Once again, we've partnered with The CIS Blog to bring you live coverage of the 2012 Vanier Cup. The game (7:30 p.m. Eastern, TSN) sets up as a fascinating rematch between the Laval Rouge et Or and the McMaster Marauders, which merely produced a thrilling 41-38 McMaster win in double overtime at B.C. Place last year. The CIS title game's again paired with the Grey Cup this year (although it may be the last such pairing for a while given Regina's hotel issues and other CIS-CFL conflicts), and the excitement around the 100th Grey Cup combined with the phenomenal Vanier matchup has combined for record ticket sales above 33,000. That should lead to a tremendous atmosphere Friday night at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.Read More »from Vanier Cup live chat: can the Marauders retain their title, or will the Rouge et Or prevail?
55 Yard Line
- Andrew Bucholtz | 55 Yard Line – Fri, 23 Nov, 2012 4:38 PM EST
- Andrew Bucholtz | 55 Yard Line – Fri, 23 Nov, 2012 3:38 PM EST
TORONTO—The most notable subject discussed during CFL commissioner Mark Cohon's annual state of the league address Friday may well have been the re-emergence of Quebec City as a legitimate expansion candidate, but many other interesting points were raised. One particularly notable one is the state of the league's relationship with Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), the governing body of Canadian university football. On the surface, everything looks bright, but when you dig a little deeper, some concerns start to emerge.
For example, Friday night will see the Vanier Cup played at the Rogers Centre in the second-straight Grey Cup-Vanier Cup pairing. That proved a tremendous success last year in bringing McMaster's dramatic win over Laval to a wider audience, and it looks set to deliver solid results again in 2012, as the game's already sold enough tickets (33,000-plus) to set an attendance record. However, there have been some complaints from people on the CIS side over how the partnership's been handled over the last few years, and although a 2013 Vanier site hasn't yet been revealed, it seems unlikely the Vanier will be paired with the Grey Cup that year thanks to limited hotel space in Regina. That's fair enough; perhaps it won't work every year. Will the CFL and CIS return to this pairing afterwards, though, or will this prove an impetus for the organizations to go their own ways?Read More »from State of the league: the CFL/CIS relationship, Canadian QBs, TV issues and more
- Dustin Pollack | 55 Yard Line – Fri, 23 Nov, 2012 12:29 PM EST
They refer to themselves as Thelma and Louise Danger and Thursday they stood amongst a crowd of CFL fans in downtown Toronto, decked out in double blue from head to toe, cheering, dancing and searching for fellow Argos fans.
They're not sisters, just best friends of almost 40 years that share a passion for a Toronto team that most sports fans in the city could have cared a less about prior to this week.
"We were crying when they won on Sunday," Thelma said, referencing the Argos Eastern final victory over the Montreal Alouettes last weekend. "I was on the edge of my seat and then when we knew they won we were counting down the clock and we just looked at each other and screamed 'Oh my god we're in the Grey Cup.'"
Together they've followed the Argos on the road, seen plenty of games at the Rogers Centre and been to eight or nine Grey Cups.
Their favourite championship memory?
"Winnipeg," they said almostRead More »from Longtime Argos fans wish they weren’t alone in Toronto
- Andrew Bucholtz | 55 Yard Line – Fri, 23 Nov, 2012 12:04 PM EST
David Menzies went on a five-minute rant about the CFL using yards, not metres.TORONTO—It didn't seem possible, but we may have found something that tops the saga of Marty the Horse as the most bizarre story of Grey Cup week. That would be a Sun News Network appearance by professional troll David Menzies, who you may remember from such moments as the Huffington Post article "You Can't Hide Behind the Gay Flag, Brian Burke" (where he suggested that Burke's involvement in a You Can Play ad was merely a PR stunt to distract from his failures with the leafs) and the radio appearance where he called Daniel Dale the Toronto Star's "most effeminate reporter" and made hypothetical comments about asking mayoral candidate George Smitherman offensive questions. Menzies has really outdone himself this time, though, as you can see from this video where he calls the CFL an "illegal sports league" and urges a boycott. What's his rationale? The league dares to use yards, not metres.Read More »from Video: Sun News Network troll David Menzies goes on bizarre anti-CFL rant, urges boycott
- Andrew Bucholtz | 55 Yard Line – Fri, 23 Nov, 2012 10:46 AM EST
TORONTO—It's remarkable how quickly things can change in a few years in the CFL, but that was evident at commissioner Mark Cohon's state of the league address Friday morning. During his opening remarks, Cohon talked about changes for the better in league infrastructure, television ratings, sponsorship revenues and more, both over last year and over when he took the head job in 2007. The most notable change may have been in response to Bruce Arthur's question about his future goals, though, both for the next three years his 2012 contract extension covers and beyond. Cohon outlined numerous goals, but what he said about potential expansion to Quebec City will, and should, get the headlines.
"There's a lot of challenges ahead, from the television contract to making sure Ottawa opens strong and that we get that franchise off on a good footing to thinking about Atlantic Canada or Quebec being the 10th franchise," Cohon said.Read More »from State of the league: is Quebec City being seriously considered as an expansion candidate?
- Ian Denomme | 55 Yard Line – Thu, 22 Nov, 2012 9:43 PM EST
Owens was the East Division nominee for the Most Outstanding Player award at the annual CFL awards. On Wednesday, his competition, Stampeders running back Jon Cornish, admitted he didn't think he would win. And on Thursday night, Owens' son, Chad Jr., admitted he was confident his dad would take home the hardware.
Owens, the Argonauts' star, was indeed named the winner at a ceremony in Toronto. He beat out Cornish, who captured the Most Outstanding Canadian award, and will face Owens in Sunday's Grey Cup.
"It means a lot," Owens said. "It means that hard work, perseverance, dedication, passion — if you do all those things, dreams can come true. Your goals, you can attain them no matter how high or unachievable they may seem.
"You gotta utilize that as motivation to go. I've got plenty of motivation. I just want to go out there and be the best every time I step on the field. You don't play to be second place."Read More »from Chad Owens caps remarkable year with Most Outstanding Player award
- Dustin Pollack | 55 Yard Line – Thu, 22 Nov, 2012 7:16 PM EST
Trevor Stoddard (left) alongside fellow Riders fan Stacey Burden (right) at Dundas Square.Trevor Stoddard has been doing this for almost a decade. Traveling from city to city by car and sometimes by plane to witness the Grey Cup live. Like many others in his home province, the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan native is a diehard Roughriders fan. And though the Riders aren't playing in their this year's championship game, being that it's the 100th Grey Cup gave him plenty of reason to hop on a plane to Toronto to take part in the all the festivities leading up to, and including Sunday's game.
Stoddard was one of many people dawning his home team's colours while taking in a part of the 100th Grey Cup festival in Yonge-Dundas Square Thursday. A white and green Riders away jersey was his choice of apparel and while at first glance the number 100 that's stitched across the front and back along with the name 'Stoddard' seems like something you'd see in an edition of Puck Daddy's Jersey Fouls, to him it holds a special significance.Read More »from CFL fans congregate in downtown Toronto to celebrate the 100th Grey Cup
- Andrew Bucholtz | 55 Yard Line – Thu, 22 Nov, 2012 7:10 PM EST
Toronto's Chad Owens has been battling the odds since he was born.TORONTO—It's been a phenomenal year for Toronto Argonauts' receiver Chad Owens, who not only broke Pinball Clemons' CFL record for all-purpose yards, but also became a rare non-quarterback finalist for the CFL's Most Outstanding Player award. It hasn't been an easy path to this kind of success for Owens, though; yes, he shone at the University of Hawaii, but he never quite caught on in three years in the NFL, and wound up playing arena football in 2008 before heading to the CFL the next year with Montreal. Much like the Stampeders' Kevin Glenn, his path hasn't been all the clear since he came north; he didn't catch on with the Alouettes immediately, and they wound up trading him in 2010 after they wanted to turn him into just a special-teams player and have him take a salary reduction. That trade proved amazing for Owens, though, who's shone with the Argonauts as a receiver and returner over the last three years and made huge strides each season. What motivated him to keep pushing even when nothing seemed to be working? The National Post's Bruce Arthur asked him that during a media session Thursday, and Owens' response was remarkable:
"It was from day one," Owens said. "Not a lot of people know this, but I was born a month-and-a-half early, weighed three pounds. My mom was having complications and the doctors asked my grandmother, 'Do you want to save the baby or save your daughter?'And of course my grandmother said 'Save my daughter, she can have more kids.' This is the story...I don't know how much of it's the truth, but my dad said that he came in and said 'No, you save them both.' So, you know, we both survived. I've been fighting from day one."Read More »from Chad Owens’ motivation? Being born prematurely and barely surviving childbirth
Marty in the lobby of the Royal York. (The Canadian Press)(Editor's Note: The recent horse controversies have rocked the 100th Grey Cup festivities, and indeed, all of Canada. On Thursday, the Royal York hotel relented and finally allowed Marty the Horse into its lobby. Puck Daddy's Harrison Mooney felt compelled to write a tribute about the trials and tribulations of Marty.)
Marty was Calgary's red-letter steed.Read More »from An ode to Marty the Horse
A horse born in Stouffville and born to stampede,
Procured by the Calgary Grey Cup Committee
To go to Toronto, the Grey Cup host city,
And march through the Royal York lobby, to gait
Just like this horse back in 1948.
A rider atop him, red carpet unfurled,
He'd stand in the lobby, on top of the world.
- Andrew Bucholtz | 55 Yard Line – Thu, 22 Nov, 2012 4:38 PM EST
TORONTO—TSN's Engraved On A Nation documentary series starts airing its finale Thursday night with the premiere of "The Greatest Team That Never Won" at 8 p.m. Eastern/5 p.m. Pacific. This film's perfectly apt for this Grey Cup week, as it focuses on the legendary 1971 Argonauts, a team full of top-tier talents like Joe Thiesmann and Jim Stillwagon, but one that lost to an underdog Calgary team 14-11 largely thanks to the infamous "Argo Bounce". With the Argos and Stamps facing off again Sunday, director Christie Callan-Jones spoke with 55-Yard Line Tuesday about the film and how it fits into this week's Grey Cup.
Callan-Jones said like most of the filmmakers in the series, her background isn't in sports, but unlike many of the others, it's an area that's always held a fascination for her.
"I love sports films, but I've never directed one," she said. "Ever since I was a kid; I remember watching The Natural four times."
She said it's the emotional side of sports stories that really appeals to her.
"There's always a lot of emotion, and I love stories with emotion," she said.Read More »from Interview: “The Best Team That Never Won” director Christie Callan-Jones on ’71 Argos
- Andrew Bucholtz | 55 Yard Line – Thu, 22 Nov, 2012 2:16 PM EST
Let bells ring in the streets: Toronto's anti-horse prejudice has ended! After initially denying Stampeders' fans permission to bring Marty the horse into the lobby Thursday and forcing him to journey over to the Financial District, the Fairmont Royal York Hotel has relented, sending a tweet that "Marty the horse has been invited back at 2pm today. Marty will stroll through the front doors as per the Grey Cup tradition." Global's Mark McAllister tweeted the photographic proof you see above that this has happened. Also, the league released a statement at 2:30 Eastern that the Stamps' touchdown horse will be allowed in the Rogers Centre, but will have to stand in the corner rather than gallop down the sidelines, so it's a great day for horsekind. What forced the sudden about-face from the hotel? Well, the flood of tweets the hotel has been receiving on the matter might be a factor. Here are some of the best ones (interactive version available at Storify here):Read More »from Twitter backlash forces Royal York Hotel to reconsider anti-horse policy, let Marty in
- Andrew Bucholtz | 55 Yard Line – Thu, 22 Nov, 2012 12:54 PM EST
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!"Read More »from Video: “The Showdown At The Royal York” ends with horse, fans left out in the cold
- Andrew Bucholtz | 55 Yard Line – Thu, 22 Nov, 2012 3:26 AM EST
TORONTO—If anyone was wondering how much making it to the Grey Cup can mean from a player's perspective, they should speak to Calgary quarterback Kevin Glenn. At the Stampeders' media lunch Wednesday, Glenn spent over 20 minutes talking to the media hordes about just what it means for him to play in this game, but was still full of energy and ebullience at the end.
"I want to enjoy everything, everything I've missed out on," Glenn said. "It is special being here."
It's what he's missed out on that's so remarkable. The 33-year-old Glenn has gone from reluctant high school football player to injured star to overlooked backup to starting quarterback in the Grey Cup, but it's taken him a while. He's played in the CFL since 2001 with Saskatchewan, Winnipeg, Hamilton and now Calgary, but he's only been to one previous Grey Cup game. That came in 2007 with Winnipeg, and Glenn wasn't able to play thanks to breaking his arm in the East final against Toronto. He said that ruined much of that Grey Cup experience for him, as knowing he wasn't able to play was painful.
"It's just a whole different mindset," he said.Read More »from Kevin Glenn’s long, strange odyssey from injured star to reliable backup to Grey Cup starter
- Andrew Bucholtz | 55 Yard Line – Thu, 22 Nov, 2012 1:45 AM EST
Will this famous Royal York Hotel lobby have an equine visitor Thursday?TORONTO—A horse walks into a hotel...or does it? Rather than the setup to a joke, it's an honest question about what's going to happen Thursday. There's set to be a classic Western showdown, but instead of the O.K. Corral, it's apparently going to take place at Toronto's famed Royal York Hotel. Members of the Calgary Grey Cup Committee (a long-running group of fans that represents the city at every Grey Cup) had planned to ride a horse into the lobby Thursday (to recreate the famous 1948 incident at the Royal York that played a major role in the Grey Cup's development into a Canada-wide party), but the hotel's saying they won't be allowed in. According to Sean Gordon of The Globe And Mail, the Stampeders' fans aren't backing down, though:
Read More »from “The Showdown At The Royal York” is only one of the horse controversies in Toronto
The Calgary committee has procured a horse, and plans to use it — if not at the Royal York, then at the nearby Holiday Inn Toronto Centre, which has permitted the group to bring the animal to an invitation-only VIP cocktail party.
But the Royal York remains the goal. "We're going to be there at 10 a.m.," said Brad Greenslade of the Calgary Grey Cup committee.
And if they're turned away?
"I think they're going to be shooting themselves in the foot a little bit if they do that. We started this in 1948, it's time to let it happen again," Mr. Greenslade said.
- Dustin Pollack | 55 Yard Line – Wed, 21 Nov, 2012 8:08 PM EST
Jon Cornish is set for the Grey Cup. (Canadian Press)When Jon Cornish last appeared in the Grey Cup in 2008, he spent the majority of the game watching from the sidelines as the Calgary Stampeders' backup running back. He pitched in where he could on offence and special teams, but he admits his contributions were in a supporting role at best.
That won't be the case this weekend, though, when the Stampers take the field against the Toronto Argonauts with the 100th Grey Cup on the line at the Rogers Centre.
The 28-year-old Cornish has become the centerpiece of Calgary's offence, the player that team defences hone in on when trying to shut down the Stamps attack. His performance Sunday could the determining factor in whether or not the Stampeders are crowned 2012 Grey Cup champions.
"When you don't really know who you are as a player, I think it's easy to sort of be unsure of yourself," Cornish said in an interview Wednesday. "I think this season has really educated me into who I am and who I can be. I have grown; it took some time, but I eventually realized."Read More »from Jon Cornish is ready to lead Stampeders into Grey Cup
- Andrew Bucholtz | 55 Yard Line – Wed, 21 Nov, 2012 7:43 PM EST
Argos Mike Bradwell (L) and Joe Eppele spoke out about how they'd accept a gay teammate.Leading up to the Grey Cup, it's easy to focus mostly on purely on-field issues, and perhaps that's why a courageous move by members of the Toronto Argonauts hasn't received wide attention. Last Friday, in advance of Sunday's East Final, a time when many players and coaches are just trying to avoid saying anything remotely controversial, Argonauts' receiver Mike Bradwell and offensive lineman Joe Eppele spoke with Xtra's Andrea Houston about how they would welcome a gay teammate. Here's video of their conversation, from Xtra's site:
And here are some of the key quotes from that video, as cited in Houston's article:Read More »from Mike Bradwell and Joe Eppele stand against homophobia: will the CFL follow their lead?
- Andrew Bucholtz | 55 Yard Line – Wed, 21 Nov, 2012 6:09 PM EST
TORONTO—One of the most pivotal figures in Sunday's Grey Cup will be Argonauts' defensive coordinator Chris Jones, who held that same position with the opposing Stampeders until quickly joining Toronto last December (the Argonauts were later fined $5,000 for tampering), and you can expect to find his name in media reports all week. However, it won't be attached to any of his quotes: as TSN's Dave Naylor reported earlier, Jones is refusing to do any interviews this week, which is apparently permissible for assistant coaches. Still, that hasn't stopped media members from asking others about Jones, and that's led to some interesting responses. First, early in Wednesday's coaches' press conference (which made headlines for the famous traditional sex question), Stampeders' head coach general manager John Hufnagel indirectly brought up Jones' departure and his replacement with Rick Campbell in response to a question about how his team had changed over the year, saying it took a whle for his defence to adjust to Campbell's system.
"Because we obtained Rick so late in the offseason—I was very fortunate that Eric Tillman and the Edmonton Eskimos allowed me to talk to Rick—it was a new system," Hufnagel said.
"That's yesterday's news," Hufnagel said. "What I said, I said. I'm not changing what I said."Read More »from Former Stamps’ defensive coordinator Chris Jones is a key story, but he’s not talking
- Andrew Bucholtz | 55 Yard Line – Wed, 21 Nov, 2012 4:20 PM EST
John Hufnagel (L) and Scott Milanovich had plenty to chuckle about at Wednesday's presser.TORONTO—Every year at the Grey Cup coaches' press conference, the same question is posed in some form; what's each coach's policy on their players having sex before the game? The question generally gets some interesting responses, and that was the case again this year when Edmonton Sun sportswriter Terry Jones posed it to Calgary Stampeders' head coach/general manager John Hufnagel and Toronto Argonauts' head coach Scott Milanovich at Tuesday's press conference. Here's what they had to say:
A transcript, if you can't watch the video:Read More »from Grey Cup coaches Scott Milanovich, John Hufnagel respond to traditional sex question
- Andrew Bucholtz | 55 Yard Line – Wed, 21 Nov, 2012 2:16 PM EST
Warren Moon, seen at his 2009 induction to Canada's Sports Hall of Fame, shone in the CFL.There's even more focus on CFL history this week than normal thanks to this being the 100th Grey Cup, and one particularly notable aspect keeps coming up; how this league provided opportunities for black players, especially quarterbacks, at a time when American-based pro football leagues wouldn't. That's not to say the CFL's racial history is perfect; in fact, stories like those of early trailblazers like Cookie Gilchrist and Bernie Custis demonstrate that things were often far from ideal in those days. Still, on the whole, the CFL should be very proud of the progress it made on equality for players, and that should be something that's recognized this week. This was demonstrated well in Hamilton Spectator columnist Steve Milton's piece Monday on the CFL's historical relationship with the NFL and other American leagues; one of the most interesting segments there was on how the CFL found some of its best talent by going after players like Custis, Gilchrist, Johnny Bright, Chuck Ealey, Condredge Holloway and others who were lightly-regarded by the NFL thanks largely to their race. From Milton:Read More »from A history of opportunities for black players: something the CFL should celebrate
- Neate Sager | 55 Yard Line – Tue, 20 Nov, 2012 9:20 PM EST
The McMaster Marauders' all-everything Kyle Quinlan, who's trying to win a second consecutive Vanier Cup, is the new Great Canadian Quarterback Hope. Meantime, there is talk the most recent one has a position switch in his future.
Thanks to Drew Tate's injury, former University of Ottawa star Brad Sinopoli is No. 3 on the Calgary Stampeders' depth chart. A Canadian dressing at quarterback makes for a neat footnote for the 100th Grey Cup, but it has an ugly side. It is within the realm that Sinopoli, 24, who was Canadian Interuniversity Sport player of the year in 2010 (as Quinlan will be this season), might not be a quarterback much longer.
That ought to be a prompt to press the Canadian Football League, which trades on patriotism, on why there has been so much talk and scarcely little action about addressing the competitive disadvantages faced by Canadian quarterbacks. Especially when there's a remedy out there.Read More »from Canadian QB Brad Sinopoli dressing in Grey Cup, but position change might be in his future