Fundraising gala slated for Oct. 25
For more than a half century the Hamilton Minor Football Association has been teaching boys and a number of girls all about Canadian Football.
“We’re promoting our game,” said Jim Gamble who joined the organization as a coach in 1988 and has been president of the association since 1998.
Gamble, who played some high school football atGlendaleand is an assistant coach with the Sherwood high school senior football team, said he remains with the association “for the love of the game and the kids.”
While it’s not exactly clear whether the organization began in 1961 or 1963, the association is officially celebrating 50 years this year.
A gala Halloween dinner-dance fundraiser is slated for Oct 25th at Michelangelo’s on the east Mountain.
The roots of the association go back to 1959 when the Hamilton Pee Wee Big Four Football League was formed.
Teams featured eight players aside and games were played atHillfieldCollege.
Two years later the league switched to 12-player football and changed its name to the Hamilton Minor Football Association.
Games featuring 11-13 year-old boys were played at Sackville Hill Park and the first president was Al Bradshaw.
The association received its first donation from the Hamilton Tiger-Cat Trust Fund.
Since then thousands of youngsters have gone through the HMFA system in Hamilton.
Many like Mark Verbeek, Rob Hitchcock Allan and Bruce Boyko, Aubrey Cummings, Corey Grant, Chris Vrantis, Chris Rankin, Joe Bonaventura, Rob Hitchcock, Mark Verbeek, Jarret Smith and Tim St. Pierre have gone on to play football at university and in the Canadian Football League.
Today the association has about 500 players on house league and rep team, down from its peak of about 700 more than a decade ago.
“The numbers have dwindled a little bit in the last couple of years,” said Gamble, who noted there is a growing concern among parents about the potential for concussions and other injuries.
A changing demographic in some parts of the community has also affected registration as families are coming from parts of the world where North American style football is almost unknown and soccer and cricket are the preferred athletic activities.
Gamble said the association is reaching out to those communities, encouraging families to let their youngsters give football a try.
He also expects the buzz generated when the Tiger-Cats move into the new Pan Am stadium next summer will increase minor football numbers, adding the association is hoping to play some games, including their annual Super Sunday championships, at the new facility.
This year the HMFA features 18 house league teams and three Hamilton Junior Tiger-Cats rep teams in the atom (8-10), pee wee (11-12) and bantam (13-13) age groups.
New to the association this season are teams from Cambridge, Etobicoke andToronto.
Gamble said those teams are in communities that have also seen a decline in registration and wished to join the Hamiltongroup.
HMFA teams begin practicing in July with the season running from late August to mid November.
For the first time this season Gamble said the association has affiliated with the Hamilton Ironmen organization that runs a spring-summer rep football program.
Noting there are two other minor football groups in the Hamilton area, Gamble said he would love to see them all get together and form a single league.
“You could have a tiered system just like hockey,” he said. “(But) nobody wants to throw their keys on the table and have one big organization.”
See: hmfa.ca for more information on the association and the 50th anniversary gala.