The Regina Grey Cup is the 101st staging of this major annual event in Canada, but until 1948 it was not much more than a football game. The venue in those days was always Toronto the Good, but it all changed when the Calgary Stampeders came to town that year and brought their horses and chuckwagons with them. Rumour has it there was a bit of drinking.
Within a few years the Grey Cup Festival was born. It became known to many as the ‘Grand National Drunk’. Until 1969, the game was played early Saturday afternoon. That year it moved to Sunday, and in 1989, the second time the Roughriders won it, kickoff was moved to 6pm Eastern time. The reason was to make it a prime time television event, particularly in the country’s largest market in central Canada.
A by-product of this scheduling in a number of workplaces has undoubtedly been more hangovers or sick calls on the Monday morning after the game, not to mention an increase in alcohol-related accidents on the road.
If you really want to be there in the stands, there’s the joy of sitting for three hours in frigid weather, for which you pay $300 or more for a ticket. Looks like Regina caught a break with the weather, but it’s still not all that comfy compared to the indoor stadiums in Toronto and Vancouver.
A little bit of liquid antifreeze might help, but the Canadian Football League is determined to convince the world that the Grey Cup is not really a drinking event, so they frisk everybody going in.
I saw my first Grey Cup at CNE Stadium in Toronto in 1965, with a killer wind blowing in off Lake Ontario. I still shiver when I savour the memory. All in favour of going back to Saturday afternoons for any number of reasons, please raise your hands if you can.
I’m Roger Currie