Ontario Rugby Football Union

The Ontario Rugby Football Union (ORFU) was an early amateur Canadian football league comprising 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.



W. A. Hewitt was vice-president of the ORFU for the 1905 and 1906 seasons, and a representative of the Toronto Argonauts.[1][2] He sought for ORFU to have uniform rules of play with the Canadian Rugby Union (CRU), with a preference to use the snap-back system of play used in Ontario.[3] When the CRU did not adopt the system, his motion was approved for the ORFU to adopt the CRU rules in 1906.[4] In December 1906, The Gazette reported that a proposal originated from Ottawa for the ORFU and the Quebec Rugby Football Union to merge, which would allow for higher calibre of play and create rivalries.[2] Hewitt helped organize the meeting which established the Interprovincial Rugby Football Union (IRFU) in 1907.[5]

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 IRFU (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, the ORFU found it increasingly difficult to compete in a sport 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 the Calgary Stampeders won the national title in 1948. While the IRFU would go on to win the next five Grey Cups after that, it generally triumphed in close contests against WIFU opposition who had consistently outclassed ORFU champions in successive Grey Cup semifinals.

Following the unexpected triumph of the Edmonton Eskimos in the 1954 Grey Cup, it was increasingly apparent that the WIFU's quality of play had become the equal of the IRFU, and the Western union soon made it publicly known that a playoff with the ORFU was no longer desirable. Meanwhile, the IRFU had secured a contract with the National Broadcasting Company. Informed by NBC executives that the continued presence of amateur teams in Grey Cup competition was harmful to the image of Canadian football in the United States, the IRFU quickly reversed its stance and entered into informal discussions with the WIFU. Although the Canadian Rugby Union constitution nominally prevented the professional unions from outright barring amateurs from challenging for the Grey Cup, they nevertheless came to a gentlemen's agreement to coordinate their schedules so that their respective championships would be awarded about a week before the Grey Cup, thus leaving no feasible date to contest an inter-union Grey Cup semifinal.

When the ORFU protested, the professional unions threatened to resign from the CRU and create their own national championship. Realizing this would leave them merely competing for a trophy of far diminished stature, the ORFU subsequently withdrew from Grey Cup competition in exchange for a promise that they would be permitted to challenge for the trophy again if their caliber of play improved. In reality there was virtually no chance of this occurring since the only practical means of improving their quality of play would have been for the ORFU to become a professional union, an arrangement its clubs lacked the financial resources to sustain.

The professional unions would go on to create the Canadian Football Council and effectively assummed control of organizing Grey Cup competition from the CRU. Although amateurs would not be formally locked out of Grey Cup play until 1958 when the CFC became the modern Canadian Football League and formally took ownership of the Grey Cup, these earlier developments effectively 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



Year Champion
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 Torontos
1920 Torontos
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



  1. ^ "Sport Review". The Kingston Whig-Standard. Kingston, Ontario. December 7, 1904. p. 4. 
  2. ^ a b "The Sport Review". The Kingston Whig-Standard. Kingston, Ontario. December 5, 1906. p. 2. 
  3. ^ "Meet In Kingston". The Kingston Whig-Standard. Kingston, Ontario. December 11, 1905. p. 3. 
  4. ^ "The Sport Review". The Kingston Whig-Standard. Kingston, Ontario. December 11, 1906. p. 7. 
  5. ^ Sullivan, Jack (January 13, 1961). "Dapper Little Hewitt Hasn't Got An Enemy". Winnipeg Free Press. Winnipeg, Manitoba. p. 24.