National Treasure #65: The Grey Cup

The things you learn.

The Grey Cup – the trophy, not the game the winning of which causes the trophy to be bestowed – was named after Earl Grey, the Governor General of Canada in 1909. One of his forebears, the Earl Grey who was a British Prime Minister in the 1830s, is thought to be the person after whom the icky, oily, perfumed Earl Grey tea is named. I try not to hold it against either of them.

But I digress.

The Grey Cup – the game, not the trophy – was held in various versions starting in 1909, when it was an amateur rugby championship. Teams from Western Canada didn’t become eligible to participate until 1921, and the game was always held in the East until 1955. Eventually, the increasing professionalism of the professional football teams made it unattractive, not to say pointless, for collegiate teams to compete.

The Grey Cup celebration as we know it began in 1948 when the Calgary Stampeders went to Toronto to play the Ottawa Rough Riders. The Westerners, dressed up in ten-gallon hats, high boots and spurs, invaded the city with horses and chuckwagons and impromptu parades. Hotels cleared their lobbies of everything that was not nailed down and good-natured hijinks were the order of the day. – History of the Grey Cup

Yeah, that’s Calgarians to this day: purveyors of good-natured hijinks.

In 1962, hailing the game as an instrument of national unity, Parliament decreed that both major Canadian television networks must make the television transmission of the game available to the other so that all regions could see it. This has been borne out as the game has consistently been the nation’s highest-rated television program. – The Canadian Encyclopedia

In 1995, a short-lived period of expansion of the Canadian Football League into the USA resulted in the Baltimore Stallions winning the Grey Cup (the game and, yes, the trophy).

In 2017, as part of the sesquicentennial celebrations in which this very blog plays a small part, the 105th Grey Cup will be played in Ottawa’s refurbished stadium.


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4 Responses to National Treasure #65: The Grey Cup

  1. Sid says:

    And Ottawa was victorious in Toronto last night.


    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Sid – I sort of hoped they could do it next year when Ottawa hosts the game, but I think this is a case of “strike while the iron is hot.”

  2. Alison says:

    My memories of the Grey Cup are of a quiet day, on my own, to make Christmas crafts. I was the only one in my family who had NO interest in the game. I was labeled as a “non sports fan”. Not that I minded, and, in my defence, I love watching Golf or Curling, so it was just the wrong sport for me. Glad that Ottawa won, I always like an underdog, and yes, I enjoyed the day baking and sewing, as per usual.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Alison – Yeah, football never made much visual sense to me. I understood the basics of the game, but couldn’t see plays in motion – rather like my difficulties with basketball. And hockey. Oh, and soccer. I much prefer watching baseball and golf. But the Grey Cup itself – what a great thing to have it all depend on one game.

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