Grey Cup makes the rounds in Iqaluit
Whirlwind tour impresses city's youth
In 1909 there wasn’t even a Hudson’s Bay Co. trading post along Frobisher Bay when Governor General Earl Grey awarded the first Grey Cup to a University of Toronto outfit.
Ninety-nine Grey Cup championships later, the trophy, inscribed with the names of Canada’s top football teams, finally made its way up to Iqaluit — the furthest north it’s ever travelled — on Oct. 11.
And although football is dwarfed by the popularity of hockey in Nunavut, the presence of the trophy handed out every year to the best team in Canadian Football League wowed the CFL’s northerly fans.
“It’s been amazing, from the time we got off the plane at the airport, people noticed that we had the Grey Cup in stow so we brought it out of the case and had an impromptu photo session,” one of the CFL’s vice-presidents, Kevin McDonald, told Nunatsiaq News.
The Iqaluit stop was part of the CFL’s 100-year anniversary celebration called the “Grey Cup 100 Tour,” which started in Vancouver on Sept. 9.
The tour then made its way east on a special train marking its anniversary — until the Grey Cup abandoned the railroad and flew up to Iqaluit for what McDonald said is an “important” pit stop.
“I think timing wise this stop made sense to truly unite Canada, from coast to coast to coast,” said McDonald. “[It] was pretty important to the [CFL] commissioner to get it to all Canadians.”
From the impromptu photo-session at the airport, the trophy made its way to Aqsarniit Middle School where a group of kids played touched football in the gym, donning jerseys from the B.C. Lions and the Saskatchewan Roughriders in front of a crowd of 350 people.
Afterwards, a 2004 Grey Cup champion from the Toronto Argonauts, André Talbot, spoke to the crowd, fielding questions from middle-schoolers like “how far can you throw?” and “how much money did you make?”.
Iqaluit mayor Madeleine Redfern then took the trophy on a tour, stopping at places like the Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum and the Legislative Assembly building.
Then, Talbot met with a group at the youth centre before the Grey Cup made its way to the grand-finale event in Iqaluit — a community square dance at Nakasuk School.
As soon as Canadian Rangers, dressed in camouflage pants and their distinctive red Rangers sweatshirts, carried the silver-coated trophy from the dressing room of the school’s gymnasium, about 100 people moved closer to the Grey Cup to get a close-up look.
People posed for pictures with trophy for an hour after speeches from Redfern, McDonald, and Michel Rheault, Iqaluit’s recreation program coordinator.
Rheault said the impact of seeing the Grey Cup in Iqaluit could last generations.
“The fact that they included our territory, it is a huge impact. Because we also have fans here that watch CFL and they would get an equal opportunity to see it,” Rheault said.
“This can have this positive development to a sport that isn’t not really well implemented in our community. Some children and teenagers might not have a desire to join other sports that are available, but maybe football is something that is more looking forward — so why no provide another option?”
Talbot had even loftier goals for young Iqaluit footballers. Talbot and the CFL donated over 200 CFL footballs to people and schools in the community during the event.
“From some of the kids that we saw at the school today, you have a lot of capable athletes that might have a future and might have their name scratched on the Grey Cup some day,” Talbot said.
The lure of the Grey Cup brought out the die-hard CFL fans in Iqaluit as well, such as Jamie Leblanc, who was decked out in a bright green Roughriders sweater and hat for a photo with the cup.
The first time seeing the trophy, Leblanc said, it’s nice to see something different up here.
“It’s been around for 100 years. It’s a part of our tradition — our history.”
The final destination for the Grey Cup 100 Tour is Toronto on Nov. 17 where the championship game will be held.