Ottawa Rough Riders banner.
Considered one of the oldest clubs in Canadian Football, the Ottawa Rough Riders started playing football in 1867 when they simply known as the Ottawa Football Club. Ottawa officially changed their name to the 'Rough Riders' in 1898 (from 1883-1888, Ottawa was known as Ottawa City) along with their color scheme. Before wearing Red and Black, the colours that they were wearing at the time were cerise, grey, and navy blue. The name 'Rough Riders', not to be confused with Roughriders came from the lumberjacks who rode the rapids of the Ottawa River during that time. The first union that the Rough Riders would play for was the Ontario Rugby Football Union (ORFU), back in 1883. In the same season, the Rough Riders would lose the first ever ORFU Cup to the Toronto Argonauts 9-7. The next season in 1884, Ottawa was supposed to play for the ORFU Cup again against Toronto, but had to pull out of the championship, because of the injuries that they acquired during the season. Ottawa's first championship was in the 1898 season in which Ottawa went on to defeat Toronto 48-6. Ottawa's next two championships were during the 1900 season in which they won their second ORFU championship by once again defeating Toronto 20-12. With winning the ORFU, Ottawa would go to play for the Canadian Rugby Union (CRU) Dominion Cup against Quebec Rugby Football Union (QRFU) champion, Brockville. Ultimately, Ottawa went on to win the CRU championship 17-10. Ottawa next championship was during the 1902 season, when they were part of the QRFU.
A cookie jar football commemorating the 1989 ORFU champions.
From 1907, after their time in the ORFU and the QRFU, the Rough Riders decided to merge with the Ottawa St. Patrick's and entered the new Inter-Provincial Rugby Football Union (IRFU) with the Toronto Argonauts, Hamilton Tigers, and the Montreal Football Club.
The next significant date in Rough Riders history was in 1909 in which Ottawa played a game in New York City. The New York Herald, a local newspaper invited Ottawa and the Hamilton Tigers to play an exhibition game in Van Courtland Park in the Bronx. In the game that was played on December 10, 1909, the Tigers won 11-6 with 15,000 spectators seeing Canadian football. After the game was done, the crowd was happy with what they saw and congratulated Canada for bringing the game to the Bronx.
Game ball used during the 1909 game that was played in New York.
10 December 1909
Van Courtland Park , New York City, New York, United States of America
In the season in the IRFU, Ottawa finished the season with a 5-1 record and lost the East finals against the eventual Grey Cup champions, the University of Toronto (U of T).
The next significant date in Rough Riders history was in 1924, when they decided to change their name to the Ottawa Senators, when the Rough Riders merged with the St. Brigids Saints. With the name change, Ottawa went on to play in two straight Grey Cups in 1925 and 1926. As stated earlier, the Senators first Grey Cup was in 1925 under then head coach Dave McCann who lead Ottawa to first place in the IRFU with a 4-1-1 record that season. In the Grey Cup, Ottawa played the Tammy Tigers from Winnipeg and won 24-1 thereby claiming their first Grey Cup in team history.
Game roster for the 1925 Grey Cup.
5 December 1925
Lansdowne Park, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Ottawa's next Grey Cup appearance was in 1926 when once again Ottawa finished in first place and this time played U of T in which Ottawa won their second straight Grey Cup 10-7.
The 1926 Grey Cup champions the Ottawa Senators.
4 December 1926
Varsity Stadium, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
After much debate, the Senators decided to return to the Rough Riders name in the beginning of the 1927 season. For the rest of the 1920s, Ottawa did not make the playoffs.
In fact the next time in which the Rough Riders made the playoffs was during the 1936 season under head coach Billy Hughes. As stated earlier, the Rough Riders made the playoffs with a 3-3 record and made their way to the Grey Cup against the Sarnia Imperials, in which Sarnia won 26-20. The Rough Riders next Grey Cup appearance was in 1939 when Ottawa played the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in which Ottawa lost a close game 8-7.
The following season in 1940, Ottawa stopped the drought and won their third Grey Cup (first as the Rough Riders) in franchise history when they defeated the Toronto Balmy Beach in a two-game series 8-2 and 12-5 respectively with the help of Running Back Tony Golab. The reason why this Grey Cup was a two game series was because of a rules dispute with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. So the CRU decided that the Eastern Final will play for the Grey Cup instead of the tradional East-West game.
Ottawa Running Back Tony Golab.
The 1940 Grey Cup champions.
7 December 1940
Lansdowne Park, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
The following season in 1941, Ottawa returned to the Grey Cup where they played the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in which they lost 18-16.
For the next three seasons (1942-1944), the IPRU decided to cease operations for World War II. In 1945, once World War II was over the IPRU returned and Ottawa finished with a 5-1 record which is good enough for a second place finish. The next time Ottawa made the playoffs in the 1940s was in 1947 where they lost in the East final against Toronto. Ottawa returned to the Grey Cup was in 1948 where they played the Calgary Stampeders who were undefeated in the season and with much effort, Ottawa lost 12-7.