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Friday, 19 October 2012 15:29

The Grey Cup at 100

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The first documented Canadian football game was played at the University of Toronto on the present site of University College (400 yards west of Queen's Park) on November 9, 1861. One of the participants in the game involving University of Toronto students was (Sir) William Mulock, later it's Chancellor.

1868 shows the first written account of a football game played in Quebec on October 10 was by R. Tait Mackenzie. It was between a team of officers from the English troops garrisoned in Montreal and a team of civilians, mainly from McGill University, and was played on the St. Catherine Street cricket grounds.

In 1869, the Hamilton Foot Ball Club was formed on November 3 in a room over George Lee's Fruit Store and adopted the colours of black and orange. Games were played on the Maple Leaf Baseball Club Grounds on Upper James Street. The first game for the HFBC was on December 18 against the 13th Battalion (now Royal Hamilton Light Infantry) at the Baseball Grounds. No score was reported. According to the Hamilton Spectator on November 30 the HFBC had more than 100 members.

The Grey Cup’s legacy began in 1909, although it wasn’t the first time a Dominion senior rugby champion was declared. Teams from Eastern Canada had battled for the national championship since 1892, when Osgoode Hall defeated Montreal 45-5.

Albert Henry George Grey, Canada’s Governor General from 1904-1911, wanted to donate a trophy to Canada’s senior hockey champions, but Sir H. Montagu Allan beat him to it. Lord Grey was convinced to donate a trophy to the national rugby champions instead, and thus the Grey Cup was born.

The first game for the new trophy featured the University of Toronto against the Parkdale Canoe Club, although more people were interested in the semi-final between Varsity and Ottawa a week earlier. Despite a seating capacity of 3,400 an estimated 12,000 watched Varsity defeat Ottawa 31-7 at Rosedale Field. Only 3,800 would be at the venue a week later to watch history in the making.

Many believed Parkdale wasn’t in the same league as Varsity but they were proven wrong, at least in the opening half. The students would never be behind in this game, but held just a slim 6-5 lead at halftime. Hugh Gall opened the scoring for Varsity with a 65-yard rouge, followed by the first try in Grey Cup history (a precursor to a touchdown).

Gall would later give one back to Parkdale in the second quarter, as he mishandled a lateral pass deep in the Varsity zone. Tom Meigham broke through the line and grabbed the ball, crossing the goal line for a try.

Parkdale was given an ovation at halftime for its surprising play, but any hopes for an upset were dashed in the third quarter. Varsity outscored Parkdale 9-1, highlighted by Murray Thompson’s major.

Varsity players, who finished the season with a perfect 8-0 record, had to wait until the following March to officially celebrate with the new $48 trophy, as Grey’s staff forgot to have it made before the game. They would get to celebrate with the mug for a few more years to come.

In 1912, McGill University ended Varsity’s reign as Grey Cup champions, but refused to challenge for the trophy because the students didn’t want to take time away from their studies. It was up to either the Hamilton Alerts or Toronto Argonauts to claim the Dominion championship of 1912, although this almost didn’t happen. The game was delayed for about an hour as a groundskeeper forgot to provide a game ball to the combatants. Someone finally kicked in a locked dressing room door, and recovered the only available football.

The Canadian Football League (CFL) as we know it today was officially founded on January 19, 1958 and it is the second oldest and continuously operating gridiron football league in North America, although all of its teams long predate the modern formation of the league.

In 1963 the BC Lions first Grey Cup performance ended in defeat as the Hamilton Tiger-Cats beat them 21 to 10. BC’s lone touchdown came in the dying moments, when Joe Kapp led an 81-yard drive in six plays, culminating in Mack Burton five-yard catch deep in the Hamilton end zone.

The B.C. Lions made a return trip to the Grey Cup in 1964. Facing the defending champion Hamilton Tiger-Cats for the second straight year, the Lions looked to prove the outcome would be different this time around.

It certainly was. Unlike the previous year when the Lions scored their only touchdown late in regulation, B.C. jumped to a 34-8 advantage before the Ticats made the score more respectable. The 10-point victory gave the Lions their first Grey Cup title in the decade-long history of the franchise. The Lions did not return to the Grey Cup again until 1983, losing to the Toronto Argonauts by just one point. The final score Toronto 18, BC 17.

The 1980s proved to be a decade of halting Grey Cup droughts. The Toronto Argonauts ended 30 seasons of futility by recapturing the title in 1983. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers ended a 21-year drought without a national title the following year. It was the B.C. Lions turn in 1985. The Lions hadn’t won a Grey Cup since their inaugural championship in 1964. Fittingly, their opponent in 1985 was the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, the same team they defeated for their first title. It was the second straight trip to the final for the Ticats, and they come out ahead with an impressive win of 37 to 24.

In 1988 the Grey Cup championship returned to the nation’s capital in 1988, and it had a definite Western feel to it. For the first time in history, two teams outside Ontario and Quebec vied for the title. And for the first time in Grey Cup competition, a .500 team in the regular season took home the coveted prize. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers, underdogs heading into the game, never held a lead against the B.C. Lions for the first 57 minutes of regulation. But with 2:55 remaining, Trevor Kennard booted a 30-yard field goal to put the Bombers in front to stay. Once again B.C. loses the Grey Cup by just one point with the final score Winnipeg 22, B.C. 21.

In 1993 the league admitted its first U.S. franchise, adding the Sacramento Gold Miners in an attempt to broaden Canadian football's popular appeal and boost league revenues. Spearheading the efforts were two former World League of American Football owners, Fred Anderson and Larry J. Benson, who would each receive a franchise. While Benson's team, the San Antonio Texans, would not play a single down, the Gold Miners would see action, finishing a respectable 6-12 (but remaining at the bottom of the West Division).

The following year saw three more American CFL teams as part of a plan that would see the CFL expand to 20 teams, ten in Canada and ten in the United States.

The Baltimore CFL Colts, a name that tried to evoke the spirit of a National Football League team that had since moved to Indianapolis (and were forced to change their name to the Stallions after a long legal battle) were the most successful of any American CFL team. The Grey Cup, exclusively a Canadian event for the first 82 seasons of its existence, became an international affair when Baltimore became the first U.S.-based club to vie for the trophy.

Baltimore faced the B.C. Lions for the 1994 Grey Cup title. With the game being contested at Vancouver’s B.C. Place Stadium and national pride clearly on the line, this was not your typical Grey Cup game.

The tough competition weighed on and finally B.C. tied the score with 52 seconds remaining in the third quarter on Passaglia’s 42-yard field goal. The score was deadlocked at 23-23 after both clubs exchanged field goals in the fourth quarter.

Passaglia had an opportunity to kick a 37-yard field goal with 1:02 left in regulation, but he missed. But as fate would have it, Passaglia received another opportunity for the winning kick with no time remaining, and he made good on a 38-yard attempt to keep the Grey Cup in Canada.

The 1995 season saw the loss of the Posse and the move of the Gold Miners to San Antonio, while the Birmingham Barracudas and Memphis Mad Dogs were added. However, fan interest in Canadian football, with the possible exception of the Stallions (largely because the Stallions were a top team), was sparse at best, with fans being driven away to see American college football or the NFL late in the season. At the end of the year, which saw the Stallions become the first American team to win the Grey Cup, all but the Stallions and the San Antonio Texans folded due to financial difficulties. The Stallions would later move to Montreal (renamed the Alouettes) when the NFL announced that a new team was to be added in Baltimore, and owner Jim Speros could not see the Stallions remaining there for long. The Texans would later fold with a similar explanation.

After three seasons of American teams, the CFL returned to an all-Canadian format in 1996 with nine teams; however, the Ottawa Rough Riders folded following the season. In 2002 the league expanded back to nine teams with the Ottawa Renegades.

With the CFL back on Canadian turf, the 2000 Lions faced an Alouettes team who, despite great win-loss records since their return to Montreal in 1996, had underachieved in the playoffs. The Als were making their first appearance in the Grey Cup since 1979. B.C.’s ground attack proved to be unstoppable, as Drummond rushed for 122 yards. With a close victory of 28 to 26, the Lions became the first team in history to win the Grey Cup after posting a losing record in the regular season.

In 2006 the B.C. Lions defeated the Montreal Alouettes 25-14 at the 94th Grey Cup in front of 44,786 fans at Canad Inns Stadium in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Then again in last years 2011 season, under the new retractalbe roof of B.C. Place Stadium, the Lions defeated the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 34 to 23. The victory, before an ear-piercing B.C. Place Stadium sellout of 54,313, capped a stunning turnaround for the Lions, who opened the season 0-5. B.C. became the first CFL team to win a championship after losing its opening five regular-season games.

The Grey Cup win was Buono's seventh and fifth as a head coach. During the Lions' early-season struggles there were calls for Buono's ouster, but he said he was pleased to reward owner David Braley's patience with a championship.

The Grey Cup will celebrate its 100th anniversary this 2012 season in Toronto. Welcome to the Century Club.

"Nothing brings Canadians together like the Grey Cup, and the 2012 Grey Cup, our hundredth, promises to be an incredible celebration not only of the Grey Cup’s glorious and storied past, but also its bright future.”

Sources: CFL... This Is Our League History Canadian Football League History 100th Grey Cup - Toronto 2012

Read 12036 times Last modified on Thursday, 07 February 2013 15:54

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