CFL History: How The Grey Cup Got Its Name

Matt Eichel@@mattyalloutSenior Writer INovember 15, 2008

Not much is known outside of Canada about the historic Canadian Football League. Despite being the 55th season of the modern Canadian professional football, it is officially the 51st season of the CFL.

However, the Grey Cup, the trophy awarded to the CFL champions, is much much older than the league itself.

In 1909, the Grey Cup was donated by then Canadian Governor General of Canada Earl Grey.  It was originally given to top amateur rugby football team in Canada in the early twentieth century.  As time wore on, the Grey Cup became the possession of the CFL as it evolved into a professional football league in 1954.

The Grey Cup has always seemingly taken a backseat to the NHL's Stanley Cup.  Yet with the dwindling amount of NHL teams in Canada and the growth of hockey outside Canada and the number of teams winning it outside of Canada also growing, the Grey Cup has become a prime time for Canada to celebrate its heritage in the Grey Cup.

From 1909 to 1916, and from 1920 until 1987, only the winning team and year was engraved on the silver slates of the Grey Cup.  Somehow, the Hamilton Tigers were engraved on the Cup despite winning it in 1908 before the Cup was even given out.

Among the champions of the Grey Cup, there have been many dynasties and many upsets.  As is in any professional football league, it is difficult for teams to win back-to-back championships, no less win more than two in a row.During the late 1970s, the Edmonton Eskimos rattled off five consecutive Grey Cup championships from 1978-1982 (66th-70th Grey Cups), defeating the Montreal Alouettestwice and the Ottawa Rough Riders, Toronto Argonauts, and Hamilton Tiger-Cats once each in their dynastic reign. 

Next to that streak, the Toronto Argonauts of the mid-to-late 1990s won back-to-back championships in the 84th and 85th Grey Cups with former NFLer Doug Flutie and running back Michael "Pinball" Clemons. 

Overall, the Toronto Argonauts have won the most Grey Cup championships, winning 15 of the 21 times they made it to the Grey Cup game.  The Edmonton Eskimos have won 13 Grey Cups, Winnipeg Blue Bombers have won 10 Grey Cups, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats have won eight Grey Cups, the Saskatchewan Roughriders have won three Grey Cups, while the Montreal Alouettes, BC Lions, and Calgary Stampeders have won five Grey Cups apiece.  Not to mention, the now defunct Ottawa Rough Riders won nine Grey Cups during their years of operation between 1876 and 1996.

The Grey Cup is a symbol of pride in Canada as is the Stanley Cup.  Yet, the Grey Cup has stood for something more than just a trophy, but a symbol of something that is solely and unmistakably Canadian.  Only once has the Grey Cup taken a trip south of the border.  During the short US expansion of the early 1990s, the Baltimore Stallions defeated Doug Flutie's Calgary Stampeders to take home the 83rd Grey Cup in 1995.

As the 96th Grey Cup in Montreal comes up, Canadians from coast to coast are going to tune in, no matter who's playing.  Wherever the Grey Cup is held, fans will come from wherever there team is from to cheer on their team.


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