Grey Cup rivalries, on land and at sea

A/SLt Kyle Reed, MARPAC PA Office – As soon as HMC Ships Ottawa and Edmonton discovered their namesake city teams, the Ottawa RedBlacks and the Edmonton Eskimos, would be opponents for the 103rd Grey Cup, the rivalry erupted between the ships.

In the days leading up to the big game, there was the expected banter and bickering as the ships’ crews expressed support for their teams.

To make the rivalry official, the ships’ Commanding Officers exchanged messages predicting each other’s demise and agreeing to terms on a bet.

 The bet demanded the losing team hoist the winning team’s flag for a 24-hour period after the game. If that weren’t enough, on the Friday before the game, Edmonton sailed closely past Ottawa with the Edmonton Eskimos flag flying proudly, while Ottawa crew members had their own RedBlacks flag on display.

If such a relationship between two ships and their respective CFL teams is surprising, it shouldn’t be. The Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) and their respective namesake city’s CFL teams have shared a close relationship for decades, and the hoisting of the opposing team’s flag is a common tradition.

The RCN even won a Grey Cup back in 1944 when HMCS Donnacona defeated the Hamilton Wildcats 7-6. Last year, sailors from HMCS Vancouver sailed the Grey Cup into Vancouver harbour, prompting then-CFL commissioner Mark Cohon to exclaim, “I get to do a lot of cool things in my job. I get to present the Grey Cup and take the Grey Cup to Afghanistan. I get to call the guys who are in the Hall of Fame and tell them they are going into the Hall of Fame. But I’ve got to say, coming in with the Cup with Vancouver, the ship, behind me – it was spectacular!”

With the teams taking to the field for the Grey Cup battle, sailors made their way into the Venture Gun Room to watch and cheer their team.

In the end, the Edmonton Eskimos proved too much for the second-year RedBlacks, winning by a score of 26-20.  With that win, Ottawa, true to their word, hoisted the Edmonton Eskimos flag the next day for all to see.

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