Where does one begin to describe the imposing presence and impressive career of this distinguished Canadian? Born in October of 1920, Jake settled in Burlington in 1950 where he raised his family and set about serving the sports community both locally as well as nationally.
Jacob Gill “Jake” Gaudaur was a superb athlete excelling in rowing and lacrosse long before he made his mark on the gridiron. In 1936 Jake helped lead the Orillia Terriers to win the Minto Cup, the trophy awarded to Canada’s national junior lacrosse champions. In 1938 this multi-talented athlete followed in his father’s footsteps and won a national rowing championship.
Between 1940 and 1953 Jake played football for the Hamilton Tigers, the Toronto Argonauts, the Montreal Alouettes, and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats During the Second World War Jake served Canada as a pilot but managed to “suit up” for the Royal Canadian Air Force Team that captured the 30th edition of the Grey Cup (1942).
Jake had a passion for football and obvious strengths as a businessman. In 1952 he left the playing field and became a Director of the Tiger-Cats, but an opportunity to capture the Grey Cup whetted his appetite and he un-retired in 1953 suiting up for the Tiger-Cats for one final season. Mission accomplished, the Tiger-Cats won the 1953 Grey Cup.
Jake retired for good in 1954 and moved into the front office of the storied Cat franchise becoming the President and from 1956 through 1967 held the dual position of President and General Manager. Under his stewardship the Tiger-Cats appeared in nine Grey Cups, winning four (1957, 1963,1965, 1967).
Mary considered Jake’s era as “the glory years” of the Tiger-Cats and the CFL. He was so respected by his CFL peers that in 1962 he was appointed to the CFL Presidency. In 1968 Jake was named CFL Commissioner, a position he held for 16 years. During his tenure as commissioner, he had an enormous impact on the growth of the CFL. Television revenue increased six-fold and attendance nearly doubled. He was a champion of the founding of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and instrumental in establishing a CFL Player’s Pension Plan. Above all, This Canadian-born athlete worked tirelessly to keep the game Canadian.
In 1981, Jake was appointed a Governor of the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame. His peers selected him as the Chairman of the Board in 1984. His fundraising efforts resulted in a $1.25 million renovation program for the Hall resulting in a unique and innovative facility. Jake was inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame in 1990.
Other honours include member of the Toronto Argonauts Hall of Fame (builder 1984), Canadian Football Hall of Fame (builder 1984), and Officer of the Order of Canada (1985).
Jake Gaudaur’s lifetime achievements clearly reflect a dedication and commitment to sport. His legacy is a gift to all true sports enthusiasts.
Jake passed away in 2007 at the age of 87.