University of Ottawa Gee-Gees honour teammate in first game after his death
KINGSTON, ONT. -- The University of Ottawa Gee-Gees made an emotional return to the football field on Saturday, one week after the death of teammate Francis Perron.
The Gee-Gees faced the Queen's Gaels at Kingston's Richardson Stadium Saturday afternoon. Queen's beat the Gee-Gees 30-7.
Following a pre-game ceremony to honour Perron, Gee-Gees players Amlicar Polk and Braeden Cruji placed his number 99 jersey on the field for the opening kick-off. The Gee-Gees took a delay of game penalty in memory of their teammate.
Perron, 25, from Sherbrooke, Que. died shortly after the Gee-Gees season opening loss at the University of Toronto last weekend. There is no word on the cause of death.
"Francis was a guy who always gave 100 per cent in everything," said Gee-Gees defensive lineman Michael Pezzuto in a statement on Twitter. "He never took a rep off, never took a day off. He would want us to go out there, ball out, and win this game for him."
During a pre-game ceremony, players for the Gee-Gees and Gaels lined up for a moment of silence in memory of Perron. His framed number 99 jersey was placed at midfield, and officials from Queen's and uOttawa placed a number 99 decal on the helmets of the captains for both the Gee-Gees and Gaels.
"This one hits close to home for everybody," said Gaels coach Steve Snyder.
"It’s affected our football team because we’re part of the Canadian University football community and we respect all our teams and opponents," said Snyder. "We’re going to pay tribute as best we can and respect the game."
Gee-Gees head coach Marcel Bellefeuille said this week the team will miss Perron on the field and in the locker room.
"I did tell the players that it didn’t matter to me if we played another down of football this season, the most important thing was the mental health and wellness of the team," said Bellefeuille.
"I made it clear that any player were uncomfortable and not ready to come back they can rejoin the team at any time."
There were tributes to Perron across the OUA football league on Saturday. All players will have Perron's number 99 decal on their helmets for the remainder of the season.
A GoFundMe page set up by a former teammate said Perron began to feel unwell following the Sept. 18 game in Toronto and died shortly thereafter.
"His death occurred suddenly and far away from his loved ones. This accident has been shocking to his family, friends, as well as to the community," said the GoFundMe Page set up by Raphael Gagne and promoted by the Gee-Gees.
"Francis is mourned by his parents, two sisters, his brother, his girlfriend, hundreds of teammates, many friends and others whose lives he touched."
Money raised by the GoFundMe page will be given to Perron's family to cover expenses, and to create a scholarship in Francis Perron's name at uOttawa.
A special ceremony in memory of Perron will be held before the Panda Game next Saturday at TD Place.