It was 106 years ago that Canada’s Governor General, Earl Grey, first donated a silver cup for the champions of amateur Rugby in Canada. One version suggests that his Lordship actually wanted to put up a trophy for hockey, but others – most notably Lord Stanley – had beaten him to the punch.
They stopped calling it Rugby more than 50 years ago, and the fellows who play for the Grey Cup have not been amateurs for longer than that.
For most of us, the Grey Cup has been a television event since the mid-1950’s. It’s definitely party time, although there’s nothing worse than getting stuck in a room with people who don’t know if a football is blown up or stuffed, let alone who might be playing.
In many ways, it was a lot better when the game was played on Saturday afternoon. It was all done long before supper, leaving plenty of time for folks to recover before returning to work on Monday morning.
The game was permanently moved to Sunday in 1971, and since the early 1990’s the kickoff has been just after 5pm here on the prairies, exactly the same schedule as the Super Bowl down south. It’s entirely dictated by the needs and desires of television, and it’s too bad.
Winnipeg’s first go at hosting a Grey Cup was in 1991, and it was definitely the coldest ever. The saving grace was that the kickoff happened in bright sunshine at 1 in the afternoon. By 5.30 that day, it was dreadfully cold. Fingers crossed, it looks the weather gods have smiled on Winnipeg this time.
What about the Grey Cup’s reputation as Canada’s Grand National Drunk? I guess it still is, and heaven knows the brewers and distillers have a huge interest in all of it. But rather than house parties these days, the festivities tend to focus on noisy bars with huge screens, and lots of VLT’s to gobble money at halftime.
I truly wonder if Lord Grey ever imagined anything like it .
I’m Roger Currie
Photo by Lauren Roberts