Created in 1965, the Vanier Cup – the national championship for Canadian university football, formerly known as the Canadian College Bowl – is one of the most highly anticipated sporting events across the nation. To host the Vanier Cup is an honour and privilege for the university that is granted the opportunity.
With the announcement Monday that the 2018 and 2019 Vanier Cup championship will be awarded to Université Laval, the most successful U SPORTS football program will host the event for the fifth time in the school’s history this November.
The announcement brings back some fond memories of former Laval football players who have experienced not just the opportunity to play in the game, but win the Vanier Cup on their home field.
Guillaume Rioux, a receiver and returner at Laval won the Vanier Cup twice – once in 2010 and another in 2013, both at Laval. He recalls each year being memorable in its own way, and it being a significantly special moment to play in front of his friends and family.
“In 2010, it was my first Vanier Cup as a player and it just felt unreal,” says Rioux, recalling the team’s victory over the Calgary Dinos eight years ago. After the game you realize that you just won your first Vanier Cup and then a few minutes later, you’re surrounded by your family, hugging your parents and your friends. It was really special to me because I grew up in Quebec City, so winning the cup in my hometown in front everybody was really incredible.”
Rioux’s college experience came full circle in the 2013 contest, when he suited up for the final time as a member of Rouge et Or and went out on top.
I was really emotional about the game and then being able to win the last one again in front of our home crowd was the best possible way to end my college career.
“It was my senior year – my fifth year in college so I knew that it was for sure going to be my last game as a Laval player,” says Rioux. “Knowing that, I was really emotional about the game and then being able to win the last one again in front of our home crowd was the best possible way to end my college career.”
Rioux remains involved at Laval as the football team’s receivers and strength and conditioning coach, helping the current members of the Rouge et Or reach their potential both on and off the field. His one piece of advice to those players heading into the upcoming season?
“There’s no guarantee that we will make it to the game or win the Vanier Cup (at home in the next two years) but it should be extra motivation for them,” he says. “There’s an opportunity right there and and you really have to use it as motivation. Knowing that it’s going to be on your field, in your stadium, makes you really want to be a part of it.”
Rioux’s former teammate Christopher Milo, a kicker on the 2010 squad, agrees with that sentiment, adding that playing in the game is an important team building experience as a group.
When you’re able to play in those big games and win them, those are some bonds and memories that you’re going to share with your teammates for years to come.
“When you’re able to play in those big games and win them, those are some bonds and memories that you’re going to share with your teammates for years to come,” says Milo. “It’s been 10 years since I won my first national championship (in 2008) and I’m still in touch with many of my old teammates. You always remember the moments together and we’ll always have a (championship) ring to remind us.”
As a strong football market, Laval regularly attracts sellout crowds at the 12,871-seat TELUS-UL stadium to any given regular season home game. But as exciting as it may be to host the Vanier Cup at your own school in front of thousands of people who are almost all cheering for your team, it also acts as a huge distraction.
Jean-Philippe “JP” Bolduc, a defensive back with Laval on the 2013 championship squad, added a Grey Cup to his resume with the Ottawa REDBLACKS in 2016. The former U SPORTS champion says that putting away social media is a tactic that he’s used to keep him focused during championship season and advises the current players to do the same if they hope to reach their end goal.
“Put away your phones, your Instagram, your Twitter, and only focus on football – it’s just for a week,” says Bolduc. “Girlfriends and family and friends will be there to spend time with you when you win the game.”
Emma is a fourth-year journalism student at Carleton University. She thoroughly enjoys print journalism but has extensive experience in other mediums, and has become increasingly interested in sports since coming to university. She's just beginning to dip her toes in sports writing and is excited to join the U SPORTS team.