Saying goodbye to their second home

Richardson Stadium timekeepers let go after fifty-plus years

Richardson’s time-keeping trio of Van Hooser, Coyle and Burns (from left to right).
Richardson’s time-keeping trio of Van Hooser, Coyle and Burns (from left).
Credit: 
Photo Supplied by Bubs Van Hooser

Leonard Coyle was paid 25 cents the first time he worked as a timekeeper for a Queen’s football game.

That game was in 1947 and from then on he was a consistent presence at Richardson Stadium, serving as timekeeper for 69 seasons. That all changed earlier this year.

Coyle was let go by Queen’s Athletics and Recreation before the current season, alongside fellow timekeepers G.M “Bubs” Van Hooser and Wayne Burns. This decision has taken away the opportunity for Coyle to work at a third installment of Richardson Stadium, having begun his work back when the football field stood on main campus.

Now 80, Coyle started out as an 11-year old flipping numbers on the old stadium’s manual scoreboard. 69 years later he remembers what he could buy with his pay from those games.

“Do you know what 25 cents bought me at the Jock Harty? It bought me a coke and a hot dog,” he said. “When you’re an 11-year old kid 25 cents is a lot of money back in ’47.”

When the stadium gained an electric scoreboard eight years later, Coyle — an electrician by trade – was pegged for the position of official timekeeper.

But now, Coyle is no longermanning the clock, part of Athletics and Recreation’s decision to switch to members of the Kingston Football Officials Association. Before this season, Queen’s was the sole OUA team not using certified officials as timekeepers for football games.

Coyle said the school never reached out to him to tell the crew their services would no longer be required. Instead, he found out the news in August, only after reaching out to Athletics himself to find out if the trio would still have their positions on game day.

During the call, he was told that the three men’s services were no longer required. For Coyle, it was a disappointing way to find out the news.

“Seeing as how I was getting on in years I thought that they would say ‘We’ve got a new stadium, we want things to change’,” Coyle said. “Then they would have phoned us and told us, but they didn’t even do that.”

Instead of working, the group was celebrated before the Gaels’ clash with the Toronto Varsity Blues last Saturday, with Coyle performing the pre-game coin toss. The game was the first time he’d ever sat in the stands to watch a football game at Queen’s, Coyle said, adding that several alumni told him they were disappointed with the University’s decision.

In an email to The Journal, Director of Athletics and Recreation Leslie Dal Cin stated that the department had reached out to Coyle multiple times during the summer. 

“A&R contacted Mr. Coyle, who was the department’s long-time contact and liaison for the group, to advise him that the switch to certified officials was under discussion and why,” she wrote.

“Later in the summer, A&R spoke to him again to advise him that due to the new technology and the OUA standard, certified officials would be used starting this year. A&R’s perception was that he understood the change made sense.”

Both Coyle and his fellow timekeeper Van Hooser said they were paid and insured by the Officials Association for their work at Gaels’ home games, after previously being paid by the University.

When reached for comment the Officials Association didn’t respond to The Journal’s interview request.

Coyle wasn’t the only official remaining from original Richardson Stadium. Van Hooser had been with Queen’s for over 50 years, starting with the Gaels’ 1960 campaign. Having grown up in Kingston, he was familiar with Coyle through the local sports scene and when the previous timekeeper left the position, Van Hooser took over the job. 

Van Hooser’s start came 10 years before the first Richardson Stadium was replaced and for him, the experience was different in those days, especially when it came to student involvement.

“In the old days when we had the old grandstand there, the alumni sat there and the students were on the far side of the field,” he said. “When it started raining, well, they’d all run across the field and jump in the grandstands. Now it starts raining and everyone goes home.”

Those rainy days provided Van Hooser with a striking memory. When the timekeepers table was still at field level, the pair would have to stand up in front of the spectators to see down field. The fans didn’t always respond to the blocked view in the kindest manner.

“I had to stand up to see down the field and [a fan]  started hitting me with her cane, telling me to sit down,” Van Hooser said.

Angry fans aside, Van Hooser said he enjoyed his time working the games, noting that the game day crew was like a family — a group of locals who all grew up together in the city and found themselves coming back each year.

Since the pair first started working together in 1960, they’ve seen coaches, players and even more than one stadium come and go. All the while, they’ve remained a constant reminder of Queen’s football history and a continued presence at Gaels’ games. Van Hooser had a defining term for their role.

“We were pretty well fixtures,” he said.  

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