It remains a Canadian tradition although one can argue that interest is fading.
The 110th Grey Cup championship game will be played in Hamilton on Sunday (3:00 PT).
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who have won two of the last three Grey Cup games, are 8.5-point favourites over the Montreal Alouettes.
The 110th Grey Cup is officially sold out!
— The Grey Cup Festival (@GreyCupFestival) November 13, 2023
Canada Day (July 1st) and Thanksgiving (the second Monday in October) are other notable traditions in our great country.
Sure, there are other prominent customary festivities. Still, the three aforementioned traditions have had a way of rallying Canadians together regardless of whether they live in a city such as Prince George or a province such as Prince Edward Island.
The Grey Cup has been known as a party, a gala, a special event, and yes one big bash.
It is for the young and old, healthy and ill, rich and poor, and football and non-football fans.
Grey Cup is also about the Best of the West battling the Beasts of the East.
Throughout the years, my interest in the CFL has declined and I know I am not alone.
I’m not sure there is one specific reason why I watch fewer Canadian Football games than 20 years ago, but the lure of the NFL contributes to the change.
If the average Canadian was asked to pick one, watching the Grey Cup or Super Bowl, I think we know what the answer would be and the response would be overwhelming.
In fact, are you going to watch the Blue Bombers and the Alouettes on Sunday afternoon or the Seattle Seahawks against the Rams in LA?
Fans in Manitoba and perhaps a section of Quebec may be glued to the CFL title game but for much of the rest of the country, the NFL is more compelling.
The Seahawks-Rams game should be over by the second quarter or halftime of the Winnipeg-Montreal so perhaps there is a chance to catch at least part of both.
This doesn’t mean the CFL isn’t a great game or doesn’t fill a need, but the NFL glitz has grabbed our attention.
Let’s be honest, how many people do you know that participate in a CFL pool compared to one in the NFL?
In addition, how many people can name more CFL than NFL players?
Outside of Manitoba or certain areas in and around Montreal, how many fans care about who wins this weekend?
Yes, the CFL seems to have become more regional.
Once the B.C. Lions lost the Western Final 24-13 to Winnipeg, most fans in British Columbia felt like the season was over and the one league game left, even for a championship, was an afterthought.
Not surprisingly, television ratings for the Grey Cup have taken a major hit over the last several years although to be fair, the 2022 game was up seven percent from 2021.
Viewership on TSN has looked like this:
- 2009: Saskatchewan/Montreal 6.100M
- 2010: Saskatchewan/Montreal 6.040M
- 2011: Winnipeg/B.C. 4.600M
- 2012: Calgary/Toronto 5.500M
- 2013: Hamilton/Saskatchewan 4.500M
- 2014: Hamilton/Calgary 4.100M
- 2015: Ottawa/Edmonton 4.100M
- 2016: Calgary/Ottawa 3.600M
- 2017: Toronto/Calgary 4.100M
- 2018: Ottawa/Calgary 3.132M
- 2019: Hamilton/Winnipeg 3.682M
- 2020: No game due to the pandemic
- 2021: Hamilton/Winnipeg 2.873M
- 2022: Toronto/Winnipeg 3.121M
Last year’s game was watched by about half the amount of people that tuned in for the 2009 Grey Cup when the average was 6.1 million in Montreal’s 28-27 victory over Saskatchewan.
(The 2009 Grey Cup was the 13th-man game that cost the Riders the title).
Hey fun fact someone once lost the Grey Cup in the exact way the Bills just lost that game pic.twitter.com/Z4pui2jQTn
— Sickos Committee (@SickosCommittee) November 14, 2023
The game itself is usually thrilling and full of suspense.
A whopping 22 of the previous 24 Grey Cup games have been decided by 13 points or less.
The 2021 championship game in Hamilton was the fourth Grey Cup to go into overtime and the 2022 Grey Cup was decided by a point in Regina with Toronto pulling off the upset and a 24-23 triumph over Winnipeg.
This year only one of the two best teams from the regular season will participate and that is Winnipeg.
Toronto was a league-best 16-2 but the Argos turned into a turnover machine in their loss to Montreal 38-17 in the Eastern Final.
I admit I haven’t followed the CFL as closely this year as the NFL, but Winnipeg seems to have considerably more talent than Montreal.
With the Blue Bombers still bitter about last year’s loss, Winnipeg should beat Montreal handily (by double digits).
Football fan or not, the Grey Cup gives an excuse to party.
And for some that is enough of a reason to at least watch part of the game.
Cat Scan podcast:
This is season six of Hartley’s Cat Scan, a weekly podcast show that predominately features the PG Cougars.
This week my guest is Jessica Speziale, in Game Host and Corporate Sponsorships for the Cougars.
This week on @PGCougars Cat Scan #podcast: In-Game host Jessica Speziale discusses many topics including corporate sponsorships, game day responsibilities, love of music, singing the national anthem, busy work-family schedule, fan interactions and new speakers for CN Centre. https://t.co/N1DE722K5C
— Hartley Miller (@Hartley_Miller) November 14, 2023
FROM THE QUOTE RACK:
Some people think it doesn’t matter if football players go to class. But math still matters… As in Monday night when the Buffalo Bills lost a game they had won because they had 12 men on the field during a missed field goal.
(Editor’s Note: Who do the Buffalo Bills think they are? The 2009 Saskatchewan Roughriders?)
During her concert in Buenos Aires, Taylor Swift asked fans not to throw things onto the stage. So it’s safe to assume that she won’t be performing on the ice during breaks of Detroit Red Wings playoff games.
*Contributor Bill Littlejohn of South Lake Tahoe, California
Last week I had cardiac failure, was in ICU, had 2.5 litres of fluid and blood drained from a lung, was intubated and was close to death. Even I looked better than the Toronto Argos did in their playoff game.
Editor’s note: All the best and a speedy recovery for RJ Currie who has been in hospital recovering from a cardiac event.
Hartley Miller is the news and sports supervisor plus morning news anchor for 94.3 the GOAT and Country 97fm. After growing up in Winnipeg, he has lived in Prince George for the last 44 years and is in his 11th season as the radio colour commentator on the Prince George Cougars home games. Hartley is the author of You Don’t Say (sports quotes).