Hot to Huddle

Anyone who would describe Canadians as mild-mannered, polite, and courteous hasn’t seen us at Grey Cup time.

Debbie and Punter

Debbie and Punter

Anyone who would describe Canadians as mild-mannered, polite, and courteous hasn’t seen us at Grey Cup time. In the week leading up to Canada’s largest annual sporting event, mild-mannered goes right out the window.

Grey Cup week is a time to celebrate with friends and family — whether or not your favourite team is playing for the championship.

The parades, parties and celebrations surrounding the Grey Cup have become a fun part of Canadian culture and organizers of the 2010 Grey Cup festival to be held in Edmonton promise it will be one of the best Grey Cup celebrations ever.

“We’re encouraging people to visit Edmonton — even if they don’t have tickets to the game,” said Duane Vienneau, executive director of the 2010 Grey Cup Festival Committee. “We have focused a lot of effort on the Hot to Huddle Festival and there will be many free activities to enjoy in the week leading up to the big game.”

The festival site, known as Huddle Town, spans three city blocks in downtown Edmonton and during the day the focus will be on family-friendly entertainment.

Plans include a street festival, a parade, and free family programming under a heated 20,000-square-foot tent divided into three sections: Scotia Bank’s CFL Experience, the Reebok Zone and the Ruffles Crunch Zone. The wading pool in front of City Hall will also be converted to a mini-football field for games and activities.

One of the most exciting attractions will be the Capital Power zipline, which will run 24 metres above the festival site and reach speeds of up to 60 km/h. Festival organizers have hired the same company that ran the zipline at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics to set it up.

Unlike the Olympic zipline, they hope to eliminate long lineups by using a fast-pass system similar to the one employed at Disney theme parks. Members of the Canadian Forces will be assisting with the operation of the attraction and donations to the Edmonton Garrison Military Family Resource Centre will be welcomed.

“There will be tailgate parties and plenty of big screens where people can watch the game,” Vienneau said. “We’re telling families to come to Edmonton. You will have fun here.”

In addition to family-friendly events, there will be adult-focused events and activities to enjoy both during the daylight hours and the evenings. During the day, you can test drive a new vehicle with a retired CFL player or relax in the beer gardens. In the evening, you can enjoy the team hospitality suites and many other adult-oriented events.

More info:

The Hot to Huddle Festival will take place in Edmonton from Nov. 25 to 28.

There’s nothing quite like the thrill a child gets from seeing a sports figure up close or watching a sporting event live. Watching or participating in sports is also a great way to bond with your children. Here are a few sports attractions and events for families to consider.

Alberta Sports Hall of Fame

Located off Hwy 2 just outside Red Deer, the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame houses displays that help you discover the history of sports and sports heroes in Alberta.

There are also a number of interactive sports games that allow you to test your skill at baseball, soccer, golf, basketball, hockey and other activities. Admission is $5 per person or $12 for a family of four.

More info:

Hockey Hall of Fame

Toronto’s Hockey Hall of Fame is the ultimate sports destination for many young hockey fans.

At the venue, you can participate in tons of hands-on activities ranging from shooting a goal on a simulated goalie to seeing what it would be like to be a hockey sports announcer.

There are also many exhibits and displays that guide you through the history of the game and give you a close up understanding of its heroes.

You can even take your picture with the Stanley Cup. Admission is $15 per adult and $10 per youth.

More info:

Canadian Football Hall of Fame

The Canadian Football Hall of Fame has had its home in Hamilton since 1972.

The venue contains a wide variety of football memorabilia and promotes all levels of Canadian football.

At the museum, you can learn about hall of famers in the sport and see the Grey Cup.

Admission is $7 per adult, $3.50 per student, or $16 per family. Children under five are free.

More info:

Live games

There’s no need to despair if you can’t afford the ticket price to attend a major league baseball, football or hockey game. Minor league games are exciting, accessible and affordable.

University and high school level games are an even lower cost alternative.

For major league games, watch for family and kid specials as more affordable ways to see your favourite teams in action.

Training camps

Viewing training exhibitions and games is a great way to watch professionals play up close and fans are often permitted to watch practices for free.

When it comes to pre-season games, the stadiums are often smaller, ticket prices are low and it’s a little bit easier to make contact with a favourite player after a game to obtain an autograph.

For a look at the Major League Baseball spring training schedule, visit:

NFL training camps take place in late-July in various states in the US.

NHL teams typically hold training camps in September, while the NBA has a summer league in Las Vegas and Orlando in July.

The Grey Cup trophy

The Grey Cup, the trophy that represents Canadian professional football supremacy today, was originally not a pro award and actually was not intended for football at all.

In 1909, the Grey Cup was contemplated as an award for the amateur senior hockey championship of Canada.

When Sir H. Montagu Allan stepped in and offered a trophy, the Allan Cup, for hockey competition, the trophy that had been offered by His Excellency Earl Grey, the Governor General of Canada, then became an extra award. It was decided that Earl Grey’s trophy would became an award for the amateur rugby football championship of Canada.

After a professional football league was established, it later became the championship trophy for the CFL.

The Grey Cup celebration

The Grey Cup celebration as we know it today began in 1948 when the Calgary Stampeders played in Toronto against the Ottawa Roughriders. To celebrate the occasion, Stampeders and their fans dressed up in cowboy hats and western boots and invaded the city on horseback and with chuckwagons. Impromptu parades and parties quickly became part of the festivities.

Debbie Olsen is a Lacombe-based freelance writer. If you have a travel story you would like to share or know someone with an interesting travel story that we might interview, please email: or write to: Debbie Olsen, c/o Red Deer Advocate, 2950 Bremner Ave., Red Deer, Alta., T4R 1M9.