HAMILTON — The call of bagpipes and thump of drums signalled the return of one of the Grey Cup's oldest traditions: Tuffy Nuff, the mascot of Calgary Stampeders supporters had arrived.
A Scottish marching band led Tuffy, a 17-year-old black mare, into the lobby of a Hamilton hotel Thursday, continuing a custom that dates back to 1948. Di Wensel, the chair of the Calgary Grey Cup Committee, had the honour of riding Tuffy into a local restaurant then across the parking lot into the hotel.
"It's one of my most favourite things I do all year," said Wensel, still astride the horse. "I've been coming to the Grey Cup for 20 years but being a part of this great, amazing group is fantastic, representing the city of Calgary and the Stampede is awesome."
An overzealous Stampeders fan rode a horse into the lobby of the Royal York Hotel, one of the fanciest hotels in downtown Toronto, in 1948. Calgary won its first of eight Grey Cups that year and so Stampeders fans have recreated the scene every season since.
Although it's unknown how staff reacted to the horse's appearance in the Royal York's lobby 75 years ago, Tuffy is always a welcome guest now.
Hotel staff at the TownePlace Suites by Marriott in Hamilton greeted the horse with a basket of carrots and apples and had Tuffy "sign in" by placing a hoof on an ink pad.
"We feel so welcome wherever we go," said Wensel, with bagpipes still playing in the background. "Doesn't have to be Calgary or even in Alberta.
"We go to B.C., we were in Regina last year and it was fantastic."
Cy Addley, who is a member of the Calgary Grey Cup Committee despite being from Chatham, Ont., has helped Tuffy enter hotel lobbies for decades.
"I saw him do it in 1948 and I've helped him do it since 1975," said the 88-year-old Addley. "It's a lot of organization, a whole lot. A lot of hours to do all this."
The Stampeders are not in this year's Grey Cup. The Montreal Alouettes will represent the East Division on Sunday and the West division winners the Winnipeg Blue Bombers will play in their fourth consecutive CFL championship game.
"I'm a loyal Stampeders fan and I love to see my team play but I just want to see a great game," said Wensel. "I think that we're going to see a fantastic game between the Blue Bombers and the Alouettes."
— With files from Neil Davidson.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 16, 2023.
John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press