order as possible. They resisted the urge to take to North Toronto Collegiate’s new field to replay their winning game. Archival Photo NTCI, ‘Now’ Photo by Paula Sanderson

By Paula Sanderson
June 25, 2012
Nov. 7, 1962 was dark and dreary but North Toronto Collegiate Institute’s senior boys Norsemen football team took to the field at the old Varsity Stadium in front of 5,000 fans and beat Malvern C.I. for the 1962 city championship.
Fifty years later, on another dark and dreary day, 29 players and a coach are back at NTCI celebrating half a century since that glorious win.
Milling around the new NT commons, teammates are catching up. When they won, most of the players were in their late teens. Now they are in their late 60s. They are chatting about their wives, their kids and their jobs.
But mostly they are reminiscing about the good old days.
Trying to remember the game, they piece together as best they can what happened.
Defensive linebacker Ron (Hinze) Hinzel recalls the turning point.
“They ran a fake play, and we tackled the guy who didn’t get the ball. The guy who had the ball ran down the field and would have scored a touchdown but the ref blew the whistle because he thought we tackled him.”
Fullback Tim Hodgson pipes up: “I don’t remember that.”
“I do,” says Hinzel with a smile. “I was the guy that made the tackle on the guy who didn’t have the ball!”
But it was the late Cam Grey who made the game-winning touchdown. Tackle Peter Kukk recounts the play.
I never thought he could run that fast, Cam Grey, but he went straight down the middle. He caught the ball and he outran who ever was chasing him.”
A twinkle appears in Kukk’s eye.
“I won’t repeat what I said, but I remember the words very clearly,” he says.
After the game the players went to a teammate’s cottage for the celebration.
“The party was very, very tame,” says quarterback Bill Gibson, smirking.
“I don’t remember it being all that tame,” Kukk says, laughing, “I very distinctly remember some guys when they were up on the stage there [at the next day’s school assembly], they weren’t feeling so good.”
“I don’t think they got enough sleep that night,” Gibson adds with a wink.
As the team gets organized for their picture, current North Toronto principal Joel Gorenkoff stands at the back of the auditorium with phys-ed teacher Lorne Smith.
“You can almost see them 50 years ago,” Gorenkoff says. “It reminds you that the kids today 50 years from now are going to be just like them.”
Smith agrees. He compares getting the players organized to getting a bunch of grade 10 boys ready for gym class.
“These guys are a testament to the importance of loyalty and the things that we teach about teamwork about working together,” he says. “ It’s a joy to see.”
North Toronto is a traditional school, Smith says. “Some of the things we do may be hokey, but this is a reminder that those traditions are still strong.”
“The school isn’t about the bricks and mortar,” Gorenkoff says.  “It’s totally about the people and the experiences that they have.”
Football at NTCI is a tradition that seems unlikely to die anytime soon. This year was the first since the 1950s that the Norsemen played at NTCI, since the new field at the rebuilt school is regulation size, unlike the field it replaced. Students no longer have to walk to Northern Secondary to watch home games.
“I think the football program has grown a lot recently since the new school and the new facilities have come in,” says current Boy’s Athletic Association President and football quarterback Jack Hull. “It’s attracting a lot of new football players.”
Girl’s Athletic Association president Daisy Burns adds girls’ sports at the school are also seeing that same increase in popularity.
“Just compare the old weight room to the new weight room,” she says. “The old equipment basically had blood on it.”
The new weight room is a room that many will find at their private fitness gyms.
Everything at NTCI is different, yet everything is the same. Danny Russell is no longer teaching at there, but he’s still coaching football after 41 years. He has seen the program evolve over the years.
He has coached seven CFLers including current Hamilton Tiger Cat Ryan Hinds. Other notable North Toronto football alumni include Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy and Greg Keeler who were Russell’s quarterback and linebacker.
Russell has lost some games but has won others. He understands what the team is feeling.
“When you win, you never forget. You were the best,” he says. “One time in your life, you were number one, no one can ever take that away from you.”
The 1962 team took tours of the new facility. The general sentiment is that although it is not their  high school, it is what the kids deserve.
“It’s weird coming back, the school’s not here, the field is not a mud bowl,” fullback Tim Hodgson says. “It’s a weird feeling.”
Hinzel gazes out at the field longingly.
“We didn’t have that kind of a field to play on,” he says. “I’m almost tempted to put the pads on and run around out there a little bit.”

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