Sports Football

Who'll be watching the 104th Grey Cup?

By Torben Rolfsen

Calgary Stampeders running back Jerome Messam video chats with his girlfriend as he shops for a Stampeders toque for her in the Stamps Store at McMahon Stadium on Monday November 21, 2016. The Stamps are heading to Toronto tomorrow ahead of the Grey Cup next weekend.

Calgary Stampeders running back Jerome Messam video chats with his girlfriend as he shops for a Stampeders toque for her in the Stamps Store at McMahon Stadium on Monday November 21, 2016. The Stamps are heading to Toronto tomorrow ahead of the Grey Cup next weekend.

In the wake of a savage beatdown in Calgary and an Ottawa game played in a snow globe, the 104th Grey Cup’s participants are set for Sunday: it will be the Stampeders (16-2-1) versus the Redblacks (9-9-1).

 

The question is, aside from the two teams, will anyone else actually be at BMO Field for the game?

 

While the CFL’s lucrative broadcast rights deal with TSN keeps things viable from an economic standpoint, the league’s three largest media markets have the three worst attendance situations.

 

A quick glance at the 2016 numbers reveal a rural/urban split resembling a U.S. electoral map.

 

The prairies (Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatchewan and Winnipeg) were up this year, Ottawa and Hamilton held steady, but Toronto, Montreal and B.C. were down sharply.

 

Figuring out how to re-energize the fans in the three biggest Canadian cities will have to be the CFL’s #1 offseason priority.

 

How many people will show up for the national showpiece this Sunday?

 

Although prices have been slashed (“tickets from $89”), ticket demand has been like the opposite of The Tragically Hip’s farewell tour.

 

Newly renovated BMO Field seats almost 31,000; the Argonauts this season averaged just over half that.

 

If you are attending the game Sunday, do the league a favour and bring an extra heavy coat – or better yet, an inflatable doll – for the empty seat next to you.

While TV ratings have remained relatively good, this week’s game does face the small misfortune of going head-to-head during its first half with a couple of NFL games featuring teams with large followings in Canada, namely the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks.

 

If you are watching at home, invite your guests for 3:00 PT so as not to miss The Tenors doing the anthem.

 

There are just three of them now, after they kicked out the member who went rogue at the MLB All-Star Game this summer.

 

For a national league suffering from a shaky, splintered fan base, the name of the group headlining the halftime show brings hope for a brighter future: OneRepublic.

 

Prediction: Calgary 33 Ottawa 11