A lanky, sure-handed receiver who was a two-time Eastern all-star. Known as much for his brains as his football skills. After football, Eben became a housemaster and teacher at the renowned Upper Canada College.
CATCHING UP WITH MICHAEL EBEN
From BOATMAN, May 2015
Ten-year veteran of the CFL and two time Toronto Argonaut wide receiver, Michael Eben is an extremely well rounded individual. Eben played for the Argonauts on two different occasions from 1968-1969 and 1971-1977. We recently had the pleasure to catch up with him to find out what the fan favorite is doing these days and to re-live cherished memories he had with the Double Blue.
Eben was born in Zatec, Czechoslovakia on Jan. 29, 1946 and his family came to Canada in 1948. Czechoslovakia is not known for football but Eben is one of the few if not the only professional football player ever from Czechoslovakia. Eben didn’t start playing football until grade 11. Once he started playing football, the wide receiver never looked back. An extremely gifted athlete, football came easy to him. It was at the University of Toronto where Eben began to make a name for himself when he won the Hec Crighton Trophy in in 1967. Eben’s University career featured a 1965 Vanier Cup win, the first ever time the historic trophy was awarded for top University team. However, in 1967 his Varsity Blues missed out on being invited to the Vanier Cup due to an exhibition game loss to a team miles below the competition level of U of T. The loss was one Eben has never forgot. The exciting University career of Eben led to multiple years of success in the CFL on the field and in life off the field.
There were many memorable moments for Eben during his years as a Toronto Argonaut. In 1971, the Argos made it to the Grey Cup game for the first time since 1952. Although the ’71 game resulted in a heartbreaking loss, Eben looks at the full picture. The journey to the Grey Cup and contributing to a very successful Team in 1971 is something Eben takes a lot of pride in. His fondest memory that year was the Double Blue taking down their arch-rival Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the two-game East Finals for total point series win of 40-25.
At the Argos Alumni convention during the 100th Grey Cup festivities in Toronto, fans remembered and greeted Eben which he found most touching because it had been so many years between his playing career and now. Fans reminisced about the pride the ’71 team in-stilled in the City, as well as teasing him about his hair and hippy attire.
Football truly has been a unique experience in Eben’s life. Outside of being able to apply lessons learned from football into teaching, Eben recollects the best part of the game of football is it’s not won by one individual’s efforts, but requires a team to be successful. The success of the iconic ’71 Team was everyone had to contribute to a winning product and team building was a huge aspect to that Team’s success. Football truly was a great foundation for life-skills that Eben has been able to apply in his career over the years.
Growing up, Eben was always surrounded by different languages: English, Yiddish, French, Czech, and German. During his playing days he studied German Literature at university and earned his Doctorate. An interesting parallel between football and teaching is both are always around people. Working, learning and growing together is the sports recipe Michael applied to his teaching career. He was a professor at York University for several years as well as teaching at Upper Canada College for more than 20 years and at a boy’s school until retirement.
Currently, Eben resides in North Toronto where he is involved in many different things that keep him busy throughout the week that involve him being around people and making lasting friendships. He gets enjoyment by continuing to give back to the community by volunteering every Friday night at the local soup kitchen. He stays active in his profession and substitute teaches, tutors, and does choral singing, something most didn’t know about him. Eben still takes in the occasional Argonaut football game during the season. Some things Eben misses are catching the football and the artistry it takes to making catches. Reading defenses and learning how to have success against opposing defenses. Aside from missing playing the game, he especially misses the camaraderie of being part of a team – a great team filled with chemistry and characters.
Eben is a valued Argonaut Alumni member and we look forward to continue seeing Mike at future Argonaut games.