By Charlie Pinkerton, U Sports Football Correspondent
It’s been 51 years since the Vanier Cup was hoisted for the first time. That team, the Toronto Varsity Blues, won the Canadian College Bowl at Varsity Stadium in front of their home crowd. At the time, the Canadian College Bowl mimicked American collegiate bowl games, using a national committee to invite its two competitors.
Two years later, Governor General Georges Vanier, the cup’s namesake, died while still occupying his post. That same year, 1967, the Canadian College Bowl became the official championship of the Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union (CIAU). For decades, the Vanier Cup was fought for as the national football prize of the CIAU, then as the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) football championship from 2001 onward, and now, for the first time in 2016, for the U Sports football championship.
Fourty-one times the Vanier Cup has been played in Toronto, its original host city. The University of Toronto’s Varsity Stadium, the game’s original home, was host to 21 of these games. Varsity Stadium, which was first built in 1911, was reconstructed in 2007. The new venue has yet to host a Vanier Cup. Exhibition Stadium and the Rogers Centre have also hosted the championship in Toronto.
In 2012, the 48th Vanier Cup played between Laval and McMaster at the Rogers Centre was the most attended and most watched Vanier Cup ever. Held during the same weekend and in the same city as the 100th Grey Cup, the game was attended by 37,098. Its broadcast was watched by over 900,000.
In 2001, CIS opened the possibility of host conference bids and for the first time in 2004, the Vanier Cup was hosted outside of Toronto. This game, the 40th edition of the championship, was won by the Laval Rouge et Or at Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton.
The Vanier Cup has been played as far west as Vancouver, where McMaster beat Laval in double overtime in the 47th Vanier Cup, and as far east as Quebec City, where the championship has been hosted four times.
Thanks to a recent decade and a half of football dominance, the Laval Rouge et Or have won the Vanier Cup a record eight times, the first of which they captured in 1999. The Western Mustangs have played for the trophy a total of 12 times – the most of any team – but also have come up short in the championship game the most, with a total of six second-place finishes.
The Guelph Gryphons are the only undefeated team in Vanier Cup history, with a record of 1-0 in the big game. Their lone championship came in 1984 over Mount Allison, one of three teams to be winless in the championship. Joining the 0-2 Mounties are the Concordia Stingers and the Regina Rams, who are each 0-1.
The Ted Morris Memorial Trophy has been awarded to the game’s MVP since its inception. Western’s Bill Rozalowsky and Saskatchewan’s Brent Schneider have both won the award twice.
The Bruce Coulter Award was first awarded in 1992 and is presented to an outstanding player who plays on the opposite unit of the Ted Morris Memorial Trophy winner.
As per tradition, Mitchell Bowl and Uteck Bowl winners meet to decide the Vanier Cup champion. This year, This year, Calgary and StFX squared off in the Mitchell Bowl, while Laval and Wilfrid Laurier met in the Uteck Bowl. The Dinos and Rouge et Or clash at Tim Hortons Field on Saturday to declare the 52nd Vanier Cup champion and the first of the U Sports era.
1965: Inception of the Vanier Cup
1st Vanier Cup played in Toronto (Varsity Stadium)
44 out of 52 Vanier Cups played in Ontario
Vanier Cup in Ontario
Varsity Stadium: 21 times (last one in 1988)
Exhibition Stadium: 1973, 1974 and 1975 (last one)
Rogers Centre: 1989 - 2003, 2007 & 2012
Hosted the Vanier Cup 3 times (2004, 2005, 2008)
Ivor Wynne Stadium: 2004, 2005 and 2008
Tim Hortons Field: 2016 and 2017
Vanier Cup at Hamilton/McMaster
The City of Hamilton is known to be one of the hot-beds of university football due to the ever popular McMaster Marauders.
The Marauders have won the Yates Cup (OUA championship), seven times, the last being in 2014, and one Vanier Cup national championship, in 2011.
As of the 2016 CFL season, 64 McMaster Marauder alumni have played professionally in the Canadian Football League, including 12 that currently play in the CFL.