In 1909, Albert Henry George, the fourth Earl of Grey and the Governor General of Canada, donated a trophy to be awarded to the winner of the Rugby Football Championship of Canada.
The Grey Cup at that time was made by Birks Jewellers at a cost of $48 dollars; however, as preparations continue leading up to that same Cup being awarded for 100th time in Toronto this year, its value to our Nation can not be measured monetarily. There is no dollar amount that can be placed on a trophy, and an event, that has united our country like the Grey Cup Championship has for so many years.
The game has certainly evolved and gone through many changes over time, for instance, at one point in the 1920's there were actually fourteen men on the field per side not twelve, and it wasn't until 1929 after the Cup had been awarded many times that the forward pass was invented. But while the game changes every year, and the number of teams, and where those teams are located (see U.S. expansion) competing for the Cup varies, from year to year, the Cup itself, the game itself, is still the only annual sporting event that can unite an entire country.
Where a lawyer from Toronto and a surgeon from Vancouver, can enjoy a week of Canadiana, paint their face if they are so inclined, share a beverage, and discuss the merits of their favorite team.
If the Grey Cup could talk it would be the makings of a major motion picture. A story of great triumph and perseverance, a journey that would touch every corner of our country from coast to coast, and include testimonials from millions of Canadians.
In 1947 when the Cup was being stored in the old Toronto Argonaut Rowing Club, a fire completely destroyed the building except for one surviving beam, and while every other trophy melted from the blaze, hanging from a nail on that beam, was the Grey Cup, unharmed. It has been stolen, held for ransom, and returned, it has been broken, and repaired many times, survived a great depression, was put on hold through two World Wars, and it has reduced grown men to tears.
I understand that we live in a day and age of professional sports where it is all about business, huge television deals, and money. But if it is wrong to just be proud of the simplicity, and great history of the Grey Cup Championship, well then, I for one, don't want to be right.
The Grey Cup has never been about money, even when both Canadian and American players were making more money in Canada than they were in the United States. The Grey Cup has always been about the competition, and has always involved the fans as much as it has the players and the coaches. It is a unique brand of football, played in a unique country, and it is ours.
As part of the preparation leading up to the 2012 Grey Cup game marking the 100th time it has been awarded, the Canadian Football League is celebrating by sending this historic trophy on a cross country journey. As the Cup makes its way across Canada, TSN will tell stories, your stories, of how the Grey Cup reflects Canadians in all walks of life. If you have a story or a memory, or know someone that has a story about how the Cup has touched your life or the life of someone you know, let us know.
I'm not sure that Albert Henry George had any idea what he had started when he donated the Grey Cup back in 1909. But I can't think of a better way to celebrate the 100th Championship, than to have the Grey Cup make a visit to as many corners of our country as possible on its way to Toronto for the end of November, and along the way, have you the fans tell your story.
Send your stories to: GreyCupStories@TSN.ca