Grey Cup 100 Tour: Reaching Thousands Across Canada
After 70 days, over 150 stops, and thousands of kilometres the Grey Cup 100 Tour train arrived in Toronto after touching thousands of lives across our great country.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: Leaving a Legacy
How do you describe the journey that’s taken place over the past 10 weeks?
How do you describe the encounters our Cup has had with people from coast to coast- at train stations, at schools, on farms, in hospitals and in restaurants?
You don’t.... at least not adequately anyway. Attempting to summarize the pilgrimage this Cup has made would be futile. It would be unfair and unjust, quite frankly, to reduce these 70 days to soundbites, slogans, cliches.
They’ve just been too meaningful, too jammed with emotion and passion and stories and people.
People like Tracey in Okotoks, whose late husband played in the league and whose young son finally gained an understanding and appreciation for his father’s career after seeing the train.
Like Gary in Sarnia, who was reduced to tears after finding a photo of his grandfather, a ’36 Grey Cup champ, on the train’s interior.
Like Lela in Medicine Hat, a restaurant owner who couldn’t have been more thrilled when the Cup visited her tiny breakfast joint. “Thank you for including us little people,” she said, her voice wavering.
Like Ron in Barrie, an armed forces veteran who knocked an item off his bucket list when he got a photo next to the Grey Cup, his colourful military medals proudly displayed on his chest.
Like Emily in Iqaluit, a middle schooler overjoyed that the Grey Cup would make its way to her hometown. “We don’t have that much,” she said.
That list could go on and on and on.
Every day we met people who live and breathe Canadian football, whose weeks are merely bridges between game days, whose jerseys are staple wardrobe pieces.
Every day we met people who were astounded that the train and the Cup were traveling such an extensive route. “This is my history, this is my country on rails,” was how one fan put it.
And more often than not we met people who have a personal connection with the Cup- their grandfather won it, their uncle hoisted it, they posed next to it as a child. Their stories were so meaningful because they reinforced the fact that this iconic Cup has made its way into hearts and homes all across the country.
What became clear during our travels was that this Cup means something to people because it represents them. Although it bears the names of heroes, they are the people’s heroes, heroes from down the street or the next town over. They are our heroes, just as it is our Cup.
We’ve created memories with this tour. This voyage, though over, has left a legacy.
People often remember exactly where they were during a particular Grey Cup game- on the sidelines, at home, at a military base, at a hospital.
I suspect, judging from the reaction we got when we rolled into a new stop each day, that people will now remember where they were when the Grey Cup arrived, when the train pulled into town.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: End of the Line
Four-time Grey Cup champion Damon Allen visited the Grey Cup Train at its final stop.
That's A Wrap!
Well, that's a wrap!
Today the Grey Cup 100 train opened its doors one last time.
Commissioner Mark Cohon addressed the crowd gathered at Toronto's Exhibition GO Station and gave the official okay to board the train, a welcome announcement for those who had been waiting in line since the morning hours to check it out.
It was, unsurprisingly, a sea of blue on board, though a Ticats fan lay claim to being first in line.
4-time Grey Cup champ Damon Allen also toured the locomotive and was impressed by what he saw.
“You hear about the train but when you actually go through it, it’s better than what you hear,” he said. “I’ve heard great things but to actually go through it... I mean that really is the essence of what the Grey Cup is all about.”
Susan, an Argos season ticket holder, was full of praise for the tour and the league as a whole.
“I think it’s amazing,” she said. “I think that no other league in any part of the world has what we have in the CFL. Honestly... they bring the whole nation together.”
Susan’s respect for the league stems from her very personal connection to it. Her brother is visually impaired and suffers from pervasive developmental disorder and everyone in the CFL, she says, welcomes him with open arms.
“Everyone in the league from the Toronto Argonauts, Montreal... everyone takes the time, those personal moments to be with him,” she said, “to make sure that he knows what’s going on and that he’s welcomed.”
She went on to show me photos of her brother posing with player after player after player.
While there were certainly some feelings of nostalgia in the air today, it was, on the whole, a great day, a really positive one.
The sun was shining, music was playing and fans and alum were having a wonderful time celebrating the league and all that it stands for.
While the train itself will soon be dismantled- the exhibits making their way to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, the tour memories will live on.
This has been one heck of a ride.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: Last Stop
The Grey Cup Tour made its final stop in Toronto with commissioner Mark Cohon aboard.
The Train Arrives in Toronto
“It feels like the morning of a wedding,” was how one of our team members put it.
I certainly can’t think of a better way to describe it.
The train was full of anticipation this morning. There was a lot of energy and excitement in the air as the train tour team and CFL executives including Commissioner Mark Cohon rode the train into Toronto, its final destination.
Paired with that excitement was a certain sense of nostalgia, though. You could tell a lot of people were reflecting on the tour and all the hard work that’s gone into it.
“I’m a little sad actually,” Commissioner Cohon said. “I can’t believe this train tour that we’ve been working on for 2 years that’s been on the road now for 4,100 km is over, but you know what, the festival is beginning and that means that Grey Cup is right around the corner so you’ve gotta be very excited for that.”
Quiet reflection turned to bubbly excitement when the train arrived in Toronto and the Cup was greeted by a First Nations chief and eager Grey Cup Festival volunteers.
It was clear from the number of people sporting branded “volunteer” jackets that there is a large contingency of football fans offering up their time to make Grey Cup week a massive success.
While the Cup is now at Toronto City Hall it will be returned to the train tomorrow so fans can have one last chance to get the full Grey Cup Tour experience.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: Where it All Began
Up until now, it was relatively unmarked.
Aside from a small sign that could easily go unnoticed, there was no obvious marker indicating just how significant Rosedale Field is.
It is, after all, where the very first Grey Cup game was held, way back in 1909.
Thanks to contributions from RONA, the Toronto Argonauts, the CFL, the City of Toronto and Heritage Toronto, that’s no longer the case. Horizontal text describing the park as a Grey Cup site now runs along brand new uprights. A new garden in the park’s corner boasts a commemorative plaque.
It’s about time this space get the recognition it deserves. It’s where our league began, where 103 years ago the Cup was handed out for the very first time.
There’s something so wonderful about the fact that when local kids come to the park to toss a football around, when they line up to kick a field goal, they’ll be reminded of the fact that this was where the Canadian Football League started.
It’s where the game they love took root.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: Hangin' with Pinball
I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone so genuine. In fact, I’m quite certain I haven’t.
Michael “Pinball” Clemons will meet you for just a few minutes and by the end of the conversation he’ll be showering you with praise, and not just flowery, off-the-cuff praise, praise that is meaningful, that proves he’s been deeply engaged in what you’ve been saying.
In true Pinball fashion, Michael didn’t just want the Grey Cup brought to his house so he could show it to his family, he wanted it to be shared with the community of Oakville, his adopted hometown.
When we set up the Cup in both a local green space and a local restaurant, Julia’s, people flocked to it. Everyone wanted a photo and not just a photo of the Cup but a photo of Pinball and the Cup and, without pause or consideration, he posed for every single one.
He told those gathered about his Grey Cup memories and invited fellow alum to do the same.
He stressed again and again the importance of community.
“Ultimately we know that when we come together we are the best- that’s the best we’ve ever been,” he said. “That’s what the Grey Cup is. It’s community. ...The Grey Cup simply represents a bunch of Oakville’s- one Oakville after another.”
His focus on family explains why, when coaching the Argos, he had his team chant, “Who are we?”
The answer was not, as you may expect, “Argos” or “champs.”
The answer was family.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: A Moment with the Cup
Craig Rodwell was one of the many fans who braved the rain to check out the Grey Cup 100 tour train.
Remembrance Day in Barrie
At the Grey Cup 100 Tour's Remembrance Day stop in Barrie we met a young cadet and an armed forces veteran.
All Sorts in North Bay
What made North Bay memorable was the variety of people who came to check out the train.
We had people who admitted they just came to see a train the likes of which they’d never seen before. The “museum on rails” aspect was what drew them to the station.
We had jersey-clad CFL fans who took their time going through the museum car, reading each date and name and story, reminiscing about games they’d attended.
We had a high school football team who drew a little inspiration from the train ahead of their regional playoffs this weekend.
We had a local high school class whose teacher sent them on a “Grey Cup Tour Train” scavenger hunt. They raced through the cars trying to find the dates, names and trivia required of them.
We even had a 96-year old super fan come to see the Cup. It was quite the sight to see it perched on her lap.
Our brief stay in North Bay was almost a microcosm of the tour itself because we had such a mix of people board our train.
We’ve seen all sorts this tour- kids, seniors, students, teams, uber fans, new fans, train fans... the works.
Pretty unreal to think that it’s very quickly coming to an end.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: Test Time
A teacher in North Bay turned the Grey Cup 100 train into an educational opportunity, sending his class on a Grey Cup train scavenger hunt.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: Jersey Switch
A fan at our North Bay stop added a personal touch to the festivities.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: A Personal Moment
Learn about a personal connection the Grey Cup has with the daughter of a former Ticats employee.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: Bucket List
The Grey Cup 100 Tour stopped in Barrie, ON to meet up with an excited Canadian Armed Forces veteran.
Remembrance Day in Barrie: Looking Back
Ron came to today’s Barrie GO tour stop looking to knock an item off his bucket list.
The Canadian Armed Forces veteran desperately wanted to get a photo of his military medals next to the Grey Cup- something we could easily arrange.
After Ron posed for the photo, he started searching the Cup, looking for one plaque in particular- the one commemorating the 1942 RCAF Hurricanes. “To find out later that Jake Gaudaur, the former Commissioner, was on that team- it was amazing,” he said. “It was amazing and it showed the true camaraderie of the armed forces at a time of war.”
Ron said sports and the CFL are never far from the minds of Canadian service men and women.
“Anywhere we go in the world, it’s hockey, it’s the CFL,” he said.
He recalls watching the 1984 Grey Cup game while on duty.
“I was in CFS Alert, top of the world, doing generator overhaul and we listened to the Grey Cup game over the radio,” he said. “It was a touch of home and we were isolated so far in the North.”
As for seeing the train on Remembrance Day? Well, it was pretty emotional.
“To see this train- this is my history, this is my country on rails going coast to coast so it’s beautiful to see. It really shows true Canadian patriotism.”
Zach, meanwhile, came to today’s tour stop proudly sporting his Cadets uniform.
The young boy posed for photos next to the Cup, a broad smile lighting up his face.
I spoke with him soon after he stepped off the train and it turns out he too was mesmerized by the 1942 RCAF Hurricanes. He’d seen their team photo on the train and although he thought it was sad, it was important, he said, to remember them.
2 Canadians, generations apart, both well aware of the importance of looking back and reflecting on those who’ve come before.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: A Living Legend
The train made a stop in Hamilton Saturday and lots of fans came out to see it, including Angelo Mosca.
Mosca: The Man of the Hour
Angelo Mosca couldn’t take 3 steps without being stopped for an autograph or a photo.
Everyone at today’s Fan Celebration, it seemed, wanted a moment with the CFL legend.
I can only recall one other time during our cross country tour when a player garnered such a response- George Reed in Medicine Hat.
Both CFL greats turned grown men into swooning adorers.
I asked Ange what it’s like to get such a response after all these years. Although he didn’t directly answer the question, he did say the train and today’s event left him nostalgic.
“This leaves a lot of memories of what I played for, how many Grey Cups I played in,” he said. “These people will now have a memory too that they can take away from this train.”
Mosca believes the train will help usher in a new generation of CFL fans, a sentiment that’s been repeated throughout the tour.
“I think it was a great idea. It’s very important. Whoever put this together is to be commended,” he said.
A few minutes after our chat, Ange told me he was leaving. He’d had a great morning but it was time to go.
Half an hour later I stepped off the train, only to find him 50 feet from the exit, signing autograph after autograph after autograph.
Was I surprised?
Not at all.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: A Cup of Joe
Burlington residents got a surprise at their local Tim Horton's with a visit from the Grey Cup.
Smiles at McMaster Children's Hospital
More footage from the Cup's visit to McMaster Children's Hospital in Hamilton.
Peter Dyakowski Checks out the Train
The day before the Hamilton Fan Celebration, Ticats OL Peter Dyakowski toured the Grey Cup 100 train.
The Cup Visits Tim's
They were expecting a cup of coffee. What they weren’t expecting was the Grey Cup.
We surprised quite a few early risers in Burlington this morning by bringing the Cup to a local Tim Hortons.
It was pretty funny to watch people walk through the door anticipating their Friday morning pick me up, only to find banners, balloons and the 103-year old trophy.
“I was stunned, it’s hard to believe,” said Roy Williams, a customer and former Eskimos season ticket holder.
“From the time I was a little kid, I was a big Eskimo fan and just had a real love for the game and to get this close to the Grey Cup, I mean it’s a tremendous trophy.”
Also on display were the commemorative 100th Grey Cup donuts, gift cards and cups.
The cups, made to look like footballs, have apparently caused quite the stir with both customers and employees.
“We do a couple of handoffs through the drive through but nobody’s thrown it yet,” joked store operator Jeff Manders. “There’s some technique to it- special technique.”
Seems so Canadian, doesn’t it, bringing the Cup to a Tim Hortons?
And that, of course, is what this is all about.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: All Smiles
When the Grey Cup visited McMaster Children's Hospital in Hamilton there were smiles all around!
Unwavering Strength: The Cup Visits McMaster Children's Hospital
The Grey Cup has been hoisted by some very strong individuals in its lifetime. Men employed because of their stature annually raise it triumphantly over their heads.
Today it was lifted by a different group of strong individuals- the patients at McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton.
Though they’re small in stature and face great physical challenges, their strength is incredible, almost unbelievable.
When we brought the Cup in, I couldn’t help but notice Tommy, a teenager sitting front row in a wheelchair. His smile gave him away. He was PUMPED to see the Cup.
Turns out Tommy is in the hospital because of an accident sustained while playing football. He’s had a few knee surgeries and requires a few more. It’s not an easy ordeal, but having the Grey Cup around seemed to help a bit.
“Seeing the Grey Cup today was absolutely amazing because ever since I can remember I’ve always watched the Grey Cup game with my Granddad,” he said. “I never really had a Dad so he was a father figure. ...Just to hold it and see it five feet in front of me, it’s outstanding. It’s absolutely amazing.”
Sheyanne was another who caught my eye. An absolutely stunning 10-year old, she was shy at first but quickly opened up. When I asked her if she’d like to hold the microphone, she immediately scooped it up, her true personality beginning to shine through.
“Do you want to be a reporter?” I asked her. “No, a fashion designer,” she said.
After a brief conversation about her shoes (she’s into wedges) and her neighbourhood (it’s getting a new school), I asked if she’d like to hold the Cup. She nodded.
You couldn’t help but get goosebumps, seeing the Grey Cup in Sheyanne’s lap, a giant grin spread across her face.
“I’m gonna make my Dad jealous,” she giggled.
You’re gonna make him proud, I thought to myself.
On the way out, we ran into Tommy’s mother in the hall.
“I can’t thank you enough for bringing the Cup. You made his day,” she said.
What she didn’t know is that Tommy and the (truly) amazing nurses, doctors and child life staff had made ours.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: Proud Moment
While the train stopped in Sarnia, a guest discovered a special picture that really hit home.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: Golden Hawks
Laurier University students got up close and personal with the Grey Cup as it visited Waterloo.
"You Guys Ready to Win this Week?"
I can’t even imagine what touch football games would’ve been like in the Muamba household.
With Henoc and Cauchy currently playing in the CFL and younger brother Kelvin competing at the CIS level, my bet is they were pretty intense.
At the Cup’s stop at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo today, I spoke to Kelvin, who made clear that he shares a strong bond with his brothers. The trio text every weekend ahead of their respective games.
“We just message each other, we say ‘You guys ready to win this week?” he said.
When last year’s Grey Cup game pitted Cauchy against Henoc, Kelvin couldn’t pick sides.
“It was a tough decision who to pick but at the end of the day we were all happy as a family,” he said. “Everyone’s asking me which side are you gonna pick but I just gotta stay in between, half and half and support them both.”
Seeing his family name etched on the trophy is added motivation to follow in his brothers’ footsteps.
“It feels great to be like ‘Hey, my name is right there’ and leaving a legacy,” he said. “Hopefully I’ll leave my own there one day.”
Grey Cup 100 Tour: A Little Motivation
The Grey Cup was up bright and early this morning, making a stop at Donald A. Wilson Secondary School in Whitby.
The school’s senior boys football team are the defending Toronto city champions and have a shot at winning the whole thing again this year should they win their upcoming playoff game.
The team’s quarterback, George Papadakos, was pretty thrilled to see the Cup.
“It’s an awesome experience,” he said. “There’s so much tradition behind it... I think all the teammates were excited when we first heard the news.”
Principal Warren Palmer echoed his sentiments.
“It means a whole lot. We’re very proud to have the Grey Cup come to Wilson,” he said. “It’s a piece of Canadiana, a piece of history, it’s great.”
The Cup continues its academic journey tomorrow, visiting Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: Our Game
The Cup visited the Guelph Gryphons football team, led by five-time Grey Cup winner Stu Lang.
The Gryphons and the Grey Cup
It was a good morning to bring the Grey Cup to the University of Guelph.
The school’s football team, the Gryphons, defeated the Queen’s Gaels in an OT thriller yesterday, advancing them to next weekend’s Yates Cup final.
There were smiles all around as players and coaches posed with the Grey Cup and there was a lot of talk about the team’s coach, Stu Lang, who is a five-time Grey Cup champion.
“He loves us all just like his own kids, he treats us like family and it’s just like 1 big family here,” halfback Mike Fortino said.
Lang isn’t the only Grey Cup champ on the team’s roster. Hank Ilesic, Greg Butler and Neil Lumsden are also members of the coaching staff.
“It’s pretty inspiring,” safety Zac Androschuk said, “knowing how big a part it’s been in their lives.”
Coach Lang said the coaching staff tries their best to implement the lessons they learned in the CFL.
“What we’ve been trying to create is a lot of what we learned in Edmonton- that professionalism, that sustained success, so hopefully we’re at the beginning of that with our win yesterday,” he said.
There was laughter all around today but I have no doubt that tomorrow it’ll be back to work for the Gryphons. Players will listen and learn from coaches who’ve been there so many times before.
The Legendary Leo Cahill
Today I met someone who will stick with me.
The former CFL general manager, head coach and star on the Toronto sports scene came to our Sarnia Fan Celebration today where I had the chance to sit and speak with him about his time in the league, his legendary recruits and why the CFL matters to so many Canadians.
He was witty and delightful, thoughtful and amusing, an impressive combination of traits made more impressive by the fact that Cahill is recovering from heart surgery during which his aorta broke (as he describes it), leaving him with a 1 in 10 chance of survival.
Since Cahill is a man known for his quotes, I’ll leave you with a few excerpts from today’s conversation.
-On the importance of the CFL
“I think that for the Canadian people, the CFL is probably more important than anything. Baseball came to town and they were glad to have it and and stuff like that but nothing will take the place of the Canadian Football League. Historically and everything else, there’s so many memories and so many great people that played in the league and coached in the league.”
-On talent transcending borders
“Once you coach in the Canadian Football League you feel like you’re a part of it and it never leaves you. If I go down to the States or some place, they know now what the Canadian Football League is and they know players- Joe Theismann, Jimmy Corrigall- guys who went down there after playing in the Canadian Football League and were great football players.... Joe Theismann, who I got from Notre Dame, ended up being the most outstanding football player in the National Football League.”
-On the Argos’ Grey Cup chances
“I think the Argonauts have a really good chance when they get the quarterback back 100%. He’s had a good season and he’s a good kid and he’s got a good touch on the ball and they’ve got a lot of aggressiveness. ...I wouldn’t be surprised to see them in the Grey Cup.”
-On the Saskatchewan Roughriders
“You like to see the Riders win even if you’re playing against them. When I was coaching we had one real close game and we won it and I saw the fan reaction and I really felt bad instead of good because they’re just such great, loyal fans.”
Western is a proud school.
Students are proud to say they attend, alum are proud to say they attended and athletes are proud to sport the rich purple that identifies them as Mustangs.
When it comes to football, they have every reason to be proud. The team is consistently competitive. They’ve appeared in the Vanier Cup 12 times, more than any other school. The reason for their success comes down, in large part, to the players who’ve donned the Mustangs jersey- Gino Fracas, Blake and Greg Marshall, Duane Forde, Tim Tindale, Michael Faulds, Vaughn Martin, Andy Fantuz- names that resonate with Canadian football fans.
During our visit, fans of all sorts dropped by. There was the casual fan, excited for a photo to share online. The diehard fan, dressed entirely in CFL gear, even a few former Grey Cup champs, eager to see the Cup once again.
Dennis McPhee, a defensive line coach with Hamilton when they won the Cup in ’99, is now a coach at Western. He strongly believes the trophy unites our nation.
“There’s certain things in Canada that unify our country,” he said. “Certainly the poppy... and you know the Grey Cup is right there. The Grey Cup represents everybody in this country.”
Just as our visit was about to end, a few Western football players showed up and started checking out the names and dates on the Cup. It wasn’t hard for them to spot a Western grad on there and it likely won’t be long before more grace its panels.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: Familiar Faces
The Grey Cup 100 Tour hit London, Ontario where a couple of Cup winning brothers met with an old friend.
London's First Family of Canadian Football
Some of the most memorable days on the tour have included restaurant visits with the Grey Cup. There’s always amazing food, often great family and generally a room full of excited people.
Today was no exception.
We brought the Cup to Marshall’s Pasta Mill in London, Ontario- a restaurant owned by two-time Grey Cup champ Blake Marshall and frequented by his brother, Greg. Greg also made his mark on the Canadian football world, winning a Grey Cup as a player in 1982 and earning Coach of the Year honours in 2004 as head coach of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
The Marshall’s are unquestionably a football family, perhaps more accurately described as London’s first family of Canadian football and the size of the group gathered today reflected that.
The restaurant was jam packed with family members and friends snapping photos with the Cup, looking at pictures of Blake’s kids with the trophy years ago and enjoying to-die-for sandwiches, pasta and cake. It felt like a family reunion and the Grey Cup seemed like a natural attendee.
“It’s pretty special and it’s just nice to be remembered,” Blake said, adding, “It’s just nice to see everybody having a great time, enjoying the food and the camaraderie and being genuinely excited about the Grey Cup being in London. I think it’s a big deal and I’m glad people are treating it as a big deal.”
Brother Greg agreed the day was a special one.
“Oh it’s pretty exciting,” he said. “Blake and I are pretty close and we both played with the Eskimos, we both have our names on the Grey Cup so it’s pretty neat to bring some of our players down.”
I enjoyed standing back and watching, taking in the scene in front of me- people hugging, laughing, reminiscing. It felt so comfortable and natural. I can’t imagine a better place for the Cup to visit while in London.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: Back to School
The Grey Cup took a tour to Chatham, Ontario where Ticats receiver Andy Fantuz went to school.
Wearing their Costumes with Pride
If you search this year’s top 10 Halloween costumes, I’m quite certain “Andy Fantuz: Receiver, Hamilton Tiger-Cats” won’t be on the list.
No disrespect to Fantuz, the slotback has made a lot of top-10 lists in his lifetime, but a Halloween costume list likely isn’t one he’ll crack.
The students at John McGregor High School in Chatham, however, don’t seem to care about lists and trends and fads. At their school, dressing up as Fantuz for Halloween is the norm.
He is, after all, one of their most celebrated graduates.
Upwards of 30 students and staff donned Fantuz shirts today. When you walked through the school you could see them everywhere, chatting with witches and mermaids and devils.
There’s a pride that they all share, wearing them. And it’s cool, really cool, because it’s not just football players- it’s staff, other athletes, other students. They’re so happy to show off his name and number.
“I’m proud to wear Andy on my back,” the school’s senior quarterback Alex Goldoni said.
“I see him and I see what he’s accomplished and I hope I can do the same thing.”
When the Grey Cup arrived, multiple Fantuz’s showed up to get a photo with others dressed just like them. It was a neat scene, seeing them all gathered around a trophy that bears the Fantuz name. It was a moment not lost on Goldoni.
“Just seeing all the names and how successful some of the people on there were and seeing that Andy from Chatham is on the Grey Cup- I mean that’s a huge thing to look forward to for me.”
Until the day that Alex from Chatham is on the Grey Cup, he and his friends will keep watching and cheering and proudly wearing the name of their idol on their backs.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: Business with Pleasure
The Grey Cup 100 Tour rolls into Windsor where a local minor football volunteer gets a surprise Grey Cup visit.
Windsor: Surprising the Coach
I love days like today because surprising someone with the Grey Cup is a really fun thing to do.
It’s fun and it’s rewarding, especially when you’re surprising someone who you know is incredibly deserving of that special moment.
Dino Rosati is one of those people. He’s been a volunteer coach and board member with the Windsor Minor Football Association for over a decade.
When I contacted the club, looking for a deserving candidate, the President wasted no time in telling me Dino was the guy.
“Dino has been a positive influence to many players over the years and has coached players in different levels in the organization,” he said. “While his record is extraordinary, it pales in comparison to his dedication and love for the game.”
We arrived at Dino’s workplace today, Cup in tow and as we waited for him to open the door to the conference room where the Cup was set up, I could see the excitement on his sons’ faces. (They were more than willing to miss a day of school to partake in our surprise!)
Though his three boys weren’t overly talkative, it was clear from the wide smiles on their faces that they were happy their Dad was getting this treat.
After a few quiet, anticipation-filled minutes, Dino finally opened the door and was stunned by the sight of the Grey Cup in front of him and his three sons gathered near it.
It was clear from his quiet reaction that he’s not the type of football coach who screams and yells, but rather one who’s reflective, who thoughtfully pauses before speaking.
He took time to look at the Cup, to study it, and- like a selfless father and coach- made sure his sons each got their own chance to lift it, their own moment with it.
I’m quite certain that type of generosity is what makes him such a valuable asset to this city’s football community.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: Checking out the Hardware
The Grey Cup 100 Tour stopped in Belleville and paid a visit to the local RONA store.
An Impressive Gathering at RONA Belleville
What stood out today was the wide variety of fans who showed up at RONA Belleville to see the Cup, and not just fans in different jerseys, but fans with different stories and different motivations for coming to see the CFL’s biggest prize.
There was Billy McPhee and Jordan Metcalfe- Queen’s University students clad in competing team jerseys- Billy in black and gold and Jordan in green and white. The pair were excited to see what they described as a “historic piece of Canadiana.” Billy, a well known quarterback at nearby Queen’s University, said it made him proud to be Canadian.
There was Karen Kitchen who arrived clutching a photo of her late father, a fervent Ticats fan who rarely missed a game on television. Karen was moved to tears when she posed with the Cup, saying her father wouldn’t have missed this day for the world.
There was Bil Belnap, the flooring department manager at RONA Belleville who’s known throughout the store for his CFL passion. “Canadian football is in my blood,” he said. “It’s an event that is truly Canadian and when we had an opportunity to get the 100th Grey Cup Tour to come to Belleville, it was awesome.”
There was Phil Langois, who came with his 8 Grey Cup tickets, eager to show them off.
It’s truly remarkable how this Cup can bring people together.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: Long Tradition
On this stop, the league presented Queen's University with banners commemorating their three Grey Cup wins.
A Banner Day at Queen's
The Grey Cup very briefly returned to one of its many former homes today, visiting Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.
Queen’s won the Cup three years in a row, from 1922 to 1924, and today the CFL presented the school with 2 banners- 1 commemorating Richardson Field as a former Grey Cup site, the other honouring the school’s three wins.
Dr. Daniel Woolf, the school’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor was on hand to receive the banners as was Professor Merv Daub, an expert in the field, having captained the Gaels football team in the mid sixties and written a book entitled, “Gael Force: A Century of Football at Queen’s.” 2 current players, Derek Morris and John Miniaci, were also present, participating in the ceremony just hours after their OUA quarter-final win.
Professor Daub spoke to the football program’s strong tradition.
“We’re an older program than Notre Dame in the United States in any of these kids of situations,” he said. “It’s really important to understand that it’s been a continuous and major part of campus life here at Queen’s for well over a century and a half.”
Offensive lineman Derek Morris knows that first hand.
“We get a lot of support behind football,” he said, “but just to know the history behind it and to know that not only have we won Vanier Cups but we’re old enough and good enough to have won Grey Cups- I think that instills more pride in the student body.”
Next stop: Belleville.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: CFL Wedding
Fans came out in Ottawa, including two fans that combined their love for the CFL and each other.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: CFL Love
I was really looking forward to meeting Gregory and Bridget.
In the world of CFL social media you get to know a lot of fans pretty quickly- their stories, their teams, their game day rituals- and in the case of these two- their love story.
The pair are diehard Alouettes fans- Gregory introduced Bridget to the game when they started dating and after attending a Grey Cup, she was hooked. She loved meeting other fans with a common passion for the game, she loved the sense of community.
As it turns out, she also loved Gregory and when it came time to plan their wedding, hosting a CFL themed affair seemed like a no brainer, to everyone- that is- except Bridget’s mother.
“I really liked it,” Bridget said, of the initial idea. “It was more convincing my mother that we were going to do this much football.... I just thought it was perfect. Weddings are great when they show the interests and passion of the people. It was perfect for us.”
The wedding included a CFL themed cake topper, a kissing game featuring penalty flags and an Alouettes inspired garter, something Gregory was pleasantly surprised to find.
“I spend many nights thinking about that, yea” he joked, Bridget laughing loudly beside him.
At the risk of sounding hopelessly romantic, I love seeing people in love and witnessing their joy-filled interactions. Gregory and Bridget are a pair that just seem to fit. They’re so complementary and seem to be at such ease around each other.
One thing that won’t be so easy for this Ottawa based couple is deciding which CFL team to cheer for in 2014, when their hometown gets a team.
According to Gregory they’re looking for jerseys split right down the middle. Als on the left, Ottawa on the right and they’ll continue their tradition of supporting CFL football. In 2 cities, this time.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: Executive Tour
CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon took Ottawa's Mayor on an exclusive tour of the Grey Cup Train.
Anticipation in the Capital
Ottawa Station was buzzing today.
There were kids everywhere- literally, everywhere- running through obstacle courses.
There were teachers laughing, likely thankful their students were burning off steam.
There was a marching band, there were cheerleaders, there was a train and there was a real sense of anticipation.
Rarely have I actually felt excitement in the air before, but that was the case today. Owners, dignitaries, league staff, fans and others seemed to have smiles permanently plastered on their faces, thrilled that football will be back in the nation’s capital come 2014.
Commissioner Mark Cohon couldn’t hide his grin. “I had a huge smile on my face about 2 weeks ago and you can still see it,” he said. “It’s just a great feeling to say we’re coming back to the nation’s capital. We had a huge hole in our heart for so many years- the CFL did- and now it’s being filled.”
Jeff Hunt, a member of the Ottawa ownership group, says one of the reasons he feels so good about bringing football back to the city is because of the impact it’ll have on its youngest citizens.
“We had a bunch of school kids here today who’ve never known what it’s like to live in a town with a CFL football team and it’s a shame,” he said. “They don’t know what they’re missing. That’s our future.”
If today is indicative of the support the league's newest team will have, the future looks very, very good.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: Remembering the Riders
The Grey Cup 100 Tour arrived at a Kubota dealership in Quebec City where former Ottawa player Andre Bolduc reminisced.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: Dancing Machine
The Grey Cup Tour made such an impression in Iqaluit that the city decided to hold a square dance in its honour.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: Substitute Teacher
Recently, 2004 Grey Cup champ Andre Talbot brought the Grey Cup to a school full of excited children in Iqaluit, Nunavut.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: A Nations Welcome
The Grey Cup traveled to Ottawa where The Right Honourable David Johnston had some exciting news.
The Cup Visits the Capital
The Grey Cup has made its way to our nation’s capital!
This morning the Cup arrived in Ottawa and after an early morning photo shoot in front of Parliament, visited Rideau Hall where it was warmly welcomed by Governor General David Johnston.
The Governor General and CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon both greeted young football players before retreating to the gorgeous Tent Room inside Rideau Hall where they discussed the historical significance of bringing the trophy back to the residence.
The Governor General also announced that he’ll be partaking in the coin toss and the ceremonial kick-off at this year’s Grey Cup. It turns out he’s already been warming up his kicking leg and that’s not a joke! The garden at Rideau Hall, it seems, is an ideal place to practice.
The Cup’s schedule slows down for a bit over the next few days as it’ll be on public display at Rideau Hall until Wednesday. After that the tour picks up once again ahead of Saturday’s Ottawa Fan Celebration.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: No Ordinary Moe
The story of Moe Segal, one of a group of Canadian Navy sailors who won the Grey Cup in 1944, the last amateur team to do so.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: Old Port Success
The Grey Cup visited Montreal where fans met the Cup and former Als player Matthieu Proulx.
What a Day for a Celebration
We couldn’t have asked for a better day.
Montreal’s Old Port was aglow this morning as Alouettes fans filtered into the Fan Celebration, smiles on their faces, the sun shining overhead.
And really, why wouldn’t they be grinning? Last night their team locked up top spot in the East and they were about to board a train many of them have been waiting weeks to see.
There were plenty of Calvillo jerseys, plenty of Cahoon. There were kids who dream of playing in the league and alum who’ve lived that dream. There were old and young- including one toddler who made his Dad take him through the train three times. Bless that father’s heart for being so wonderfully patient.
It just so happened that family seemed to be the theme of the day. I heard a lot of parents talking to their kids today about the train, the league and its history. (At least I hope that’s what they were saying, admittedly my French isn’t the best.)
One father decked out in a retro Alouettes jersey talked about what a great learning tool the train is.
“I think it’s something that will teach kids about our country, about the sport of football and I think it’s a great opportunity for parents to get their kids out to see a great bit of Canadiana,” he said. “The Grey Cup is an all-Canadian thing. It belongs to us and that’s the best thing in the world.”
Hard to disagree with that.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: Bringing Back the Cup
Here's some footage from the Grey Cup's visit to Montreal's College Notre-Dame high school, one of the first French language schools in the country to field a football team.
Returning as a Champion
Guillaume Allard-Caméus returned to his old high school, College Notre-Dame, today not just as a former student but as a Grey Cup Champion and someone who has fulfilled his dreams.
The reception he got from the students was impressive- complete attentiveness when he was speaking, thunderous applause when he finished.
It didn’t seem to matter to the students that his CFL career was short lived, it mattered that he had gone on to do something many of them dream of. He played in the CIS for the dominant Laval Rouge et Or and then in the CFL, for the hometown Alouettes.
When he spoke they listened and although he talked football he also talked about getting his university diploma, about how much that mattered to him.
His message was not lost on the school’s football players.
“It was huge for them because they watch the CFL, they watch the Grey Cup Game. To see someone who’s been in the same place as them, the same classes, the same football field, to make it all the way to Laval and then to the Alouettes, it’s huge,” their coach said.
One young defensive back agreed and was especially impressed by the silver chalice in front of him.
“I think we all have a dream to get to the CFL so to see the Cup is a foreshadow of our future years. It’s really emotional. We love to see what we can win if we get to the top,” he said.
When Guillaume hoisted the Cup the atmosphere was electric. Students were cheering, laughing, screaming.
You have to think it’s one Friday they won’t soon forget.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: Lunch at Schwartz's
Check out some footage from the Grey Cup's visit to Schwartz's Deli in Montreal.
Lunch at Schwartz's
Schwartz’s Deli is an institution. It’s an obligatory stop in Montreal.
It’s been on the same street, in the same place since 1928 and if you ask just about anyone where to go for lunch in the city, they’ll send you to Schwartz’s for a giant smoked meat sandwich.
The lineup outside the restaurant today attested to its fame- a 15-20 minute wait on a weekday.
One of the servers explained it well, when you step into the restaurant you feel as if you’ve stepped back in time.
The menus, the decor, the style, the atmosphere, everything is old school, and really, why change when you’ve got something good going, or something very good going, as the case may be.
It takes a lot to get people to notice anything other than their sandwiches at Schwartz’s. Dining there can easily turn into a head down, no talking affair because people are just so consumed by the taste.
We did, however, manage to make a few heads turn when we brought the Grey Cup in for lunch and placed it right on top of the bar, in between a few stunned patrons.
There were camera flashes, smiles and chuckles, people stunned to see the 103-year old lunch guest.
Frank Silva, the restaurant’s general manager, told me that members of the Alouettes come in all the time including Anthony Calvillo who occasionally buys food for the entire team.
While most of the Als fans at the restaurant were thrilled to see the Cup, one in particular wasn’t satisfied.
“I want to see the Grey Cup permanently here this year, not just at Schwartz’s,” he said. “I want them to win it for all to enjoy.”
Grey Cup 100 Tour: Visiting Iqaluit
Recently the Grey Cup 100 Tour headed North, taking the Cup to Iqaluit for its first ever visit. Here's some footage from that journey.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: Cutting Class for the Cup
It’s pretty much the coolest field trip ever, no?
Kids piled out of buses today at our Quebec City Fan Celebration, their teachers in tow, cameras and phones in hand.
These kids seemed super pumped for the train itself- the actual locomotive. Though they enjoyed the jerseys and the Grey Cup rings (they were floored by the diamonds) they were in awe of the train- the size of it, the fact that we ride it, occasionally sleep on it.
They wanted photo after photo after photo and I couldn’t help but smile as I watched the teachers juggle multiple cameras, trying to make sure each of their students got the photos they wanted.
On a 70-day tour you get tired but just as quickly you get re-inspired. (Unintentional rhyme).
Today those kids did that for me. They reminded me, once again, just how cool this train is.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: Visiting Laval
To have not brought the Grey Cup to Laval University during our stop in Quebec City would’ve felt wrong- like we’d somehow missed something crucial.
The Laval football program is a powerhouse at the CIS level and is consistently nationally ranked. It’s a program that has earned deep respect across the country.
When I arrived, I was struck by the stadium, an impressive structure whose quality matches the quality of the team. I could easily visualize the stands being packed with screaming, chanting fans.
The other thing I noticed was the assuredness with which the players spoke about winning this year’s national championship.
As defensive back Jean-Phillippe Bolduc put it, “It’s a great tradition, we’ve only had football here for 17 years and we’ve already won 6 Vanier Cups- we’re going on our 7th this year.”
Without being prompted, they also spoke about last year’s heartbreaking loss to the McMaster Marauders in the Vanier Cup final.
Quarterback Tristan Grenon said, “Traveling to Toronto to play again after the crushing loss last year would be something special, especially as a starting quarterback. It’s something I dream about.”
If this year’s Vanier Cup is anything like last year’s, it’s yet another part of Grey Cup week to get very, very excited about.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: Visiting St. John's & Charlottetown
Check out this feature about the Grey Cup's recent trip to St. John's and Charlottetown. It was a memorable experience, to say the least.
A Monday Morning Surprise in Moncton
Grey Cup surprises are fun- really fun, because you know you’re going to make someone’s day by bringing them a trophy they’ve worshiped, won by players they’ve idolized.
Today it was Tom Semple’s turn.
Tom is an instructor at New Brunswick Community College and a colleague suggested he’d be a great candidate for a surprise.
He is known throughout the school for being a Ticats fan, routinely brings his black and gold jersey to the office and frequently uses CFL examples in his lectures.
As we walked the Cup through the hallway en route to Tom’s classroom, I have to admit, I had butterflies. I was just so excited for him.
A small crowd of students and teachers had gathered outside of his class, eager to capture the moment.
When we arrived and handed him the Cup, he was speechless and although I saw some trembling, he remained very composed. Happy- very happy- but composed.
The photo op of the day happened when his colleague tossed him his Ticats jersey. #26. Garney Henley.
“Everybody in Hamilton wanted to be like Garney Henley,” he said. “He was an unassuming person but he was a great athlete.”
Tom posed for countless photos while his students looked on, smiles on their faces. I suspect they enjoyed seeing their instructor so happy, but I also suspect they enjoyed the reprieve from work.
As Tom joked, their workload is often very dependent on how the Ticats perform.
“My students know that if the Ticats won on the previous weekend, it’s gonna be a good week of classes. This week, they’re gonna have a lot of studying to do.”
Grey Cup 100 Tour: Same Name, Different Cup
Who knew there was another Grey Cup?
Until today, I sure didn’t.
This morning I made the trek to the Amherst Curling Club in Amherst, Nova Scotia thanks to an e-mail from the club president suggesting we come and see their Grey Cup.
Their trophy was donated by the very same Governor General who donated the CFL’s Grey Cup, His Excellency Earl Grey, and given that it was donated in 1907, it’s actually two years older than its football counterpart.
Members of the club were excitedly awaiting our arrival and greeted us with some serious East Coast charm, wide open arms and a table full of food, including a cake celebrating the tour and the CFL’s upcoming 100th Grey Cup.
The mayor and the club president spoke about the club and its storied trophy as did a local historian, Fred Black, who knew everything you could ever want to know about the trophy’s history and then some.
He also pointed out that curlers, too, used to ride the rails, in fact when they were traveling to the Maritime Bonspiel to compete for the Grey Cup, they stored their curling stones in the baggage car because it was cool in temperature as no curler wanted a warm stone.
Despite curlers’ friendly reputation, I was told that they too have a competitive streak. Some curlers used to offer train employees money to put their opponents stones near the heater.
The classic “you learn something new every day” seems very appropriate.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: From All Corners
At today's Halifax Fan Celebration, we met CFL fans supporting every team across the league.
Growing up with the Cup
I thought I had some pretty cool toys as a child- a few well dressed dolls, some fairly real looking trucks, colourful building blocks... all until today, that is, when I met Nancy Irvine.
You see, Nancy’s plaything was the Grey Cup.
(Cue feelings of shame.)
My childhood was filled with juvenile plastic while hers was filled with a historic chalice thanks to her grandfather, Len Back, who was the Ticats’ team manager and a 1971 Hall of Fame inductee.
When the Ticats won, Len kept the trophy at home, in his closet, allowing his grandchildren to play with it every once in a while.
Nancy distinctly remembers her mother crafting a bag to tote the Cup around in, remembers it occasionally being used as an umbrella stand.
She also remembers the cast of characters who would come over to her house on a regular basis- Ralph Sazio, Jake Gaudaur and Angelo Mosca among them.
To Nancy, the Cup and the train that’s escorting it around the country bring back the fondest of childhood memories- days spent running around Ivor Wynne under her grandfather’s watch, being one of the last to leave the stadium on game days.
Despite living in Halifax, she’s still a devoted Ticats fan but with her lineage, how could you not be?
Grey Cup 100 Tour: Heading North
It’s tough to put into words what the past 24 hours have been like simply because they have been so full, so crammed with people and emotions and instantly unforgettable moments.
I had no idea what to expect heading into Iqaluit. I knew it would be cold and vast and very different from every other tour stop because of the landscape alone but I knew little else.
We were a group of 7, including CFL alum and 2004 Grey Cup champ Andre Talbot, and when we emerged from the plane we were greeted by cold, drippy weather and a small sea of excited people, milling about in the airport terminal, eager to see us. Actually, to be fair, they were probably less eager to see us, more eager to see the Cup.
After a brief photo stop at the airport, it was off to the Frobisher Inn- a fabulously cozy hotel- to drop our bags, inhale some food and head out to Aqsarniit Middle School where a hundred or so students were packed into the auditorium, awaiting our arrival. The visit included a scrimmage featuring the school’s top football players, clad in CFL jerseys. It was the Riders versus the Lions and it was intense. You could tell both by their effort and the excitement in their eyes that they were pumped about playing in front of the Cup, in front of Andre. They were grateful that we were there and it showed.
As one of the students put it, “Iqaluit is the capital of Nunavut and we should have more special stuff because Nunavut isn’t noticed that much. We don’t have that much so it’s an honour to have Andre come here and the Grey Cup.”
From there we enjoyed a driving tour with the town Mayor, Mayor Redfern, who told us about the community’s struggles and ambitions, its widespread social media use (who knew?!) and its infrastructure. It was the perfect mix of history and humour, fact and fable.
Despite our travel-induced weariness and the day very quickly fading to dark, the night was young- in fact it hadn’t even really started. We visited a youth drop-in centre where Andre took on a local teen in ping-pong after entertaining all those in attendance with tales of his football career and we attended a square dance, yep- a square dance, arranged by the community in our honour.
There were children and adults, locals and adopted locals, those in CFL jerseys and those who have likely never seen a game, who just came to see what all the fuss was about. It was quite the sight to see Andre and other members of our team linking arms with members of the community- dancing, hooting and hollering, with the Grey Cup overlooking the festivities.
As we prepared to say goodbye to Iqaluit, we had one last stop to make, at Inukshuk High School. The group of students gathered to see us were your typical chatty, social teenagers and having seen the likes of the Queen and the Governor General at their school before, were used to “celebrity” visitors. The initial chatter vanished when Andre starting speaking. The students were so engaged, so interested that there was total silence when he spoke, which- as I’m sure most high school teachers will agree- is a rarity, a feat. The students nodded in understanding when he spoke about his own struggles growing up and howled with laugher when he demonstrated his on-field celebrations. Their hands shot up when he asked if there were any questions and what ensued was a genuinely thoughtful Q and A session.
I’ve felt lucky on numerous occasions throughout the tour, but I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that I have never felt as fortunate as I did the past 24 hours, when I got to see a part of our country that so few get to see with a trophy that so few have been able to win.
24 hours that felt more like days. 24 hours that I will never, ever forget.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: Pressing Pennies
Kate McKenna looks at how fans are pressing pennies and contributing to the making of the TELUS Fan Cup.
Visiting Charlottetown: No Lack of Passion for the Game
Our visit to Charlottetown proved that even cities and provinces without CFL teams to call their own have serious passion for Canadian football.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: Silver Lining
Kate McKenna and the Grey Cup visit Summerside PEI and the local women's flag football team.
Island Charm: Visiting Prince Edward Island
It was likely our warmest welcome yet.
Upon touchdown at Charlottetown airport, we were greeted by a group of local school children, each holding colourful signs welcoming us to their home.
“Welcome to PEI,” one read.
“Football rocks,” was scrawled across another.
Any fatigue from our early morning flight vanished. How could we be tired with such energetic, enthusiastic kids around?
As excited as they were to see us, they were infinitely more excited to see the Grey Cup and ran up to examine it as soon as it was taken out of its case. They were enthralled by the trophy and lingered as long as they could, using up every last minute they had to check it out.
From the airport we travelled 45 minutes to Summerside where local football officials had arranged a delightful reception complete with home baked blueberry muffins, warm-your-soul coffee and a piper who lead the Cup into the auditorium.
In attendance were members of the Summerside Giants- a local women’s flag football team who exceeded all expectations 2 years ago, placing second at the national flag football championships and bringing home the Island’s first ever national football medal, at any level, men or women.
The girls gathered around the Cup, staring at it in awe, smiles creeping across their faces as the cameras that had descended on their small town captured every moment.
From there we were whisked back to Charlottetown for a delicious (and filling) lobster lunch, took the Cup to City Hall and brought it to a local football clinic to wrap up the day.
It was an absolutely jam packed day full of Prince Edward Island charm but we wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
The Grey Cup Visits St. John's
During our whirlwind trip to Newfoundland, 2 things became abundantly clear.
The only thing predictable about the weather here is that it’s unpredictable while the only thing predictable about the people here is that they are unbelievably welcoming.
Throughout the day, it rained and stopped. Poured and stopped. Rained and stopped.
Fortunately for us we remained (relatively) dry and our smiles endured thanks largely to the wonderful people of St. John’s.
We started our morning off with a visit to the local Canadian Forces Station and got a good turnout, despite the fact that the Thanksgiving holiday rendered the station virtually activity free.
The station Chaplain stood at the door of the gymnasium, ushering people in. The visitors ranged from locals, clad in CFL gear, to military members including one who had served in Kandahar but was rendered speechless when the Grey Cup was placed in his outstretched arms.
“I’m at a loss for words,” was all he could get out.
From there it was off to a Thanksgiving day touch football game, an event that drew friends and family to a local sports complex to cheer on their loved ones as the Grey Cup reigned over the festivities.
It was an interception-filled match with exceptionally long cadences, highlight reel catches (and stumbles!) and more than a few hearty laughs.
And finally, what would a visit to St. John’s be without a trip to George Street? We brought the Cup to Greensleeves Pub where locals enjoyed a Thanksgiving Day pint in the glow of the historic trophy.
Add to that a few Grey Cup photos ops at Cape Spear, Signal Hill and local streets lined with brightly coloured houses and I’d say the the Cup’s inaugural visit to Newfoundland was a huge success.
A definite success. On to Charlottetown.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: Meat-ing the Grey Cup
Terry Parsons of St. John's, Newfoundland discusses his annual Grey Cup party and the food that goes along with it.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: Helping Patients Connect
With the help of Cisco technologies, hospital patients across Canada can connect with their favourite CFL players.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: Returning the Ring
Months after Winnipeg native Dan Huclak is robbed of his Grey Cup ring in broad daylight, the stolen ring mysteriously turns up on his doorstep.
The Train Rolls into Winnipeg
Today's Winnipeg Fan Celebration was a definite success with Bombers fans turning up in huge numbers to see the train. Here's what some of them had to say about it.
Buck Pierce Signs His Locker
Throughout the tour we've been fortunate enough to have several CFL players board the train to sign their lockers on the team car. Today Winnipeg Blue Bombers QB Buck Pierce did just that.
Finally Getting His Chance
Today recently retired Winnipeg Blue Bomber Doug Brown finally got his chance to get his hands on the Grey Cup.
He opted to take the Cup to Stella's, a Winnipeg cafe where the late Richard Harris took his defensive linemen every home game day for 6 years.
Rider Nation: A Passionate Fan Base
Rider fans have turned up at every single stop so far on the Grey Cup 100 tour. Kate McKenna meets a few fans and asks just why they are so passionate.
BC Lions Visit the Train
Recently Travis Lulay, Paul McCallum and Geroy Simon of the BC Lions had a chance to check out their very own lockers on the Grey Cup 100 Tour train.
Bringin' Back the Bacon!
We’ve had people at Fan Celebrations, lots of them. We’ve had dogs at Fan Celebrations- dressed in their team colours. Yesterday, however, we had a pig at our Fan Celebration in Yorkton. Yes, a pig.
As you can likely guess, the pig didn’t wander over on his own, but was in fact brought over to reenact an exchange first made in Yorkton back in 1954.
The original exchange was part of a campaign called “Bring Back the Bacon,” a campaign designed to drum up support to bring the Grey Cup back to the West. In that year’s Grey Cup game, Edmonton beat Montreal and on the post-game train ride back to Edmonton, the train stopped in Yorkton and the mayor at the time presented the train organizer with a pig, intentionally named Alouette.
Special guests involved in yesterday’s reenactment were 104-year old CFL superfan and Yorkton resident, Lydia Zimmer and the daughter of the mayor of Yorkton back in 1954, Wilma Wilkinson.
Celebrating our game means celebrating all that goes along with it- including the history and the quirky tales that live on as they are passed down through generations of CFL fans.
Older than the Grey Cup
At today's stop in Yorkton, Saskatchewan, 104-year old CFL superfan, Lydia Zimmer, visited the train and got her photo taken with the Grey Cup- something she says was worth waiting all those years for!
A Homecoming in Saskatoon
Today’s Saskatoon Fan Celebration exceeded expectations with an unbelievable turnout including multiple up and coming football players, excited to see the train and meet their idols, Saskatchewan Roughriders Ben Heenan and Kory Sheets.
For Heenan, the day was a homecoming of sorts. Despite being from Grand Coulee, a small town just outside of Regina, this year’s first overall draft pick spent his university days playing for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies in Saskatoon.
Today’s trip back not only provided him with a chance to meet young players, eager to follow in his footsteps, it also prompted a trip down memory lane.
“This is a city I grew to love,” Heenan said. “Every time I come up here it reminds me of all the great memories I have playing college ball.”
The small town boy is also pleased that the train is stopping in smaller communities in addition to larger team cities.
“I think small towns are where some of the biggest fans are,” he said. “Small town Saskatchewan- they’re the diehard fans. That’s what drives us as Riders.”
Chris Getzlaf Visits the Train
Today Saskatchewan Roughriders SB Chris Getzlaf went incognito- waiting in line with Rider fans to check out the Grey Cup 100 Tour train. Here are his thoughts on what he saw.
Wheat Heads in Regina
Check out these 2 Rider fans who donned a little extra head wear to brave the elements at today's Regina Fan Celebration.
Rain?! What Rain?! Regina Fan Celebration
Not much can stop Rider fans. We learned today that inclement weather certainly can’t.
Despite cooler temperatures and the occasional sprinkles of rain, it was a sea of green at the railway tracks across from Mosaic.
Kids and adults clad in green ponchos milled about as the Rider pep band played classic tunes, keeping all in line cheery as they waited to enter the train.
It didn’t matter that there was a wait, it didn’t matter that there were clouds overhead, Ridernation was content to be there, happy to be there. As one fan put it, “A little rain won’t kill ya. It’s a once in a lifetime thing- this only comes around once in a hundred years.”
I’m continually blown away by the commitment shown by Rider fans and today my admiration only grew.
There was no reluctance, there were no complaints, only excitement about the train and its contents.
I found it funny that when I asked those in line how long they’d been Rider fans for, no one- not a single person- could remember. In fact they looked at me like it was a silly question, and in retrospect maybe it was.
Rider fans are born Rider fans, they die Rider fans and their children and their children after that will likely be Rider fans too.
Here in Saskatchewan, supporting the Riders is just what you do- young and old, rain or shine.
Driving the Road to Avonlea
There are a lot of small Canadian towns, particularly in the West, that are strong supporters of CFL football, but I’d be willing to bet few compare to Avonlea, Saskatchewan.
I’d heard about Avonlea from a Riders staff member who told me how the small town (population 425) won the team’s “Where is Riderville” competition, beating out communities far larger in size.
Intrigued, I decided to check it out for myself and opted to bring the Grey Cup along for good measure, figuring the residents would get a kick out of seeing it.
After a 50-minute drive, with country music blaring, we pulled up in front of a giant sign- “Welcome to Avonlea- official home of Riderville.” We’d made it and it didn’t take long to see just why this town had won the Riders’ contest.
There were remnants of green and white ribbons on the trees surrounding a replica Gainer the Gopher cutout, proudly standing guard over the community. Nearly every truck we saw had a Riders sticker of some sort and they were very often parked in homes with the Riders logo painted on the garage or emblazoned on flags hanging from front windows.
Main Street was flanked by green and white fire hydrants and the streets were renamed after Riders players. Everywhere you looked, you saw a Riders logo. Everywhere.
“I hear Getzlaf’s grandma lives here,” I said to a friendly looking gentleman standing on his porch, likely wondering who the strangers were.
“She sure does! Turn right on the next street and you’ll see the sign. You can’t miss it,” he said.
As he predicted, we didn’t miss it. We couldn’t miss it. The green and white sign in front of Flo Getzlaf’s home very simply says “Getzlaf’s Grandma” with an arrow pointing toward her door.
Up I went and knocked three times. She slowly made her way to the door, peered out and smiled when I explained who I was and why we were in her town, on her step.
After a few phone calls, she had her extended family over, all of whom were excitedly checking out the Grey Cup which had been placed on her lawn. Then came the neighhbours, the friends, the local volleyball team, and of course the mayor, who coincidentally is also a Getzlaf- Chris’ uncle.
They milled about and took photos and as the minutes passed, the numbers grew. Everyone, it seemed, wanted a photo.
We had brought a legend to town.
Grey Cup Surprise in Regina
Today we had a chance to surprise two unsuspecting Riders season ticket holders, Michael Hungle and Laurie Beaurivage, with the Grey Cup. While the pair knew we were coming, they didn't know we'd be bringing the historic Cup with us. Given that the family has had season seats since 1937, we figured they were a pretty deserving duo!
The Grey Cup Visits CFB Moose Jaw
“Would you like to come up to the air traffic control tower?”
Ummm-yes. (That was an emphatic yes, for the record.)
The question was posed by Major Bruce MacLean, the Wing Air Traffic Control Officer at CFB Moose Jaw, Canada’s busiest military airport and home of the Snowbirds, the world renowned flying team.
From the tower we could see jets landing and taking off, flying in tandem with staggeringly perfect precision.
The jets were intimidating and they were amazing.
Major MacLean told me about the base and about just how competitive it is to be a Snowbird pilot. With only 10 or 15 positions available, few make the cut.
After we came down from the tower, ears still ringing, we headed over to the phys. ed. complex, where the Grey Cup was being shown.
It was surrounded by military members and their families, excited to get photos with the Cup and keenly interested in the history engraved on it.
Major MacLean alluded to the national pride that Canadians feel for both the military and the CFL, saying, “I know that when I talk to my fellow Canadians, regularly they tell me they’re very proud that I serve in the Canadian military and the Grey Cup and CFL is a part of the history of Canada too.”
Exactly the reason stops like this are so necessary and so much a part of this tour.
A Bombers Fan in Rider Nation
She definitely stuck out so we decided to speak with her! Sheri Mazuren is a proud Winnipeg Blue Bombers fan living in Rider Nation.
The Grey Cup Visits the Rider Nation Bus
The Rider Nation Bus pulled into our Swift Current stop today so we decided to put the Grey Cup aboard.
Roger Aldag Visits the Train
Today in Swift Current, CFL Hall of Famer Roger Aldag visited the Grey Cup 100 Tour train.
George Reed Checks Out the Train
CFL legend George Reed checked out the Grey Cup 100 Tour train. Here's more of what he had to say.
George Reed Visits the Train
The CFL's Most Outstanding Player from 1965 paid a visit to check out the Grey Cup 100 Train.
Medicine Hat- Visiting Lela's
I discovered something today.
A sliver of pumpkin pie in Medicine Hat looks very different from a sliver of pumpkin pie back home in Toronto. In Medicine Hat, a sliver amounts to about a quarter of the pie.
I realize I should probably explain how I came to that realization and why on earth I’m mentioning baked goods when I should be mentioning trains and football fans.
This morning, before the train doors opened and the Fan Celebration began, I had the chance to take the Cup to a local spot. Thanks to the world wide web I narrowed in on “Lela’s Chocolate Shop”- a family restaurant, one of the oldest in town, and one that I figured may have a good breakfast crowd. As you can probably imagine, not a ton of places are busy in the early morning hours, but I had a hunch this one would be.
When I walked in, it was exactly as I thought it would be- comfortable and warm, a place that begs you to sit and enjoy a steaming cup of coffee and freshly buttered toast.
Two Stampeders alum- Marvin Pope and Herm Harrison- were already there. They’d arrived before me and had made themselves comfortable in one of Lela’s booths. I instinctively felt the need to explain why I’d chosen this place, thinking that they wouldn’t see the benefit of bringing the Cup to such a small establishment, but it became clear no explanation was required. They too saw value in bringing the Grey Cup to the heart of a community.
When we got the Cup out and placed it on the counter, heads turned and eyes darted. The customers couldn’t seem to believe what they were seeing. Lela’s grandchildren were among the first to venture over, timid at first, but more confident as time wore on.
Throughout the morning, stories were swapped and meals were served. Both Marvin and Herm seemed to enjoy the experience as much as they enjoyed their meals which, judging from their clean plates, was a lot.
As I prepared to leave, Lela’s husband Trevor asked if I’d like some apple pie. “No thanks,” I said, considering the fact that I’d just eaten breakfast. “What about apple pie and ice cream?” he said. “I’m okay, really” I replied. “Thank you, though.” He was undeterred. “You must have a piece of pumpkin pie, then, on the house.”
I caved and asked for a tiny sliver, enough to get a taste.
Instead I got a quarter of a pie paired with two friendly hugs and a teary-eyed (I kid you not) thank you for coming, for bringing the Cup to “us little people.”
Without question a great start to the morning.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: Starting Young
Check this out! A tiny Calgary Stampeders fan gets pretty excited watching old CFL game footage on the Grey Cup 100 Tour train.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: A Family Affair
In Lethbridge, Kate McKenna is joined by Stampeders offensive lineman Jon Gott and his mother.
Spoken Like a True Mom
There’s something so comforting about watching a mother and her son interact- the knowing glances, the shared jokes, the mutual understanding.
Today in Lethbridge, Calgary Stampeders offensive lineman Jon Gott toured the train with his mother, Romy.
Jon grew up in Lethbridge where he remained until his college days. His mother, meanwhile, still lives there, though she was quick to tell me she made it out to every one of her son’s college bowl games.
It’s clear from the way she talks that she’s one of those supermoms, the uber committed type, and she enjoys it. She talks about Jon’s accomplishments at work in front of her colleagues despite the fact that they’re “hardcore Riders fans,” she proudly told me she can outrun security at games and the one thing she’ll remember about the train is seeing the old helmets.
“If helmets were like that now and Jon had that little protection, he wouldn’t be playing!”
Spoken like a true mom.
Major Milestones in Okotoks
The train rolled into Okotoks, Alberta where a local school, Ecole Okotoks Junior High, is also celebrating a major milestone.
Okotoks: A Family Remembers
“If you’re looking for a story, you’ll find one over there,” a woman told me.
When you carry around a microphone people tend to assume you’re on the story hunt, and I was.
It was then that I was introduced to Tracey Deplaedt and her son, Thomas. Tracey’s late husband and Thomas’ father is former Bombers offensive lineman Steve Rodehutskors, a two-time Grey Cup champ and two-time Vanier Cup champ who lost his battle with cancer five years ago.
I considered talking to Tracey before she went in the train but thought better of it. I was curious to know, given her very personal connection to the league, what she thought of the train and the entire initiative.
I found her afterwards, clutching Steve’s photo and chatting with her son who was preoccupied with the Grey Cup ring hanging around his neck.
As you can tell in the video, touring the train- being surrounded, literally, by the game Steve loved so much- moved her. She appreciated being reminded of the player her late husband was and adored being able to share it with her son who was an articulate and proud little boy, eagerly soaking up every detail of his Dad’s career.
Given that the fifth anniversary of Steve’s death is approaching, the train’s appearance in Okotoks was a timely one for both Tracey and Thomas who were incredibly appreciative of the opportunity to see it.
This tour is all about bringing the Grey Cup to fans across the country and I struggle to think of anyone more deserving of the opportunity to see it than the two of them.
Gaining Momentum: Calgary Fan Celebration
It looked like a marathon start line- people crowding to the front, eager for the signal to run.
After a 10-second countdown that I’m quite positive could be heard at least a few blocks away, CFL fans flooded in, looking to be the first on the train at the Calgary Fan Celebration.
It’s becoming quite clear that this tour is gaining momentum.
At every stop, in every city, more people are coming out to see the train that they’ve heard so much about.
Calgary was a sea of red punctuated, unsurprisingly, by Rider green. There were fans in wigs, fans with face paint, with temporarily (and more permanent) tattoos- all of whom patiently waited in line under the sun- unusually hot for this time of year.
This stop, perhaps more than any other, felt like a true celebration of Canadian football. There were current players and alum, Calgary Stampeders and Calgary Dinos, league and team executives, Quick Six the horse, cowboy hats, marching bands and food trucks.
It was a party under the Calgary sun and it couldn’t have gone better.
On to Okotoks!
Herm Harrison Weighs In
Former CFL great Herm Harrison took part in the Calgary Fan Celebration and gave us his thoughts on the Grey Cup 100 Tour train.
Ezzrett "Sugarfoot" Anderson Reflects
Former Calgary Stampeders great Ezzrett "Sugarfoot" Anderson talks about riding the Grey Cup Train in 1949.
Keon Raymond Checks Out His Locker
Calgary Stampeders DB Keon Raymond checks out his locker on the Grey Cup 100 Tour train team car and introduces us to his son.
The Grey Cup Visits Spolumbo's
The Grey Cup visits Spolumbo's Fine Foods and Deli, a local hotspot owned by three former Calgary Stampeders.
Italian Charm, Espresso and the Grey Cup
Deli sandwiches, Italian charm, espresso and the Grey Cup.
Can a morning get any better?
Today we brought the Cup to Spolumbo’s Fine Foods and Deli, a Calgary favourite that just so happens to be owned by three former Stampeders: Tom Spoletini, Mike Palumbo and Tony Spoletini.
It was clear, upon meeting them, that they are a tight knit trio. The three were childhood friends that all went on to play for the Stamps before changing career paths and focusing on their Italian roots, opting to open up the deli.
Their framed jerseys hang on the wall as do old football photos, reminders of their professional playing days, days you could tell they dearly loved based on the passion with which they told stories of old teammates and days gone by.
Before we left, Tony generously brought out a platter of sandwiches for us- some of the most delicious I have ever had- and I say that sincerely. Turkey, veal, meatball, the works.
His thank you for bringing the Cup couldn’t have been more heartfelt. It was clearly a moment he cherished, a chance to- in a small way- connect his past and present, to showcase who he was and who he is.
I’m hoping to visit again, sooner rather than later. Maybe even in the next 2 days....
Extended Footage: Grey Cup Visits Airdrie
Nexera canola grower John Konschuk talks about what it was like having the Grey Cup visit his field.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: Harvest Season
The Grey Cup makes an early morning stop in Airdrie, Alberta.
Visiting the Alberta Children's Hospital
This afternoon the Grey Cup made a very special stop at the Alberta Children’s Hospital.
Patients and their parents gathered in the hospital’s atrium where they were met by Ralph the Dog (the Stampeders lovable mascot), members of the Stampeders cheerleading team and, of course, the Cup itself.
The kids lined up for photos- some excited, some unsure, some inquisitive- and took their turn next to the Cup, posing with Ralph and giving a thumbs up and a grin. In most cases, the parents were as thrilled as the little ones.
One charming teenage patient I spoke to, Logan, kept describing the experience as “awesome” over and over and it was. It was great to see grins amidst the illness, something I have no doubt the amazing staff at the hospital elicit daily.
The afternoon got even more awesome when Stampeders players joined the party. Though they weren’t there in person, they were video conferenced in using CISCO’s high end video technology. In what was a really neat interaction, the kids started shouting out questions and the players responded. “What did you eat for breakfast?” someone shouted. “What’s a DB?” another asked. “Can you win?” a young boy chimed in. The highlight, though, was without question when a boy asked a player if he could dance and sure enough, an on-camera dance party ensued as children in the hospital shrieked with laughter, unable to pull their eyes away from the screens.
It’s cool to know that kids across the country who aren’t able to go to games will still be able to connect with their favourite CFL players thanks to the video technology CISCO is leaving behind.
The kids can chat with the league's stars, get a tour of the stadium, offer up some pre-game wisdom and maybe, just maybe, see the latest locker room dance moves.
An Early Morning in Airdrie
The early wake up this morning was worth it for the shot alone.
Seeing the Grey Cup sitting in a field in Airdrie, Alberta with the sun rising behind it felt so, so Canadian.
What added to the “Canadian-ism” of it all was what was happening outside of the shot. The grower’s family was all there sipping coffee and excitedly snapping photos, their pick-up trucks parked in the field behind. This was a major highlight for them, you could tell, and they wanted to share it with as many people as they could.
Nexera canola grower, John Konschuk, whose field we were in, was clad in a Stamps jersey. As a season ticket holder and a 3-time Grey Cup attendee, the smile on his face was genuine and full of pride.
“Growing up the Grey Cup was always something that as a family we’d come together for,” he said. “Now with my own boys and my wife we go across Canada and try and follow it as much as we can. To see if here now in our field, it’s unbelievable.”
This morning was one of those postcard tour moments, one of those moments that could not have been more Canadian.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: Tough Choice
The Grey Cup 100 Tour visits Red Deer, a community that's made up of equal parts Stamps fans and Esks fans.
Split down the Middle: CFL Fans in Red Deer
“Red Deer is the valley of contentment,” my cab driver told me on the way to the station for today’s Red Deer Fan Celebration.
We were in the midst of discussing which CFL team most in Red Deer support, given that it’s situated almost exactly halfway between Edmonton and Calgary.
He said it tends to be split and though the town is home to supporters of both teams and the rivalry is fierce, they generally get along, no questions asked.
When I got to the station, I laughed, noticing the giant inflatable Stamps helmet next to the giant inflatable Esks player, as if trying to outdo one another.
There was an Esks employee handing out stickers next to a trio of Calgary Grey Cup committee members, clad in cowboy hats and cheerfully flipping pancakes.
There was the Esks mascot playfully posing next to the Stampeders horse. The actual horse.
There was red. There was green. And, as always, there was Riders green.
My favourite fan of the day was, without question, a three-year old sporting a Riders jersey, a Stamps helmet and an Eskimos sticker.
Seems to me he’s in the midst of a CFL identity crisis.
Sonny is one of the amazing staff members on board the train, helping make sure our Grey Cup 100 tour team is well rested, comfortable and most of all, well fed.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: Friendly Welcome
Watch as Kate McKenna gets a friendly welcome in Camrose.
Kindness in Camrose
Canadians are regarded as being particularly hospitable- unnecessarily apologetic and overwhelmingly kind.
People in Camrose certainly live up to the stereotype.
When the train pulled in this morning, I decided to head to the visitor information center to find out where to go and what to see.
Hazel, an employee there, took customer service to an entirely new level, offering up not only advice, but her car and her tour guiding services for a few hours.
I got to see the new casino, the old theatre and the shopping district; the gardens, the lakes and the swans for which the town is known.
When Hazel decided to take me into her favourite local restaurant, The Lefse House, I trusted her, figuring if the people in there were as genuinely kind as she was, I’d be in good hands, and I was.
The owner, Bernell Odegard, put me to work- wanting to give me the full experience. With my hat on and my apron tied, I learned how to make lefse, a type of Scandinavian flatbread, which- when coated with butter and sugar- is delicious and likely highly addictive.
After honing my skills in the kitchen, I headed to the train station, interested to see what the turnout at the Fan Celebration would be like while regretting my decision not to buy any lefse for tonight’s train ride.
As it turns out, I could hear what the turnout was like from down the street- 100 plus ten year olds make a lot of noise!
Like all the visitors so far, people were thrilled to see the train, impressed by its magnitude and the effort that went into it, but one little girl’s comments, in particular, stuck with me.
“The fact that it got to stop in Camrose is amazing,” she said.
Her appreciation was apparent and as genuine and honest as all the people I met today.
Thanks for everything, Camrose. Next stop: Red Deer.
Young CFL Fans in Camrose React to Train
2 young CFL fans react to having the Grey Cup 100 Train in their hometown.
Is that the Grey Cup? Edmonton Edition
Passers by in Edmonton react to finding the Grey Cup sitting on Jasper Ave.
Extra Footage from Today's Fan Surprise
See extra footage from today's fan surprise, when an Esks fan woke up to the Grey Cup on her front lawn.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: Edmonton Surprise
Two Eskimos super fans get a Grey Cup surprise!
Grey Cup Surprise: Edmonton
Making someone’s day feels really, really good, and this morning I got to do just that.
I’d heard about the “Eskimos house” before- a house in Edmonton completely decked out in Esks’ green and gold- the exterior is green and gold, the fence is green and gold, even the birdhouse is green and gold.
Home owners that willing to demonstrate their CFL passion deserve a special surprise and when the opportunity came about to pay them a visit with the Grey Cup in tow, it was one I couldn’t pass up.
The trio of us who made the early morning trip couldn’t wait to surprise them. We excitedly planned out all the details on the cab ride over- anxious to flawlessly execute our plan. The only glitch, we thought, was if they weren’t home.
When we arrived, we paid our (very confused) cab driver and took our places. The Cup was set up in front of the house, the camera was rolling, we rang the door bell and darted, hoping to capture a moment of genuine surprise. The problem was this- the woman who came to the door didn’t open the door, she just looked out and, with a terrified look on her face, went back in.
After a bit of an explanation, she came out- incredibly excited that the Cup was in her front yard.
“I thought someone had stolen it and put it there,” she said, as we all laughed.
She scanned the Cup, looking up Edmonton teams of old and called her son at work. He was at the door within 15 minutes, not believing what was in front of him. Despite the fact that he travels to every Grey Cup and has seen it before, having the Cup in his own front yard left him pretty stunned.
It was an awesome way to start the morning. I’m still on an adrenaline high.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: Back to School
The Grey Cup made a special appearance at the University of Alberta Golden Bears football team's home opener.
The Grey Cup visits RONA Edmonton South
Today the Cup visited RONA Edmonton South- 1 of 14 stops it’ll make at RONA locations across the country.
When I walked in, one thing became clear- there’s no missing the fact that RONA supports the CFL.
There were flags representing all eight teams dangling from the ceiling. Employees were dressed in Esks jerseys, clad with RONA patches. There was a miniature turf field set up, accompanied by uprights, and there was an abundance of jerseys, t-shirts, and other CFL gear.
What didn’t go unnoticed were the little things- the employee making fresh popcorn, handing it out to people waiting in line for their turn with the Cup, the one offering to take photos for people who brought their own cameras.
It was also cool to see the joy that the employees themselves had when it was their turn to get a Grey Cup photo. Total excitement. Total joy.
That same joy was experienced by customers, most of whom came just to see the Cup, some of whom were pleasantly surprised to find it.
One girl who I met, I’d peg her at about 12, said she couldn’t wait to post her photo with the Grey Cup by her bed.
I suspect she’ll be remembering that moment for a long time to come.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: Blast from the Past
Kate McKenna speaks with Miss Grey Cup 1976 at today's Edmonton Fan Celebration.
Edmonton Fan Celebration: What a Turnout!
Today’s turnout in Edmonton was wonderfully overwhelming!
200 fans turned up to see the train before the doors had even opened, with over 2000 making their way through the train throughout the day.
The line wound around the train station, with kids young and old eagerly awaiting their chance to step aboard.
As has been the case so far, fans of all 8 teams were there, proudly sporting their team’s colours, although there was no denying the Esks fanbase who came out in full force.
One fan in particular caught my eye (or the cameraman’s eye, to be fair). She was near the front of the line and she had a sash, which prompted a few questions. Turns out her name is Jo Zacharko, also known as Miss Eskimo and Miss Grey Cup-1976. Her brother, Dave, was also involved with the team- he played in 1979.
Jo was just 1 fan with a historical connection to the league. One man showed me a book he plans on donating to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame full of old photos and autographs. Another showed me an old rule book, circa 1946.
I’m beginning to think there’s no such thing as a casual CFL fan.
First in line in Edmonton
The first fan in line at the Edmonton Fan Celebration tells us why he's excited to check out the train!
Is that the Grey Cup: Jasper Edition
One woman can't believe her eyes when she spots the Grey Cup at an intersection in Jasper, Alberta.
Esks Ride the Jasper Tramway
I decided to take Edmonton Eskimos Jeremiah Masoli and Belton Johnson sightseeing. Here are a few clips from our ride on the Jasper Tramway.
Those two barely made it!
Edmonton: Season Ticket Holders Since 1949
There are season ticket holders, there are longtime season ticket holders and then there are Clarice and Svend Hansen- Edmonton Eskimos season ticket holders since 1949.
To hear them say it, the CFL and the Eskimos, in particular, have always been a part of their lives.
The two have missed 3 games since they first purchased tickets in the late 40’s and are quick to boast that they even saw a game on their wedding day. It was a nice reprieve from friends they didn’t exactly want to see, they told me. They didn’t tell anyone in the wedding party they were escaping to the stadium.
Watching them go through the train was delightful. They remembered and laughed and told me the onboard memorabilia brought memories flooding back.
I’m consistently reminded of the role this league has played in people’s lives and was reminded of that yet again today, meeting Clarice and Svend. Throughout the major milestones in their lives- the courtship, the marriage, the children that followed- going to football games was a constant- one that they cherished.
It’s exciting to show off the train to anyone, but it’s particularly exciting and gratifying to show it to people like that who care so, so much about the league and its history.
If Clarice and Svend are indicative of the level of support the Esks have in this community, tomorrow’s Fan Celebration should be quite the party!
Scenes from the Train: Vancouver to Jasper
Check out some scenes from the train as it made its way from Vancouver to Jasper.
Top Pic: Jasper
Check out this photo of the Grey Cup on top of Whistler's Mountain in Jasper, Alberta. The view was breathtaking!
All Aboard- Vancouver to Jasper
I’ve seen the commercials. Who hasn’t?
Couples sipping wine while gazing out the windows and at each other before enjoying a peaceful sleep, lulled into slumber by the train’s consistent rocking.
There is definite romantic appeal to train travel and last night I got my first taste.
I, along with the rest of the Grey Cup Tour team, boarded the train in Vancouver, proud to see our wrapped cars all ready to go.
We settled in and enjoyed champagne and OJ, talked about Vancouver and the days to come while meeting VIA staff who were thrilled that the Grey Cup was aboard. We got an improptu concert from the cooks, the customer service staff and others and after battling fatigue for as long as we could, headed to bed, our eyelids heavy.
This morning at breakfast we met a couple en route to New York to celebrate their honeymoon. When they self-described as train people, they weren’t kidding. They met on a train and have since taken multiple cross-country trips this way. As it turns out, the groom is a pilot and we’ll be seeing him later on in the tour, when we bring the Cup to CFB Moose Jaw.
Dining with new people is but one communal aspect of train travel, as I’m learning. With everyone in such close proximity, you get real comfortable, real quick.
When the train made an unexpected stop for a few hours, we decided to use the time to surprise the VIA staff with the Grey Cup and I knew it was the right decision when I saw the looks on their faces. They couldn’t have been happier or more delighted. I asked one of the two engineers on board what the most memorable train trip of his career has been and he immediately responded, “this one.”
My most memorable moment of the day? Getting a chance to sit up front with the engineers and blow the horn. I’m no train aficionado but I was positively giddy.
Trains will do that to you, I guess.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: Giving Back
Kate McKenna looks at RONA's Home Field Advantage field refurbishment program.
Grey Cup 100 Tour: Next Up
Kate McKenna says hello from Vancouver and tells you where the Cup is headed next!
Canada Post Pays Tribute
The Grey Cup 100 Tour train isn't the only thing making its way across the country this fall. Canada Post's commemorative stamps will be too.
Vancouver Fan Celebration - A Fan's Perspective
Those who are diehard fans of the Canadian Football League will likely know a fair bit about the history of the league. For those new to the game, or the casual fan, the Grey Cup 100 Tour Train serves as a travelling history lesson of the game and the league so many of us love.
Starting its 40 plus stop journey across the country in Vancouver, the train celebrates the past while also focusing on the current stars of the game, effectively captivating fans of all ages. It is beautifully wrapped with the 100th Grey Cup logo and stars of the league such as Travis Lulay, Anthony Calvillo and Fred Stamps. The 100TH Grey Cup stamp collection is also prominently featured in the design.
There are two sections to the train, one focusing on the Grey Cup itself, while the others celebrate the rich and storied history of the league in a museum type setting.
On the Grey Cup car, fans can hear the motivational speeches of Grey Cup coaches as they prepare their teams for battle. Interactive touch screen displays allow fans to pull up the name plates of every championship team in the history of the trophy, or browse a fan photo montage. The rings of past champions are prominently displayed. The Grey Cup itself awaits visitors at the end of this car. Fans can have their picture taken with the trophy and have it receiver it by e-mail.
The history cars take fans from the beginning in 1909 and its eastern roots, to the inclusion of the west and right through to the present day. You can learn about the league during war time, the depression and about classic clashes like the Mud Bowl, the Fog Bowl and the Snow Bowl. (Why don’t they call them cups?). Did you know the price of a Grey Cup ticket in 1971 was $15.00?
There is another car (which I apparently wasn’t supposed to be in) that will cater to VIP’s and sponsors along the journey, complete with a bar. I did envision myself travelling to Toronto in November on the train. Oh what a party that would be as we picked up fans on our journey east!
Even as a major CFL fan there were several stories I wasn’t aware of before touring the train, so there is definitely something for everyone on board.
In addition to the train itself, there is a festival type atmosphere at the event. There was a strong presence by the Lions who had current and former players signing autographs. There were interactive football type activities for the kids and live music as well.
One of the coolest ideas to come from this tour is the Fan Cup presented by Telus. Fans can sign up and have their name included on new trophy to be called the Fan Cup that will eventually reside in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in Hamilton. Telus has come up with a penny press that turns your penny into a keepsake, while ensuring a piece of your penny will be used to create the new cup. The whole process takes a while, so be prepared to stand in line for a bit.
The train is a great way to celebrate the 100th Grey Cup Championship and the history behind it. In addition to the scheduled train stops the Grey Cup will also make several other appearances in communities all over the country, leading up to the big game in November. Get out and see it when it comes to your community and celebrate the storied 100 year history of the Canadian Football League!
Contributed by: Brian Wawryshyn
1-on-1 with Max Kerman of Arkells
Kate McKenna goes 1-on-1 with Max Kerman of Arkells at the Vancouver Fan Celebration.
Grey Cup Tour: First Glimpse
Fans get their first look at the Grey Cup 100 Tour train.
Vancouver Fan Celebration - What a Start
A few minutes before the gates opened at today’s Vancouver Fan Celebration, I ducked out and chatted with CFL fans who were in line, anxiously waiting for the clock to strike 10 so they could finally see what they’d been waiting for: the Grey Cup 100 Tour train.
I was reminded today- just as I was yesterday at the BC Lions game- that one of the things that makes our league’s fans so great is their contagious passion and unwavering commitment.
In line there were fans who’d driven an hour. Two hours. There were kids under 7 and kids over 70, showing equal parts energy and excitement.
There were Lions fans, plenty of them. There were Riders fans, of course. There were Als fans, Bombers fans and Esks fans- all of whom were pumped to see the train they’d heard about.
As the event progressed it was so satisfying to see the looks on their faces as they walked through the train cars, checking out the Grey Cup rings and the touch screens, reminiscing with their friends about CFL moments gone by, documented in photos and stories on the train’s interior walls.
The activity outside the train was wonderful too as youngsters darted through obstacle courses- their parents proudly snapping photos, fans got their pennies pressed at the TELUS The Fan Cup Station and others gushed at players past and present, who were happily posing for photos- time after time after time.
Despite the grey sky overhead, enthusiasm reigned. It likely didn’t hurt that the Juno award winning Arkells, among others, provided the musical backdrop.
It’s pretty unbelievable to think that this is the first of 100 stops.
What a start.
Kicking Off the Tour in Vancouver
Check out highlights from the first Fan Celebration of the Grey Cup 100 Tour!
A Look Inside the Train
Kate McKenna gives you a sneak preview of the Grey Cup 100 Tour train.
Grey Cup 100 Train Tour presented by RONA Launches in Vancouver
VANCOUVER – The Grey Cup 100 Train Tour presented by RONA begins an epic Canadian journey today that will bring the iconic trophy and so much more to over one hundred communities across Canada.
“As we commemorate this year of the 100th Grey Cup game by taking the Grey Cup trophy, and special exhibits and activities that capture its lore, to Canadians, we’re really celebrating its place in the history, culture and future of Canada,” said Mark Cohon, Commissioner of the Canadian Football League.
At a special ceremony this morning here at Pacific Central Station, the specially retrofitted Grey Cup 100 train was officially unveiled and toured by dignitaries, the media and members of the White Rock Titans Football Club.
On Sunday, the train will be open to the public here in Vancouver from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for the very first Fan Celebration before it leaves the station to begin a 4,100 kilometre journey which will ultimately conclude in Toronto at the end of November for the 100th Grey Cup Game and Festival. Sunday’s Fan Celebration will include appearances by the BC Lions Cheerleaders, Mascots, a live DJ and Juno award-winning band Arkells will be taking the stage. More information is available at GreyCupTour.ca.
A Uniquely Canadian Journey
The Grey Cup is a Canadian icon, a symbol of who we are, and how we come together. The mission of the Grey Cup 100 Tour presented by RONA is to share the Cup with Canadians from coast to coast on a specially retrofitted VIA train.
Leading up to the 100th Grey Cup Game in November 2012, the trophy which has inspired so many pilgrimages will embark on its own journey. It will visit 100 communities, inspire the telling of thousands of stories, and touch millions of Canadians.