Top 10 CFL feuds: Dave Chaytors vs Doug Flutie

On Monday, I unveiled my latest project for 3DownNation, a list of the top 10 feuds in CFL history. Over the next two weeks, I’ll countdown the nastiest fights and most contentious disagreements in the history of the league.

Check out our previous posts below:

The Best of the Rest

Number Ten: Adam Rita vs Jeff Reinebold

Number Nine: Dieter Brock vs the City of Winnipeg

Number Eight: Tyrone Jones vs Cal Murphy

We continue today with the seventh-worst CFL feud of all-time.

Number seven: Dave Chaytors vs Doug Flutie

Doug Flutie is an icon — an electric superstar uniquely built to excel on a Canadian field. A six-time MOP and three-time Grey Cup Champion who many consider to be the greatest player in CFL history. Among fans, he has reached almost untouchable status.

It’s easy to forget that the man we call a legend was not always well-liked during his CFL career. Many viewed him as arrogant and full of himself. Some opponents considered him a whiner with poor character. On his departure from Calgary, the team for which he was just named the franchise’s greatest quarterback, offensive linemen Rocco Romano and Jamie Crysdale were vocal in their criticism of Flutie’s presence in the locker room. As he went to the Argos, many were unsure if he was worth it.

“I got two calls from two different Calgary players on the weekend who told me our new quarterback is nothing but a self-centered, arrogant S.O.B.,” said one anonymous Argo veteran at the time. “I’m beginning to wonder if his negative characteristics will hurt our team more than his play will help it.”

The deal turned out pretty well for Toronto, but Flutie’s image did not improve in the eyes of his opponents. They hated his celebrity, they hated his talent, but one man hated him more than them all: Dave Chaytors.

Dave Chaytors was a throwback. His reputation was as nasty and dirty as any lineman in CFL history. He liked it that way and had little sympathy for anything else.

“I wish I’d played in the 80s, when men were men and it was dirty football. Athletes now are spoiled,” the Canadian once told reporters. “That’s why I don’t understand some of the players today. If you don’t have the heart to play, then get out.”

That difference in beliefs became exceedingly clear on October 27, 1996. As Chaytors’ B.C. Lions took on Flutie’s Argos, the Leos’ defence went after the league’s star. Chaytors himself hit Flutie late on one play — an event he admitted was intentional — and drew a roughing the passer penalty. After the game, an irate Flutie jumped on air with Scott Oake and went off on the Lions.

“They are just doing whatever they feel like doing on the field and Dave Chaytors is leading the group,” Flutie said to those watching live on TV. “People are going to get hurt out there. Until this league starts testing for steroids, it is going to be that way.”

The serious implication came across clear as day: Dave Chaytors was on steroids and a threat to player safety.

“Every game I’ve played against them they’ve played that style,” Flutie continued in the locker room. “They gouge eyes, they twist ankles, pull your arms and scratch your eyes out. That’s crap.”

B.C. was obviously enraged by the accusations. Team president Mike McCarthy didn’t mince words.

“I didn’t know he had a doctor’s degree in biochemics,” he told reporters. “He’s shooting his mouth off. Who cares what he says?”

“I’ve encouraged the commissioner to have that S.O.B. fined and dealt with severely,” McCarthy added the next day.

Chaytors was the party most in the crosshairs. He denied Flutie’s accusations, admitting to experimenting with steroids as a teenager but saying his professional career was clean. He called Flutie’s tirade defamation, said it was a threat to the league, and worried it would encourage kids to try steroids for some reason.

“I have to be concerned about getting a job after football is over. I don’t want to be thought of as a steroid monkey in the business world,” Chaytors explained. “It’s defamation of character. I’m talking to a lawyer to see what I can do.”

In Chaytors’ opinion, Flutie was putting his own importance over that of the league.

“This is the CFL, not the DFL — Doug Flutie League,” he said pointedly.

It was a point that Chaytors would later elaborate on.

“He thinks he’s bigger than the whole league. Almost everybody else playing here is a good, regular guy. Nobody thinks they are better than anybody else and that’s the way it should be,” he explained in 1997. “Michael Jordan isn’t bigger than the NBA, why should Flutie think he’s better than the CFL?”

It rubbed many the wrong way that Flutie was challenging the league’s lack of a drug policy. One Argonaut executive even privately commented that if their star wanted consistent drug testing, then he should pay for it himself out of his massive contract.

What makes this feud unique is that Chaytors backed up his talk with action and sued the league’s star player for defamation.

“I’m not intimidated. I’m not going to go easy on him because he’s Doug Flutie,” he said after the incident.

Flutie would stand by his call for drug testing but ultimately settled with Chaytors out of court. The quarterback paid the man who made a living trying to hurt him $1,500 and wrote a formal apology. He contended it simply saved him a trip to Vancouver and $10,000 to $15,000 in legal fees.

“[Chaytors] associated his name with it, not me,” the star deflected.

None of this mattered much to Chaytors and he took intense pleasure in sticking it to his rival, even speculating he’d use the cash to make anti-DFL t-shirts.

“It really wasn’t much of an apology, but I won’t forget about it,” he said with a smile.

This feud fizzled out through circumstance, though I would not be shocked if Chaytors still has the signed cheque framed on his wall. The d-lineman was hurt the next time B.C. played Toronto and was unable to exact physical revenge, then Flutie left for the NFL. However, it speaks to an animosity at the very core of the CFL.

This is a lunch pail, national league that finds the average player at odds with its stars and big name NFL refugees. Flutie was not the first to be called “a wimp with a bad attitude,” as Chaytors so eloquently put it, and he would not be the last. In opposing the MOP, Chaytors became the type of every-man we like to root for. It is that same spirit that emerges from fans every time a Johnny Manziel or a Vince Young tries to make it in this league.

This will always be a league of rough and tumble Dave Chaytors who take immense pleasure in punching above their weight classes and defeating the Doug Fluties of the world.

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JC Abbott
Abbott is a UBC student, youth coach and lifelong CFL fanatic. He specializes in coverage of the CFL draft and the league's global initiative.