Should the Redblacks retire Burris’ number?

With news coming out that the Ottawa Redblacks will recognize Henry Burris with a special halftime ceremony during this Saturday’s game against the Hamilton Ticats, a significant question naturally arises.

Should the Redblacks retire Burris’ number?

There’s certainly merit to both those would argue for and against it.

On one hand, jersey retirements are typically for those who have spent their entire (or at least the bulk of) their career with a single organization. That clearly isn’t the case in Ottawa, as only 47 of Burris’ 227 career starts came in the nation’s capital.

But Burris’ time in Ottawa goes far beyond the things he did on the field. With the relaunch of football in 2014, OSEG simply couldn’t afford to miss at the game’s most important position. Burris’ signing signalled to the league that the franchise was not merely content with bumbling along as a mediocre expansion team. Obviously there were growing pains but Burris took them stride, never throwing his coaching staff or teammates under the bus. To put it simply, he was a vital piece of the foundation of the franchise.

You also can’t overlook Burris’ role in attracting other players to Ottawa. There’s no way the Redblacks make back to back Grey Cup appearances in 2015/2016 without the class of free agents they signed in the 2015 off-season. Does GM Marcel Desjardins ink Greg Ellingson, Brad Sinopoli, Chris Williams, Ernest Jackson, SirVincent Rogers and others without having a Hall of Famer under centre?

There’s also the community factor to take into account. In addition to his on the field work, Burris constantly worked to promote and grow the franchise in the community. As the face of the Redblacks, he took part in numerous charity events and always made time for small personal interactions with fans. Although winning the city’s 10th Grey Cup will always be his signature moment, for many in R-Nation it’s those brief chats and charity work that will stick in their mind.

But retiring a jersey is one of the greatest honours in all of sport. Throughout the CFL’s entire 105 year history, a select club of only 53 men have had their numbers retired. Ten of them played for Ottawa. Ron Stewart (#11), Russ Jackson (#12), Whit Tucker (#26), Bruno Bitkowski (#40), Jim Coode (#60), Moe Raccine (#62), Bobby Simpson (#70), Jerry Organ (#71), Tony Golab (#72) and Tony Gabriel (#77) all their numbers retired by the Ottawa Rough Riders. Does Burris’ #1 deserve to the eleventh?

Ignore his stats with the Redblacks (13,093 passing yards with 57 TDs & 39 INTS and 578 rushing yards with 16 TDs), ignore the community work and ignore bringing an expansion team to two Grey Cup appearances (one a narrow loss, the other an epic winning performance for the ages). What you’re left with is a QB who reminded a city that although times had changed, and although the team itself had changed, their winning tradition remained.

Burris rekindled Ottawa’s love affair with CFL football, restored a city’s pride and reminded its inhabitants that not only can football work and flourish in their hometown, but that even decades of despair, frustration and embarrassment can be wiped away with a moment of glory.

Honouring Burris by retiring his number wouldn’t diminish those who came before him in Ottawa’s 128 years of pro history. It would in fact, do the opposite, brining things full circle. It would firmly link Ottawa’s winning tradition with the modern organization.

At times, it feels like sports fans cling too tightly to the past, and judge the current era too harshly, failing to appreciate the greatness before them. Retiring Burris’ number would allow a younger generation of R-Nation to fully embrace their own first legendary player.

Given all the ground Burris has already broken with the Redblacks, it only makes sense.

Santino Filoso

Santino Filoso

Born and raised in the 613, Santino has written about the Redblacks since 2013. He is the only CFL writer currently living in Brazil (as far as we know.)
Santino Filoso
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Santino Filoso
About Santino Filoso (171 Articles)
Born and raised in the 613, Santino has written about the Redblacks since 2013. He is the only CFL writer currently living in Brazil (as far as we know.)

41 Comments on Should the Redblacks retire Burris’ number?

  1. You’re kidding right!

  2. white stallion in red // September 8, 2017 at 11:49 am //

    God no…. 2 years. Mediocre overall record, benched for periods of time.
    Granted a Grey Cup chqmpionship but if that’s the only criteria than Calgary should retire Marcus Crandell, Sask should retire Kerry Joseph and Winnipeg should retire Sean Salisbury!!!

  3. Reggie Slack is jealous. He wants the Riders to retire his number for taking them to the 97 Grey Cup.

  4. The way he whined when Hamilton moved on. His further complaining when Simoni Lawrence hit him with a legal tackle. The way he cried and bellyached on national TV when those on TSN dared to criticize his play.

    Those who are great AND professional should have such an honour. The immature, silly behaviour Burris showed to the country certainly does not qualify.

    Most of his time in Ottawa was rather average, he was even benched for quite a while. His showing in the 2013 Grey cup was quite less than stellar.

    You want to hoist his name next to those of the greats like Russ Jackson?

    This team has low standards.

    • Paul Bomber // September 8, 2017 at 12:53 pm //

      Hey TigerMan.. didn’t mean to repeat what you said – – not refreshing my screen enough.
      I’ll just say that if he had a 10 year career with lots and lots and lots of success, you might be able to overlook some of the things you said (and I repeated/more or less) but Hank ain’t got it. In this case: 2 strikes and you’re out!!

  5. Paul Bomber // September 8, 2017 at 12:50 pm //

    The reasons in favour of retiring his number are weak. That said, he deserves it more than Joe Schmoe, the third string kicker for Ottawa. So, let’s take a wider view of things: What about questions of character?
    Sorry Hank – your off-field sour-grapes comments about the team, your feud with the media (who for some insane reason are using you as a broadcaster now) should seal the deal: No retiring of your number!
    Next?

  6. The Tiger-Cats are 148 years old and have 2 retired numbers, so my view is you need to be extraordinary to get your number retired…

    • Paul Bomber // September 8, 2017 at 1:33 pm //

      The TigerCats have been around for 148 years? Uhmmm…. huh? You seem to taking a few liberties with history.

    • white stallion in red // September 8, 2017 at 2:22 pm //

      That’s how it should be. Retired numbers should be very, very special. By both league standards and team standards.

  7. Paul Bomber // September 8, 2017 at 1:03 pm //

    “…It would in fact, do the opposite, brining (sic) things full circle. It would firmly link Ottawa’s winning tradition with the modern organization….”

    What a load of BS. Why does that remind me of the exWinnipeg/now Phoenix team retiring Bobby Hull’s number. Seems to me the RedBlacks should have to build their own tradition, not somehow pretend they’ve been around for 128 years. I guess that’s why I didn’t end up in marketing.

  8. In a word – NO!

  9. Bill deHoog // September 8, 2017 at 2:01 pm //

    This is an interesting question, as I have wondered it as well. This is an unusual case in respect to history of the Redblacks. Henry is the face of the franchise, still works for OSEG, great ambassador for the team, city and league. I would support retiring his number when you look at the big picture.

  10. I don’t think his # should be retired (just not enough time spent in the capital), but I’m absolutely LOVING how salty these comments are. Maybe that alone is reason enough to do it !

  11. white stallion in red // September 8, 2017 at 2:25 pm //

    I sure hope Calgary doesn’t.. Honoring him and placing him on the wall of fame, ring of honor or whatever a team calls it, is ok.

    • Red&White Forever // September 8, 2017 at 2:31 pm //

      Agreed. Name and number on the wall, but no number retirement. In both Ottawa and Calgary.

  12. Filoso’s been sniffing the Brazilian bikini wax again

  13. Henry was a warrior who came in and won a Grey Cup for Ottawa, at an advanced age against an overwhelming favoured team. So given his contribution over all those years in the CFL, he deserves that some team should retire his number, and the team to retire it has be the team he won his last Grey Cup for against stratospheric odds.

    Ottawa, retire King Henry’s number, clearly the right thing to do.0

  14. Southwest cowboy // September 8, 2017 at 5:26 pm //

    You’re going to retire a guy’s number over one game??? The Redblacks didn’t even have a winning record. I guess you’d better retire Keenan LaFrance’s number along with Hank’s.

  15. Your joking right. NO WAY to the whiner

  16. brian johnson // September 8, 2017 at 6:09 pm //

    NO No NO No!

  17. No. And TSN should retire his half time gig.

  18. Southwest cowboy // September 8, 2017 at 7:02 pm //

    My lasting memory of Henry Burris will always be that ‘deer in the headlights’ look when that snap sailed by his head during the 2013 Grey Cup game. Retire his number? NO!

  19. I suppose it’s entirely up to the lumberjacks if they want to honor Burris for his contribution in bringing the Grey Cup home – doesn’t affect my day in any way.

    I was thinking more along the lines of a smilin Hank bobblehead with that look he always had in his face when looking for a flag….

    • Love that last sentence Yup! Thanks for the chuckle! 🙂

    • white stallion in red // September 8, 2017 at 8:11 pm //

      How about a statue of Burris with his famous smile, holding the cup over his head and looking below at rider fans. Some shaking their fists, some crying, some yelling but ALL showing their obvious jealousy over him leaving for better opportunties

      • Uhhhh….he won the Cup against your team horse…..but as usual you just had to squeeze the Riders in there some how.

        You’ve been hostile ever since your dad left Calgary to coach Edmonton huh. The last straw was when he moved out of the Province to get some distance.

        • white stallion in red // September 8, 2017 at 8:55 pm //

          Ahhh I’m glad you brought that up! I never said what uniform Burris would be wearing. It is infact ambiguous. Not stamp not RedBlacks. That is to say it isn’t import. Rather the statue is a lasting reminder how important it is to follow your heart and not the dollars and devils one organization might throw at you.
          Happiness comes from within!!

          • Absolutely….and I’m sure hank was even happier when he beat his former team. Do you honestly believe your own crap or just make it up in between cap fulls of medication ??

        • white stallion in red // September 8, 2017 at 9:32 pm //

          Oh Yup…let go….let go of the anger 🙂 Except the things you can’t change. The riders are destined to be what they are. Enjoy the little things. Like rare 3 game win streaks.

          • Apparently have me confused with someone who cares. I will let you get back to doing nothing. Maybe you can chase yourself around the room and play hard to get

      • Lancaster/Reed // September 9, 2017 at 2:40 am //

        Your bitterness of losing 4 of 5 playoff games to the riders this past decade is showing again. And again . And again. And again. Man , just get over it.

        • white stallion in red // September 9, 2017 at 10:19 am //

          Lol with a handle like LancasterReid you clearly love the past. Believe me all I’m think of is this year!

  20. No.
    The “Thanks Hank” inscription in each Ottawa Grey Cup ring wasn’t enough??
    I wouldn’t have even approved that!!

  21. Burris is going to the HOF. No doubt about that. When he does, somebody will retire his number. Would not shock me one bit if both Calgary and Ottawa retire his number at some point in the future. Last time I checked, fans believing Burris whines too much is not a factor for going into the Hall.

  22. Just seeing him hoisting the Grey Cup in that CFL promo video ‘Diversity is Strength’ is plenty enough Smilin’ Hank for me. Southwest cowboy said it best… That ‘deer in the headlights’ look & attitude in the 2013 Cup game told me all I need to know about Burris… a selfish player and undeserving of any team retiring his aptly number ‘1’.

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