Thursday, 24 December 2015

You're Set! You're Safe! You're Sure!

I have often wondered why specifically Canadian football themed advertising pieces are so hard to come by. Considering the popularity of the sport in the major Canadian cities one would have expected that quite often football would have been used to help sell name-brand products. And while this type of ephemera was typically utterly disposable, vintage signs and advertising is a really popular category for collectors and therefore antique dealers as well, so there should be some pieces unearthed from time to time.

Well a few years back rummaging around an antique mall I stumbled upon just such a gem of top selling product advertising combined with glorious vintage period football graphics as illustrated above. Industry leader Prestone Anti-freeze produced this stunning thick cardboard advertising board with a very fifties-ish football player steaming towards you, about to straight arm you in your facemask-less face. So far so good and a beautiful piece regardless, but as it was a totally generic player...the big question it Canadian?

Luckily the answer was at hand with the existence of a second package of goodies including the original mailing cardboard box showing that the ephemera was the work of National Carbon Limited of Toronto and stamped and postmarked in Canada...Bingo.

As you can see the package was a dealer display kit to drive Prestone Sales and what a bunch of cool football related items it contained. Besides the main poster there was one thin stock medium poster and two thin stock small posters with the pennant design and one thin stock medium poster with an equally cool fifties quarterback about to unleash a long bomb pass. All of the posters had gummed strips on the front edges as they were designed to stick on the inside of your auto dealership window so customers could see them from the outside (which is why there is some paper lifting and damage on the poster fronts).

The quarterback poster trumpeted the fact that Prestone was sponsoring football broadcasts and this was fully explained in the enclosed "The Touchdowner" magazine. With extensive articles on Anti-freeze as well as how Prestone was promoting the game over a new 16 station network (all cities but Montreal were represented) for the first time in 1952. The magazine is on semi-glossy (not newsprint) paper stock and is eight pages long in total. There are no player images inside but there are images of the broadcasters from each city and plenty of football graphics and stories on the upcoming 1952 season. This item alone is something a vintage Canadian football collector should get excited about!

Additionally there were some advertising blanks that the dealer could use to have a ready made Prestone or Prestone + football player advert ordered from local newspapers. And a large colorful poster showed the suggested placement of the promotional items in a typical automotive storefront and the reason for the large cutout in the primary cardboard sign was apparent...Prestone came in rectangular containers in 1952 and you were to slot one into the gap in the sign.

Finally there was a very nice thick cardboard three panel folded 1952 chart detailing all of the specifics on antifreeze protection percentages for various makes and models of cars and trucks of the forties and early fifties. This item has no football reference (it does have the set, safe, sure slogan) but it would undoubtedly be of interest to petroliana collectors on its own. This group of items will all eventually be catalogued in the future planned Volume 4 Collecting Canadian Football - Publications & Ephemera.    
I have only seen a few other similar period standalone advertising pieces relating to football that are demonstrably Canadian, and while nice in their own rights, none of them is anywhere near as graphically spectacular, diverse or as intensely football focused as this combination of items. If any readers have examples of other nostalgic Canadian football related advertising items I'd like to hear about them. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to anybody reading this!

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Grey Cup Party Time!

Later today, the 103rd Grey Cup Championship game will be held, and probably by the time you read this, either the Edmonton Eskimos will have ended a ten year Grey Cup drought, or the Ottawa RedBlacks will have ended the City of Ottawa's thirty nine! year Grey Cup drought in the 2nd year of the new franchise's existence. So what better time to look back on a nifty Grey Cup Party Pack that was produced in 1972 and was chock full of goodies to help take your own home Grey Cup viewing party over the top!

The products came in a cardboard package with great period graphics showing a Grey Cup party in full swing enhanced by the goodies in the kit. The reverse side of the package is the same image in French but the components appear to all be unilingual English. There are a couple of these kits on ebay right now and usually when they are available they tend to have most of the components intact, as it is probable that the items were either used and then discarded, or purchased and left unused for 40+ years.  

The most desirable items in the kit are two posters. The first has the very familiar 1971 CFL properties team posters reproduced in miniature around a panel of historical Grey Cup results and the second is an attractive poster with the Grey Cup and CFL logo welcoming guests to your Grey Cup party. I have seen ebay advertisements for this kit claiming there were three posters in the set, but at this point that is unconfirmed.

Next up were two paper banners (the western one in blue) prophesying victory for each geographical region and two paper generic Grey Cup pennants combining the colour schemes. Additional items that I was unable to get decent scanned images of were name tags for your guests to identify themselves with (in the same colour distinctions so you knew who they were rooting for) and coasters that I think were more generic with the Grey Cup silhouette image on them.

Finally each kit came with either six or eight paper helmets in West - blue or East - pink colours and a paper stripe strip to run down the top of the helmet crown. Who needs lampshades when everybody is decked out in these sweet units. The sets currently on ebay are priced somewhere between $175 and $200 US dollars each but I recall about 10 years ago seeing a set go for a couple of dollars as this is the kind of item that can sometimes fly under the radar. It is also a somewhat difficult group to catalogue because the general distinction is to group items by type, but in this case they will probably be listed as a single issue of multiple different types in the under-preparation Collecting Canadian Football Volume III - Novelties & Souvenirs.    

Now if you lived in Hamilton and were attending the 1972 Grey Cup in person, instead of hosting a viewing party at home, you would have enjoyed the last play of the game Ian Sunter field goal that lifted the hometown Tiger-Cats to victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders. And perhaps on the way out of the stadium you might have been lucky enough to grab the pictured 31" X 40" hard cardboard mounted poster displayed at various festival locations. Presumably the six team helmets pictured represented the playoff participants but Calgary did not make the playoffs in 1972, and Edmonton did.

Oh, one more thing...


Sunday, 8 November 2015

Resurrection in Monochrome - (Volume 2 Update)

The Montreal Alouettes were formed in 1946 and competed in the Interprovincial Rugby Football Union & the Eastern Conference and Eastern Division of the CFL for 36 seasons from 1946 to 1981 winning 4 Grey Cup championships over that span. The team was then bankrupted by questionable ownership and withdrew from the league before the 1982 season. They were replaced for four seasons by the Montreal Concordes before that franchise was renamed the Alouettes for a last gasp 1986 season after which they abruptly folded just before the 1987 campaign began. In 1996 the Montreal Alouettes were again resurrected as a CFL franchise in Montreal 10 years after the second iteration of the team failed by the transfer of the reigning Grey Cup champion Baltimore Stallions to the city.

In order to help re-popularize the sport with Montrealers what looks like a couple of different sets of blank backed postcard sized player items were issued, and the curious part is that in the middle of the last decade of the 20th century these items were produced in grainy black and white.

The first set had white borders around the images and varied from 7 1/4" X 5 1/4" to 5 1/2" X 8 1/2" in size. Established stars coming over to Montreal with the Stallions, quarterback Tracy Ham and running back Mike Pringle, were among those featured.

Some lesser known players such as linebacker Rahsaan Giddings as well as a group shot that probably dates from 1997 because head coach Dave Ritchie is included were also produced.

The second set has no borders and the B&W images bleed right to the edge of each card. Sizing for these cards was probably similar to the border set but might also be somewhat variable. All of these cards did not make the cut for Collecting Canadian Football - Volume 2 because at the time the book was to go to the printers I did not have sufficient information or reasonable images of the items.

These cards are more often than not found autographed so it is possible that they were handed out at practices after which the players would have been readily available for signing. The difference in the negative white image of the logo versus the positive black image might also signify a different year of issue.

Running back Michael Soles (above) and kicker Terry Baker (below) were isolated on their cards but others show group action shots with multiple players and a cheerleader posed card also exists.

The exact numbers of cards issued and which specific year each issue was produced is uncertain although it is known that as a group they date to the first couple years of the franchise being back in Montreal : 1996-1997. Why these cards would have been produced in archaic B&W in the mid-nineties is unknown but perhaps with the uncertainty of moving the franchise all costs were carefully managed and this would have been the cheaper option, At least the normal team ephemera like tickets and schedules were printed in colour.

These were difficult years for the team as attendance in the Big O - Olympic stadium was sporadic at best. As fate would have it the scheduling of a U2 concert conflicted with one of the team's games and they were forced to move to Molson Stadium in the downtown core. The location proved so superior to the cavernous dome that the Alouettes permanently relocated to the even older but much more atmospheric and centrally located facility. The change of venue was prominently noted on team ephemera from 1998 onwards.

The location change was a primary contributing factor to the subsequent embracing of the team by the city's fans and their eventual on-field success culminating in three more Grey Cup championships from 2002-2010. But it all started in glorious grayscale.  

Wednesday, 14 October 2015


With today's internet enabled, around the clock saturation of available sports information and the proliferation of cable sports only channels, with full fledged sporting news broadcasts updated throughout the day, it is hard to imagine (or remember) what following sports was like a half-century ago. In the nineteen fifties, TV was in its infancy, most markets had only a couple of channels and local stations had limited budgets for sports reporting. The daily newspaper would allow ardent followers to read about the progress being made during training preparations for the upcoming season and radio would have been the primary outlet to listen to away games for most fans once the season was underway.

In this environment, the chance to see each year's crop of exciting new players show their capabilities under game conditions, was a pretty exciting prospect for local supporters, as well as a valuable measurement tool for the coaching staff. So the intrasquad exhibition football game, pitting one half of the training camp team roster against the other half, became a mainstay occurrence for several decades. Keep in mind that only two of the nine CFL cities had NHL teams during this time and football was therefore the dominant sport that fans in most of the cities could actually attend in person.

1957                                                                     195?

Once the fans were at the game they would naturally need a lineup in order to tell players apart on the two teams and to be able to attach names and numbers to those athletes that showed potential for the upcoming campaign. Hence the intra-squad program was born, usually just a couple of pages long, identifying the players and sometimes including player pictures and local advertising. As you can imagine these would have been printed in much fewer numbers than the regular programs and the survival rate was low, making for a very interesting and challenging to acquire collectible.

Since I feel I have not had a chance to focus much on Winnipeg material so far in the blog, this post will look at all of the Bomber programs that I am aware of and just illustrate a few from each of the other teams where available. The first Blue and Gold intrasquad program is from 1957 although the other pictured program whose year I don't know might be older. Khartum Temple is a Shriner's organization in Winnipeg that used to sponsor various games at Winnipeg Stadium as part of their charitable activities.


The fan that attended the 1961 Bomber intrasquad game and saved the program must have had some sort of connection to the team because there are 47 players listed in the lineup and over fifty signatures on the cover, including legendary coach Bud Grant and a who's who of Winnipeg Hall of Famers from their dynasty four cups in five years team. This item would be a stunning centerpiece of any vintage Blue Bomber memorabilia collection.


In 1962 ceramic bobbleheads came to the CFL and while they were probably not a game-day giveaway like today's sports promotions, a Bomber version did make the cover of the intrasquad program. Also pictured is the same (or close) first generation Winnipeg bobblehead. All information that is known about the myriad types and variations of CFL bobbleheads will be included in Collecting Canadian Football - Volume 3.

1965                                                             1966

The mid-sixties versions of the programs in Winnipeg were fairly similar. As you can see from all of the dates, July was still pre-season as the schedule was shorter than today and the season started later.
1966 is the last image I have for Winnipeg but the Blue and Gold games with programs likely continued at least into the early seventies.

1959                                                               1976

Further east in Toronto intrasquad programs can be found from at least 1959 through to 1976 meaning there might be up to 18 different editions of these hard to find gems for the Argonauts. At least one season was advertised as Joe Theismann's Blues versus Greg Barton's Whites.

1964                                                             1971

In Ottawa only a span of eight years is confirmed, but it would be reasonable to conclude that additional programs outside this range were also produced. Often times the programs were sponsored by local community organizations and sometimes the games were played away from the team's normal home stadiums.

1955                                                                1963

Hamilton started out with specialized programs for their intrasquad game but in 1958 they combined the intrasquad information with their regular media guide, before reverting to producing specific programs from at least 1960 onwards. Hamilton was one of the few teams to issue updated media guides in some years, so perhaps it made sense to amalgamate the intrasquad information with a particular season's early version guide.

1955                                                                1955

 Exactly what was going on in Montreal in 1955 is unknown, either there was more than one intrasquad game, there was more than one program for a single game, or these were the front and back covers for the same game (seems doubtful). Interesting that the team was involved in efforts to help prop up the provincial union which by this time would have been almost completely shunted aside in favor of the dominant Big Four Eastern I.R.F.U. I don't have any record of any other Montreal intrasquad program.

1956                                                                 1958

Back out west the Eskimos touchdown club was issuing intrasquad programs from at least 1955 through 1958 but the games themselves probably were occurring prior to 1955, possibly without a specific program. The B.C. Lions don't appear to have ever issued intrasquad programs, as I can find no mention of them in John Wirtanen's encyclopedic half-dozen books on B.C. Memorabilia and team history. Similarly I have no record of any Saskatchewan Roughrider intrasquad programs although they are known to have hosted many Green versus White intrasquad games.

1963 top, 1965 Bottom

Finally in Calgary no specific intrasquad game programs appear to have been produced but from 1963 to 1965 the intrasquad lineups were inserted into the team media guides on different paper stock than the rest of the guide pages.

In fact intrasquad games never disappeared completely although it would be unlikely to find a game program issued after the seventies. Many teams continue the tradition to this day but any promotional material created is of a digital nature.


Sunday, 27 September 2015

No WLAF-ing Matter

Another football oddity that had some Canadian content spillover was the World League of American Football (or WLAF) that was formed in 1991 by the NFL as a developmental league and played two seasons with teams in both North America and Europe. The Canadian connection was the Montreal Machine franchise that competed in both of the short lived league`s seasons. Since the time frame corresponded nicely with the sports card boom years there were no shortage of trading card sets issued to immortalize the players on cardboard.

A nice team pack with Pennant, Bumper Sticker and Pinback was available,
the Pennant was also available separately (probably all three were)

Because this league played American Football (in Canada) I did not include the trading cards or other memorabilia in the Collecting Canadian Football series of guides, however I will list what is known about the Machine collectibles here in this blog post. The first set of WLAF cards was issued by Pro Set, one of the primary companies fueling the sports card boom with a gazillion different issues, many of which were eventually regarded as junk as soon as the boom petered out. Two sets of WLAF inserts were included as part of Pro Set's primary 1991 NFL Series I trading card set, a ten card helmet set and a 32 card player set. (Actually technically the first WLAF card was part of Pro Set's 1990 NFL issue advertising that the new league would begin play in the following year.)

There were three Machine cards in the first insert set, and one Machine helmet in the second insert set, with the team schedule on the back

Besides the Montreal cards there were no shortage of player and coach cards with significant CFL experience, either prior to WLAF or afterwards

Ten more WLAF cards were directly included in Series II of Pro Set's 1991 NFL set featuring the MVP's and some stats leaders of the first season's league play, but none of these cards featured a Machine player. Later in the 1991 season Pro Set issued a comprehensive WLAF set of 150 cards available in packs (4 complete sets to a box) or in a boxed set. A helmet card with the same front as that issued as a Series I insert was included, but the card number was different and the back contained the results of the season (since this was a spring league). Montreal finished 4-6 and out of the playoffs.

There were eleven Machine cards in this set, one helmet, eight players, one coach and one stats leader

Finally, because Pro Set just could not stop producing sets, a World Bowl set of 43 cards was issued to fans attending the first WLAF championship game at Wembley Stadium in London. These cards were identical to the initial two insert sets (with one trophy card added) except the Helmet cards were renumbered and the backs contained a team narrative. So therefore there was one additional Montreal card available from this issue.

For the 1992 season a new firm, the Ultimate Trading Card Company issued a WLAF set of 200 cards in packs of 9, 12 packs to a box. Such was the insanity of the boom times that they actually ran a contest with a giveaway of $1 Million Dollars ... for a product dedicated to a 2nd year developmental football league ... hard to believe. Each box contained a team hologram insert as well as a promotional poster that had Pete Mandley of the Machine pictured on it along with other players. Several promotional cards were produced but none was of a Machine player.

There were eighteen Machine cards in this set, one team card, one checklist, 15 players and one hologram. There was also one Frankfurt Galaxy player who had a traded to Montreal notation on his card but he is pictured in a Galaxy uniform

The last 1992 WLAF issue was courtesy of Wild Cards whose gimmick was to produce a limited amount of cards with foil stamped denomination stripes on them, supposedly indicating that a particular striped card was "worth" 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 or 1000! times the normal card. Wow what a boom era concept destined to have collectors falling all over themselves to shell out huge $$$ for these extreme rarities.

There were 15 Machine cards in this set, but each one would also have been available in the 6 striped denomination variations, for a total of 90 additional cards

The WLAF was shut down after 1992 (the Machine finished a dismal 2-8) and the Sacramento Surge would transform themselves into the Sacramento Gold Miners as the first ever CFL American expansion team for 1993. Note the Surge uniform color similarities to the Gold Miners on the Carl Parker card. Apparently the San Antonio Riders were also supposed to join the CFL for 1993 but unfortunately they folded before a third Rider franchise could be added to the league.

Naturally the team also produced other ephemera that can be interesting to collect, such as schedules, media guides and a second pennant design illustrated below. For a truly comprehensive look at Montreal Machine (and all WLAF/NFL Europe) memorabilia check out this link.

In fact the 1992 league championship World Bowl was played in Montreal with the Sacramento Surge emerging victorious over the Orlando Thunder, generating more collectible items related to football in Montreal.


The WLAF was resurrected in 1995 with only European teams and was eventually renamed to NFL Europe and contimued to play until the 2007 season before finally ceasing operations. North American involvement was limited to just the 1991 & 1992 seasons and Machine collectibles are pretty reasonably priced and an interesting sidelight of American football played in Canada.

Friday, 28 August 2015

What is Pacifik Graphik? - (Volume 1 Addition?)

If you are the sort of CFL collector who likes to spend time looking for really obscure CFL trading cards (as opposed to the "mainstream" Jogo cards), you may eventually stumble across some cool cards made by a company called Pacifik Graphik. This was the case when one day I found myself looking at a website of a sports collector named Mac Maroon who specialized in making his own index cards with images and sending them direct to athletes (from many different sports) asking for autographs. Often the players would also send back (in the pre-supplied self addressed stamped envelope) their own signed cards from various sources as well!

2010 Arland Bruce III Hamilton Tiger-Cats unlicensed Pacifik Graphik card

And that is when I noticed that there were some curious and attractive cards from Pacifik Graphik featuring CFL players. I had never heard of these cards but with the look of them and the logos (including the team and CFL logo on some cards) I thought that perhaps these might be legitimate issues that were regional or promotional or something similar. So I did some google research and contacted the company which is located in Quebec City. Here is their website although it looks a little stale dated now.

2009 Brendon LaBatte Winnipeg Blue Bombers unlicensed Pacifik Graphik card

As it turns out the connection of this company to the CFL is that Offensive Lineman Alexandre Gauthier's brother worked there and starting in roughly 2004 they began to produce cards directly for the players. Originally there were only a couple of players made each year but eventually the number grew to about 30 by 2011 (whether that was per year or over a few years is unknown). The distorted low resolution card card image below comes off of the company website, I don't have a copy of it myself, and as a steadfast Calgary collector that irks me greatly.

2005 Alexandre Gauthier Calgary Stampeders unlicensed Pacifik Graphik card

So the cards were not for sale, they were for distribution to the players who had paid to have their own cards made only, and the only way to get them was directly from the players themselves. In fact I was unable to even get a listing of which players had been made. So I tried the same tactic Mac Maroon uses, a self addressed stamped envelope and a nice letter to five CFL players who had already proved responsive, as a test case. Initially nothing came of it and I forgot about it but some time much later I did get a response from Brendon LaBatte and so this is why I have predominantly his cards illustrated in this post.

2008 Brendon LaBatte Winnipeg Blue Bombers unlicensed Pacifik Graphik card

It seems to me that the majority of these cards are from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and it might be that if you follow Alexandre Gauthier's career path you will find more cards from players on the teams he played for in each particular year. Eventually the CFLPA got wind of these cards and as they have the rights to assign the license for CFL trading cards (now of course held by Upper Deck), apparently they pressured Pacifik Graphik to stop making these cards.

2011 Brendon LaBatte Winnipeg Blue Bombers unlicensed Pacifik Graphik card

So I am not sure if I should catalogue what I know of these cards or not in the planned eventual update to Collecting Canadian Football Volume I. They are technically not officially licensed but on the other hand they were professionally produced and since the players were involved in the process they are at least partially legitimate by some measure. In any case they do make an interesting group to pursue, they are rare, hard to get (some players would sell autographed copies off of their personal websites), sharp looking and well designed and manufactured. I only know of about 5 more cards than the ones illustrated here and there must be a lot more out there than that, so if any readers have Pacifik Graphik cards I would love to hear about them and get scans.


Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Pride of the Lions Quenches Thirsty Fans - (Volume 2 Addition)

Fans attending games at B.C. Place in Vancouver after the 2011 season were justifiably proud of their newly renovated stadium (now easily the best indoor football stadium in the country) and eventually their Grey Cup championship Lions team. They would also soon celebrate the 60th anniversary of their franchise and all of these attributes of their club, venue and city would come together on a series of attractive firm plastic cups sold with drinks at games at the facility.

2011 Season cup and 2012 Season cup celebrating the Grey Cup win. Both cups have the regular Lions head logo on the reverse as per the left side cup

These are a bit of a mix in terms of cataloging because some cups are generic and some are player specific. I'll probably end up splitting them into Volume 3 and the future update for Volumes 1 & 2. The cups sport the logo of the renovated stadium as well as the sponsor logos of Pepsi and Centerplate (a worldwide event management company).

2013 Season cup no 1 of 3, featuring Hall of Famers: Willie Fleming, By Bailey, Norm Fieldgate, Joe Kapp and water boy turned General Manager Bob Ackles

For the 60th anniversary year three separate player cups were issued focusing on players from three different eras of the club's history. Cup number 2 has star Lion players from the seventies and eighties, and cup number 3 has star Lion players from the nineties and up. All cups also include some historical facts on team achievements in each era.

2014 Season cup featuring Travis Lulay, Andrew Harris, Adam Bighill and Solomon Elimimian 

The following season three more cups were issued with the multi-player item shown above, a special Geroy Simon cup and one showcasing the black gunmetal uniforms. These three cups all featured somewhat different designs. Finally in 2014 the cup shown below was issued as B.C. Place hosted the 102nd Grey Cup between the Calgary Stampeders and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

2014 Season Grey Cup Championship cup

In keeping with the theme of this post, I have also illustrated below left the special 2013 Tim Horton's Lions 60th Anniversary paper cup that was available at all 292 locations in B.C. in large or extra large sizes. According to a press release this was the first time a professional sports team logo was ever featured on Tim Horton's beverage containers. Tim Horton's has also issued commemorative Grey Cup paper coffee cups and numerous other items related to the CFL. It is a reminder that CFL collectibles can pop up anywhere in everyday places and are here today and gone tomorrow.

2013 Season Tim Horton's Lions 60th Anniversary cup and undated Tim Horton's coffee can

Finally illustrated above right is a Tim Horton's coffee can of uncertain date that happens to feature a picture of Hall of Famer B.C. Lion Jim Young. Jim was born in Hamilton so perhaps that is why he is featured on this particular can, but I have no other information or images for the item. I spotted this while visiting the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto where it was part of a memorabilia display of hockey collectibles. It shows that even while standing in the heart of Hockey's Mecca, a sharp eyed observer might stumble across a previously unknown Canadian football collectible.