Venue: Molson Stadium
Location: Montreal, QC
Date: December 5
Winning Coach: Clary Foran
For 22 years the Grey Cup had been the exclusive property of Ontario-based clubs. In 1931, the mug left the province for the first time as the Montreal Winged Wheelers were the first team outside Ontario to win the Grey Cup after shutting out the Regina Roughriders.
The Canadian Rugby Union permitted the use of the forward pass across all leagues, and it was a significant feature in the 1931 final. The first touchdown pass in Grey Cup history was thrown by Warren Stevens to Kenny Grant.
The Winged Wheelers took the lead on a rouge and then took advantage of a Roughriders turnover. Regina’s Eddie James dropped the ball behind his own line of scrimmage as Montreal’s Pete Jotkus charged through the line. Jotkus dribbled the ball 35 yards to the Regina goal line. As he crossed the line he smothered the ball for a touchdown.
History was made in the third quarter when Stevens completed a 40-yard pass to Grant in the end zone. Stevens added another in the fourth quarter when he began a quarterback sneak, changed his mind, and passed to Wally Whitty who raced wide around the right end for a touchdown. Huck Welch also booted a field goal for the victors.
The Roughriders made history by playing in their fourth straight Grey Cup, losing all four times. In total, Regina made the trip East five times, only to come away empty handed.
Roughriders head coach Al Ritchie thought he outsmarted the Winged Wheelers by having a Montreal shoemaker attach leather cleats to the players’ boots the night before the game for better traction. It may have worked, except Mother Nature spoiled the plan. The field was frozen hard with ice patches due to a snowstorm the previous evening, making Montreal’s sneakers more effective.
Little did Ritchie know, but team manager Fred Wilson and player Gordon Barber made alternate arrangements to have lacrosse shoes sent to the Roughriders after witnessing the storm. But the shoes were sent to the wrong dressing room, and the Winged Wheelers gladly accepted the delivery.
The Winged Wheelers triumph provided Montreal its first national title since 1907, two years before the birth of the Grey Cup. The mug may have traveled to Quebec sooner, as McGill University never challenged for the trophy in its dominant years of 1912-1919, deciding instead to focus on their studies.