Born: October 2, 1921 (Peterborough, Ontario)
Died: August 8, 2013 (Peterborough, Ontario)
Peterborough (Ont.) and District Sports Hall of Fame (1981)
All-Time Argo (2004)
Les Ascott won five Grey Cups as a tackle and guard with the Toronto Argonauts in a 15-year career playing professional football.
Ascott played guard and tackle in both directions, switching to defence when platooning was introduced to Canadian football late in his career. He was named to the Canadian Press all-star football team in 1945 as a middle, the same season in which he came third in voting for most-valuable player honours.
Ascott played high school football at Peterborough Collegiate Vocational School in 1937, winning the provincial championship against St. Mike’s while still in Grade 9. He dropped out of school the following year to work with his father on the family farm.
He played middle wing for the Peterborough entry in the Ontario Rugby Football Union, a squad known as the Orfuns, from the circuit’s acronym, in 1939. Peterborough lost all six games they played that season, scoring just 16 points, while allowing 105 to such teams as the Montreal Westmounts, Toronto Balmy Beach and Sarnia Imperials. The Orfuns folded at the end of the winless season.
Ascott joined the Argos at the start of the 1940 campaign in the Interprovincial Rugby Football Union. The 19-year-old was intimidated by the size of his teammates, never mind his opponents.
“I was kinda scared playing against those big guys,” he told the Peterborough Examiner in 2005. “I was the youngest on the team.”
After two seasons with the Argos, Ascott enlisted in the navy. He spent the war playing for naval football squads, including the Toronto Navy Bulldogs from HMCS York (1942, ’44) and Halifax Navy (1943). Ascott’s rank was stoker.
He returned to the revived Argos in 1945, suffering a shoulder injury in a midseason game. Ascott was named to the all-star team as his reliable blocking opened holes for Toronto’s backfield, allowing Joe Krol and Royal Copeland to romp. Despite working in the anonymity of the front trenches, Ascott finished tied for third in voting for the Jeff Russel Memorial Trophy as MVP behind guard George Fraser of the Ottawa Rough Riders.
By 1947, Ascott was captain of the Argos. The only points he scored in 11 seasons with the Boatmen came against the Tigers in Hamilton in the third quarter of a 1947 game when Ascott tackled Polly Miocinovich in his own end zone for a two-point safety. Argos won, 13-1. The Boatmen won their third consecutive Grey Cup to end the season. Two more were to come.
The easy-going Ascott said he never signed a contract, settling payment with a verbal agreement and a handshake.
“Each Christmas out wives would receive a bonus cheque from the team,” he told the Examiner. “They also provided a job. I want to be a tool-and-die maker. They got me an apprentice with a toolmaker.”
After retiring as a player after the 1953 season, Ascott coached Balmy Beach for a season. (By then, ORFU clubs took an intermediate status, no longer contesting the Grey Cup.) He also contributed as a blocking coach at Toronto high schools.
After leaving football, Ascott worked as a salesman for a brewer and, later, a distiller in Toronto. He retired and returned to Peterborough in 1982.
His No. 52 uniform was retired by the Argonauts in a half-time ceremony at SkyDome in 2004. He was also named an All-Time Argo.