November 21, 2012

Grey Cup Host: Advantage or disadvantage?


TORONTO — After a spirited win over the Montreal Alouettes on Sunday, the Toronto Argonauts became the third team in five seasons to play in the Grey Cup in the same year they’re hosting the big game.

There’s little doubt that getting to the Grey Cup at home is a big deal for the team and the fans, but the question remains is whether or not it provides the home team with a distinct advantage.

On one hand, there’s the boost of playing in front of a full stadium of many of your own fans, along with the buzz from around the city throughout the week. Yet some players also acknowledge that it can be a distraction, with so many friends and family in the area — not to mention the added pressure of trying to come up with the big win in front of the home fan base.

Sunday’s game marks the 13th time since 1950 that the host team has appeared in the Grey Cup. With a record of 6-6 between host teams and their opponents in those games, the past might indicate that the home team isn’t seemingly at any advantage or disadvantage.

The BC Lions hosted and won the 99th Grey Cup a season ago against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, as 2011 Most Outstanding Player Travis Lulay threw for 320 yards and a pair of touchdowns to lead the home team to a 34-23 win.

In 2008, though, the Montreal Alouettes appeared in the Grey Cup game at Olympic Stadium with different results. Anthony Calvillo and the red-hot Alouettes were smothered in their own dome by an overwhelming Calgary Stampeders defence, as the Alouettes were held to just a single point in the second half en-route to a 22-14 Calgary win.

Current Argos pivot Ricky Ray took part in one of the most recent examples of a host team losing on its own turf, too, when the Edmonton Eskimos fell 25-16 to the Alouettes at Commonwealth Stadium back in 2002.

With the BC Lions hosting and winning the 99th Grey Cup a year ago against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Argos appearing in this year’s game, next Sunday will mark just the second time in league history that host teams have appeared in the Grey Cup two years in a row.

Ray gets a shot at improving his record in the Grey Cup on a host team to 1-1 on Sunday.

The Argonauts, meanwhile, have a 2-1 record in three Grey Cup appearances as the home team, with wins over Edmonton and Winnipeg dating back to 1952 and 1950 respectively, along with a loss to the Eskimos back in 1982 – the last time Toronto’s ever both hosted and appeared in a Grey Cup game.

With an even record between host teams and their opponents in Grey Cup history, along with the fact that the Argos finished the 2012 regular season with a 4-5 record, it will be interesting to see on Sunday whether the Boatman can seize advantage of home turf.

Here’s how teams hosting the Grey Cup have fared in the championship game since 1950:

Won (six)

2011 – B.C. 34 Winnipeg 23 (at Vancouver)

1994 – B.C. 26 Baltimore 23 (at Vancouver)

1977 – Montreal 41 Edmonton 6 (at Montreal)

1972 – Hamilton 13 Saskatchewan 10 (at Hamilton)

1952 – Toronto 21 Edmonton 11 (at Toronto)

1950 – Toronto 13 Winnipeg 0 (at Toronto)

Lost (six)

2008 – Calgary 22 Montreal 14 (at Montreal)

2002 – Montreal 25 Edmonton 16 (at Edmonton)

1983 – Toronto 18 B.C. 17 (at Vancouver)

1982 – Edmonton 32 Toronto 16 (at Toronto)

1979 – Edmonton 17 Montreal 9 (at Montreal)

1963 – Hamilton 21 B.C. 10 (at Vancouver)