Donald Joseph Barry
Born: June 23, 1931 (Edmonton, Alberta)
Died: May 30, 2014 (Canmore, Alberta)
Edmonton (Alta.) Sports Hall of Fame (2010)
Edmonton Eskimos Wall of Fame (2010)
Don Barry, a backup centre, won three Grey Cup championships with the Edmonton Eskimos in the club’s mid-1950s heyday.
The 5-foot-11, 210-pound centre spent 10 seasons with the Esks, appearing in nine Western Conference finals and five Grey Cup games.
The Eskimos were decided underdogs before the 1954 Grey Cup game against the powerhouse Montreal Alouettes.
“In 1954, our doctor worked harder than anybody,” Barry told the Edmonton Journal in 1995. “We had guys hurt all over the place. All the sportswriters were writing the same thing. They said it was the first year the Grey Cup had a million-dollar gate and the West was sending a two-bit team.”
During the game, Edmonton centre Eagle Keys suffered a serious leg injury and was only able to handle spot duty. Barry took his place, doing “a remarkable job,” the Winnipeg Free Press reported after the game, though a wild snap on a touchdown conversion cost the Eskimos a point.
(The columnist Jim Coleman described the muff in this fashion: Barry “attempted to flip it int the cockpit of a hovering helicopter.”)
The Eskimos were trailing late in the game when Jackie Parker of the Eskimos grabbed Chuck Hunsinger’s fumble and raced 90 yards for the tying score. With the championship about to be settled on the convert, Edmonton coach Pop Ivy passed over both the injured Keys and the young Barry to have Bill Briggs, a centre linebacker, handle snap duties. Briggs’ pass was true and Bob Dean kicked the ball through the uprights for a 26-25 victory and Edmonton’s first Grey Cup title.
“You’ve got to give full credit to young Dan Barry, our young 23-year-old, for filling Keys’ shoes against Alouettes’ all-star centre Tom Hugo,” Edmonton line coach Cliff Speegle said after the game.
The Eskimos defeated the Alouettes 34-19 in 1955 and 50-27 in 1956 to claim three consecutive championships.
Barry learned football playing for St. Joseph’s High in his hometown. He was also a member of the Edmonton Maple Leafs, finalists in the Canadian junior football championship in 1951, losing 22-1 to a team from Hamilton, Ont. He was signed by the Eskimos the following season, also playing guard and as a backup middle linebacker on defence, before retiring prior to the start of the 1962 season.
Barry was an assistant coach to Clare Drake with responsiblity for offensive lineman with the University of Alberta Golden Bears. He was on the coaching staff of Bears teams that won the Vanier Cup national championship in 1967 and ’72.
He also acted as a coach and director for the Edmonton Huskies and Edmonton Wildcats, two junior teams in his hometown.
Barry worked for the telephone company for 25 years before joining the city for 16 years, retiring in 1991 as development co-ordination director.
The Eskimos championship teams from 1954-56 were inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame in 2007.