Grey Cup week couldn't have been better, Toronto

An Argonauts fan yells from the stands during the team's Grey Cup game against the Stampeders at...

An Argonauts fan yells from the stands during the team's Grey Cup game against the Stampeders at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ont., Nov. 25, 2012. (STAN BEHAL/QMI Agency)

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:17 PM ET

The first 100 Grey Cup games are in the books, and there couldn't have been a better springboard to the next 100 than what transpired in Toronto over the last seven days.

Sure, the Calgary Stampeders are licking their wounds and not too happy about the officiating, and you better believe there are people out there who are convinced it's not a coincidence that both of David Braley's teams won the last two Grey Cups on their home fields.

In the big picture, though, the CFL simply continued to cement itself even more as a prosperous entity after so many years of uncertainty.

The league needed Toronto's 35-22 win Sunday night, and it needed a successful party leading up to the big game. It got both, which should provide a boost to southern Ontario, although there are plenty of skeptics about that both inside and outside the region. The fact that news about the Argos championship was the third item on a Toronto radio sportscast at noon on Monday shows those people are probably right.

There is reason for hope, however.

Hogtown threw one heck of a party, and the nation showed up with plenty of energy and good will, just as it always does. There was no better sight than the lower bowl behind the Stampeders bench on Sunday night. It's still not the stuffy, corporate crowd that has become all too common at major sporting events these days. There were more colours than there are in the rainbow.

Every team -- even ones that aren't around anymore -- was represented.

It couldn't have turned out any better, really. Had the week been a big fat dud, it would have only further created a divide between fan bases in southern Ontario and the rest of the country.

Yes, there would have been mocking. Instead, it seemed everyone got just a little bit closer.

The CFL was so giddy about the week that it released a statement late Monday afternoon, congratulating the Argos and thanking the host committee for throwing quite the shaker. That is a rare move for the CFL after a Grey Cup.

"You talked about creating a bigger footprint, and it was there, but what you really made is a deep and lasting impression on the hearts and minds of your fellow Torontonians and all Canadians," commissioner Mark Cohon said in the release.

Whether or not it's lasting remains to be seen, Mr. Commish.

The 100th Grey Cup, thanks to the publicity it received all year long, brought out plenty of non-CFL fans. A friend of mine from the Big Smoke who hadn't watched a CFL game on TV in at least a decade, took in the East final from his couch. He then attended his first CFL game in probably 15 years on Sunday.

The bottom line is there were probably many more like him, and even though they won't all rush out and buy Argos season tickets, some of them might. The southern Ontario resurgence is not going to happen overnight, and it probably won't occur without a new stadium, but it looks like it took a step forward thanks to the 100th Grey Cup party.

One league executive I spoke to Monday believes it's important for the Argos to take advantage of the 100th Grey Cup and build up its fan base.

"If not now, then when?" he said.

The league, which got federal money to celebrate the 100th version of its big game, deserves credit for doing it right, from the Grey Cup train, to the Engraved on a Nation series, to the action on the streets of Toronto last week, including Sunday's fan march. All were top notch, and the fans came out in droves.

The game itself won't be remembered as a classic, but that's OK.

The fact the home team won was icing on the cake. And players like Chad Owens, Jon Cornish, Ricky Ray and Ejiro Kuale are ready to be marketed even more now.

So there it is, southern Ontario.

You got this ball rolling 103 years ago, and the rest of Canada, judging by this year's attendance figures, couldn't be more thankful. You've found other things to do in the meantime, but why not come on back?

Because, as you witnessed over the last seven days, the CFL, more than ever, can put on quite the show.

THE BIG DRAWS

A look at average attendance figures from the 2012 regular season:

Edmonton: 34,378

Saskatchewan: 32,351

B.C.: 30,356

Calgary: 28,665

Winnipeg: 27,981

Hamilton: 25,724

Toronto: 23,663

Montreal: 22,467

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/PentonKirk


Videos

Photos