When The Grey Cup Was Stolen

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Next to the Stanley Cup, no trophy is more respected and loved in Canada than the Grey Cup. It is a symbol of football dominance for our football teams and winning the Grey Cup is a sense of pride for the city that wins the big game.

There is a great deal of history to the Grey Cup, just like the Stanley Cup, so before we get to the Grey Cup theft, lets look at the history of the trophy itself.

The trophy itself was commissioned in 1909 by Earl Grey, Canada’s Governor General, who originally wanted it to be the trophy given to the country’s senior amateur hockey championship. After the Allan Cup filled that void, Grey instead made the trophy available as the Canadian Dominion Football Championship.

The first Grey Cup would be won by the University of Toronto in 1909, and the team didn’t receive the trophy to celebrate with until 1910. They kept the trophy for another two years deciding they didn’t have to return it until another team beat them for it. That would finally happen in 1914.

The mishaps for the Grey Cup are many.

In 1947, it was nearly destroyed in a fire at the Toronto Argonaut Rowing Club. While the office was destroyed, the cup was only slightly tarnished.

In 1964, the Grey Cup was left at the hotel when the B.C. Lions went to the airport.

The Grey Cup would also be broken by the Edmonton Eskimos in 1987, the Toronto Argonauts in 1991 and Edmonton once again in 1993.

This story though takes place in 1969, when the Grey Cup was stolen.

In the 1969 CFL season, the Ottawa Rough Riders would face the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the 57th Grey Cup in the first Grey Cup game ever played on a Sunday. This game was held in Montreal, for the first time since 1931, and Ottawa would emerge victorious on Nov. 30, defeating Saskatchewan 29 -11.

Ottawa would not get long to celebrate with the cup. On December 20, 1969, the Cup was stolen from Ottawa at the Lownsdowne Park Clubhouse of the team.

This wasn’t the first time the cup was stolen. It was stolen by pranksters in 1967 from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, before being abandoned three days later. This was clearly a harmless prank, rather than a theft motivated by monetary needs.

A ransom demand was then put forward by the thieves but the CFL decided not to pay it.

If the Stanley Cup went missing, it seems as though people would have been up in arms but the Grey Cup evoked a shrug and nonchalant attitude from those involved. League officials noted that the Grey Cup had priceless sentimental value, but that as a trophy, it was only actually valued at about $50. The league also promised that either the trophy would be back or they would have a replica made for the 1970 Grey Cup game.

Two Toronto companies offered to donate a silver copy but the league executive instead chose to hope for the return of the original.

A few months late, the trophy would turn up on Feb. 16, 1970 in a storage locker at the Royal York Hotel. An anonymous telephone call told Detective-Sergeant Lennox of the Metro police emergency task force that he could find the key in the lock in a pay phone booth at Dundas and Parliament Streets. It is likely the thieves had hoped for money but only got indifference in return.

When it was recovered, George Fulton, CFL secretary-treasurer, would state “We don’t want it swiped again.”

When the police turned it over to the CFL, they spot where it would have said Ottawa Rough Riders, instead had a sticker that said “Metro Police ETF” as a joke from the detectives.

In response, Fulton would state, “If the game ends in a tie, we may give it to them.” Of course, the Grey Cup can’t end in a tie, but the thought was there.

As for the thieves, they were never caught.

The CFL decided not to let something like this happen again. The CFL announced that a replica cup would be commissioned so that a stand-in could be used in certain circumstances.

In the Nov. 28, 1970 Grey Cup game in Toronto, the 58th Grey Cup, the rescued trophy would be won by the Montreal Alouettes, who defeated the Calgary Stampeders 23 – 10.

The Grey Cup would be stolen once more, in 1997, when Toronto kicker Mike Vanderjagt left it at a bar, but it was thankfully recovered the next day.

Information for this from Wikipedia, CFL.ca, the Globe and Mail, Torontist, Avenue Calgary, 100 Grey Cups,

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