Leading up to SportsCentre's Year In Review on Christmas Eve, TSN and TSN.ca look back at each of the Top 10 stories of 2012. And TSN's reporters and analysts who covered the events as they happened offer their personal reflections on the stories.
Today, the CFL on TSN's Matt Dunigan looks back at celebration and pageantry of The 100th Grey Cup.
You can't underestimate the amount of effort that was put forth in order to showcase this country's biggest party of the year - The 100th Grey Cup.
Put your hands together for the CFL's execution in a comprehensive game plan for all to embrace, as showcasing all that the great game of Canadian football has offered and continues to provide was not easy and had to be done correctly.
My recollections on some of the goings on:
Minting a 100th Grey Cup commemorative loonie? Brilliant!
Creating The 100th Grey Cup Train to educate, entertain, captivate and bring joy for all to remember the glorious and wonderful past our game has provided. Then putting the train in motion across every inch of the country with TSN's charming new star Kate McKenna to highlight all of it's features. Outstanding!
Commissioning eight of the best producers and story tellers around to put together heartwarming, educational and gut-wrenching series of documentaries called "Engraved on a Nation" - superb!
Hiring the one and only Chris Rudge (The man who meticulously managed the 2010 Winter Olympics to what is now the bench mark for all host cities to attain) to over see the festivities in Toronto - Genius!
Investing a million dollars into grassroots projects in and around Southern Ontario to help weave the fabric of the communities together (the same communities that comprise 40 percent of the CFL's viewership) for the culminating party on Nov. 25th - intelligent!
Canada Post stamps commemorating some of the CFL's greatest moments was extremely creative. I would have enjoyed seeing some Canadians featured on the set to help glorify the true Canadian spirit. Nevertheless, a comprehensive initiative shining brilliantly on the storied past of the CFL.
The Sun Life Grey Cup Fan March involving the legendary Russ Jackson and many other CFL alumni, cheerleaders, mascots and live bands. The march brought the Grey Cup to the people once again, fittingly allowing them to touch and feel the tremendous history we have shared while escorting the hallowed trophy to the big game - perfect!
The half-time entertainment reaching back and grasping forward, bridging performing icons from the past with current and new sensations - courageous!
My favorite? Johnny Reid! Hell, I even had the opportunity to say hello and speak with the brilliant performing artist and Bishops football alumni. Yes that's right, Johnny was a place kicker for the Gators. Just another indication as to how everything seems to be connected and tangible through the CFL.
How about setting the broadcasting table for the past five years, taking the television experience to higher heights every year. Once again, viewership was on the rise and the phenomenal numbers for the 2012 season and the Grey Cup speak volumes. An average audience of 5.8 million watched the game on TSN and RDS, marking a 28 per cent increase in viewers compared to last year and earning an incredible national 16.1 rating. Audiences jumped even higher for younger viewers, with a 38 per cent increase among adults aged 18 to 34.
Overall, more than 13 million Canadians - or more than one in three Canadians - tuned in to watch some or all of The 100th Grey Cup Celebration broadcast on TSN and RDS.
I'm proud to say I work with consummate professionals that have an unmatched passion for the CFL game. The most talented producer and director in the country, Jon Hynes and Paul Hemming once again were on point in bringing you the best coverage possible. The conduits and voices of the CFL, Chris Cuthbert and Glen Suitor, meticulously presented the ebb and flow of the centennial contest for all to enjoy.
To my friends and colleagues - Chris Schultz, Dave Randorf, Jock Climie, Milt Stegall and a new teammate this year in Paul LaPolice - who were all crushing it once again throughout the week with in-depth coverage.
To be able to experience the excitement and build up to the game all week in Toronto was a thrill for me, too. Mingling, talking to the fans of the CFL and throwing the ball around at Nathan Phillips Square with anyone who wanted to play catch was just so CFL-like and right! Big thanks to the folks down there helping out and a special thank you to Lauren Cuthbert - a straight up natural baller.
Speaking of chucking it around, we have established a bit of our own tradition on TSN over the past 12 years. During Grey Cup week at one time or another I will inevitably seize the opportunity to throw the football around with Jock and Vice President and Executive Producer of Live Events Paul Graham. We do this every year while we are wearing our suit, ties and dress shoes. You get the picture - a couple of CFL veterans enjoying what we once used to do for a living and Paul just givin' her!
Often times we have thrown the ball during Grey Cup week to the backdrop of the performing artists getting ready the night before the Grey Cup. It's those moments that truly are priceless and the ones you will always cherish.
The Scotiabank Fan Zone Experience was a mosh pit of passionate CFL diehard enthusiasts. If you spent anytime there you would have felt the heart and soul of the CFL. You would have been submerged in the love of the game and the authenticity of it's character. It's not complicated or pretentious. It's simple, affordable and caters to all ages!
It was one party spilling over into the next, day after day, night after night. The celebration of the grand history of the CFL seamlessly rolls on bringing together avid fans from all teams, cultures and countries. It's just right and I'm glad I could take it in, nonchalantly walking from one venue to the next and diving right in! That's what is so appealing and cool about the CFL - it's humble and yet proud and loud!
And of course, how about them Argos living up to the rare feat of hosting the Grey Cup and becoming the fifth team to actually win it all while doing so.
First year head coach Scott Milanovich navigated his way through the 2012 season like a seasoned vet. He maneuvered and massaged his roster to perfection and had his team primed for Grey Cup Sunday. Acquiring Ricky Ray was a stroke of genius, ensuring the Argos a chance to win every time out.
Moving Chad Owens inside, freeing him up to be more diversified and better utilized than he was as a wide receiver.
Boldly releasing the league's leading rusher for two years in a row in Cory Boyd, for Chad Kackert to become the team's feature running back early in the season was a gutsy move that ultimately solidified Milanovich's resolve and vision. Kackert delivered and was a big reason why Cup donated by Governor-General of Canada Earl Grey is in Toronto.
On a side note, it must have been sweet for Kackert to give it to the Stamps the way he did during the Cup, as he never got off their practice roster a little over two years ago. Oh yeah, forgot to mention - Chad is a free agent come February!
Recruiting the likes of defensive coordinator, Chris Jones (while he was still under contract with Calgary) has to be considered a coup in of itself. How big did that turn out?
Toronto owned the Stamps in 2012, beating them three times - including the Grey Cup! The Jones-led defense knew how to stop the Stamps offense and cut the legs right out from underneath them. In each of the three victories they stymied the talented running back Jon Cornish, holding him to combined 34 carries and only 139 yards.
The 2012 Argos team persevered, came together and all the stars aligned perfectly for a captivating and dominant Grey Cup victory.
These were just a few of the initiatives envisioned, planned, implemented and executed to honor the CFL's storied past. And the results were astounding! Sports' greatest fans were on hand to take it all in and a new generation of fans were born - no doubt to embrace another 100 years of this country's greatest celebration.
I'm proud to say I had a chance to experience a piece of this wonderful moment in Canadian history. See ya next year in Regina! Ready, break!