Their First Grey Cup: The Toronto Argonauts

Their First Grey Cup: The Toronto Argonauts

The CFL season is heading towards the playoffs and before we know it the Grey Cup will be upon us.

In the run up to that game in November I thought it might be interesting to do a series detailing the first time each team in the league captured the grand old trophy.

The Toronto Argonauts are the oldest existing team in the CFL. So it is no surprise that of the nine teams, they were the first to capture the Cup, in 1914.

The 6th Grey Cup saw 10,500 fans on hand at Varsity Stadium in Toronto. There they saw the Toronto Argonauts defeat the University of Toronto Blues 14-2.

It was a case of third time lucky for the Argonauts. They had lost in the 1911 and 1912 finals. This was some measure of revenge too as it was the Blues who had bested them in their first Grey Cup appearance.

The Grey Cup wasn’t what it is today

The Grey Cup was not originally for pro sport and it wasn’t even meant for football. In 1909 the Grey Cup was conceived as an award for the amateur senior hockey championship of Canada. 

However the Allan Cup had already been donated for that. So the Grey Cup became an award for the amateur rugby football championship of Canada instead.

The trophy bears the name of its donor. His Excellency Earl Grey, the Governor General of Canada. The original sterling silver cup, on a wooden base cost $48.00.

Who challenged for the Cup?

In 1909 all football in Canada was amateur and was governed by the Canadian Rugby Union. All of the Unions, or football leagues, who played under them could compete for the trophy. This meant that establishing the champion was an elaborate process because so many organizations were involved and many played by different rules. 

This latter sentiment was echoed by the league during the Grey Cup 100 celebrations in 2012.

The Grey Cup Playoffs

The 1909 playoffs saw a 5-1 Argos team square off against a 5-1 Hamilton Tigers team for the IRFU title.

Toronto won that game 11-4 to advance to an Eastern Final. That was a showdown with the ORFU champions, Hamilton Rowing Club. The Boatmen edged that one 16-14 to make the title game.

In the CIRFU, both Varsity and the McGill Redmen finished 3-1. Toronto varsity Blues defeated McGill 17-13 to advance to the Grey Cup.

The Grey Cup Game

In this rematch of the 1911 game, the Argos scored in the opening minute. Varsity’s Red McKenzie fumbled the ball on a punt return on his own 15-yard line, which was picked up and run into the end zone for an Argonauts touchdown. Jack O’Connor was good on the convert.

The Argonauts took advantage of another turnover in the second quarter when Freddie Mills recovered another Varsity fumble and ran it in for a score. O’Connor failed on the convert, but was later successful on a field goal.

That Kick was from 35 yards out, hit the crossbar and bounced over for a 14-0 Argonauts lead. O’Connor actually attempted seven field goals, but only made this one.

Varsity’s only points came in the third quarter on a pair of rouges.

With the loss, Varsity players finally handed over the Grey Cup trophy which they had held since March 1910. They hadn’t played in the Dominion championship since 1911, but argued that the trophy was theirs until another team defeated them in the national final.

This Argonauts’ victory took that challenge trophy idea away and it has been handed to the winner ever since.

WHAT CAME NEXT

1912 saw the Hamilton Tigers claim their second title. After that there was no game from 1916 to 1919 as the First World War impacted on all aspects of life.

The first Grey Cup game following those tragic events again saw the Varsity Blues take on the Argos. This time the University team won 16-3. That was to be their 4th and last title.

The Double Blue were back to claim their own second title the following year in 1921. The Argonauts continue to play to this day and last won the Grey Cup, their 17th, in the ‘Snow-globe Game‘ in 2017.

Banner image: The Grey Cup of the day. Image from nationalpost.com

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