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.