Retired RCAF Colours displayed at Air Canada Centre

News Article / March 28, 2018

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By Joanna Calder

The Royal Canadian Air Force 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 RCAF’s previous identity as Air Command, were retired.

In February, 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 Air Command Colours are now on display the Air Canada Centre (ACC) in Toronto.

The Colours were unveiled on February 27, 2018. Lieutenant-General Mike Hood, commander of the RCAF, and Chief Warrant Officer Gérard Poitras, RCAF command chief warrant officer, joined Michael Friisdahl, president and chief executive officer of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE), and Brendan Shanahan, president of the Toronto Maple Leafs, as well as members of the MLSE and ACC teams who made the display a reality, for the ceremony.

“The RCAF has a long and proud relationship with the city of Toronto,” said Lieutenant-General Hood in a message to RCAF personnel earlier this year. “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,” he continued. “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 . . . . .

“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.”

Encased in a custom-built display at Gate 6 of the ACC and accompanied by an explanatory brass plaque, the Colours are visible to both the public passing by and those attending events at the ACC. As a result, they are, in all likelihood, the most visible and accessible of any stand of laid-up Colours in the history of the Canadian Armed Forces. According to Mr. Friisdahl, more than 3.5 million visitors and fans will have the opportunity to view the Colours every year.

“This is a great honour for our organization, and on behalf of everyone at MLSE, our ownership group, as well as our fans, I would like to thank Lieutenant-General Hood and the RCAF for entrusting us with this important responsibility,” said Mr. Friisdahl. “We will display these retired colours with great pride and honour and remind our visitors and fans, present and future, of their importance.”

The location is in line with Canadian Armed Forces’ direction that laid-up Colours “must remain accessible to the public [and] may not be stored or displayed in inaccessible areas”.

The retired Air Command Colours are encased in tempered glass with a UV coating. They are held in place by 16 fastening caps that create a pressurized hold to keep them in place and illuminated by LED lights.

Although the Maple Leafs are the guardians of the retired Colours, they remain the property of the Crown in perpetuity. The Office of the Chief Warrant Officer of the RCAF will visit the Colours annually to ensure their integrity of and liaise with the Maple Leafs organization.

Text of Commemorative Plaque at the ACC

ROYAL CANADIAN AIR FORCE COLOURS

Colours are unique ceremonial flags that originally served as a rallying point during battle. Today, they are treasured symbols for our women and men in uniform. 

These retired Colours of the Royal Canadian Air Force were entrusted to the Toronto Maple Leafs on February 10, 2018 in an on-ice ceremony.

The Queen’s Colour, a Canadian maple leaf flag with the Sovereign’s cypher in the centre, symbolizes loyalty to the Crown. The Command Colour, a blue flag with the RCAF’s badge at the centre, symbolizes the RCAF’s pride, cohesion and valour.

Toronto’s connection with the RCAF is strong. In 1917, Canadian aircrew were first recruited and began training in this city. That same year, Lieutenant Conn Smythe, a future Leafs Hall of Famer, transferred to the Royal Flying Corps as an observer during the First World War. His instructor, Wing Commander William Barker, remains the most highly-decorated war hero in the history of the Commonwealth. In 1927 Barker was appointed President of your Toronto Maple Leafs.  

We are honoured to accept t‎he great responsibility of safeguarding these retired Colours for the men and women of the RCAF, who guarantee Canadian sovereignty and protect Canadian values here and around the world.

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