KEVIN MITCHELL/NANAIMO DAILY FREE PRESS Hamilton Tiger-Cat owner Harold Ballard holds the game ball while being interviewed by Steve Armitage of CBC after the 1986 Grey Cup at B.C. Place in Vancouver.

Grey Cup remains a big deal

Today’s 50-50 jackpot winner at the 102nd Grey Cup will pocket more than both the Calgary Stampeders and Hamilton Tiger-Cats combined.

Today’s 50-50 jackpot winner at the 102nd Grey Cup will pocket more than both the Calgary Stampeders and Hamilton Tiger-Cats combined.

Last year in Regina, the 50/50 raffle reached a gigantic $504,174. According to experts, the half-a-million dollar purse easily eclipsed the previous record for the largest 50/50 raffle at a single sporting event by more than $200,000.

The lucky fan was Denny Charlebois from Ottawa, who collected half the pot, a whopping $252,087 in cash.

Just for the record, the players on the winning team will each take home $16,000 with the losers earning $8,000.

The Seattle Seahawks each cashed in $92,000 for claiming last year’s Super Bowl, while the Denver Broncos got $46,000 apiece. Perhaps the biggest Bronco loser was head coach John Fox, who missed out on a $1 million bonus had Denver won.

By the time the playoff register had paid all monies out, the Seahawks each made $180,000 for playoff glory a year ago.

In the Canadian Football League, life isn’t quite as luxurious. The CFL has a $5 million salary cap and a roster size of 56 players resulting in a mean (average) salary of $89,285.

Due to short-term injuries and other factors, the average salary is lower. Reports in 2014 stated the 2013 average salary hovered around the $80,000 range, very close to the $83,000 mean salary. In 2010, reports on CBA negotiations put the CFLPA salary survey average for the 2009 season at about $60,000.

As for the on-field CFL officials, the referees make between $550 and $850 a game, depending on their experience. All of them have other jobs.

In the NFL, their new eight-year contract – the longest ever for officials, according to the NFL – gives the union referees a pay bump from $149,000 a year in 2011 to $173,000 in 2013. The pay will rise to $205,000 by 2019. These guys don’t need part-time gigs.

Money aside, the CFL is still a Canadian staple and I’ve cheered for the B.C. Lions since I was a tyke and pasting photos and stories from the Vancouver dailies into a scrapbook. My mom used to console me when the Lions lost, so there were plenty of tears.

I don’t remember the day I stopped crying over the Lions, but I still love watching their games. Even took my girlfriend’s 90-year-old mom – Bette Cote – to a Lions-Stamps game at old Empire Stadium a few years ago. She just left us, a few weeks short of 94, a longtime Lions’ backer who rarely missed a game on TV.

I will be at today’s Grey Cup not really caring if the Ti-Cats win their ninth title or the Stamps reel in their seventh. The atmosphere will be awesome and the sodas will be cold.

The average fan cannot name three Hamilton starters or know that quarterback Zach Collaros played college ball for Cincinnati. The average fan can probably list Bo Levi Mitchell and New Westminster-born Jon Cornish as Calgary stars.

I’ve been to a pair of Grey Cups, both at B.C. Place. Watched Hamilton stop the Eskimos 39-15 in 1986 and saw Edmonton outlast the Argos 38-36 the next year.

I got sprayed with Richelieu champagne in the Tiger-Cat dressing room in ‘86 after they upset the Esks, who were favoured by as many as 30 points by some pundits.

Ti-Cat QB Mike Kerrigan wore a Foster’s Lager hat as he addressed the media. He said they weren’t getting sized for rings after building up a 29-0 lead at the half.

“We were fired up as soon as we entered the room, but you can never, never quit against anybody in this league,” said Kerrigan, once cut by Edmonton. “We couldn’t let a 29-0 lead disappear…It was a tough day for Matt Dunigan. Our defence just came to play today. They set it up for us.”

Grover Covington sparked the Hamilton defence that day, tossing aside the Eskimo offensive line like they were blocking dummies.

“If you can’t get turned on by the Grey Cup, you can’t get turned on,” said Covington.

In ‘87, I was in the loud and proud Eskimo locker room, where former Edmonton great Jackie Parker was a guest.

I introduced myself and told Parker I was Ralph Wiley’s son-in-law. The two played golf together a lot.

He shook my hand and replied, admist the noise, “Glad to meet you Ralph.”

Only Nick Turik can remember the first Grey Cup back on Dec. 4, 1909 when the University of Toronto Varsity Blues bounced the Toronto Parkdale Canoe Club 26-6 in front of 3,807 fans at Rosedale Park. Turik figures the 50-50 pot was $35.

And who can forget the Baltimore Stallions, who became the first U.S. team to capture the Grey Cup when Tracy Ham outplayed Doug Flutie and the Stamps in the 1995 championship at Taylor Field in Regina?

The CFL has come a long ways since the dog years of the early 1990s when they scheduled an exhibition game in Portland to test that market. They drew 15,000 fans to watch Calgary play Toronto.

Portland couldn’t find ownership, but the league welcomed franchises like the Las Vegas Posse, Shreveport Pirates and Sacramento Gold Miners. The CFL was in a dark stretch.

Today, we’re back at nine teams and only one with the nickname Riders. And the Grey Cup is still a big deal. Go Ti-Cats.


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