CFLAA Legends of the Game Profile – Jim Cain
Jim Cain was a versatile member of the Ottawa Rough Riders line for nine years from 1961 to 1969 finishing with two consecutive Grey Cup victories in 1968 and 1969.
How Jim got to Ottawa is an interesting story. After graduating from high school in Toronto he attended a ‘high school/ junior football’ tryout camp in Ottawa along with 45 others. He was invited since Frank Clair knew his high school coach from his days coaching the Toronto Argos. After this tryout Jim was invited to the main Rough Rider training camp which led to two scholarship offers-University of Detroit and LSU (a LSU coach was a guest coach at the Rider’s training camp).
Jim accepted the U of Detroit offer and spent the next 4 years as a member of the Titans. Jim is in the University of Detroit Titan Hall of Fame as a member of the 1960 team which had a record of 7-2 including wins over Boston College and Cincinnati with losses only to Michigan State and Iowa State. The 1960 team is in the Hall of Fame since it finished with the best record of any Titans football team in the post WW II era and had the 17th best record of the 113 US Division 1 football teams. All US university players, in those years, played both offense and defense and in Jim’s last two college games he played 58 minutes against Villanova and 55 minutes versus Michigan State. This was a factor in Jim being able to move successfully to defense later in his career.
In answer to the question-What was your CFL career highlight that you want to share? Cain said, “It was the 1968 Grey Cup victory against Calgary where I was a defensive tackle. In that game I had one sack and two hurries of Pete Liske who was known for his quick release. Also I was a part of the key turning point in the 3rd quarter. Calgary had the ball in Ottawa territory and was punting and would have likely pinned us deep in our end while leading 14-4. Middle linebacker Ken Lehmann, the Schenley Award winner for Most Outstanding lineman for 1968, and I broke through and disrupted the punt with me tackling their punter on Calgary’s 52. We scored on the subsequent drive to close the gap to 14-11. Jackson then led us to 2 more touchdowns for a 24-14 lead before Calgary scored late to make the final score 24-11”.
Earlier in his CFL career Cain played offensive tackle and guard along the eastern Riders line. He was switched to defense in 1968 by new coaches Kelly Mote and Jack Gotta. Jim never missed a game with the Riders and played his whole career with only 15% vision in one eye. After retiring from the CFL, Cain turned his attention to coaching where he shared his football knowledge with the University of Ottawa Gee Gee football team from 1970 to 1972, first with Bob O’Billovich and then Don Gilbert.
Cain was a senior manager in the Federal Government at Statistics Canada for 38 years winning the Statistics Canada Merit Award in 1997/98. “When I played in the CFL we practiced at 5:00 pm, so we could start a career while playing football” said Cain.
Cain is also a member of Ottawa’s prominent Smith sports family (his mother Vye was a Smith). “My cousins Brian and Gary ‘Suitcase’ Smith played in the NHL,” said Cain. “Also their Dad Des, and my Uncle, played in the NHL for several teams including winning the Stanley Cup with the Bruins in 1940-41 before joining the Army during WW II. In addition uncle Rodger played with the Ottawa Rough Riders from 1920 to 1922 and then with Pittsburgh and Philadelphia in the NHL. Des, Brian and Gary have all been inducted into the Ottawa Sports Hall of Fame”.
Cain firmly believes it is important to give back to the community that supported him both on and off the field. For 21 years, the last 16 as co-chair, Cain played a major role with the Brian Smith Memorial Golf tournament, in support of ‘Camp Smitty’, a camp of the Boys and Girls Club. “This event has raised over $2.2 million, which has sent 2,650 kids to camp,” said Cain.
The tournament is in memory of Jim’s cousin and best friend who was killed in 1995. Brian was Ottawa’s top sportscaster and a former NHL player. Camp Smitty was re-named in his honour in 2001.
For the last three years Cain has served as the Ottawa representative on the Board of Directors of the CFL Alumni Association (CFLAA). He currently is the Vice-President of the CFL Ottawa Alumni Association (CFLOAA). He was a key person (using his experience at Statistics Canada) along with Leo Ezerins, Executive Director of the CFLAA, in conducting a Transition survey of former CFL players with “the objective to learn about players experiences transitioning from a career in the CFL to life after football”. The results titled ‘Life After CFL Football’ were released on February 8, 2016.
According to Cain the CFLOAA provides some support to the Carleton University and the University of Ottawa football programs. As well, some of the proceeds from the Annual Golf Tournament go to Prostate Canada and the Christie Lake Children’s Camp.
One of the main challenges for Cain and the CFL Ottawa Alumni Association is that Ottawa did not have CFL football for 13 of the last 20 years. “We do have over 100 members and hope that with the Grey Cup being in Ottawa this year that our membership will increase,” said Cain.
Jim is married to Pam with one daughter Pam, and 2 grandsons; Dalton was a defensive safety for the Ontario East team that won the Canada Cup ‘Under 17’ football championship in 2009 and Carter was a star receiver at Brother Andre High and with the Markham Raiders.