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In memoriam: Coach Doug Hargreaves

In memoriam: Coach Doug Hargreaves

[Doug Hargreaves]
(Photo by Ian MacAlpine/Kingston Whig-Standard)

A Celebration of the Life of Doug Hargreaves

July 10, 2016 at RMC

Dear Norma, Vicki, Gayle, Lynn, Ward and members of the Hargreaves family. We are all so sorry for your loss. Thank you for this honour and privilege to say a few words in celebration of the life of our friend, Doug Hargreaves.

I’d like to acknowledge and thank the leadership and hospitality of our friends at both Royal Military College and Queen’s University for generously hosting all of us today.

Doug wasn’t a big fan of a popular trend today, visible tattoos, but I am quite certain that next to his family, RMC & Queen’s were both tattooed on Doug’s heart.

Doug’s record as a football coach is well documented and I do not intend to focus on that aspect of his life in my remarks – even though I am speaking as a representative of the many players and coaches of the Queen’s Golden Gaels football team. We all acknowledge the incredible successes of National Championships and a Hall of Fame coaching career. Well done, Doug!

In late August each fall, a gaggle of eager young student-athletes, still wet behind the ears, would gather at West Campus to begin another football training camp. We were there to learn how to block and tackle, how to throw and catch, how to run north-south to daylight (and NOT towards the cheerleaders on the sidelines, Doug would laughingly remind us!).

[Doug Hargreaves]
1992 Gaels captains Brad Elberg, left, and Mike Boone, centre, with Head Coach Doug Hargreaves and the Vanier Cup. (Photo: Art Martin)

We showed up to camp eager to renew old friendships and establish new ones, all in pursuit of another Vanier Cup Championship, so ably led by Doug and his cadre of inspiring Assistant Coaches – many of whom are with us today to celebrate Doug’s life.

What was not always appreciated by a group of young men, aged 18 to 24, was that while Doug certainly came well prepared to lead us to the gridiron promised land, he was there primarily to coach us in a far more important game, one that did not conclude three months later with a win or a loss. Doug was there to coach us in the Game of Life – imparting far more important life lessons than those required on a football field.

Doug led by example. He always spoke reverently of “the girl of my dreams from Westport,” his loving wife and life partner, Norma. He was a proud Dad, and later a proud grandfather, reminding us that family was far more important than any sporting activity.

At the beginning of the season Doug would remind us, “Gentlemen, when you put on that Queen’s football sweater, you are setting the standard for the rest of Canada. Always respect that.”

We tried our best to live up to the high standards that Doug set for us. He believed in us! When, in our youth, we occasionally strayed from meeting those standards both on and off the field, Doug had no difficulty in correcting our actions. This “fatherly advice” was not always appreciated at the time by a group of young and talented “wild hearts.” For many of us, it was not until we had the opportunity for quiet reflection later in life, with maturity, that Doug’s mission in life was revealed to us. He was there to teach us how to be GOOD MEN – good husbands/partners, good fathers, good neighbours and community citizens, good work colleagues – lessons far more important than putting the ball in the end zone (although he did that exceedingly well at the same time, we acknowledge).

I know I speak for many in this room – and not just the football players and coaches – when I say that next to our own parents, Doug was the most influential and important mentor in our lives.

For that life-long gift, I and we say a very heart-felt thank you to Doug and to the Hargreaves family for sharing Doug so generously with us.

We will continue to live our lives in a manner in which Doug would be proud of us. Never perfect, but striving for perfection. Not always winning, but making the effort to win, and always playing within the rules of the game of life.

For that gift in my life and in the lives of those who had the good fortune to gain Doug’s tutelage and friendship, I say thank you, Lord, for the life of Doug Hargreaves.

We are all better people for having known Doug. That is a legacy far more meaningful than all the sporting victories ever achieved.

John Lynch, B.A. (Hon.) ’79, B.Ed. ’81, M.Ed. ‘86
Queen’s Golden Gaels football team member 1975 – 78
Assistant Coach 1979 – 1987
Grateful friend of Doug Hargreaves


One of the winningest coaches in Canadian college history

[Doug Hargreaves]
Doug Hargreaves directs his players on the sideline during a home game. He not only instilled athletic abilities into his players, but also the life skills they needed to create and build inspired and successful careers and lives

Legendary Queen’s football coach Doug Hargreaves (BA'60, LLD'12) died July 5 after a several-year battle with cancer. He was 84.

“I was deeply saddened to hear of Doug’s passing, and on behalf of the entire university, I would like to express my sincere condolences to all his family and friends,” said Principal Daniel Woolf. “Doug was a very special part of campus and Kingston life for many years, influencing hundreds if not thousands during his lengthy tenure as coach of the Gaels. His presence will live on in the memories and experiences he shared with so many.”

Doug Hargreaves, dubbed by the press as “one of the winningest coaches in Canadian college history,” led the Gaels for 19 years, from 1976 to 1994. During that time, the Gaels made the playoffs 16 times, won nine conference championships, three national semi-final Bowl games, played for three Vanier Cups (winning twice!), and finished with an overall record of 110-59-3.

He was named Coach of the Year in Canadian college football in 1983, was instrumental in starting the national football coaching certification program and a pioneer in exporting the game overseas.

He was the catalyst behind the Queen’s Football Hall of Fame and the formation of the Gaels Football Club, an organization for football alumni. For these and other efforts, he received the university’s Distinguished Service Award (1995), the John Orr Award (1997), the Jim Bennett Award and an honorary doctorate. He was also named to the Queen’s Football Hall of Fame and the Kingston Sports Hall of Fame. As the young would say, “Not too shabby!”

Despite the success, and these many honours, he was understated, modest even. Always upbeat, he put a high value on the quality of play and the integrity of the players, especially the academic, and he was also a great mentor to his assistant coaches. He gave respect, and received it in turn.

For many, what made it all work was his equally legendary wit, bitterly ironic humour and his emphasis on the bon mot. This may have come from his many years in and around the military (he served for 14 years in the RCAF, several years of which were as a pilot and flying instructor) or from sailing (which he also enjoyed). Both flying and sailing call upon the need to keep one’s cool in tough situations, especially as a leader. Good preparation for a head football coach!

The players can’t understand why we’re losing. They have to remember we’re not that good!

Many of his sayings have become the subject of legend themselves: “The players can’t understand why we’re losing. They have to remember we’re not that good!” Dick Bakker, a member of the Vanier Cup team, called Doug to inquire about his health: this was about two weeks before Doug’s death. “He sounded good to me,” said Dick, “so I told him: Doug, you sound fine.’ His reply? ‘You better get your hearing checked!’” There was more than a touch of Yogi Berra, Casey Stengel or Frank Tindall in Doug’s wit.

Referring to Frank Tindall, his predecessor, was something Doug Hargreaves did a lot. When Doug retired, he quoted Frank who, in ruminating on Joan of Arc’s manner of leaving, had decided that perhaps “a blaze of glory” was not always the thing. One has to believe that the phrase is pretty apt, though, in Doug’s case. He was a truly fine guy for whom many, including his former assistant coaches and players, retain an enormous respect. In addition to the many honours, this is perhaps as fine a legacy as any man could wish for and constitutes its own, well-earned, going out in a “blaze of glory.”

We will all miss him.

Merv Daub
Professor Emeritus, Business
Assistant football coach
(1976–78 and 1991)


[cover of Alumni Review 2016 Issue 3]