The Toronto Argonauts, whose very name is derived from an heroic quest of mythic proportions, saved the Grey Cup from the greedy evil clutches of a varsity trophy case.
It’s an epic mythic story and it all started in 1909 when Lord Albert Henry George Grey decided to donate a trophy to Canada’s senior hockey champions. Unfortunately, someone named Sir Montague Allen beat him to it. No problem. Ever the opportunist, Lord Grey saw that the national rugby champions could use a trophy instead, and thus, the Grey Cup was born.
On December 4, 1909, the historic first game was played on Rosedale Field in Toronto before a ravenous crowd of 3,807. The University of Toronto plowed over the legendary Parkdale Canoe Club 26 – 6, but no trophy was available for the champions to celebrate with. It seems Lord Grey’s staff forgot to have the Grey Cup made, prior to the game being played.
It wasn’t until March 1910 that the Grey Cup was presented for the very first time. Not much is known about that momentous occasion as history records no official account of the event. One can only speculate (or completely make up in this case) the wide eyed gob-smacked look on Coach Harry Griffith’s face as he pressed his fingertips lightly upon the Cup’s majestic silvery surface for the very first time, possibly uttering the words, “My precious, my precious.”
Whatever transpired that day, it’s clear that an idea came to be – an idea that began to filter its way through an entire football program, and this idea would go on to live in secret for several years more.
On November 26, 1910, 12,000 fans stormed into the Cricket Grounds of Hamilton, Ontario to watch their team take on the University of Toronto for the Dominion Championship game. Varsity once again emerged victorious, defeating the Hamilton Tigers 16 – 7. Toronto’s fans took to the streets, first in Hamilton, then later back in TO to celebrate. Most significantly, Lord Grey’s Cup remained locked up deep inside the hallowed stone halls of the University of Toronto.
On November 25, 1911, the final nail was pounded into a brand new Varsity Stadium in downtown Toronto. Ninety minutes later, 13,687 individuals of an early 20th century football persuasion began to fill its stands. The Toronto Argonauts were set to meet The University of Toronto for their own crack at Lord Grey’s Cup.
This game saw blood. Varsity’s Allan Ramsay played the entire 2nd quarter with his face cut open. The field was mud and traction was an article of blind faith. For the Argos, handling the ball proved their undoing as a fumble on their own goal line sealed their fate. Varsity scored and the Argonauts fell. In the end, the score was 14 – 7 for the University of Toronto.
Three years and nine months had passed since the football players of the University of Toronto first gazed upon Lord Grey’s Cup. Varsity lost to McGill in a playoff game, but it was not the Dominion Championship. The idea that was born out of that fateful day in March 1910 had come to fruition. The University of Toronto football squad decreed that the Grey Cup would stay with Varsity until another team defeated them in the championship game.
The Hamilton Alerts defeated the Toronto Argonauts in November 1912, 11 – 4, but no trophy was presented. The Hamilton Tigers defeated the Parkdale Canoe Club of Toronto 44 – 2 on November 29, 1913, and the Grey Cup remained locked up at the U of T.
It wasn’t until December 5, 1914 that Varsity next found themselves in the championship game. On this day, The Toronto Argonauts were set to meet them, to wrest the Cup away, to rescue it from its captors.
In the opening minute, in poetic sweet justice, the Argos’ Glad Murphy picked up a Varsity fumble and ran it into the end zone. The pressure never let up from there. Relentless in their pursuit of points, their epic mythic quest to take the Cup for themselves, the Argonauts went on to defeat the University of Toronto 14 – 2.
With that Argonaut victory, a black curtain was lifted and sunlight poured in. The Argonauts freed the trophy for every subsequent champion, and never again would the Grey Cup be missing from the big game.