A frigid North Wind is blowing in from...well...the Great White North. In news that will surely make the day for Ryan Reynolds, Don Cherry, Wayne Gretzky, Mike Myers, and Celine Dion, the GUD is rolling out our first installment of the Canadian Football League.
Years ago we toyed with the idea of adding the CFL to the GUD but, after some digging, we realized we just didn't have the resources to make a legitimate run at it.
However, as I was perusing our close, personal ally - Newspapers.com - back in October, I noticed a major influx of Canadian newspapers being added.
Montreal's Daily Star and Gazette, Ottawa's Journal and Citizen, Regina's Leader-Post, Edmonton's Journal and Bulletin, Calgary's Herald and the Albertan, and a bounty of newspaper publications from Vancouver and its neighboring area gave me a great degree of hope. Unfortunately, that left Winnipeg, Toronto, and Hamilton uncovered.
Toronto would be the first problem to solve, and the easiest. Our ProQuest library access includes Toronto's Globe and Mail as well as the Toronto Star, although the Star has not proven as useful as the Globe and Mail.
Next on tap was Winnipeg. With the help of the Winnipeg Public Library, I was provided a link to the University of Manitoba archives to access the Winnipeg Tribune. Subsequently, a small fraction of the Tribune has been recently added to Newspapers.com, but the archival assistance provided by the WPL and the University of Manitoba has been essential and limitless.
Finally, what to do about Hamilton? While there is an overflow of Ontario newspapers on Newspapers.com, no Hamilton newspaper can be found within its ranks. No problem. Again, a very resourceful Hamilton Public Library staff member has seen her way to rifle through four batches of requests for photos. Having all other teams essentially covered, the number of Hamilton games for which we were missing photos became much less than it could have been. I want to thank our 'Hamilton Goddess' Marisa for, what I'm sure, has been hours in front of a microfiche scanner searching for game photos. This project would have a huge, gaping hole in it if it wasn't for her.
With the logistics taken care of, the next hurdle became the artistic one.
As a kid, I grew up watching NFL Films with clips from the 60s and 70s so when Tim Brulia and I began working on GUD, we each had a pretty good idea of uniform designs, emblems, and colors. At least for me, colors and number fonts were going to be the biggest problem here with the CFL. There just doesn't seem to be an archival CFL collection of vintage color videos or still photos from the 1950s anywhere online. If you know of one or can send me links to such locations, please reach out to us using the Contact Us tab up top or post the photos/links in our Forum.
|1960 Argonauts with gold outline invisible on B/W newspaper photos|
The practical view around these parts is that, just as was the case when we created GUD over 10 years ago, contacts with proof showing corrections and adjustments that need made to our initial representations will come pouring in. Not only is it a foregone conclusion, but it's a good thing, too. It's what makes the GUD the best uniform database on the Internet. It's also the main reason why this rollout is occurring the way it is. When we unleashed the GUD on the uni-verse, we put out about 80 years worth of images - all at once. One day I'd be correcting the 1940 Bears' pants stripes and the next day I was shortening sleeves for late-80s Bills' uniforms. Let me tell you, I didn't know whether I was coming or going for a while. It was a miracle 1940 Bears' uniforms didn't end up being displayed for the 1989 Bills - or vice-versa.
We are limiting the 'Grand Opening' to a 16-season chunk, stopping at 1960. Why 1960, you ask? 1960 was the final year each Union played only teams from their own Union during the regular season. 1961 would feature a completely interlocking schedule. Additionally, it is our hope is that any images that need fixed can be done so in a shorter time frame, thus allowing us to continue our CFL rollout in 5-year chunks as time permits amid the rest of usual GUD business. The coming Spring features new XFL and USFL leagues as well as the obligatory releases of new NFL uniforms AND new/old throwbacks since the 1-Helmet Shell Rule has finally been lifted. The rest of the CFL will happen when time and life permit, but at least we are getting the ball rolling, hopefully sparking some new interest for both GUD and the CFL's history.
Speaking of the CFL's history, as I mentioned, aside from knowing the teams, I have to admit there are quite a few nuances to the Canadian brand of the game that I was completely oblivious to. I knew about the 55-yard line, the gigantic end zones, no 4th downs, and the ever-popular rouge. What has perplexed me the most so far has been how the playoffs were conducted back in the 1940s and 1950s. (I'm curious to learn whether these formats continued into the more modern era as I move forward.)
To begin with, the CFL began as 2 separate Leagues, or Unions - the Inter-provincial Rugby Football Union in the East (commonly referred to as the BIG 4) and the Western Inter-provincial Football Union out west. The IRFU and the WIFU. They met increasingly in preseason exhibition games and again at the end of the season where the two champions played in the Grey Cup, the Canadian version of the Super Bowl. (Honestly, it is we Americans who should be saying the Super Bowl is our version of the Grey Cup. The Super Bowl was first contested following the 1966 season. The Grey Cup was first awarded in 1909.) With these early season exhibitions and season-ending finale, the relationship between the two Unions was very similar to the one that existed between the NFL and AFL in the 1960s, minus the heightened degree of animosity.
They continued to function as two entities until a joining in 1956 where both Unions functioned under the umbrella of the Canadian Football Council (CFC) for 1956 and 1957. Re-organization took place and the Canadian Football League was formed in 1958. 1961 actually marks a true modern beginning for the CFL as that was the season in which teams played, as mentioned, a completely interlocking, 9-team schedule.
Another similarity to the NFL/AFL comparison dealing with the schedules required some thoughtful decisions on our part. As the IRFU and WIFU functioned as two separate bodies, their starts and ends did not mesh. In other words, on a particular weekend the WIFU could be playing their 'Week 4' while at the same time the 'Big 4' IRFU teams were playing their 'Week 3.' A decision needed made on how we were going to deal with this problem. After careful thought, and not wanting to keep separate pages for both the IRFU and WIFU, we decided to show both Unions' 'Week 3' on the same page even though the dates did not match. We also split the weekly displays keeping the WIFU and IRFU images separated.
But let us move on from our 'Cliff Notes' version of my CFL tutorial and get back to those wacky playoffs. Generally speaking, each Union conducted a semi-final round featuring the #2 and #3 team from the season-long standings where the victor would play the Union team with the best record during the regular season. Sounds pretty simple, but the reality is far from it. From year-to-year, there seemed to be no consistency in the types of playoffs that were played. What do I mean, you ask? Some rounds were played as a straight-forward best-of-3 series while others were played in a 2-game total-points series where the scores of each team were totaled to make a cumulative score that would determine the series winner. There were even a few instances where the two teams were tied following the 2 total-points games and required to play a third game to settle things. These formats seemingly followed no set pattern for either Union. Perhaps someone with more scholarly knowledge of the CFL can help us out.
But wait...there's more...
With apologies to our Canadian friends, there was something even more bizarre. Each season after the BIG 4 Champion was crowned, that team still had to win one additional game before moving on to the Grey Cup to face the WIFU Champion. The Eastern Championship and representation in the Grey Cup Final had to be determined in a game featuring the BIG 4 Champion against the champion from the O.R.F.U. (Ontario Rugby Football Union), essentially a not-quite-so-major league as the IRFU. Picture the Atlanta Braves having to beat a minor league champion before actually advancing to the World Series after already winning the NLCS! Records also show at least one instance in the 1950s where the ORFU Champion instead played against the WIFU Champion in a Grey Cup Semi-Final. From an outsider's perspective, it really seems like a lot of the early CFL playoff structures were set up on the fly. It appears this custom with the ORFU had its end in the late 1950s, so I guess sanity won out eventually over tradition.
Something else we've had to take a 'crash course' in were the team histories, a prime example of which are the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Where the GUD begins, in 1945, Hamilton's IRFU team was known as the Tigers. At the same time (from 1941-47), a second Hamilton team, the Wildcats, played in the aforementioned ORFU. For reasons I won't go into, in 1948 the two Hamilton teams switched Unions. The Tigers moved to the ORFU and the Wildcats to the IRFU (Big 4). The next two years saw both teams struggle - both on the field and at the ticket gate. So, in 1950, the two teams merged for the inaugural season of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Our images for the CFL teams will include a heavy dose of a feature new to GUD. As I began collecting newspaper photos of games, one thing became immediately apparent - these teams liked their big numbers, and I don't just mean the size of the numbers on their jerseys. Very few instances could be found of teams with player numbers in the single-digits, teens, or even 20s. Almost every player I was seeing was numbered in the 40s or higher. It was really unusual to see. Because of this fact, for the purpose of the CFL uniforms, I cast aside GUD's typical '11' for the jerseys that is seen throughout our site, instead opting for a random jersey number of a player found at the other end of the camera's lens. I then continued using that number until either the jersey style or the font, itself, changed.
In the late 1950s, teams began adding numbers to the sides of their helmets. But as the years went by and more teams began adding logos to their helmets, the numbers got moved to the back of the helmet, the front of the helmet, or both. To this point, we've never included front/back helmet numbers for other leagues. Yet with the CFL it became apparent that we could not avoid them any longer.
When Part II of our CFL rollout takes place, GUD visitors will notice that, in 1962, the BC Lions moved their numbers from the sides of their helmet to the rear when they changed from a black-and-orange version of Michigan's 'flying wing' helmet to a black helmet with a lion's paw logo on the sides. The new helmet included a central orange stripe and two flanking, separated white stripes. The Lions placed the numbers to either side of the central orange stripe, thereby interrupting the white stripes from flowing all the way down the back of the helmet. Those of you familiar with our templates already know that we show a 'bird's-eye view' of the helmet's stripe detail. We could not show the white stripes going all the way down the back of the helmet on the stripe-view because, well, they didn't. Nor could we show the white stripes stopping short and leaving empty black space where the numbers should be. No, the only way to handle this is to include the helmet numbers for each CFL team, wherever they turn up. As stated, this will be seen in Part II of our CFL rollout when we publish 1961-65 in a few months.
Finally, as was the case for several NFL teams back in the 1940s, only a very small number of CFL players wore socks. In some cases, teams went the entire season with nothing other than simple white sannies. This trend continued into the 1950s when there evolved, in most cases, an even split among teammates with or without socks. We have tried our best to display such vagaries, as always.
We hope you enjoy our foundation for what will eventually become the entire CFL history from 1945 forward. The wheels are turning. We will soon be assembling a list in our Forum of games for which we have been unable to locate photos for. Our visitors are welcome to provide demonstrative proof of an image that either needs minor adjustments or a complete overhaul. Please contact us. We welcome your contributions.
GUD Graphics and Research