Fletcher Armstrong and his horse, Marty, are turned away from the Royal York.TORONTO—One of the biggest stories of this Grey Cup week has been the plan by Calgary Stampeders' fans to bring a horse into the lobby of the renowned Royal York Hotel, commemorating a memorable 1948 occurrence that helped kickstart the Grey Cup party. Hotel staff said it wouldn't be allowed, but the fans involved went ahead with the plan anyway, setting up a memorable "Showdown At The Royal York" Thursday morning. A crowd of about 60 gathered outside the hotel on Front Street at 10 a.m., the planned arrival time, and anticipation built for the next few minutes. About five minutes after 10, cheers rang out from the crowd as the horse ("Marty") and its rider (Fletcher Armstrong, of the Calgary Grey Cup Committee) came walking up Front Street. It led to a tremendous amount of exuberance and excitement, but although the red carpet was rolled out for the horse, it wasn't allowed to follow its famous predecessor into the lobby. Here's video of what happened:
The best part of that comes at 0:50, when someone yells, "What do you think, should we go in?" and the crowd cheers and then starts chanting "Let us in!"
A few observations from the crowd:
—It wasn't all Stampeders' fans! Yes, they made up the majority of the crowd and were the most vocal, and the Stamps' cheerleaders also showed up, but there were also fans there in Riders and Lions jerseys. The crowd also ranged from well-dressed businesspeople curious what was happening to diehard CFL fans to a horde of media types looking to get horse footage. Here's a shot of the crowd:
—More photos from the attempted horse invasion can be seen here.
—There were plenty of chants, too, including a "ARRRRGGGOOOOS" from an upper window of Union Station across the street, repeated "Go Stamps Go" chants and the ever-popular "Ticats suck!"
—One of the best lines came when it became clear the horse wasn't getting in. Someone in the crowd yelled "All of Canada hates you right now!"
—And another great one came from an observer who spoke to a TV reporter later, saying "The West wants in!"
—The real horse may not have gotten in, but as you can see in the photo at right tweeted by TSN's Chobi Liang, Calgary fans managed a pantomime horse. Hopefully this leads to a "The Pantomime Horse Enters The Royal York Hotel" film...
The Stamps' fans didn't get a real horse into the lobby, but they managed a fake horse.
Sure, Ontario order may have triumphed over Western wildness on the day, but there's a sense it's under threat. While Marty didn't get into the Royal York, the story certainly drew plenty of attention to the Grey Cup. Marty eventually got into the First Canadian Place shopping mall, though, and he'll get his hotel; the nearby Holiday Inn Toronto Centre has reportedly agreed to allow the Calgary Grey Cup Committee to bring the horse to their invitation-only cocktail reception this evening.
Overall, though, despite the loss in "The Showdown At The Royal York," it seems this city's starting to abandon its typical calm for the insanity traditionally associated with the Grey Cup. It hasn't spread to everyone yet, but there's a growing sense that Grey Cup fever is starting to catch. We'll see if that continues to build throughout the weekend.
Update: The hotel's tweeted that they'll allow the horse in at 2 p.m. Thursday afternoon.