East and West don’t see eye to eye on Canadian football management, but it all adds spice to the Dominion finals
CERTAIN DEVOTEES of Canadian rugby have been wagging their heads sadly over the situation in the Dominion for the past ten years. Football, they say, will never come into its own until Western and Eastern exponents of the great autumn game manifest a little more brotherly love— a little more of the old give-and-take—until they bury the hatchet and smoke the pipe of peace.
“What Canadian rugby needs,” they say, “is more unity and harmony. All this squabbling between the West and the East—it’s bad for the game.”
It is no secret in the world of sport that West and East do not see eye to eye on the subject of rugby football. But there are those who decline to view with alarm. It’s healthy, they’ll tell you. And natural. It is in the very make-up of a Westerner to break away from accepted tradition, just as it is bred in the Easterner to cling to the old order of things.
For over a decade now, the welkins have been ringing every autumn, ringing with the arguments that have arisen between East and West over the proper management of football.
Differences over the rules; dissension over the importation of players from the United States; disagreements over the locale of the Dominion final, held in the East since the inception of the play-offs—these are the problems which have faced governing authorities of Canada’s autumn pastime.
West Improves the Game
WESTERN UNIONS have always taken the initiative in advocating rule changes in the Canadian code. It was the West that first adopted the forward pass, for many years a feature of American football. This drastic departure from orthodox rugby—until then inevitably consisting of two bucks and a kick—was frowned upon for some time by the more conservative Eastern authorities. Later, sensing the fact that the pass was responsible for a very considerable rise in spectator interest, and that the resultant game was speedier and far more pleasing, the East instituted the onside toss into its own code.
Running interference, designed further to open up the game and to give much-needed protection to ball carriers, then cropped up to result in more dissension between East and West. Carrying their radical changes to a further extreme, Western rugby moguls reached out and adopted running interference from the American college code of football. Longer runs featured ensuing games, fans and players alike expressing complete satisfaction with this departure from the old type of rugby. Eventually the East saw the handwriting on the wall, possibly traced there by
East and West don’t see eye to eye on Canadian football management, but it all adds spice to the Dominion finals
enthusiastic Easterners who had witnessed games west of the Great Lakes, and adopted interference.
Then the question of importing players arose, further to complicate matters Yielding to the demand of Eastern fans for skilled exponents of the forward pass, teams in the East went “below the line” and brought in brilliant American college stars. The resultant faster game aptly demonstrated the wisdom of such a policy.
Then too, these American all-stars were drilling the homebrews in every phase of the Canadian code, bringing to their tutoring the benefit of years of experience under some of the greatest football mentors in the States. It was generally conceded that Canadian youngsters would, in a few years, reap the benefit of this skilled teaching, by which time it should no longer be necessary to import players. Incidentally, it eventually happened that some of the American stars imported in earlier years, remained in Canada and qualified for the residence ruling which was later adopted by the Canadian Rugby Union.
Meanwhile, Western squads were coming East each autumn to participate in the Dominion final and were meeting with little success. Their failure to make much impression against mighty Eastern teams was attributable to several factors, primarily inferior kicking. On ground plays and passing attacks, Western teams were on a par with their Eastern rivals. Longer and more consistent booting by Eastern punters spelled the downfall of the West. Regina’s Roughriders, led by the astute AÍ Ritchie, carried the Western banner into battle during most of the invasions. But even the craft and skill of a Ritchie could not offset the advantage in kicking possessed by the East. Eleven invasions failed.
West Wins With Imports
THE DISADVANTAGE of playing under slightly different rules, the long lay-off between the Western playdowns and the Dominion final, and the tiring train trip East—all played their parts in turning back those
eleven invasions of Western teams into the Eastern strongholds.
Obviously something had to be done. Winnipeg blazed the way by importing practically an entire team from American universities. Bob Fritz, Bert Oja, Fritz Hanson, Gregg Rabat and Bud Marquardt were but a few of the galaxy of stars scintillating on the Winnipeg squad.
Carrying everything before them in the West, the Winnipegs departed for the East to meet Hamilton’s mighty Tigers in the championship tussle for the Grey Cup, emblematic of Dominion rugby supremacy.
Paced by slim Fritz Hanson, the North Dakota flash, the Winnipegs crashed their way through to a decisive 18-12 victory over the Tigers in the Dominion final played in Hamilton on Saturday, December 7. 1935. Spearhead of the great Winnipeg passing and running attack, Hanson literally ran the Peggers into possession of the Grey Cup. The fine punting of Frank Turville and Huck Welch, Hamilton stalwarts, considered the greatest booters in the East, was practically nullified by Hanson’s flying feet as he ran wild through demoralized Eastern tacklers.
The seemingly impossible had happened. The West had finally won and the Grey Cup went West with the Winnings, wildly acclaimed by Western gridiron enthusiasts. Surely, now that the Winnipegs were Dominion champions, the 1936 final would be played in the West under Western rules.
Then the Canadian Rugby Union went into action. Meeting in Toronto on February 29, 1936, the Union moved to prevent further importations by the West, denied the petition of Western representatives for a Western final, drafted proposed rule changes into a considerably more conservative structure and then approved of the suggested changes.
To the motion of Western representatives that the Dominion final be played in the West in alternate years, the Eastern delegates objected strenuously. Late November weather on the prairies is not suited to football, was their contention. And yet, due entirely to protracted Eastern schedules, the Winnipegs had waited nearly a month before the 1935 final was staged in Hamilton.
Finally Eastern delegates partially acceded to Western demands and passed a ruling that the venue of the final should be decided each year by the executive of the Canadian Rugby Union, on which ruling body, Eastern representatives held the balance of power.
Then came the ruling designed to curb further importations of American players. Unless resident in Canada from Sunday, March 1, 1935, no American player was to be Continued on page 40
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permitted to participate in the Canadian game. And in order to play during the 1936 season, American players must have resided in Canada for one year continuously prior to the opening of the season. It was further provided that the Union executive would have power to deal with cases conflicting with the residence rule “provided that the change of residence was bona fide and not attributable to participation in football.”
No Play-off Last Year
COMPLETELY disregarding the Union ruling on importations, Calgary and Regina, allied with Winnipeg in the Western Conference, looked over the field last autumn and went into action. Regina brought in practically an entire squad, while Calgary’s Bronks, coached by Carl Cronin, who had learned his football under Notre Dame’s immortal Knute Rockne. imported three stars from the States. One of these had played with the Calgary squad the previous season.
A very successful season in the West drew toward its close. Attendances were up everywhere, and for the first time in years all clubs were operating at a considerable profit. Upsetting the pre-season dope entirely, the Regina Roughriders copped the championship by beating the favored Winnipegs in the Western final. The stage was now set for the Dominion championship, Sarnia’s Imperials having won the Eastern playdowns.
Ruling that nearly the entire Roughrider squad was ineligible by not having complied with the residence ruling put into effect the preceding spring, the Canadian Rugby Union rapidly put the skids under the play-off for the Grey Cup. Regina, having but a shadow of a chance of winning from the powerful Sarnia squad without playing their imports from the States, defaulted to the Imperials, and for the first time in twelve years there was no championship tussle in the East.
Dominion Final Likely
RUNNERS-UP in the Western final - last fall. Winnipegs are confident that they can repeat their 1935 success. Playing coaches Bob Fritz and Bert Oja held their first workout in Osborne Stadium on August 3. Practically all of last year’s squad reported for action with the exception of Russ Rebholz, Pete Somers, Lou Adelman and Denny Konchak, all retired permanently from football.
The acquisition of Art Stevenson from Nebraska, reputed to be a brilliant allround backfielder, should offset the loss of Rebholz and Somers. Ole Midgarten and Martin Cainor, from Concordia and North Dakota respectively, are expected to plug the holes left vacant in the line by the retirement of Adelman and Konchak. Rumors persist that the Winnipegs are
still angling for the services of Eddie Goddard, considered the greatest backfielder in American college football last season. Goddard, of Washington State, was approached by Winnipeg scouts during the winter, but was reported to have signed up with one of the American professional teams.
Aided by the new ten-yard interference ruling put through by the Western Rugby Union, elusive Fritz Hanson should return to the form which practically carried the Winnipegs through to a Dominion championship in 1935.
Western Canada champions last year, and for many years greatest of the West’s football forces, Regina Roughriders will stand pat on last year’s team. Fritz Falgren and Chappie O’Connor will not be in the lineup when the season opens, but the importation of a backfielder and a lineman will balance the account. Playing coach Dean Griffing will be given an opportunity to try out several homebrew youths who have shown brilliant promise in junior gridiron campaigns. Lacking reserve strength last season through injuries, the Roughriders should be considerably improved in that department this year, and the big red and black squad may cop the honors again.
Pointing toward the Western Canada championship, the Calgary Bronks have embarked upon a wholesale importation policy, acquiring six Americans to bolster last year’s team. Washington’s Gonzaga University has contributed four of the additions—Hurd and Madden, linemen, and Higgins and Olson, backfielders. Johnny Rosano, a running mate of the sensational Eddie Goddard in last season’s Washington State squad, will take up a backfield position with the Bronks. Don Lussier, hailing from Spokane, has had considerable experience in high-school football, and is expected to prove a formidable addition to the line.
Coach Cronin’s Bronks, with but three imports in their ranks last autumn, provided one of the season’s greatest upsets when they defeated Regina’s power squad early in the schedule, and later held the Riders to a short score in the Western semifinal.
From present indications, the coming season in Western Canada should prove to be one of the greatest in the history of the gridiron sport. The three squads comprising the Conference have never been so well balanced, and the breaks of the game will likely be the deciding factor when the play-offs for the Western championship get under way.
Provided that Eastern weather in early December will permit, it is probable that the West will challenge for the Grey Cup. Should either Regina or Winnipeg represent the West in the Dominion final, they will, of necessity, have to drop the few imports brought in this seasoiv but either
of the squads thus depleted should be powerful enough to bring the Grey Cup back again to the West. But should Calgary win the Western Championship and necessarily have to play without their six imports, a considerably weakened team will have to face the East’s representatives in the Dominion final.
However, regardless of who represents
the West, and who emerges from the Canadian final as victor, it is to be hoped that true Canadian sportsmanship will prevail at all times, and that East and West may continue to work together toward that ideal of all gridiron enthusiasts and performers—complete unity and amicability in the Dominion-wide operation of Canada ’s fall pastime.
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