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On Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018, the retired Colours of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) will move into their new home at the Air Canada Centre (ACC) in Toronto.
The Colours, originally presented to the RCAF in 1982, were officially retired in Toronto on Sept. 1, 2017, during a ceremony held at Nathan Phillips Square. At the same time, the Air Force was presented with a new stand of Colours from then-Governor General David Johnston.
Colours are unique ceremonial flags that originally served as a unit’s rallying point during battle. Today, they hold great symbolic importance for the members of the RCAF. They are carefully protected and paraded only during a unit’s most important occasions.
The Toronto Maple Leafs will assume guardianship of the retired colours, which will be presented in an on-ice ceremony during Canadian Armed Forces Appreciation Night on Feb. 10. LGen Michael Hood, commander of the RCAF, and CWO Gerard Poitras, will present the old Colours to the hockey team just before they play against the Ottawa Senators.
In keeping with tradition, old colours are retired to a public place where they continue to represent the RCAF’s long service to Canada.
At the end of February, a specially-built display at Gate 6 of the ACC will house the retired Colours, where they will be visible to the public from both the interior and exterior of the building.
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.
The Air Force 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.
Given this unique history, the Maple Leafs are a fitting guardian of the RCAF’s retired Colours. Be sure to look for them the next time you visit the ACC.