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Laval’s Antoine Dean Rios hoist the Vanier Cup following the Rouge et Or’s victory over the Saskatchewan Huskies in London, Ont., on Nov. 26, 2022. U Sports, Canadian university sport's governing body, announced Thursday its national championship football game will be played at Richardson Memorial Stadium, home of the Queen's Gaels, in 2023 and '24.Geoff Robins

If there’s one person from Kingston who doesn’t need reminding of the lasting impact of the Vanier Cup, it’s Marty Gordon.

The former Queen’s Gaels running back achieved immortality in Canadian university football lore 14 years ago when he took a handoff from star quarterback Danny Brannagan and sprinted into the end zone. That touchdown, capping off what was then the largest comeback in Vanier Cup history, stood up as the winning margin as Queen’s secured its fourth, and most recent, national football championship.

But while Gordon’s run for the history books took place at Laval’s PEPS Stadium, for the first time, the current crop of Queen’s football stars will get a chance to make Vanier Cup history in front of family and friends. And they won’t just get one chance, they’ll get two, after the Canadian university sports’ governing body, U Sports, awarded the 2023 and 2024 title games to Kingston on Thursday.

As someone who remains close friends with many of that championship squad, playing flag football and hockey together on a regular basis, the 2009 Vanier Cup remains a fond memory for Gordon, now a realtor in his hometown.

“That was certainly the pinnacle of our team achievement,” Gordon said. “And that’s what was the most memorable and the culmination of the thing that bonded a lot of the guys that I played with together.”

One day after Kingston was passed over in favour of Saginaw, Mich., as host of the 2024 Memorial Cup, the former Canadian capital was anointed Thursday as the eighth city to hold a Vanier Cup, with this year’s game taking place on Nov. 25 at the redeveloped Richardson Memorial Stadium.

With Queen’s having also played host to – and won – Grey Cups, the collegiate championship game will wrap up a historic hat trick for the Limestone City.

“What’s really unique about Queen’s and Richardson is we’ve been able to host a Grey Cup here, we’ve hosted a Yates Cup and now the opportunity to host a Vanier Cup,” said head football coach Steve Snyder, who will be tasked with making sure the Gaels are in at least one of those games. “Those are three of the most prestigious trophies in our entire country.”

Away from the gridiron incidentally, Queen’s also competed – unsuccessfully – for the Stanley Cup on three occasions.

While the game will be the first Vanier Cup – initially awarded in 1965 – to be played in Kingston, it’s not the first time the national university football championship has been decided there. The city played host to the 1920 and 1929 Canadian Intercollegiate Rugby Football Union championships, and that sense of history has carried over to the Vanier Cup logos for the two years, with Kingston City Hall featured as an iconic landmark.

“The building was constructed and finished in 1844 to celebrate at the time that Kingston was the capital of the province of Canada,” said John Bower, U Sports director of marketing and communications.

The awarding of the Vanier Cup allows for the realization of a dream that began almost 10 years ago when Queen’s University committed more than $20-million to redevelop Richardson Memorial Stadium, a facility that was originally built in 1921, before being completely overhauled 50 years later.

“When the revitalization of Richardson Stadium began in 2014, the vision was for a venue capable of bringing the Vanier Cup to Kingston,” said Linda Melnick, executive director of the school’s athletics and recreation department, of a facility that now seats 10,500.

The arrival of the Vanier Cup will also likely translate to millions of tourist dollars – something that Mayor Bryan Patterson was only too happy to mention at the news conference on Thursday. However, the pursuit of a fifth national title for the school’s football team is an equally enticing carrot, with the school still awaiting a first return to the Vanier Cup since Gordon’s run for the ages.

“Marty scored the game-winning touchdown, defeating Calgary in 2009 and sets the real tone I think for what we are pursuing here,” Melnick said.

Though a professional career never materialized for Gordon – he went to the CFL combine and briefly entertained the idea of competing in bobsleigh – he got married and settled into the life of a realtor. But as someone who was born in Kingston “and really never left,” Gordon is never far from being reminded of his 15-yard scamper.

“Actually, a current player asked me about that play today at the event,” he said. “And it doesn’t stand out specifically as the most memorable play in the game or my best play in the game. It happened to be a play that was extremely well blocked. And I didn’t have to do anything special to score the touchdown. I just had to do my job.”

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