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.
|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|
|1895||University of Toronto Varsity Football Club|
|1896||University of Toronto Varsity Football Club|
|1898||Ottawa Rough Riders|
|1900||Ottawa Rough Riders|
|1902||Ottawa Rough Riders|
|1908||Toronto Amateur Athletic Club|
|1909||Toronto Parkdale Canoe Club|
|1910||Toronto Amateur Athletic Club|
|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|
|1930||Toronto Balmy Beach (Grey Cup champions)|
|1934||Sarnia Imperials (Grey Cup champions)|
|1936||Sarnia Imperials (Grey Cup champions)|
|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|
|1950||Toronto Balmy Beach|
|1953||Toronto Balmy Beach|
|1958||Sarnia Golden Bears|
|1959||Sarnia Golden Bears|
The Imperial Oil Trophy was awarded to the league's most valuable player.
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.