Ahh, the Argos at Varsity Stadium – so many memories.
For me it all began in 1956, when I started attending Argo games with my Dad. Little did he know at the time that he was creating an obsession that would continue to this day.
That’s when I was introduced to the Argos – and Varsity Stadium, the grand old lady of the CFL. But football came to the site many years before me – in 1898 in fact. If you’re counting, that’s 117 years ago – a mere 31 years after confederation. The actual stadium that I had grown to love was built in 1911, three years before the start of WW1.Originally constructed to hold 10,000 fans, she underwent several renovations, so by the time I started attending, the old gal held just under 22,000. But the historic old structure ended up costing more to maintain than she generated. In her final days, she was held together with sealing wax and duct tape. So, in 2007, she was taken down and replaced with the more modern but much smaller structure we see today.
She was of course, and still is, the property of the University of Toronto, and home to the U of T Varsity Blues. But over her life, she was also home, in addition to the Argos and Blues, to the Toronto Rifles (who brought us Leo Cahill) of the old Continental Football League, the Toronto Lynx of the USL, and three separate teams in the NASL.
She has played host to not only several Grey Cups, but also Vanier Cups, the 1976 Summer Olympics, the last game ever played in the NASL, and the 1986 World Lacrosse Championships.
So if you are fortunate enough to attend Tuesday’s exhibition game between the Argos and the Blue Bombers, take a moment to pay homage to one of the grand old ladies of sport. I can still see Ronnie Knox handing off to Corky Tharp and completing passes to Al Pfeifer against the backdrop of Varsity’s majestic pillars. As the Argos of the past give way to the Ricky Rays and Chad Owens’ of today, just think that you may be cheering for the same team, in the same spot that your great, great, grandfather did 117 years ago.
Written by: Mike Mallory