Argonauts star Chad Owens, family make full-time move to Canada
Toronto Argonauts Chad Owens gestures to the crowd after gaining some running yards during first half CFL action against the Edmonton Eskimos in Toronto on Oct. 4, 2014. (Peter Power/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, January 8, 2015 7:34PM EST
TORONTO -- Chad Owens is trading in his beach shorts and tank top for gloves and a parka.
The Toronto Argonauts star receiver/kick-returner has moved his family to Canada full-time. The 32-year-old native of Honolulu recently purchased a home in Mississauga, Ont., and is scheduled to take possession late next week.
In the meantime, Owens, his wife Rena and their three children -- Chad Jr. (11), Areana (nine) and Sierra-Lynn (six) -- are staying with former Argo fullback Jeff Johnson and his family until the new digs are ready. After years of splitting their school years between Toronto and Hawaii, Owens said his kids were instrumental in the decision to call Canada home.
"We've actually been thinking about it the last three years, but three years ago the kids were that much younger and always wanted to go back home and see their family and cousins," Owens said Thursday. "At the end of this past season we talked a lot about it again and the kids this time said they wanted to stay because they have friends here and like their school, which was confirmation that it was time."
Mother Nature certainly provided a chilly reception Wednesday when the Owens clan returned to Toronto. Environment Canada had issued an extreme cold weather alert for the city as temperatures fell to -17 C, which felt like --30 C with the wind chill.
That prompted Owens to tweet a graphic Wednesday showing the temperature being 73 F in Honolulu with brilliant sunshine compared to 1 F for Toronto, with snow forecast for Friday and Saturday.
"I didn't want to put Celsius because a lot of people back home wouldn't understand and be like, 'What?" Owens said with a chuckle. "But it's all good, it's just cold.
"I can deal with the cold, you just layer up. I've been spoiled, I've lived in Hawaii my whole life and been in beautiful weather. We can deal with this for a few months."
And when it snows, Owens said he and his family know how to make the best of it.
"We get to build snowmen, real snowmen," Owens said. "Hawaii will always be home but for what we're doing and what we want for our children, this is the obvious right answer.
"I just think there's going to be a lot more opportunities here for us as a family."
It's also the right move for Owens.
The five-foot-eight 180-pound dynamo will be able to work out with many of his teammates -- including good friend and fellow slotback Andre Durie, who missed most of last year with a broken clavicle. He'll also make numerous off-season appearances for the Argos.
"Football is my life," he said. "I want to be fully surrounded by this community and so does my family.
"I want to have an off-season where I'm able to do those things, to get out there and promote the team and be in the schools and community as much as I can because during the season it's all about football."
After previously spending time living with the Johnson and Durie families, Owens said he is anxious to establish his own roots in the country. And he added the plan is to one day obtain Canadian citizenship.
Owens is following in the footsteps of Mike (Pinball) Clemons, the former Argos star player and head coach who now serves as the club's vice-chair. But that's not by accident.
"Pinball Clemons is like my mentor," Owens said. "He's someone I've talked to a lot the past three years about this decision.
"He's not a bad guy to try and follow."
Getting Owens into the community certainly won't hurt a franchise that averaged under 18,000 spectators last season at Rogers Centre. Owens is one of the Argos' most recognized players because of his on-field brilliance and engaging, pleasant demeanour off it.
Owens has recorded several notable achievements since being acquired from Montreal prior to the '10 season for a 2011 fourth-round pick. He was the league's top special-teams performer his first year with Toronto, then was named the CFL's outstanding player in '12 when he helped Toronto capture the 100th Grey Cup.
But the last two seasons have been difficult ones for Owens and the Argos.
In 2013, Toronto seemed poised to make a second straight Grey Cup appearance, finishing atop the East Division with an 11-7 record to host archrival Hamilton in the division final. But the Tiger-Cats outscored the Argos 19-0 in the second half for a 36-24 victory at Rogers Centre.
Last year, Toronto finished third in the East with an 8-10 record to miss the playoffs. Injuries to Owens, Durie, Jason Barnes and promising rookie Anthony Coombs forced starter Ricky Ray to try to develop chemistry with new receivers on the fly. The Argos also dealt with regular changes to their practice venues before a permanent facility was completed in September.
Despite missing seven games to injury, Owens was the CFL's fourth-leading receiver with 86 catches for 989 yards and seven TDs.
"Looking back on last season, there's so many things we can take from that which can motivate us ... but I think the year before hurt more," Owens said. "As far as what will fuel me to prepare for next season it's always the same, it's wanting to be better individually.
"I've talked to Andre already and said, 'Let's get it in this year.' I'm fired up because we get to train and prepare together and that's something I've never had in five years because I've always been in Hawaii training by myself. I'm always motivated to be the best but now I get to be surrounded by my brothers and the guys I go out to war with every week.
"It's exciting, I'm really looking forward to that part of it."