Toronto, ON- In yet another reminder of how 2020 is a year unlike any other, this weekend came and went without the Vanier Cup being awarded. Since 1965 the Vanier Cup has served as the culmination of a year of Canadian University football. From 1965 to 2003, the two best Canadian University football teams gathered in Toronto, Ontario. From 2004 onward the championship has shifted cities and after being awarded 55 times it remains a major part of Canadian culture.
Unfortunately, the 56th Vanier Cup will need to wait but until then, it is nice to reminisce about some of the best memories. So that’s what we are going to do this morning. On Saturday evening, we asked you to tell us some of your favourite memories of the Vanier Cup. We got some responses celebrating championships and also some more personal responses celebrating individual successes. Each response though, each memory of the Vanier Cup holds a different memory and it is those memories we need to hang on to while we wait to return to normal.
So let’s talk about some of them.
Acadia gets the upset in 1981
Acadia Athletics started us off by throwing it all the way back to 1981. This game pitted the underdog Acadia Axemen against the defending Vanier Cup champions in the Alberta Golden Bears. The game at Varsity stadium was a cold one, temperatures topped out at just four degrees Celsius. Despite one heavy favourite the game was tight throughout with Acadia up 11-9 late in fourth quarter. The Golden Bears kicked a 22-yard field goal with 2:35 to go and it look like they were on their way to another Vanier Cup. That is until Acadia quarterback Steve Repic stormed the Axemen offense down they field on their final drive before Halifax native (and soon to be local hero) Quentin Tynes punched home a 2-yard run for the game winning touchdown. This win is currently Acadia’s last Vanier Cup but it is a moment etched in history.
UBC wins it in the Mud in 1986
The 1986 Vanier Cup had an incredible finish but looked awful to be a part of. In traditional Toronto fashion, a late November snowfall had partially melted leaving Varsity Stadium a muddy, snowy mess. The game itself had two formidable teams the 8-0 UBC Thunderbirds and the Western Mustangs. The Mustangs entered the game in search of revenge, falling to the Calgary Dinos a year prior in the title match. The game was back and forth throughout with the Mustangs holding a 23-18 lead heading into the final moments. Alas if you are a Mustangs fan (or you read the heading) you know what comes next. Eric Putoto led the Thunderbirds on a 62 yard drive downfield capping it off with a touchdown pass to Rob Ros with just four seconds on the clock. Converting the extra point sealed the fate of Western and gave UBC their second Vanier Cup.
McGill flips the script in 1987
The McGill Redbirds (that still feels really weird to say) move us a little further in time. Their submission is pretty self-explanatory, their first and currently only Vanier Cup win in 1987. The game stands out for quite a few reasons. First it was absolutely freezing when the teams took the field at Varsity Stadium, with the temperature at kickoff hovering around minus seven. On the field, it was another example of David vs Goliath. The UBC Thunderbirds won the 1986 Vanier Cup and entered the game with the Hec Crighton Trophy winner as the Most Outstanding Player in the country with quarterback Jordan Gagner. The Thunderbirds actually led 3-0 after the first quarter but from then on it was McGill’s show. The Redbirds ran UBC into submission on the night with 344 of their 386 yards being picked up in the ground game. All told as they point out McGill won the game by the largest single game margin in Vanier Cup history at 36 points.
Ottawa beats Regina in a wild one at the Skydome – 2000
This game at one point was billed as “The battle of the quarterbacks,” and it did not disappoint. On one side was Ottawa’s Phil Côté, a three-time All-Canadian and three-time nominee for the Hec Crighton Trophy. The Regina Rams countered with Darryl Leason, a 26-year-old who previously led the Regina Rams to three straight Prairie Junior Football Conference titles between 1993 and 1995. When the game kicked off though Côté and the Gee Gees took over and were seemingly destined for victory. At half-time the box score read 35-10 in favour of Ottawa and the 18,209 fans at the Skydome in Toronto probably started expecting a rout. In the second half, the game turned on its head. Leason ran in a touchdown himself to cut the lead to 35-17 heading into the fourth quarter. 30 seconds into the fourth Leason hit Jason Clermont with a 16-yard pass to cut the lead down to 35-24. After Ottawa’s next drive brought them another touchdown, the Rams answered back on a three-yard run from running back Neal Hughes. Regina fought valiantly with Leason nailing a 25-yard pass to Chris Warnecke along with the two-point conversion right as the clock hit zeros. Unfortunately, the Rams were left three points short losing 42-39. For the Gee Gees, they got to celebrate, winning their second Vanier Cup and last one to date.
Montreal makes history at home in the 50th Vanier Cup – 2014
Looking back on it, it is almost too perfect how the Montreal Carabins won the 2014 Vanier Cup. It the first appearance in the final in school history, they were playing at home at Percival Molson Stadium in Montreal and they did it in a come from behind victory over the McMaster Marauders. That is what movies are made out of. The game started out well for the Marauders with just a field goal from Montreal’s offence leading to a 13-3 McMaster lead at halftime. Montreal got seven points back off an early touchdown but a pair of Tyler Crapigna field goals kept the score 19-10 for McMaster heading into the fourth quarter. In the fourth, an early touchdown cut the lead to 19-17 before a field goal with 2:45 to go gave Montreal the one point lead at 20-19. McMaster pushed their way down the field desperate for a tie and with under a minute to go set up for a 31-yard field goal attempt from Crapigna, but defensive lineman Mathieu Girard blocked the field goal and sealed the first Vanier Cup in school history for the Montreal Carabins.
So those are some Vanier Cup memories for us to reminisce on. It is certainly strange to not have the Vanier Cup be awarded but we can all take solace in that it will return again, and will give players, coaches, fans, and schools the chance to create even more memories.
Cover Photo: The Canadian Press