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On the same day the award arrived honouring the longest serving member of the Edmonton Eskimos organization as Football Alberta’s ‘Volunteer of the Year’, Dwayne Mandrusiak was laid off.
With Mandrusiak about to enter his 50th season as the most honoured and treasured equipment man in the CFL, on the face of things, for a couple of hours there, it was not a good look from the community-owned Eskimos.
Mandrusiak, it was confirmed, had been asked to clean out his office and turn in his cell phone.
Completing 50 seasons was to be a triumph for Mandrusiak. The guy played a big part in passing Eskimos DNA from season to season throughout the entire organization has an office filled with memorabilia.
Indeed, if you’ve ever had the privilege of visiting the Eskimos dressing room, every inch of the place is the creation of Mandrusiak. The legends look down on the lockers of the current team to inspire and remind all of the history and traditions of the teams.
Contacted by your correspondent, new president and CEO Chris Presson revealed that, yes, Mandrusiak had been laid off along with 25 other members of the organization. But whoa. All 26 people who have been laid off will all return when the Eskimos return and the CFL returns said Presson. Including Mandrusiak.
“We laid off more than half of business operations staff and if you look at our operations downstairs, in both medical and equipment, we laid everybody off in those departments,” said Presson.
“There wasn’t any department within the organization that was spared. Business operations took the brunt of it.
“The most important point here is that all 26 of these are all temporary layoffs. Any equipment such as computers and phones, etc., that we may have taken was across the board. The decision was taken that if we were going to do it for one, we were going to do it for all because we can’t treat someone different than others.”
So stand down.
But hold it here.
There’s that award that showed up for Mandrusiak.
What equipment manager gets an award as volunteer of the year?
“Dwayne was nominated originally for our Life Membership/Hall of Fame Award but you have to be retired from football to get that award,” said Football Alberta executive director Tim Enger.
“He will certainly be a strong candidate when he does retire. We felt he should be in another category. We felt he was more deserving of the Gary Hobson Volunteer of the Year Award.
“It’s true — he’s not a volunteer with the Eskimos. But he’s always been there for us in the amateur side of things helping a team out here and there if they have some problems with their equipment.
“For years he volunteered through us to go to equipment rooms of high schools and minor teams during the off-season to help them get organized and was always there when a team had an emergency with an equipment need.
“There are hundreds of examples of him giving his time to minor and high school teams to help out. The Edmonton Huskies, Edmonton Wildcats and University of Alberta Golden Bears have also benefitted greatly from loaners of things like broomball shoes and sideline capes when the weather gets bad.
“And he does all of this without any desire for recognition or reimbursement. If that isn’t a volunteer, I don’t know what is,” said Enger.
COVID-19 not only cost Mandrusiak his cellphone and required him to clean out his office it cost him the moment to receive the honour.
“All of our awards are handed out at our annual Senior Bowl All-Star Game annual banquet held the night before the game over the May long weekend for graduating Grade 12 high school players. It’s a gathering of 300-400 people,” said Enger.
“This year, because of the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve had to cancel the entire event. There isn’t another gathering that we host which would do justice to how we wished to thank and recognize the winners. With everything up in the air right now and no one knowing when we will actually get back onto the field, these awards may be the only ones we give out for some time.”
These are unprecedented times. But think about all of this when you contemplate the current situation of the CFL asking for $30 million of government aid to help them get through the season if they are to start the schedule in September or considerably more if there is no season at all for the gate-driven league.
Dwayne Mandrusiak may be the poster person of the CFL when it comes to what this league is all about. But there are endless examples of the quiet work the players do in the community.
The volume is staggering when it comes to a team like the Eskimos and the appearances and year-round hospital visits, etc. that the players make and the organization seldom flaunts it.
It’s a time for the Government of Canada to give back to the CFL for everything they’ve been giving to their communities all of these years.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020