Jackie Gaudaur presented the award that was named after her father, alongside Lisa Hepfner, MP of Hamilton Mountain, in recognition of the leadership and compassion that she displayed in seeing her community through the pandemic.
“After a difficult year and the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, Chris has been a shining example of the quality of character that we’re so fortunate to have in our league,” said CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie.
“He is not only a dedicated teammate and leader, but also an incredible pillar of strength in the community, lending his support to Hamiltonians and providing a voice to those who have not been blessed with the opportunities we have.”
Created in honour of Jake Gaudaur – a distinguished Second World War veteran and the longest-serving Commissioner in CFL history – the award recognizes a Canadian player who embodies the attributes of Canada’s veterans and the ones held by its namesake: strength, perseverance, courage, comradeship and contribution to Canadian communities.
“The qualities that our Veterans exhibit every single day – steadfast dedication, friendship, and a commitment to making this country a better place, to name a few – are things that we could all do well to take on in our own lives. Chris has evidently done that, and I want to offer him my sincere congratulations on this most deserved recognition.” said the Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence.
Despite the difficulties of the cancelled season, Van Zeyl returned for his 14th year in the CFL as one of the league's oldest players at 38. This season, he overcame a nagging hamstring ailment and surgery on an injured thumb that caused him to miss seven of the team’s first eight contests. Van Zeyl persevered through the setbacks to return to his all-star calibre form. At all times on and off the field, he serves as a mentor and leader to his teammates – whether they are making the jump from playing collegiate football or becoming familiar with the Canadian game.
While Van Zeyl’s efforts on the field speak volumes, it is his voice in the community that rings truest to Hamiltonians and those in need. As part of United Way's Sleepless in our City initiative, he slept in his car on a cold winter night to raise funds and awareness for homelessness across the region. He serves as an ambassador for the Tiger-Cats' two largest community outreach programs – TELUS #EndBullying All-Stars and Interval House's Be More Than a Bystander. He also lends his support to several other local community organizations, including Hamilton Health Sciences, the Children’s Aid Society, the Catholic Children’s Aid Society, and his alma mater, McMaster University.
The CFL Awards are the marquee event of Grey Cup Week, celebrating the season’s best performances and recognizing its leaders on and off the field. A number of fan favourite celebrations, such as the Spirit of Edmonton events and the Eastern and Western Social Halls, remain before the big game. Additional information can be found at greycupfestival.ca.
The 108th Grey Cup from Hamilton’s Tim Hortons Field, featuring Arkells and special guests, The Lumineers, in the Twisted Tea Grey Cup Halftime Show, will be played on Sunday, December 12 at 6 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast live on TSN and RDS – Canada’s home of the CFL.