A Look At Lions Canadian Grey Cup MVPs
This year’s Canada Day celebrations are certainly going to feel different than those of the past. The good news? These uncertain times cannot and will not stop us from celebrating our Canadian heritage. Since I joined the Lions content team in 2016, Canada Day itself has always involved work. And that’s been more than okay.
On July 1st of my “rookie” season, I was lucky to be with the team in Hamilton for a memorable 28-3 victory at a hot and humid Tim Hortons Field. The next year, we were all in Kingston, Ontario for a few days of practice in between road games against the Argonauts and Alouettes. I joined a few other staff members for Canada Day evening fireworks down at the lake.
Both 2018 and 2019 involved regular practice days on July 1st. It goes without saying that we’d all love to be at the facility right now, preparing for a critical week four road game in Saskatchewan this Saturday. In time, we’ll be back preparing for games. On this Canada Day, we will look back at a few great Canadian Lions who were honoured with the Dick Suderman Trophy. First awarded in 1971 to Suderman himself after Calgary took down Toronto in the Grey Cup at Empire Stadium, the trophy that eventually became his namesake is given to the Most Valuable Canadian in Canada’s biggest football game of the year.
Five different Lions have won it. One of those has won it twice. Another won it despite his team losing the Grey Cup. We now look back on the Lions eventful history of Grey Cup Most Outstanding Canadians.
1964: Canadian Talent Comes Up Big In First Lions Grey Cup Win
Even though the award wasn’t created yet, we’d be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge a few of the important Canadians who contributed to the club’s first-ever national championship. Three-time CFL All-Star fullback Bob Swift scored the first Lions major of the day while Jim Carphin’s touchdown reception helped pad the lead before they withstood a frantic Tiger-Cats comeback attempt.
On defence, the legendary Norm Fieldgate played a big role in containing the Hamilton attack for much of the rainy afternoon at Toronto’s Exhibition Stadium.
1985: Lui Gets His First
It was a star-studded edition of the Lions that brought home Grey Cup championship number two in 1985. With four field goals, three converts and a rouge, Lui Passaglia was the only Lions Canadian to hit the score sheet as they cruised past Hamilton 37-24. As a result, he became the first Lion to win Grey Cup Most Valuable Canadian since the award was officially created fourteen years prior. And it wouldn’t be his last…..
1994: Lui’s Winning Kick Sparks Voting Controversy
One would think kicking the winning field goal as time expires would garner some consideration for the Grey Cup Most Valuable Player Award and not only the Canadian honours. Following his last-second heroics that gave the Lions a 26-23 win over Baltimore, Passaglia was announced as MVP while Sean Millington was initially named Most Outstanding Canadian. It was soon later revealed that Baltimore defensive back Karl Anthony was actually voted the game’s Most Valuable Player as ballots were submitted prior to Lui’s winning kick. In the end, Lui was given his second Grey Cup Most Valuable Canadian nod in nearly a decade. All that matters 26 years later is that Lui and the Lions can still lay claim to perhaps the biggest upset in Grey Cup history.
2000: Millington Gets His Due
2000 was Lui’s championship swan song, but Millington would be the one collecting the Most Valuable Canadian hardware after the 28-26 upset of Montreal to complete yet another Cinderella Grey Cup run for the Lions. In tandem with Robert Drummond, Millington helped the Lions establish a ground attack early in the cold Calgary elements. The kid from Carson Graham rushed for 99 yards on 17 carries while Drummond added 122 more yards and a major while taking home the game’s Most Valuable Player honours.
2004: No Consolation For Clermont
It’s rare to see these awards handed out to the losing team. Clermont’s Most Valuable Canadian selection after a 27-19 setback to the Toronto Argonauts serves as a reminder to what could have been. The Lions won the toss and marched right down the field before Dave Dickenson hit Clermont in the end zone to give the Lions an early lead. Unfortunately, that was the high point for the offence on this night. Clermont had four catches for 71 yards and the early major. One of the lasting moments of the evening came when he had tears in his eyes upon being interviewed by CBC about the award. Bad timing.
2006: McCallum Saves The Day
It’s hard to believe it took six years for the Lions to find a suitable replacement for Passaglia, but upon his arrival in 2006 as a free agent, Paul McCallum made Lions fans breathe a bit easier following the days of Matt Kellett and Duncan O’Mahoney. In a Grey Cup where the Lions offence dominated time of possession but only managed one touchdown, McCallum bailed them out going 6-for-6 on field goal attempts and tying a Grey Cup record set by Edmonton’s Sean Fleming in 1993. The Surrey Rams legend became the first kicker since Toronto’s Mike Vanderjagt in 1996 to win the Dick Suderman Trophy.
2011: Run Harris Run
Less than three years prior to helping beat his hometown Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the 99th Grey Cup, Andrew Harris was collecting the Wally Buono Award, given annually to the best player in Canadian junior football. Those who followed his path closely would certainly not be surprised at what he accomplished next. Harris ran for 65 yards on ten carries while scoring the game’s first touchdown on a 22-yard scamper right before halftime. The 2011 Lions were indeed a remarkable story. The chapter written by Harris was impressive in itself.
Who Is Next?
I know a lot of us have dreamt about that next time the Lions hoist the Grey Cup. Scanning the current roster, there is no shortage of intriguing options for Most Valuable Canadian. Lemar Durant- the 2018 winner for Calgary-, Shaq Johnson, Jevon Cottoy are just a few contenders on that list.