Why the Grey Cup's decades of misadventure reflects the CFL's resilience
'It has all these near-death experiences, somehow survives and is still this beautiful thing,' says Vicki Hall
For players in the Canadian Football League, holding the Grey Cup is a moment to remember.
Justin Medlock — place-kicker with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers — recalls when he got his hands on the top prize last year.
But this week the CFL has announced that the 2020 season is cancelled due to COVID-19, marking the first time that the Grey Cup won't be presented since 1919.
Medlock said that the news has devastated the CFL.
"For me, I'm obviously toward the end of my career, and it's ... a bummer," the player said.
This year's cancellation is part of the cup's storied history.
Vicki Hall is a freelance journalist who's been covering the CFL for more than a decade.
"The trophy is totally symbolic of the Canadian Football League," she said.
"The Canadian Football League has survived so many near-death experiences."
A history of parties
After decades swapping hands, the Grey Cup itself is in bad shape.
"We got to the airport when we first landed in Winnipeg and the Cup had basically broken on the plane," Medlock said.
"We came out and the fans were screaming; we had the Cup and one of the guys was just kind of like holding it together. Nobody notices but it was still kind of bent backwards and sideways."
The Grey Cup was originally commissioned in 1908 by then Governor General Albert Grey for a measly $48.
Since then, the cup has been through all kinds of antics.
"Quite often they say they don't even want to know where it's been because it just looks that rough."
Much of the time, the cup has been is at parties with winning players.
"Being able to drink out of it a little bit was always not as disgusting as I thought it would be," Medlock said.
Fires and kidnappings
The cup has also survived extremely tense circumstances.
"Legend has it that the shelf that the Grey Cup was on actually crumbled and fell," said Hall.
The Grey Cup was also held for ransom in 1969.
"Somehow the cup ended up in a locker at the Royal York Hotel, which to me is a very strange — but a very Canadiana — story," Hall said.
Hall believes that the cup's storied past is emblematic of how sports bring Canadians together.
"It's not so much about football, it's about Canada."
Written by Oliver Thompson. Produced by Rachel Levy-McLaughlin. Edited for clarity and length.