The Canadian Football League’s Grey Cup Week is often fondly referred to as the “Grand National Drunk” (credit to legendary sportswriter Dick Beddoes), but it hasn’t always been that much of a party. The game for the trophy (first awarded in 1909, but it wasn’t even ready for that first game) has generally received attention, even when it involved university squads like the University of Toronto Varsity Blues (three wins from 1909-11 and another in 1920) or the Queen’s Gaels (three wins from 1922-24) or military teams (like the 1942 RCAF Hurricanes) or unusual teams like “Toronto Balmy Beach” (victors in 1927 and 1930). But the week-long party around it really kicked off in 1948, and horses were heavily involved.
In 1948, ahead of the Calgary Stampeders’ 36th Grey Cup game against the Ottawa Rough Riders (Calgary would win that game 12-7), a host of Stampeders’ fans travelled east to host city Toronto on special trains, with many bringing their horses along. They started a week-long party, which included riding horses into the historic Royal York Hotel. Since then, there has been a long-standing tradition of the Calgary Grey Cup Committee riding a horse into a hotel in the host city. And that tradition continued in Hamilton Thursday ahead of the 108th Grey Cup, at the Towneplace Suites by Marriott:
The Calgary Grey Cup Committee horse is in the building 🐴
— Justin Dunk (@JDunk12) December 9, 2021
Keeping up with #GreyCup tradition!
— CFL (@CFL) December 9, 2021
Plenty of prominent people got involved around this, including CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie and Hamilton councillor John-Paul Danko:
— Calgary Grey Cup Committee (@CALGARYGCC) December 9, 2021
Yes that is the Grey Cup and yes that is a horse…. pic.twitter.com/U8wZ6Q2ROm
— John-Paul Danko (@JohnPaulDanko) December 9, 2021
Weird traditions like this and the Jim “Shaky” Hunt memorial sex question are a big part of what make each Grey Cup week special, and it’s great to see them continuing on. But it’s notable that there has sometimes been some pushback against the idea, including in 2012 when the Royal York (where this all started back in 1948!) initially refused to allow the horse in, leading to it making a tour of Toronto banks and pubs that did welcome the publicity before eventually returning to the hotel. After that, though, many hotels proved more receptive. And it’s good to see there isn’t an anti-horse movement in Hamilton this year; we, for one, welcome our equine and Calgarian overlords.
[Justin Dunk on Twitter]