Ottawa bids fond farewell to touch football godfather Ed Laverty

 

 
 
 
 
Ed Laverty made touch football his passion and personal playground for 50 years, writes Wayne Scanlan.
 
 

Ed Laverty made touch football his passion and personal playground for 50 years, writes Wayne Scanlan.

What else for this giant of touch football but a touching sendoff?

Ed Laverty, who made touch football his passion and personal playground for 50 years, was fêted in a celebration of life Thursday at a packed Tudor Hall. The venue was fitting. Laverty held his first football banquet there.

Edmund Laverty, 74, died recently at home surrounded by loved ones, including wife Trudy and children Tammy and Gordie. A longtime engineer for Northern Telecom, Ed had battled Alzheimer’s but was able to walk his precious “Tammy Toes” down the aisle at her wedding this year.

Inducted into the Ottawa Sports Hall of Fame in 2014 as a builder, Laverty made an empire of the Ottawa Nepean Touch Football League (ONTFL), co-founded what is now Touch Football Ontario (TFO) and was a national leader. Yet, the funniest stories about Ed involve his surgical dissection of opponents on the field of play.

Steve Morell, now tournament director of TFO because of Laverty’s mentoring, remembers in his playing days advising teammates to prepare for “the most frustrating 60 minutes of your life” playing against Laverty.

Short in stature and not especially strong-armed, Laverty was nevertheless a gridiron genius. He was Doug Flutie before Flutie — elusive, cagey. He would throw short and short again, until pressured, when he would loft an accurate pass beyond coverage for an easy score.

“We got schooled,” Morell said. “Then, he would come up to me in the beer tent, explain what he did to me, and explain what he was going to do the next time.”

Anyone who played against Laverty knew to beware of his “overload” offence, with a bank of receivers on one side, but to no avail.

James Duthie of TSN, who sent a taped message to the ceremony, was in awe of Laverty. As a young man playing touch football, first in Orléans, then the RA, Duthie’s team graduated to the “big leagues” of Laverty’s Ottawa-Nepean group. Only to be crushed.

“It was the same freaking play,” Duthie said. “The same setup. We’d be yelling, ‘It’s the same damn play!’ And still we couldn’t stop him.”

One of the highlights of his athletic career came when Duthie’s team finally beat a Laverty side.

Clearly, Laverty was a smart administrator — after all, he banned Ken Evraire for life after Evraire and his father were losing their minds over officials’ calls in a game. Evraire, who would go on to a career in the CFL, broadcasting and as a leadership coach, paid back Laverty in the best possible way. He helped champion the cause of getting Laverty into the Ottawa sports hall.

“His legacy transcends the game,” Evraire said.

With the energy of 10, Laverty would lead both his regular team and a 35-plus team, AND organize the tournament in which they competed.

MC Dan Mooney, who played 16 years of touch and also broadcast games on Rogers cable, concurred with Duthie’s description of the “organized chaos” of Laverty’s garage/office, stacks of papers and tournament gear everywhere. Somehow, Ed had the key to the chaos.

Occasionally, Laverty fell victim to his own success. He grew the game to massive numbers — tournaments with nearly 100 teams, and sponsors like Labatt’s, Nike and Wilson. The benefits were obvious, but Laverty did an end-around when Wilson insisted teams use their footballs.

Ed, who favoured the grip on a personally shaved Spalding J5V Touch ball, got son Gordie to stencil “Wilson” on his J5V, which fooled enough people.

Gordie, now ONTFL president, recalls when someone would say, “That doesn’t look like a Wilson,” leading Ed to blast back, “Mind your effing business!”

He did it all for his sport: Supported youth, encouraged women, recruited volunteers by making them feel valued and special. Perhaps his greatest gift, said Gord, was his ability to listen.

The later years were tough, his brilliance dimmed but not extinguished, and the devotion of his family was extraordinary, around the clock.

Tammy will remember their bike rides together through the Experimental Farm to Dow’s Lake, sharing cheese and crackers on a bench.

As Alzheimer’s took hold, Ed would disappear for hours, terrifying his loved ones. Frantic, Tammy got a phone call one day from police. They’d found Ed, safe.

“Your dad is in great shape,” the cop marvelled. Seems Ed had cycled to Metcalfe and was riding loops down main street. When Tammy got there to pick him up, Ed was blissfully eating chips and sipping ginger ale.

“Tam, you made it,” he said.

Sharon Charron, a friend, football volunteer and nurse who cared for Ed to the end, hopes the city will honour his name with something lasting. Lovingly, Charron touched the custom football trophy/urn, built by Familiar Faces, containing some of Ed’s ashes.

“Go long?” she asked Ed.

Tammy promises an Ed Laverty Foundation to support youth sport.

Not all sports heroes played professionally.

“Eddie defined what it is to be an Ottawa sports legend,” Duthie said. “We are going to miss him dearly.”

 
 
 
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Ed Laverty made touch football his passion and personal playground for 50 years, writes Wayne Scanlan.
 

Ed Laverty made touch football his passion and personal playground for 50 years, writes Wayne Scanlan.

 
Ed Laverty made touch football his passion and personal playground for 50 years, writes Wayne Scanlan.
Ed Laverty frustrated opponents on the football field.
Ed Laverty with his daughter, Tammy, his wife, Trudy, and his son, Gordie.
Ed Laverty with his daughter, Tammy, in 2014 when he was inducted into the Ottawa Sports Hall of Fame.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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