Enthusiam Never Equaled in Canadian Football History - 1910

Drew Edwards of the Hamilton Spectator posted this newspaper story about the Ontario football championship in 1920, contested between Toronto Varsity vs Hamilton Tigers. Back then university football teams routinely played against "city" teams like the Tigers and Argos, and challenged for the Grey Cup championship.

While the game was described as the "most spectacular game ever played", it was the accompanying story about the fan rivalry which caught my attention. I have reprinted a transcript of the story below (or the first half at least.)

Most Spectacular Game Ever Played, Witnessed on Cricket Field,
Saturday, Before 12,000 People


Enthusiasm Over the Fray Has Never Been Equaled in Canadian Football History
Strange Doings at the Cricket Field
[u]Toronto Contingent Came Up 5,000 Strong and Their Capers and Frolics Were Decidedly Amusing

here have been wild times in Hamilton, but never was anything experienced like the doings of Saturday, when the great Toronto university band, greatly augmented by the Toronto followers of the great college, came to the city, saw, conquered, made merry and returned to the Queen city to wind up a celebration that was only in its infancy here.

With over 12,000 people, men, women and children, in attendance at the now famous battle at the cricket field and treated to the most exciting and most spectacular struggle ever witnessed in Hamilton or any other town, there was ample reason for the good feeling that prevailed before and after the game.

The Varsity throng, puffed to the skies with joy over the victory of their pets, were out to let the world know that the Tigers had been humbled, and the local crowd, eager to drown the memory of a sad tale, mingled with the 'rah 'rah boys in the merry-making, and made one game attempt to enjoy themselves just as much as their visitors, with the result that they amply upheld the local traditions for good sportsmanship.

The influx into Hamilton started early on Friday evening, when the van of the college body reported. At midnight a big contingent came in, and many of them, unable to secure accommodation at the big hotels, stayed up all night, indulging in those mild frolicsome pranks that have made the college student famous the world over.

Early Saturday morning the early ones were joined by the gambling crowd, who came on the first train from Toronto looking for the bets and starting the fireworks that lasted the entire day.

The downtown hotels were the headquarters, and all morning the arguments waxed loud and merry, the pros and cons of the big game being thoroughly discussed, invariably winding up with small or larger wagers being made on the game, with the odds averaging from 2--1 to 6--5, just as the mood and fancy struck the local crowd, and just as the smooth tongue of some of the blue and white backers found effect in hammering the odds down.

About 11 o'clock the first section of the Varsity rooters reported, and then started the usual parades, which lasted until near 2 o'clock. James and King streets presenting an unusually lively appearance as the students marched up and down, around the main blocks and into the department stores, carried off signs, played havoc with the yellow and black barber poles, got away with a huge Tiger flag that hung in front of John Lennox's store, etc., but all the time maintaining a friendly and even spirit that prevented trouble and made the day an easy one for the police, who were naturally afraid that things might develop into trouble.

At noon the throng in town had be swelled into the thousands, and when the last trains from the Queen City had emptied of their loads and students, friends, followers, etc., were all up town, scrambling for places in various restaurants and dining halls, or looking for fun on the streets, traffic was practically suspended, and did not get going again until late in the evening.

At 1:30 the ceremonies in connection with the famous struggle commenced, when the Tiger Rooters' club, eight hundred and fifty strong, formed up at the Gore, and, after throwing their songs and yells to the winds for the benefit of the 'rah 'rah youngsters, marched off to the cricket field, with the 91st band, the 13th band and the buglers in attendance.

The club never looked better. Each man in line was gaily decorated with the yellow and black favors, pendants, streamers and small Tigers, and as the parade wound its way up to the cricket field, the course followed was lined with thousands of citizens, many of them women and children, who were deprived of the privilege of witnessing the game, but were not to be deprived of watching the fun preliminary to the big affair.

The local cheer leaders had their end of the deal in fine order. Roots Murphy and his assistant cheer leaders led the parade, followed by the 13th band. Then came the official banner of the club, a huge affair on which was painted a Tiger and the letters 1910, and which followed by an effigy of a Varsity player, carried on the shoulders of four local stalwarts, with the figure draped in blue and white and the signs on the side, "In Memoriam", while on the top was a nice bouquet of blue and white flowers. It was an original idea and well carried out, and formed one of the interesting features of the local club's parade.

Marching to the field, the rooters were lined up after gaining admittance and paraded around the field to the strains of Hail, Hail, the Gang's All Here, and escorted to their seats in the southwest bleachers, when they started in to entertain the crowd, which was fast pouring through the various entrances, with the famous Tiger yells, and the most popular as well as the latest:

H-O-L-Y M-A-K-I-N-A-W,
T-I-G-E-R-S E-A-T 'E-M R-A-W

A few moments later the Varsity rooters reported at the gates and they, too, were lined up and marched around the field to their seats in the south-east bleachers, with the 48th Highlanders' band and the famous Varsity bulldog, Dooley in the lead.

As the blue and white throng took their seats, and the living motto, "Toronto", was formed by the use of white sweaters, the two clubs broke loose in all the battle calls that they had specially prepared for the day, the famous University yell:

"Toronto, Toronto, Toronto, Varsity,
We'll shout and fight for the blue and white,
And the honor of the U. of T.
A riperty, a raperty, a riperty, raperty re,
Toronto, Toronto, Toronto, Varsity."

Then followed an exchange of calls, and the Varsity "Rah!" was hurled into the air in defiance to the Tiger "Boohs and wows!" forming a feature that kept every person on the grounds keenly on edge and aroused them to the fullest extent for what was to follow.

Meanwhile the crowds had been pouring in through several big entrances, and the arrangements made to handle the huge host were taxed to the utmost. On Charlton avenue all the reserved seat ticket holders found admittance and they had no trouble there. But the fun and trouble came in bunches at the Duke street entrance to the grounds, where the general admission tickets were on sale. Those in charge made the mistake of attempting to hold back the 50-cent crowd until all the reserved seats were filled, with the result that long before the game, Duke street was jammed as far back as Queen street, and the long line stretched up Queen street past Charlton avenue.

As this line was augmented, the jam in the rear increased, and the pressure on the two big gates became so heavy that the police in charge there were forced to secure scantlings with which to prop them up in an attempt to hold the crowd in check.

All their efforts were in vain, however, for in a few moments the mass struck the gates with one solid bump and the rickety old fence tottered, hung on for a moment, and finally gave way, the whole mass pouring in, fully 2,000 passing the ticket-takers before the police succeeded in...

(Continued on page 12.)

p.s. If anyone can provide the link to page 12 of the Hamilton Spectator of Monday, November 28th, 1910, I will transcribe it here.

It was so good I posted it twice! This was actually a draft copy of the thread which was posted in error and should be deleted...but I won't hold my breath! :stuck_out_tongue:

Thanks Xvys for sharing that and to Drew as well of course. :thup:

Part of the lore of our cultural sporting heritage that few people know about. Hockey is easy to find history on, football is much more buried and hasn't been written up as much.

One of the problems with CFL football history is the fact that in the early years it was pure Rugby. The Grey Cup was originally awarded in 1906 to the top "Rugby" team in Canada. When did rugby in Canada become football?


Well, to be more accurate, "rugby football". I don't know exactly when the historians would say it was officially "rugby football" rather than pure rugby to be honest.

[i]For many years, the term football described the practice of kicking an object, usually a round ball, and directing it into a designated goal area. It was not until 1823, a traditional myth says, that William Webb Ellis, a student at the British public school of Rugby, picked up the ball and ran, contrary to the game's conventions. Others naturally took after him to bring him down. A code of rules evolved and the "Rugby game" was taken and played wherever the school's graduates were placed. Thus did RUGBY make its way to Canada, brought by the various immigrants, civil servants, clergy and military personnel who had a Rugby educational background.

By the 1870s a hybrid form of the Rugby game was being played in Montréal among the garrison personnel, citizens and McGill University. In 1874, McGill was invited to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to play a game of "football" with Harvard. It was only upon arrival that the McGill team found that Harvard played a version of the kicking (soccer) game. To solve the dilemma, 2 games were played, each under the other's rules, and thus was the McGill version introduced into the US. Harvard took immediately to the new game and sent to England for the current rugby rules. Within a year of their receipt, Harvard had persuaded other eastern US teams (known as the Ivy League) to adopt the game. [/i]...

[url=http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/football/]http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/e ... /football/[/url]

A football codes development tree showing the lineage and relationship between various forms of football:

According to this chart, the most popular form of modern Rugby, "Rugby Union", wasn't formalized until 1871. Canadian football as an offshoot of Rugby dated to 1861 but I suppose it can be argued Canadian football today resembles very little the Canadian football of 1861 where Rugby Union may have historically had a more consistent set of rules.

Actually the Grey Cup is awarded to amateur "Rugby Football" champion of Canada. Canadian Rugby Football was based on rugby but with changes and improvements over the years, becoming football.

One of the biggest differences was the adoption of the "line of scrimmage" in 1881 in Canadian football, which differentiated itself from the rugby "scrum" as a means of putting the ball into play.