This Sunday will have the 100th contesting of the Grey Cup, the most prestigious prize of Canadian football. It will be an exciting time not just for fans of Canadian football but fans of the Cup itself.
A CUP FULL OF HISTORY
I’ve already talked about the Grey Cup partially back in a post from last year but I’ll elaborate more here. The Grey Cup has more history than the Super Bowl: 58 more years to be exact. Before there was a CFL, the Grey Cup was open to Canadian football teams from all sorts of leagues. The very first Grey Cup was played in 1909 by the University of Toronto Varsity Blues and the Toronto Parkdale Canoe Club at Toronto’s Rosedale Field to a crowd of just over 3,800. Yeah, that small. The winner was the Blues 26-6. From 1909 to 1915 the Grey Cup was often a contest between Toronto and Hamilton teams. World War I led to the postponement of four straight Grey Cups until it was revised back in 1920. Those would be the only years the Grey Cup was not contested.
It wasn’t until 1921 that the Grey Cup stopped being a contest strictly of Ontario teams when the Edmonton Eskimos qualified for the final. It would pave the way for teams from Regina and Winnipeg to qualify for the final. 1931 was a history-maker for the Grey Cup as it was contested in Montreal’s Molson Stadium: the first time ever the Grey Cup was contested outside of Ontario. Just as historic was the match as it featured two teams outside of Ontario: the Regina Roughriders and the Montreal AAA Winged Wheelers. Montreal won 22-0, making them the first team outside of Ontario to win the Grey Cup. The first team from Western Canada to win the Grey Cup was the Winnipeg ‘Pegs back in 1935. While the Grey Cup was cancelled during World War I, it was not cancelled during World War II where teams from branches of Canada’s armed forces qualified for the finals.
The Grey Cup’s popularity grew after World War II as 1948 saw the first Grey Cup with a crowd of 20,000 in attendance for the first time. Then the Canadian Football Council (CFC) became the Canadian Football League (CFL) in 1958 which would propel the Grey Cup to further popularity. Since then, Grey Cup Sunday has become a permanent fixture in Canadiana with the top team from the East competing against the top team from the West. An average crowd of over 50,000 gather to watch the big final in the stadium and millions more watch from their house.
A MILESTONE WORTH CELEBRATING
This year marks the 100th contesting of the Grey Cup. To celebrate, there has been a Grey Cup 100 Train Tour with the Cup touring various cities of Canada with three CFL themed railway coaches: a museum car, a railcar with contemporary memorabilia, and a car containing the Grey Cup itself. It started September 9th in an official ceremony in Vancouver, traveled across Canada for ten weeks visiting various Canadian cities including all cities with CFL teams, and ended in Toronto on November 17th. The 100th Grey Cup has also been celebrated through Canada Post. Canada Post has issued commemorative stamps of all the teams and the Cup itself. It has also issued 8*10 pictures of the various Grey Cup stamps and many other gift sets. Rosedale Field–which has had its spectator seats removed years ago and now functions as a field for festivals and community events as part of Rosedale Park– was commemorated during the celebrations in Toronto with a commemorative plaque from Heritage Toronto for its role as host field for the first-ever Grey Cup.
THIS YEAR’S CUP
As for this year’s Cup, the event will be held at the Rogers Centre, formerly SkyDome, tomorrow night. This is the 46th time Toronto will host it. There will be a fan parade from Varsity Stadium to Rogers Centre. The coin toss of the game will consist of the first 100th commemorative Grey Cup coin struck by the Royal Canadian Mint executed by Governor General David Johnston. There will be various musical acts for both the pre-game show and the halftime show. Pre-game show acts include the Guess Who’s Burton Cummings and country singer Johnny Reid. Halftime show performers include Justin Bieber, Carly Rae Jepsen, Marianas Trench and Gordon Lightfoot.
As for game itself, it will be a face-off between the Toronto Argonauts representing the East and the Calgary Stampeders representing the West. So who will win? Here’s the breakdown:
EAST – Toronto Argonauts: The Argonauts have not looked like the team most likely to win the berth for the East. They have both won and lost nine games during regular season play and it was looked to be Montreal that would represent the East. Nevertheless Toronto has played brilliantly in their Division playoff games firstly against the Eskimos 42-26 and recently against the Allouettes 27-20. Toronto has an advantage leading into the Cup having won both its regular season games against Calgary. Their veteran quarterback Ricky Ray has been consistently strong and looks strong leading into tomorrow’s game. Nevertheless Toronto knows Calgary has a strong defense and they won’t overlook it for tomorrow’s game. Kevin Huntley even admitted their game against Saskatchewan, which I will talk about later, sent them the message. Nevertheless they have been taking note on Calgary’s strengths and weaknesses. They know that Kevin Glenn and Jon Cornish are the ones they have to maintain if they want to win tomorrow. Will they win it again or will it be a change in the game plan?
WEST – Calgary Stampeders: Like Toronto, Calgary was second in their division leading up to the playoffs. The Stampeders have has a better season with twelve wins and six losses. They too have been brilliant in the playoff games winning against Saskatchewan 36-30 and BC 34-29. Their consistency has been their biggest strength. They’re not flashy showmen, just a strong team. One important statistic to remember is that Calgary lost both of its regular season games against Toronto. Nevertheless they showed they can come from behind by winning a game against Saskatchewan where they were originally trailing by 17 points with six minutes to go. Quarterback Kevin Glenn has been getting better and stronger as of recent. Their other strong players have played well. Nevertheless they know the Argo’s star quarterback Ricky Ray has returned from surgery back in October and is playing strong. Also the Stamps know the Argos have been good at holding Cornish back. Tomorrow could go either way for the Stamps.
So what’s my say? This is a hard one to call. both have their strengths and weaknesses. Both have shown they know how to perform when it matters. I have to give the win to Toronto. It’s not just about their play against Calgary this year but also balancing things out. Kevin Glenn has become a stronger quarterback but Ricky Ray has returned in a strong way. Also Toronto knows how to hold down Cornish and they have a special edge with Chad Owens winning the CFL award for Most Outstanding Player. So I have to hand it to Toronto. They have the edge but it’s going to be a tight game.
Anyways everything will be decided tomorrow in Rogers Centre and it promises to be a great game and a great show. In the end, one city will be left smiling. So may the best team win!
WIKIPEDIA: List Of Grey Cup Champions. Wikipedia.com. 2012. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Grey_Cup_champions>