is Toronto Canadian enough for Grey Cup?

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Necks craned and chatter ceased as the clinking of wine glasses, a signal that someone wanted to offer a toast, was heard in the elegant lobby bar of the historic Fort Garry Hotel.

A man in a white cowboy hat and bolo tie stood and raised his glass. "Here's to Tom Wright, the best commissioner the CFL's ever had!" he shouted.

The packed bar burst into applause as Wright, turning red but with a big smile on his face, hurriedly made his exit.

It was a quintessential CFL moment in the best hotel of a quintessential CFL town and made a visitor wonder: What would have happened if the same scene was played out at the Royal York in downtown Toronto, or perhaps the Four Seasons in Yorkville? Perhaps the same response, but not likely.

The cowboy might have been asked to keep it down and not disturb other patrons. Some might have momentarily looked up from making NFL picks for their office pools, then returned to considering Dallas versus Indianapolis.

It will be precisely that kind of scenario that will be played out 12 months from now when the Grey Cup, still known to many as the Grand National Drunk, nervously returns to Toronto for the first time in 15 years.

In '92, the city did its best to ignore the event and those from other parts of the country shook their heads in disgust at how snooty Hogtown — a host to the game 45 times — was suddenly too chi-chi to cuddle up to this enduring slice of Canadiana.

This past week, Winnipeg has been expertly hosting the Grey Cup for the third time since 1991. By yesterday morning, the slippery remnants of a Thursday evening sleet storm had faded into an unseasonably warm and sunny Manitoba day, raising hopes that helpful weather might once again produce a sterling championship game on a dark prairie.

Next November, it will be Toronto's turn. The Argonauts believe they can sell 54,000 seats at the Rogers Centre, possibly by July. But can they sell Toronto more than just the tickets?

Fifteen years ago, with the Argos owned by Bruce McNall, John Candy and Wayne Gretzky and the Blue Jays the best team in baseball, the sporting mood was decidedly tilted toward Hollywood and America. Much has changed.

Pinball Clemons is a coach, not a player, with the Argos and proclaims himself to be "an American by birth and a Canadian by choice." The team is owned by locals Howard Sokolowski and David Cynamon. But as seen in the recent municipal elections, the Argos play in a city still torn by an ongoing debate over whether Toronto is too parochial and too inward looking and not nearly focused enough on finding a place on the world stage.

It's always the two extremes. Rarely, however, do you hear a call for the city to become more genuinely Canadian. Yet part of the reason the mayor has to bleat noisily for a greater share of tax dollars from Ottawa is because the city lacks friends across the country.

For so long, Toronto has been prepared to go it alone, its nose pointed up at cozy little national traditions like, well, the Grey Cup.

Elsewhere on the sporting front, Toronto was identified in the late 1990s as a smug hockey city unwilling to even consider the financial problems of NHL clubs in Ottawa, Edmonton or Calgary. Yet, as Toronto was passed over for the Olympics and even the 2009 world junior hockey championship, suddenly other Canadian towns could laugh in its face.

These days, debt-ridden Toronto could use a little love from the rest of the country and reaching out to embrace the Grey Cup could be a baby step toward gradually building new bridges with other Canadian cities and communities.

Here in Winnipeg, nobody has to tell Sandy (The Flame) Monteith — don't worry, you'll see him today if you tune in to the game — that he's welcome in friendly Manitoba. Ditto for the Atlantic Schooners Down East Kitchen Party, the Spirit of Edmonton bash, the Calgary pancake breakfast, the guy with the green plaid kilt and striped green-and-white stockings tromping through the hotel lobby or the tall drink of water from Kelowna, B.C., with his face painted in Lions' colours at 11 a.m. yesterday. "Having more fun all the time," he chirped.

An executive with the Saskatchewan Roughriders approached Argos president Keith Pelley on Friday night and told him he plans to bring his entire family of eight to next year's Grey Cup. But you can bet they won't want to be treated like rubes.

So it's up to the Argos to design a relaxed, open event that's a little Regina and a little Queen St. with a little taste of the 'Peg.

Doug Flutie, who couldn't sell tickets as an Argo but was proclaimed the No.1 CFL player ever by TSN, nicely encapsulated the true spirit of the Grey Cup after arriving in Winnipeg Thursday in a leather jacket and sneakers. "You walk in the door and there's 100 guys you know and people in the hotel and you're talking," Flutie told the Winnipeg Free Press. "It's just a wide-open, friendly atmosphere that sometimes is missing a little bit (in the NFL)."

Accordingly, if the Argos try to make Grey Cup '07 an event dominated by limos and cordoned-off VIP parties, it will crash. A terrific, warm Grey Cup festival next November, on the other hand, just might be seen as a gesture of friendship to the rest of the country at a time when Toronto is looking a lot like a wallflower at the high school dance.

The official theme for the '07 event is "Over the Top in Toronto." One wonders if "Grateful to be Canadian" would have been a better idea.

If the city, not just the Argos, doesn't get behind this, it will flounder, or at the very least severely tick off the rest of the country. One more time.

It's pretty tough to beat the prairie province team cities when it comes to hosting the grey cup! I was in Ottawa in 1988 and that was an excellent party and game!! Toronto? Who knows!

I hope that I am wrong and I live here, but Toronto is a wannabbee American city first and will look down upon anything that is Canadiana.

im glad toronto is hosting the event twice in 5 years.

build up some momentum and buzz and CFL awareness in toronto goin into the 100th grey cup.

how different the league can look in that window of 5 years tho.

2007, 8 team league...2012, 10 team league with ottawa and halifax?

21,000 tickets have all ready been sold to the 2007 GREY CUP and those sales are mostly just from ARGO season ticket holders.

I bought 4 of those.And they are very expensive.

Wait until they have the full sale to the rest of CANADA!

Toronto isnt even good enough to be considered part of Canada.

OMG!! Is that all you people think of Toronto?? Sure, it might be the evil money grabber since it's so big but it is part of Canada! I consider myself a canadian over anything, over an ontarian and over a torontonian. Sorry if we somehow aren't "good enough" to be part of Canada, but why hate us? Is it going to take a freakin' Taliban attack for your "consideration"?

Too many people in toronto think that toronto IS canada.

Too many people in toronto want the NFL instead of the CFL

Too many people in toronto think the world revolves around toronto

Too many people in toronto want to be more american

an article i posted here said ratings show more people in toronto watch the argos then the NFL.

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so aslong as those type of people show up, the event will be a success.

and maybe it will turn more people on to the CFL.

And don't forget that other article [THE STAR's Decima poll] saying that not many people in TORONTO want an NFL team and/or even care about the NFL. :thup:

260,000 viewers in toronto tuned in for the argo game last week....which is more then who watched the NFL in the entire country.

with some grey cup hype next year, that 260,000 will rise, and with the amount of people in toronto, it could rise significantly.

That has all been changing in the last 5 years in TORONTO.Were the CFL and the ARGOS are only second to THE LEAFS in TORONTO in the T.V. ratings. :thup:

Don't blame the whole city for the small minority of jerks who run the media here. :thdn:

B.C. also wanted an NFL team at one point and B.C. once almost folded because of more interest in the NFL than the CFL in Vancouver.


TORONTO and HAMILTON once loved THE BILLS and in VANCOUVER they love the SEA HAWKS at one time.

Good article though ... would be nice if it changes some attitudes over there.

Most of the Torontonians here - I may even be able to say all except Argos_Bills - aren't the problem. They're not the ones who need to see that article ... the media, government and CEO types are the ones who need to see that article.

I have every confidence that people everywhere, including Toronto, are starting to see that the Grey Cup is not about the best players in the world, it is about the national football championship of Canada, sort of like the BCS game in the States which many say is a bigger festival than the Super Bowl. Taken in this light, with the history of Canadian football and college football in States which predates the Super Bowl, people are realizing what a great event the Grey Cup can be, a real celebration of not only football but of being Canadian.

Because even the most small-minded among us know that it's no longer acceptable to spout racist or sexist views (even though they still hold them). So instead their hatred and stereotyping comes out in an attack that is still considered "acceptable".

It would be fun to do some kind of count. On the one hand, find all references from Torontonians saying that they believe they are the centre of the universe or that the rest of Canada doesn't count. And on the other hand, find all the instances where non-Torontonians say that's what Toronto believes.

Ignorance and hatred will always be part of our society.


Sometimes I think Vancouver is no different. Maybe it is part of being a huge city...

Well, I guess they sort of have to do this to project a persona that they are just a bit more sophisticated and cultured than those of us that don't live in the big cities. But deep down, after you trim away the superficial comments and sputtering, I think you will see that Canada's largest cities actually do like and respect things Canadiana like the CFL. The ones that need to boost their egos because they need this, well, we'll just feel a bit sorry for these people and hope they get the TLC they need to keep their lids on properly. 8)

Toronto’s residents are a torn and confused bunch.

On the one hand you have the type that sees Toronto as on par with any American city and would like nothing better than to be recognized by the Americans. These are the people who love Major League Baseball, and bought up all of the Toronto Blue Jays merchandise after the Canadian Flag was removed from the logo. These are also the people who want the NFL in Tornto because they think it would be cool for Toronto to win the Super Bowl, and receive all that recognition from the States. :thdn:

On the other hand, there are those who see Toronto as just another city in Canada. These people love Canada for what it is, don’t resent it for what isn’t (a superpower). :thup:

Ah, such is the "Canadian condition" which is just amplified I suppose in our larger cities - but not confined to our larger cities I might add.