Ontario Rugby Football Union

Last updated

The Ontario Rugby Football Union (ORFU) was an early amateur Canadian football league. As its name implies, it comprised teams in the Canadian province of Ontario. The ORFU was founded on Saturday, January 6, 1883 and in 1903 became the first major competition to adopt the Burnside rules, from which the modern Canadian football code would evolve.



For most of the first half of the 20th century, the ORFU was one of the stronger unions in Canada, and its champion was a frequent fixture in the Grey Cup even as the game became increasingly professionalized in the 1930s.

During World War II, the Ontario-based military teams played in the ORFU, filling the gap during the suspension of play by the Interprovincial Rugby Football Union. (Toronto Navy H.M.C.S. York played out of Varsity Stadium, using the Toronto Argonauts' equipment and uniforms.) The Toronto RCAF Hurricanes were the last amateur team to win the Grey Cup in 1942. Many from the ranks of the military teams in the ORFU became stars in the CFL after the war.

With the return of peace, however, the ORFU found it increasingly difficult to compete in an environment dominated by the IRFU and the Western Interprovincial Football Union, which had both become fully professional. Indeed, by then it was the only fully amateur union still challenging for the Grey Cup. Even so, it retained enough prestige that it played the WIFU champion for a berth in the Grey Cup final. The IRFU was reluctant to accept the WIFU as a full equal even after it was clear that its quality of play had become the equal of the IRFU.

The ORFU withdrew from Grey Cup competition in 1954. Although the amateurs would not be formally locked out of Grey Cup play for another four years, this heralded the start of the modern era of Canadian football. The ORFU ceased to operate as a true senior league after 1960, but continued play at the intermediate level. Eventually the word "senior" came to replace the word "intermediate." By 1974, the ORFU had ceased to exist. However, the junior Ontario Rugby Football Union which was formed in 1890 lasted until the 1970 season.

Notable teams


1883 Toronto Football Club
1884 Toronto Football Club
1885 Ottawa College Football Club
1886 Ottawa College Football Club
1887 Ottawa College Football Club
1888 Ottawa College Football Club
1889 Ottawa College Football Club
1890 Hamilton Tigers
1891 Osgoode Hall
1892 Osgoode Hall
1893 Queen's University
1894 Queen's University
1895 University of Toronto Varsity Football Club
1896 University of Toronto Varsity Football Club
1897 Hamilton Tigers
1898 Ottawa Rough Riders
1899 Kingston Granites
1900 Ottawa Rough Riders
1901 Toronto Argonauts
1902 Ottawa Rough Riders
1903 Hamilton Tigers
1904 Hamilton Tigers
1905 Hamilton Tigers
1906 Hamilton Tigers
1907 Peterborough Quakers
1908 Toronto Amateur Athletic Club
1909 Toronto Parkdale Canoe Club
1910 Toronto Amateur Athletic Club
1911 Hamilton Alerts
1912 Hamilton Alerts (Grey Cup champions)
1913 Toronto Parkdale Canoe Club
1914 Hamilton Rowing Club
1915 Toronto Rugby and Athletic Association
1916 No season: World War I
1917 No season: World War I
1918 No season: World War I
1919 Toronto Rugby and Athletic Association
1920 Toronto Rugby and Athletic Association
1921 Toronto Parkdale Canoe Club
1922 Toronto Parkdale Canoe Club
1923 Hamilton Rowing Club
1924 Toronto Balmy Beach
1925 Toronto Balmy Beach
1926 Toronto Balmy Beach
1927 Toronto Balmy Beach (Grey Cup champions)
1928 University of Toronto Seconds
1929 Sarnia Imperials
1930 Toronto Balmy Beach (Grey Cup champions)
1931 Sarnia Imperials
1932 Sarnia Imperials
1933 Sarnia Imperials
1934 Sarnia Imperials (Grey Cup champions)
1935 Sarnia Imperials
1936 Sarnia Imperials (Grey Cup champions)
1937 Sarnia Imperials
1938 Sarnia Imperials
1939 Sarnia Imperials
1940 Toronto Balmy Beach
1941 Hamilton Flying Wildcats
1942 Toronto RCAF Hurricanes (Grey Cup champions)
1943 Hamilton Flying Wildcats (Grey Cup champions)
1944 Hamilton Flying Wildcats
1945 Toronto Balmy Beach
1946 Toronto Balmy Beach
1947 Ottawa Trojans
1948 Hamilton Tigers
1949 Hamilton Tigers
1950 Toronto Balmy Beach
1951 Sarnia Imperials
1952 Sarnia Imperials
1953 Toronto Balmy Beach
1954 Kitchener-Waterloo Dutchmen
1955 Kitchener-Waterloo Dutchmen
1956 Kitchener-Waterloo Dutchmen
1957 Kitchener-Waterloo Dutchmen
1958 Sarnia Golden Bears
1959 Sarnia Golden Bears
1960 London Lords

Most championships

Imperial Oil Trophy

The Imperial Oil Trophy was awarded to the league's most valuable player.

See also

Related Research Articles

The Toronto Argonauts won the Grey Cup for the second time in five years.

For the second consecutive season the Toronto Argonauts and Winnipeg Blue Bombers met for the Grey Cup. The Argonauts won the game.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers played in their third consecutive Grey Cup final. A last-second rouge gave Winnipeg its second title in five years.

The only two-game total point series in Grey Cup history was played between the Ottawa Rough Riders and the Toronto Balmy Beach Beachers. It was Ottawa's first Grey Cup championship since the Senators won back-to-back titles in 1925 and 1926. It was Balmy Beach's fourth and final appearance at a Grey Cup, winning two times in four opportunities.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers were once again permitted to challenge for the Grey Cup following a rule dispute a year earlier. In a meeting of the previous two Grey Cup champions, the Blue Bombers prevailed, sending the coveted mug west for the third time.

The Winnipeg RCAF Bombers faced the Hamilton Flying Wildcats in the Grey Cup. Hamilton proved to be the better team, returning the coveted trophy to Steeltown for the first time since 1932.

Football returned to relative normal in 1945 following the conclusion of World War II. Two rivals from the pre-war years met once again in the annual Grey Cup, but on this occasion, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers were no match for the Toronto Argonauts. For Winnipeg, it was the worst loss by a western team in the Grey Cup since 1923 when Queen's University routed the Regina Roughriders 54-0.

After a 17-year absence, the Saskatchewan Roughriders returned to the Grey Cup final. Their losing streak in the big game continued, however, as it was the other Rough Riders that took home the prize.

The Toronto Argonauts faced the Edmonton Eskimos in the Grey Cup. Although the Argos would hold on to win the game and their 10th Grey Cup championship, an Argo would not sip from the silver mug again until 1983.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats defeated the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the annual Grey Cup in 1953.

The Edmonton Eskimos upset the Montreal Alouettes to send the Grey Cup trophy back west for the first time since 1948.

The Edmonton Eskimos defeat the Montreal Alouettes in the first Grey Cup held in the west.

The Sarnia Imperials were a football team from Sarnia, Ontario and a member of the Ontario Rugby Football Union, a league that preceded the Canadian Football League and contested for the Grey Cup until 1955. In their history, the Imperials appeared in three Grey Cup championship games, winning twice in 1934 and in 1936.

The Toronto Balmy Beach Beachers were a Canadian football team based in Toronto, Ontario and a member of the Ontario Rugby Football Union, a league that preceded the Canadian Football League. They appeared in four Grey Cup championships spanning three decades and were the longest tenured member of the ORFU.

The Hamilton Tigers were a Canadian football team based in Hamilton, Ontario that played in the Ontario Rugby Football Union from 1883 to 1906 and 1948 to 1949 and in the Interprovincial Rugby Football Union from 1907 to 1947. The club was a founding member of both the ORFU in 1883 and the IRFU in 1907. Throughout their history, the Tigers won five Grey Cup Championships and two Dominion Championships, including the 1908 title, the year before the Grey Cup was first awarded. After struggling to compete on a sound financial level with the Hamilton Wildcats, who had joined the ORFU in 1941 and later the IRFU, the two clubs merged in 1950 to form the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

The Kitchener-Waterloo Dutchmen were a Canadian football team based in Kitchener, Ontario and a member of the Ontario Rugby Football Union, a league that preceded the Canadian Football League. Other teams included the London Lords, Sarnia Imperials, Toronto Balmy Beach and Hamilton Wildcats. The Dutchmen played in the ORFU from 1953 to 1959, winning four consecutive ORFU titles from 1954 to 1957, with quarterback Bob Celeri and coach Harvey Johnson. The Dutchmen were the last ORFU team to have competed for the Grey Cup, losing to the Edmonton Eskimos in a semi-final game in 1954. The following year, ORFU teams would discontinue competing for the national championship title after it became apparent that the ORFU could no longer be competitive in those games. The Dutchmen ceased operations after the 1959 season, just one year before senior play in the ORFU would be discontinued.