November 20, 2006

Grey Cup mishaps

WINNIPEG (CP) – The Grey Cup has long history of abuse, neglect and damage.

And Wally Buono, whose B.C. Lions broke the historic trophy Sunday while celebrating their 25-14 win over the Montreal Alouettes, is not a first time offender.

In 1998 when he was coach of the Calgary Stampeders, his team claimed the CFL championship trophy with a wild 26-24 win over Hamilton. Then Stampeders nearly left Winnipeg without the hallowed Cup, which is valued at $53,000.

Calgary returned to its hotel for a reception after the game before heading to the airport. The club had chartered a flight home that night, but prior to boarding realized it had left the trophy back at the hotel.

As total panic was setting in, salvation arrived in the form of the trophy itself. Amazingly, someone had placed it on a bus headed to the airport.

It wasn’t the first time the Cup had been forgotten.

In 1964, the B.C. Lions sent someone back to their hotel to retrieve the Cup after arriving at the airport empty-handed. And in 1984, hours after a team celebration, former Bombers’ GM Paul Robson sheepishly returned to an empty Winnipeg Arena to find the trophy sitting at centre ice.

Former Toronto kicker Mike Vanderjagt lost the Cup in November 1997. Vanderjagt took it to a bar in his native Oakville, Ont., where it was stolen.

It was earlier stolen in 1969 from Ottawa’s Lansdowne Park and held for ransom. When the CFL balked, Toronto police found the Cup in a hotel locker.

Other incidents include:

– The University of Toronto won the first Grey Cup championship in 1909, but didn’t receive the trophy until the following March. And when they got it, they held on to it for two years, figuring they didn’t have to return it until another team beat them for it. That happened in 1914 when the Toronto Argonauts captured the title. Since then, the winning team has made the trophy available to next season’s champion.

– In 1947, it was almost destroyed by fire while on display at the Toronto Argonaut Rowing Club. The office was gutted, but a slightly tarnished Cup survived.

– In 1987, the trophy was broken when a celebrating Edmonton Eskimo sat on it. In 1991, tape held the neck of the Grey Cup intact when it returned home with the Toronto Argonauts. And in 1993, it was again broken when Edmonton’s Blake Dermott head-butted it.

Ironically, the Grey Cup wasn’t supposed to honour a football champion. It was originally to be awarded annually to Canada’s top senior hockey team, but Sir Montague Allan beat Earl Grey to the punch, issuing the Allan Cup.

Grey later donated the trophy to recognize the Canadian rugby football winner.