The Grey Cup and Vanier Cup have been awarded and Canadian football is in the barn for 2022. Our other national passion, hockey, is now in full swing. Their championships have some common origins. Let’s have a look at some telling trends.
In a very well-played Vanier Cup, Laval triumphed over Saskatchewan in London before a crowd of about 6,000 (actual) on a balmy day in London. In a back-and-forth slugfest, both quarterback's were outstanding, each throwing for well over 300 yards with only one INT between them. Hec Crighton award winner, Kevin Mital, caught 8 balls for 142 yards and threw one TD of his own. This was the tenth Vanier Cup championship for Laval under coach Glen Constantin. Laval won its first with its first head coach and former Argos OC, Jacques Chapdelaine in 1999. The Vanier Cup MVP is named in honour of former Argos player and coach Teddy Morris. He was an organizer of the first College Bowl, featuring the Vanier Cup, in 1965.
On the downside, this year's Vanier Cup TV audience on CBC, while slightly higher than 2021, was only 158,000. The slight uptick from 2021 is likely due to the presence of the University of Saskatchewan in the game which, like the Riders, has a strong following. The game drew an audience of 174,000 in 2019. A far cry from the 910,000 who watched the game on TSN/RDS the last time it was coupled with the Grey Cup weekend at Roger's centre in 2012. The Vanier Cup in 2012 drew a crowd of 37,098. In 2011 the game was also included in Grey Cup weekend in Vancouver at BC Place stadium, where it attracted a crowd of 24,000. The TV audience was 660,000 on TSN for that double overtime thriller, played late evening eastern time. In 2013, USports cancelled its deal with sports marketing company MRX and the game was decoupled from the Grey Cup. Immediately, the TV audience dropped 64% to 301,000 and the attendance to the game, played in Quebec City, dropped to 18,000 in 2013.
Correlation is not causation but these abruptly negative trends suggest strongly that coupling the Vanier Cup with the Grey Cup is very good for both attendance and viewership. Based on the numbers, decoupling them since 2012 has been an unmitigated disaster for the Vanier Cup, and perhaps the Grey Cup too since the Grey Cup TV viewership has dropped steadily for it since 2012 as well. It begs the question, why aren't the Grey Cup and Vanier Cup organizing committees working together? Why not include the CJFL championship in there too on Friday evening? It would seem to be a no-brainer. Will we ever see a day that the Commissioner of the CFL invites the Executive Director of Football Canada, Shannon Donovan, and the CEO of USports, Pierre Arsenault, to join him at the Grey Cup? "If you want to travel fast, travel alone, if you want to travel far, travel together."
The rights to broadcast the Vanier Cup moved to the CBC in 2019. Saturday's broadcast was professionally done, including the panel. Unlike TSN, the CBC is a free over-the-air broadcast with a much broader reach, but did anyone know the game was on? The CBC has a different vibe than TSN, not necessarily better, but different. More please.
The 2022 Grey Cup had an average audience on ESPN 2 in the US of 158,000. Throughout the regular season, CFL games averaged 105,000 on ESPN2 which is down from previous years. How much of this is due to cord cutting in the US? Good question. It’s estimated that two thirds of the audience decline of the CFL on TSN over the last decade, is due to TSN's shrinking subscription base.
Of Trophies and Governors General
One of the unique things about Hockey and Canadian football is that they are linked directly to Canada's Governors General and the history of our great country. Specifically, Lords' Stanley and Grey, as well as Georges Vanier. The oldest of the three championship trophies is the Stanley Cup (1893) which holds the distinction of being the most beautiful trophy in all of sports. More beautiful than the World Cup, albeit less iconic and well known. It does not, however, get carried into the stadium by the Mounties like the football trophies. Honestly, I think our American cousins would get a charge out of that, but we all know it would never be permitted by the NHL braintrust in New York.
The Stanley Cup is not owned by the NHL but, since 1926, has been controlled by two Trustees, both are employees of the NHL. There are in fact three Stanley Cups, the original bowl which is in the vault of the Hockey Hall of Fame, the presentation trophy which is given to the winning team to hoist, and the Cup that is on display at the Hockey Hall of Fame. One of the reasons that the Stanley Cup is the most beautiful trophy in sports is its gleaming base. Nevertheless, the rings with teams and names have been added and subtracted as time passes so as not to ruin the trophy's aesthetics. The first replica of the Stanley Cup was made in 1963 when NHL Commissioner, Clarence Campbell, decided the original had become too fragile. It had been broken on several occasions, stolen twice, and held for ransom. Similarly, the Grey Cup has been stolen twice, held for ransom once, been broken at least 7 times and narrowly survived a fire at the Argonaut Rowing club in 1947. The CFL commissioned a replica in 2008. The Board of Directors of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame act as the Grey Cup's trustees and control its rental for events.
Like the Stanley Cup, the Grey Cup was originally intended to be awarded to an amateur team and champion of the Dominion as a challenge Cup. This is one of the reasons why the University of Toronto and Queen's University have 7 Grey Cups between them. Its also the younger sibling of the Stanley Cup by 16 years.
The Vince Lombardi Trophy for the Super Bowl is neither a bowl nor super looking. It’s small like the World Cup, which is not a Cup either. It will never have the magnificent history of these trophies.
On the other hand, the Vanier Cup needs some work. Presented in 1965 for the first College Bowl, the trophy has a square wooden base which doesn't have the same sleek sterling silver elegance that its elder siblings have. The base looks like it was designed by a committee of university sports administrators on a budget.
Nevertheless, Canada makes the best sports trophies. You can thank our GG's for that.