Retired Air Force Colours entrusted to Toronto Maple Leafs
By Joanna Calder
It was a sight never before seen on the ice of the Air Canada Centre (ACC) in Toronto.
The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) received new Colours – unique, consecrated military flags – in Toronto on September 1, 2017. At the same time, their former Colours, which were presented in 1982 and reflected the Air Force’s previous identity as Air Command, were retired.
On February 10, 2018, in a ceremony held immediately before a hockey match between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Ottawa Senators, the RCAF entrusted their retired Colours to the guardianship of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The brief ceremony took place during a Canadian Armed Forces Appreciation Night at the ACC.
Two pipers from the RCAF Pipes and Drums, Lieutenant-Colonel (retired) Kenneth J. MacKenzie and Major Allan J. MacKenzie (who are brothers), preceded Lieutenant-General Mike Hood, commander of the RCAF, and Chief Warrant Officer (CWO) Gérard Poitras, RCAF Command CWO, onto the ice. They were followed by Maple Leafs’ alumni Darryl Sittler and Darcy Tucker, and then a Colours party from 402 “City of Winnipeg” Squadron, carrying the retired Colours.
Captain Louis Martel, Captain Jennifer Finateri, Warrant Officier Chris Longman, Sergeant Robyn Arnold and Sergeant Francisco Moises made up the Colour party.
To the applause and cheers of the crowd in the ACC and as the members of the Colour party saluted with rifles or drawn swords, CWO Poitras passed the Queen’s Colour to Mr. Sittler, and Lieutenant-General Hood passed the Air Command Colour to Mr. Tucker.
In late February, the retired Colours will be “laid up”, that is to say put on display, near Gate 6 of the ACC , where they will be visible to passers-by as well as those attending hockey games at the centre.
An agreement has been put in place between the Maple Leafs and the RCAF governing the hockey team’s guardianship of the retired Air Command Colours. The agreement and the location where the Colours will be laid up meet the regulations set out in the Canadian Armed Forces Publication The Heritage Structure of the Canadian Forces, which states, in part, that Colours “remain Crown property in perpetuity, and are controlled by the Department of National Defence on behalf of the Canadian government. The Colours are memorials to the brave deeds and sacrifices of the units and individuals who serve under them. If deposited or laid up, they are the responsibility of the custodian and must remain accessible to the public. (…) Custodians shall ensure that laid-up and deposited Colours are kept on display to the general public. They may not be stored or displayed in unaccessible areas. (…) Under no circumstances are Colours or portions of Colours allowed to pass into the possession of private individuals. If the custodian can no longer preserve them, they must be returned.”
The RCAF has a long and proud relationship with the city of Toronto. Canadian military aviation began in Toronto 101 years ago when the Royal Flying Corps Canada was established in Toronto and the surrounding area to recruit and train Canadian aircrew for service overseas during the First World War.
“Our relationship with the Toronto Maple Leafs is even more personal. Wing Commander William George Barker, a First World War Ace and Canada’s most highly decorated war hero, was appointed as president of the Maple Leafs’ hockey club in 1927 by its manager, Constantine Falkland Cary (Conn) Smythe who was seconded from the Army to the Royal Flying Corps in 1917 to fly as an observer,” said Lieutenant-General Hood before the transfer ceremony. “Given this unique history, the ACC is a fitting location for our retired Colours and the Maple Leafs are well-suited to be their guardian.”
Perhaps inspired by the RCAF Colours, the Maple Leafs won the game 6-3 over the Ottawa Senators.
Lieutenant-Colonel (retired) Kenneth J. Mackenzie and Major Allan J. MacKenzie, brothers and members of the RCAF Pipes and Drums, lead RCAF members and Maple Leafs’ alumni on to the ice at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on February 10, 2018, for the ceremony transferring the custody of the RCAF’s retired Colours to the Maple Leafs’ hockey team. Photo: Corporal Alana Morin, FA03-2018-0015-005
Lieutenant-General Mike Hood, commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), accompanied by Chief Warrant Officer Gérard Poitras, RCAF command chief warrant officer, waves to the crowd of more than 19,000 at the Air Canada Centre on February 10, 2018, at the beginning of the ceremony transferring the guardianship of the retired RCAF Colours to the Maple Leafs hockey team. Photo: Corporal Alana Morin, FA03-2018-0015-001
The RCAF’s retired Colours were entrusted to the guardianship of the Toronto Maple Leafs on February 10, 2018. From left are Lieutenant-Colonel (retired) Kenneth J. Mackenzie of the RCAF Pipes and Drums, Chief Warrant Officer Gérard Poitras, Darryl Sittler, holding the Queen’s Colour, Darcy Tucker, holding the Command Colour, Lieutenant-General Mike Hood, and Major Allan J. MacKenzie of the RCAF Pipes and Drums (the two pipers are brothers). In the background is the Colours party from 402 “City of Winnipeg” Squadron, with the officers saluting with drawn swords. Photo: Corporal Alana Morin, FA03-2018-0015-002
Leafs’ alumni Darcy Tucker, holding the retired Air Command Colour, stands beside Lieutenant-General Mike Hood, commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force. Photo: Corporal Alana Morin, FA03-2018-0015-004
The RCAF’s retired Queen’s Colour, which was transferred to the guardianship of the Toronto Maple Leafs on February 10, 2018, reflects the Air Force’s earlier identity as Air Command. Photo: Corporal Alana Morin, FA03-2018-0014-01m
The retired Air Command Colour, transferred to the guardianship of the Toronto Maple Leafs on February 10, 2018, has the Air Command badge embroidered at it centre. Photo: Corporal Alana Morin, FA03-2018-0014-02m
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