Weathering the Grey Cup in Winnipeg
The 103rd edition of the Grey Cup kicks off on November 29.
This will be only the fourth Grey Cup contested in Winnipeg.
It is just a football game but the “Annual Classic” is the one-day event that brings Canadian fans together in shared stories, recollections and friendly rivalries.
Take the weather.
Of course, the weather has often been a factor. There was fog (1962), wind (1965 and 1995), mud (1950) and ice in 1977. All these games were classified as “Bowls” with the applicable weather condition used as a modifier.
Late November weather in Winnipeg averages -9 degrees Celsius at kickoff time. There is a 60 per cent chance of precipitation and a 40 per cent possibility of snow on the ground that day. Although 80 per cent of Investors Group Field seats are covered this won’t help the players. Maybe they’ll call this one the Polar Vortex Bowl.
And there are the controversies.
Was Hamilton’s Angelo Mosca trying to injure BC Lion star back Willie Fleming in ‘64? Did Alouette Chuck Hunsinger really fumble in ‘54? Or was it an incomplete pass? And last year was that late game penalty that nullified Brandon Banks’ 90-yard punt return a good call?
The celebrated east west rivalry hasn’t always existed. The first eight games were Eastern only affairs. The west got their chance at the Cup in 1921 but it wasn’t until 1935 that the Winnipeg Pegs triumphed. The Pegs used Americans and worse still paid them money. That prompted a new rule. Teams would be restricted to five imports. Only players who had lived in Canada for a full year could compete in the Cup. The 1936 Regina Roughriders wanted to come east but five of their players were declared ineligible. In spite of this, one of the most exciting Grey Cup games ever saw Sarnia Imperials knock off the Ottawa Rough Riders (26-20).
Significant changes were made to CFL’s rulebook this year. In the scheme of things though this year’s revisions were no big deal.
For example, coaching from the sidelines was a 10-yard penalty until the mid ‘50s.
Two outside scrimmage positions were eliminated in 1920. That changed the 14 man game to the 12 players on the field situation we know today.
The first forward pass was thrown at the 1929 game but it was effectively banned for the following year’s contest. That pass was incomplete but, according to the rules of the day, the ball was live. Players scrambled frantically to recover it.
It took some years to get the passing rules straightened out. Up to 1949, a forward pass had to cross the line of scrimmage in the air to count as an eligible pass. If the ball was caught behind the line of scrimmage, the play was stopped and the offence was charged with a loss of down.
The weather, some kind of controversy and plenty of head scratching over the CFL’s 100-page rulebook will all be in play this year.
Bet on it.