In the thick of the playoff hunt: Peter James on the Ottawa Gee-Gees

Peter James
is Twitter-obsessed sports fanatic, theatre-lover and journalist living in Ottawa.

There’s a refreshing chill in the air as autumn arrives in the nation’s capital.

For nature buffs the change in season means taking in the fall colours in Gatineau Park, meanwhile foodies are getting turkeys and pumpkin pies ready for a Thanksgiving feast.

For sports fans these are cues that football season has arrived in earnest. Ottawa’s latest Canadian Football League entry is still a few years away — pending renovations to Frank Clair Stadium — but one team still calls the old gridiron home. The Ottawa Gee-Gees, a perennial contender in the Ontario University Athletics conference, attract thousands of people to Lansdowne Park for each home game.

Students arrive by the bus load, chanting, cheering and dancing their way to their seats. The most boisterous supporters sit on the west end of the bleachers. If you want a raucous crowd join them behind the Gee-Gee bench, but be warned — their enthusiasm can be infectious.

Things are a bit quieter on the east end where alumni and local football fans tend to gather behind the visiting partisans. The atmosphere is still electric but the intensity is ratcheted down a notch. It’s a good place for the more analytical fan.
To get the full football experience, grab a hot dog and beer from one of the concession stands. Other goodies like pizza and lemonade are also on offer.

Despite the aging infrastructure and half-demolished south side bleachers, Frank Clair still provides fans with one of the most beautiful settings to enjoy a football game. With the Rideau Canal and Old Ottawa South as a stunning backdrop, there’s always something to gaze at between plays.

Canadian university football supplies most of the the non-import talent CFL teams are after. The Gee-Gees are no exception, graduating players to the professional ranks regularly. Quarterback Brad Sinopoli, who was named the top collegiate player in Canada last year when he played for uOttawa, is now with the Calgary Stampeders.

After being a pass-first team under Sinopoli, this year the Gee-Gees are taking a more balanced approach on offence with Aaron Colbon at the helm. Through five games he’s third in the conference in passing with 1,175 yards, but running back Brendan Gillanders is also among the league leaders. He’s second in rushing with 489 yards.

Aside from last week’s 51-point disaster against Laurier, the Gee-Gee’s defence has been reliable in 2011. Although they have the tendency to give up a lot of yards, they generally hold teams in check in the scoring zone.

The team is in the thick of the playoff hunt with a 3-2 record with three weeks remaining in the regular season.

The Gee-Gees wrap up the home portion of their regular-season schedule with games Oct. 8 against York and Oct. 15 against Windsor. If they finish in the top four they will get at least one home playoff game.

Tickets are $12 for adults, $8 for seniors and non-uOttawa students, $6 for uOttawa students, alumni and staff, $4 for children under 12 and children under five are free. For more information, visit