This weekend the Grey Cup Train hit Calgary, drawing out thousands of fans to take in the festivities.
There are three Holy Grails in the Canadian sports world: the Stanley Cup (NHL), the Brier (men's curling) and the Grey Cup (CFL). As one of the oldest trophies in North American pro sports, the opportunity to lay eyes on the Grey Cup is rare and exciting.
Governor-General Earl Grey donated the cup for the 1909 amateur rugby football championship of Canada, which was won by the University of Toronto. Over the years, as the game evolved into what we now know as Canadian football, the cup followed along.
With the formation of the CFL in 1958, the Grey Cup became the symbol of professional football excellence in Canada. That year, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers took home the trophy.
Since then, every active CFL team has won the Cup at least once. The Cup even spent a year south of the border, when the Baltimore Stallions won the CFL championship in 1995 during the CFL's brief attempt to bring real football to an American audience.
Leading up to November's presentation of the Grey Cup to the CFL's best team, the trophy is traveling by train from British Columbia to Nova Scotia. Each stop includes interesting and engaging events for the fans who visit, and the train itself is a museum tracking the evolution of football in Canada.
The nation is also commemorating the 100th Grey Cup in various ways.
Canada Post has a series of Grey Cup stamps available, with the cup and each team represented.
The Canadian Mint has also produced a special 100th Grey Cup loonie (aka $1 coin).
So, it's a pretty big deal overall.
At the Calgary stop, several current and former Calgary Stampeders were in attendance to sign autographs and check out the museum and the Cup themselves. Members of the University of Calgary Dinos football team were around, manning play areas for the kids.
And there were a number of other activities, souvenirs and distractions for the rest of the crowd.
And, of course, there was the Grey Cup itself, out on display in front of the train for all to see and take pictures with.
For myself, this was a rare opportunity to get a close look at one of the most storied and revered prizes in my country.
And even for someone like my wife, who is not much of a football fan, this meant something—she was born within hours of a Grey Cup game where her hometown Roughriders beat the Rough Riders (true Canadians will understand the distinction), so she has frequently described herself as a "Grey Cup Baby."
At the end of the day, an event such as this has an impact above and beyond the CFL community. This event has touched people throughout Canada and beyond, which makes it pretty special.
Keep tabs on the train's progress on its website, and be sure to get out and have a look when it reaches your neighbourhood—it's well worth it.
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