The concierge at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto shuddered a little when he heard the Calgary Stampeders had won the West. Stampeder fans are now heading east in droves to prepare for the game. Traditionally, they bring everything. That includes the horses that like to canter down the foyer in the Royal York. An equipment manager has been assigned to pick up any inadvertent droppings along the way, to be donated to local road hockey games.
It will be a wild and woolly week in Hogtown, but one that has been anticipated since last December. The Toronto Argonauts knew that they needed help at quarterback, and arranged to have Ricky Ray head east from the Eskimos. Edmonton’s loss, Toronto’s gain. Big time.
The 100th anniversary of the Grey Cup had been awarded to Toronto, and the team knew that they had to do everything in their power to secure the right to play in the game.
The Argos earned the right to play for the Grey Cup last weekend in Montreal. Calvillo did not have his best game for the Alouettes. He overthrew receivers in the first quarter, and was under pressure throughout the game. The Argos received a remarkable performance from Chad Owens, on plays from scrimmage, and on punt and kick returns. Marcus Ball intercepted two Montreal tosses to curtail serious damage.
In a real barnburner, the game came down to one play. Anthony Calvillo threw the ball into the Argo end zone a typical “Hail Mary” play. The ball came out of the sky to the Alouette receiver, Brian Bratton. At the last second, he was temporarily distracted by the Argo defender. There was some discussion as to whether or not the ball had been touched. Moot point. The Alouette receiver was sufficiently distracted to let the ball bang off his shoulder pad and hit the ground. No flags. No interference calls. Game, set, match.
After that 10-second pregnant pause, the boys in the Double Blue declared, “I believe we are the visitors.” On to the Rogers Centre! On to the Grey Cup!
The Stampeders did not have an easy time getting past the British Columbia Lions. In fact, the home team lost each of the games in the finals, east and west. The Lions were defending Grey Cup Champions, and had Travis Lulay at the helm. He was the CFL’s most outstanding player last year, and also the MVP at the Grey Cup. Past history.
On January 3, 2012, the Stampeders completed a trade with the Hamilton Tiger Cats, essentially a quarterback swap: Kevin Glenn to the Stamps for Henry Burris. Glenn was no stranger to the CFL, having played three years for the Green Riders, six years for the Blue Bombers, and three years for the Tiger Cats.
There is a host of activities taking place in Toronto every day this week, including the traditional Grey Cup Parade. All of the CFL cheerleaders will be there, waving to all of their fans from Wellington on the Lake.
These will be exciting times for the city. I defy you to try to find a hotel room in the core at this date. The suites are booked, and the fridges are packed with lots of pop and Kool Ade. They are selling tickets for fans to watch the game in movie theatres!
All of the great Canadian traditions surrounding the event will be well acknowledged. A great unifying extravaganza for our country.
Kickoff is at 6 p.m. on Sunday.