A Traditional Cup

This past weekend, many of us took part in a Canadian tradition – the Grey Cup. This annual football match began in 1909 when Governor General Earl Grey commissioned a trophy in his name and the Toronto Varsity Blues met their opponents, the Parkdale Club – at Rosedale Field. The Blues threw, kicked, passed and tackled their way to a victory before an audience of 4,000 spectators. Since then, the Blues, re-invented as the Argos, have collected the prized trophy 18 times, more than any other team in the CFL.

The Grey Cup match has never again been played at Rosedale Field, moving instead around southern Ontario to places like Kingston and Sarnia, and then expanding to Montreal, Ottawa, and western Canada. During this time the trophy has been broken, stolen, burned and kidnapped. Even in its battered state, it is much coveted by Canadian teams. Rivalries are strong; a Saskatchewan fan announced on TV recently that she would rather get Covid than watch the Winnipeg team play the Argos at HER Rough Rider stadium.

In Toronto the game has moved around from Rosedale Field, to Varsity Stadium, Exhibition Place, the Rogers Centre, and the last time, BMO Field in 2016. Coincidentally, on our recent Friday excursion, Peter and I decided to walk along Bloor St, from Yonge to Spadina. Dear readers, I could write several posts about all that we saw along the way. But one venue stood out for us on that day – Varsity Stadium.

Peter stopped, as if hypnotized. And then memories came flooding back. His older brother, Victor, had taken him to Varsity to watch soccer when he was a little kid, new to Canada. One time he recalls that the international star, Pele, came to paly there and Peter watched in fear as the crowds outside the stands, so eager to get in, charged over the wall and outnumbered the police. Later, Peter played high school football here in the 1960’s when he was a Downsview Mustang. He went on to play university football here too as a member of the Queen’s Golden Gaels. Then in the 1980’s he returned as a Dad when he refereed his own kids in little league soccer.

Peter finally tore himself away from the past, and we continued to wander along Bloor St until we found the plaque describing the history of the Cup and the stadium:

This year the Grey Cup’s 109th game was viewed by over 4 million people; some at a stadium, some at a bar, and some in private homes. Our own particular tradition is to gather with friends at a private home, share chips, wine, beer, wings and chili. The men sit in front of the TV, eyes glued to the screen, and the women sit discreetly to the side so we can ah…gossip.

Another much-loved part of the evening is making bets on each quarter of the game. We started at 25 cents per bet, but last year somebody suggested a loonie instead, and this year, due to inflation of course, the bets cost a toonie. It certainly makes the game more interesting; even interrupting the gossip at times. Also this year, as you already know, the betting became a moral issue. Should we bet on the team that was winning, or on the team that represented our home town, even though they were losing through most of the game??

Fortunately, everything went well, and we’ll see you at the Grey Cup celebration on Thursday.


Varsity Stadium

2 thoughts on “A Traditional Cup

  1. There’s one thing I have yet to do: attend a football game! You make it sound like a party and I guess it is. But Runnymede C.I. (where I went) was very proud of its football team where that tradition lives on.


  2. Yay Argos!!! Glad they won. It was pretty close at the end. We’re not major football fans but like to watch the Grey Cup if our home team is playing.

    I remember freezing at Varsity Stadium watching football games in university. Luckily they passed some warming beverages to make it more enjoyable.


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