SHANE MCNEIL, TSN.CA STAFF
A mission to reconstruct the history of the most heroic team to ever win the Grey Cup began with just one photograph.
Twenty-six men jubilantly celebrate winning the top prize in Canadian football. Every one of them in uniform: some the battle gear of the Royal Canadian Air Force Hurricanes football club, the others in the formal attire of the Air Force itself.
The photograph was taken in the wake of the Hurricanes' 8-5 victory in the 1942 Grey Cup over the Winnipeg Air Force Bombers, a jubilant end to a Canadian Football League season contested amongst non-civilians.
The Western Interprovincial Football Union and Interprovincial Rugby Football Union had shut down for the year with most of the players having enlisted for World War II, but in the interest of national morale enlisted men competed for the Grey Cup.
Shortly after the photograph was taken, 15 members of the team would be shipped overseas to combat the Nazi terror. Of those 15, seven would not return.
One that remained in Canada, however, was Jake Gaudaur.
From this photograph Gemini Award-winning filmmaker Manfred Becker sought to piece together a history that Gaudaur – who would serve as CFL Commissioner from 1968 to 1984 - would not even speak to his own family about.
The result of that search was "The Photograph" the sixth installment in TSN's Engraved on a Nation documentary series.
"In a way the film became a detective story," Becker said. "We knew all the men had died, so there were no survivors. Those who went overseas and died had no offspring so we spent considerable amounts of time searching for family members."
What Becker found from the descendants of the victorious Hurricanes was a silence similar to that experienced by the Gaudaur family.
"As we went around talking to the offspring of other players and talked about the times they grew up in and there was very little said about the war years," Becker said.
"I found it amazing. Here are the winners, the guys that should be proudest of what happened and there was hardly a word spoken about the war years.
Engraved on a Nation: War-torn history of '42 Grey Cup players (external - login to view)