Steve Armitage shares his favourite Grey Cup memories
A veteran of 27 Grey Cups, CBC Sports broadcaster Steve Armitage has seen it all in covering the Canadian Football League's championship game over the years, but there's one incident that still makes him shake his head and laugh.
Back in 1994, Armitage made an embarrassing, but understandable, mistake before a live television audience.
He gave the Grey Cup's MVP award to the wrong player.
There was a lot at stake in the 82nd Grey Cup in Vancouver. For the first time in league history national pride was put on the line as the hometown B.C. Lions hosted the Baltimore CFLers, the first U.S.-based team to challenge for the championship.
"It was kind of like Team Canada versus the Russians," said Armitage. "There was a huge amount of hoopla in that game."
It was a hard-fought, nail-biting contest with the lead changing three times before Lui Passaglia lifted a field goal as time expired to give the Lions a 26-23 victory.
Working as a sideline reporter for CBC and in charge of trophy presentation, Armitage was in the middle of a chaotic scene as he made his way through delirious fans who stormed the field at the end of the game. The situation was so crazy that Armitage had to make the presentations in the Lions' dressing room.
To nobody's surprise he awarded the MVP to Passaglia.
"At the end of the game, I give the keys to the truck to Passaglia," said Armitage. "It turns out he wasn't the most valuable player. It was a member of Baltimore. "
Armitage later found out the vote took place before the final play of the game and the actual winner was defensive back Karl Anthony.
"The next day I actually had to go out to the training centre and get the keys back from Lui. Fortunately, there was a dealership in B.C. that said they would give Passaglia a truck for a year. "
Aside from this missed communication, Armitage has nothing but fond memories of his time covering the Grey Cup.
The 1989 Grey Cup – a classic game
Of all of the games he work, Armitage singled out the 1989 Grey Cup between the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Hamilton Tiger-Cats at the SkyDome in Toronto as the most entertaining of his career.
When he started for work that day, however, Armitage didn't expect to see what is generally considered the most exciting Grey Cup ever played.
"I remember walking over with Don Wittman, who did the play-by-play that game, and there was nobody in the streets. The place was empty. I walked into this huge, beautiful stadium and there was nobody there and I said, 'Boy, this is going to really be tough to make this exciting.'"
More than 54,000 people ended up packing the SkyDome — now called the Rogers Centre — that day and they got full value for their dollar, watching as Dave Ridgway capped a thrilling game with a 35-yard field goal with only seconds remaining to give the underdog Roughriders a 43-40 victory.
It was the Riders' first championship in 23 years.
Standing in the middle of flying champagne, crying players, trophy hoists and locker room celebrations come with the territory in covering the Grey Cup for Armitage.
Matt Dunigan plays through pain
He's probably conducted over a hundred post-game interviews in his career, but there's one with Toronto Argonauts quarterback Matt Dunigan after the 1991 Grey Cup that stands out for him.
Dunigan wasn't expected to start the game, but shocked football fans by playing through a separated shoulder to lead the Argonauts to a 36-21 victory over the Calgary Stampeders in one of the coldest Grey Cups of all time.
"I did an interview with him afterwards and he was so hurt and so fatigued mentally and physically, I couldn't get him up to the riser we built for the player interviews," he said. "So I took my cable, I pulled it over and sat in the stall next to his stall.
"He ended up crying at the tail end of the interview because he was so exhausted."
On Sunday, the Grey Cup will celebrate its 100th anniversary when the Toronto Argonauts play host to the Calgary Stampeders at the Rogers Centre.
For Armitage, he will be in the press box, covering his 28th Grey Cup.