By Earl Zukerman & Michel Belanger
The CIS announced Wednesday a partnership with the Montreal Alouettes to hold the historic 50th Vanier Cup game at Percival Molson Memorial Stadium, on the campus of McGill University in Montreal, marking the first-ever staging of the Canadian university football championship in the Quebec metropolis.
The venue, which officially opened on Oct. 22, 1915, turns 99 years old this fall. The 2014 Vanier Cup will be the first CIS football playoff held at Molson Stadium since the 2002 Mitchell Bowl national semifinal, a 22-0 victory for Saskatchewan over McGill. The 1990 CIS national semifinal, a 30-10 Churchill Bowl victory for Saskatchewan over Bishop’s, was also played there.
The announcement was made at Montreal’s city hall in the presence of mayor Denis Coderre.
“Montreal is hosting the Vanier Cup for the first time and I am very proud,” said Coderre, a former football coach and minister of sport. “This announcement demonstrates that Montreal is a city of major sporting events. The economic and touristic growth and distinction that this event will bring to Montreal is another reason for us to celebrate. Growth based on sports, on healthy lifestyle habits, in a lively and dynamic city: a healthy city.”
Molson Stadium is named after Capt. Percival Molson, a sporting legend at McGill and a war hero who had the distinction of being the youngest player ever to win the Stanley Cup, accomplishing the feat in 1897 at the age of 16. He went on to star in football, hockey and track at McGill, graduating in 1901 with a B.A., then became the University’s first Olympian, competing in track at the 1904 Summer Games in St. Louis. He was killed in action in France on July 5, 1917.
The venue serves the University as a varsity game and practice field, an intramural pitch and multi-purpose area. Over the past six decades, the Stadium has been host to numerous major events, including field hockey games during the 1976 Summer Olympics, Drum Corps International competitions, the RHR Blackwatch ceremony presided over by the Queen Mother in 1962, concerts by “The Police” (1980) and the Beach Boys (2001), the CONCACAF women’s under-19 qualifying soccer tournament (2004) and countless community events. The stadium hosted the 1931 Grey Cup game — a 22-0 victory by the Montreal Winged Wheelers over the Regina Roughriders— in front of 5,112 fans. The 1957 CFL All-Star game was also played there. The all-time attendance record at Molson Stadium was 26,191 for a 27-21 victory by the Montreal Alouettes over Hamilton on Sept. 12, 1959. The current seating capacity is 25,012.
Among the McGill officials on hand for the announcement was Drew Love, the University’s executive director of athletics and recreation. Also in attendance was for head coach Charlie Baillie, who in 1987, guided the Redmen to become the first Quebec team to capture the Vanier Cup. He was joined by Vincent Gagné, one of the starting defensive backs on that championship team.
“The thing that comes to mind the most when I think of that 1987 team was that we were full of pure confidence and everyone just executed perfectly,” recalled Gagné, now an executive committee member with the recently-elected Quebec Liberal Party, who also serves as a director of governmental relations for TELUS.
Don Baillie, Charlie’s late father, played at quarterback for McGill in the first game where the forward pass was used on Canadian soil. The milestone happened during a 13-0 exhibition loss to the Syracuse Orange on Nov. 5, 1921 at Molson Stadium. It took another decade before the forward pass was allowed in a regular season game.
Also unveiled during the media conference was the return of TELUS as title sponsor of the prestigious event for the second consecutive year. The 2014 TELUS Vanier Cup is set for Sat., Nov. 29 at 1 p.m. The game will be broadcast nationally on Sportsnet and Radio-Canada.
“The participation of TELUS in the Vanier Cup in Montreal is part of a long tradition of commitment to the athletes and the metropolitan community,” said Danny Serraglio, vice president, SME business solutions for Eastern Canada, TELUS. “The Vanier Cup is the prime event of the fall for football fans in Quebec and it was important for TELUS to take part in this great championship for the second consecutive year. This is a way for us to support the next generation of athletes.”
The Alouettes will organize the event and will take charge of ticket sales as well as game-day operations for the TELUS Vanier Cup (promotion and game-day experience, halftime show). For its part, CIS will handle logistics and will coordinate all satellite events such as the 50th anniversary celebrations, in conjunction, among others, with the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ), Université de Montréal and McGill University.
A program for the days leading up to the TELUS Vanier Cup will be unveiled in the coming weeks.
“We’re thrilled to partner with the Alouettes and TELUS to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Vanier Cup in Montreal,” said Pierre Lafontaine, chief executive officer of CIS. The Alouettes and TELUS are outstanding organizations and Montreal’s reputation in terms of hosting sporting events is second to none. “The growth of football in Quebec in recent years at the university, CEGEP and high school levels has been remarkable and we have no doubt this historic Vanier Cup will be a tremendous success next fall.”
“We’re extremely proud to organize the Vanier Cup in Montreal for the very first time,” said Alouettes president and chief executive officer, Mark Weightman. “The Alouettes are continually seeking to contribute more and take a more active role in the development of amateur football. Our involvement in this event is a great opportunity and we are pleased to have the support of the mayor of Montreal and CIS. We invite all football fans from the province of Quebec to join us in Montreal on November 29.”
Tickets for the TELUS Vanier Cup go on sale on Thursday, April 10 for Alouettes season ticket holders and on the Admission network starting on Saturday, April 12 at 10 a.m. Ticket prices vary between $20 and $73. Students and Alouettes season ticket holders will receive a special rate.
The Vanier Cup has enjoyed tremendous success in recent years, both at the gate and on television.
After setting an all-time game attendance record of 37,098 spectators in Toronto in 2012, the Canadian university football final was played in front of a standing-room-only crowd of 18,543 last November at the 13,000-seat TELUS-Université Laval Stadium in Quebec City.
Over the past two years, an average of 883,000 fans also tuned in to watch the championship match on TV.
Following a 39-year run in Toronto (1965 to 2003), the Vanier Cup has travelled across Canada over the last decade with stops in Hamilton (3), Quebec City (3), Saskatoon (1) and Vancouver (1), as well as two returns to the Queen City.
The Laval Rouge et Or head into the 2014 season as reigning two-time champions thanks to a 25-14 triumph over the Calgary Dinos last fall in front of their hometown fans. It marked a record eighth Vanier Cup title for the powerhouse from Quebec City in only 18 years of existence, including a remarkable seven banners in the last 11 campaigns.
The teams that will face off in the TELUS Vanier Cup on Saturday, Nov. 29 will be the winners of the Uteck Bowl, which will see the Canada West conference champions visit the RSEQ champs in Quebec, and the Mitchell Bowl, which will feature the AUS conference titlists and the OUA champs, in Ontario.
The national semifinals are set for Nov. 22, also on Sportsnet and Radio-Canada.
For all the information about the 2014 TELUS Vanier Cup, go here.
Quick facts about Molson Stadium
Venue: Percival Molson Memorial Stadium
Address: 475 Pine Ave. W, Montreal, Quebec H2W 1S4
Owner: McGill University
Current seating capacity: 25,012
Original seating capacity: 7,676 seat concrete grandstand
Largest crowd for CFL game: 26,191 (Alouettes 27, Hamilton 21; Sept. 12, 1959)
Largest crowd for McGill game: 19,386 (1950)
Constructed: Began in 1914, completed in 1915 (McGill Graduates’ Stadium)
First event: Oct. 22, 1915 (4,000 spectators for a McGill track meet)
Date of re-dedication: Oct. 19, 1919 (Percival Molson Memorial Stadium)
Date of first football game: Nov. 8, 1919 (McGill 25, Queen’s 2)
Architect: Percy Erskine Nobbs, professor of design (McGill School of Architecture)
Original Donors: Sir William Macdonald, the McGill Graduates Society and Capt. Percival Molson
Surfaces: Grass (1915-1975), AstroTurf (1975-1988), AstroTurf-8 (1988-2003), FieldTurf (2003-2012), FieldTurf Revolution (2013)
Cost of original construction: approx. $100,000
Tenants: McGill Redmen (CIS) 1919-Present, Montreal Alouettes (CFL) 1954-1967 & 1997-Present, Montreal Indians/Cubs/Royals/Bulldogs (IRFU) 1937-1945, MAAA Winged Wheelers (IRFU) 1919-1936
Historical First (circa. 1930): first stadium outdoor lighting system in Canada
Special events: 1931 Grey Cup game (MAAA 21, Regina 0; attendance: 5,112), 1957 CFL All-star Game, 1976 Olympics (field hockey venue), concerts by The Police (1980) and the Beach Boys (2001), visit by Princess Elizabeth in 1951 (capacity crowd), RHR Blackwatch ceremony presided over by the Queen Mother
Bizarre fact: a herd of sheep was once brought in to improve grass (circa. 1930)
On-site parking: approx. 150 cars
View the Global TV report here.
Ticket information can be found here.