It was announced that former Ottawa Rough Rider Gene Gaines has passed away just two weeks after turning 85 years old. Gaines was ironically at one point drafted by the San Diego Chargers, and the Pittsburgh Steelers but chose the CFL instead where he would go on to play 16 years, becoming a legend in two different cities playing for Montreal in 1961, and from 1970-1976, and Ottawa from 1962 to 1969.
Four-Time Grey Cup Champion as a Player
Gaines was a four-time Grey Cup Champion as a player twice in Ottawa, and twice in Montreal including three straight from 68-70. He also was named CFL All-Star three years straight from 1967-1969 with Ottawa, he made it on the CFL East All-Star team five times. In 1963, and 1967-1969 with Ottawa, and in 1971 with Montreal. Also winning the Jeff Russel Memorial Trophy in 1966 as the Most Outstanding Player of the CFL East Division.
Before his playing career even ended Gaines assisted the coaching staff in Montreal from 1970 on as an assistant defensive backs coach this aided his eventual transition into coaching where he would continue his success as a player. He immediately won another Grey Cup in 1977 as a coach with Montreal, before appearing in two more Grey Cups straight, both losses to Edmonton, a foe he knew all too well after meeting them in several Grey Cups throughout his career.
Enter Edmonton, and Hugh Campbell
He remained in Montreal until the 1982 season when he was hired by Edmonton. Coaching defensive backs for a team that featured Warren Moon at quarterback, the Eskimos went on to an 11-5 record, and finished the season with another Grey Cup win. For those keeping score at home, his sixth total, and fourth as a coach (two as a player/coach). After the 1982 season Gaines spent one season with the USFL’s Los Angeles Express, before two seasons with the Houston Oilers in the NFL making it four years straight under head coach Hugh Campbell.
After the ’85 season Hugh Campbell was fired, and Gaines moved back into the CFL with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers a team that had won a Grey Cup just two seasons prior in 1984. Spending four of the next five seasons with the Blue Bombers. He would miss out on a ring when he spent one season with Hamilton in 1988, but return in 1989 and win his fifth Grey Cup as a coach in 1990 with Winnipeg.
Fittingly, the year before winning what would be his final Grey Cup, Gaines was elected into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. The ring collection didn’t stop there for the CFL Legend, as he would spend five years with the BC Lions and win yet another ring, his sixth as a coach, and eighth total in 1994. Gaines would then receive his first coordinator position with the Montreal Alouettes where he would spend three seasons winning 37 games in three seasons but no Grey Cups.
His final coaching position came again in Winnipeg where he would spend five seasons, and make it to one more Grey Cup this time not finding victory. Gaines is one of the most decorated players/coaches to ever grace the CFL, and while I never personally was able to watch him play, what he was able to do during his playing career is a large reason he made for such a successful coach. The Ottawa community will always remember the great Gene Gaines, as will nearly every city throughout the league including Montreal, Edmonton, Winnipeg, and Hamilton.
Rest in Peace Gene Gaines, your legacy will live on. My heart goes out to his family for their loss.
Career Information: Pro-football Archives
Big Announcement: CFL Unveils Free Live Streaming Platforms
Get Alerts & Stay ConnectedCFL iPhone App
CFL Android App