The Hugo Ross trophy, which is presented to the winner of the WIFU.
The Western Interprovincial Football Union (WIFU) was formed in 1936, after a failed attempt to form the Western Canada Rugby Football Union. The reason as to why the WIFU was formed was because of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The year previously in 1935, Winnipeg was the third city from Western Canada to make it to the Grey Cup (the first two cities from Western Canada was Edmonton and Regina respectively), but they were the first team to from Western Canada to win the Grey Cup when they defeated the Hamilton Tigers 18-12 in Hamilton.
1935 autographed football, signed by Winnipeg players.
7 December 1935
Civic Stadium, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
With the Grey Cup victory, Winnipeg and the Regina Roughriders decided to convince Calgary to form the new WIFU. The WIFU decided that in the championship it will be decided by a playoff between the first and second place teams in the union. In the WIFU first championship series the matches was played between Regina and Winnipeg, because Winnipeg finished first in the union. During the championship series, the first game was won by the Blue Bombers 7-4, but the Roughriders took the second game and the championship when they won the match 20-5 with the combined score of 24-12. The Roughriders were thinking they were going to play in this year's Grey Cup, but the Canadian Rugby Union (CRU) said no due to the fact that Regina at that time had five American players on their roster. The CRU decided that Regina was not eligible for the Grey Cup game, basically stated that they were an 'American team'.
A newspaper snippit regarding the Regina American players.
With the ruling by the CRU, Regina stated that even if they were allowed to play in this year's Grey Cup, they would not even travel east to play for the Grey Cup with replacements. With Regina not going to the Grey Cup, The WIFU decided to send the Blue Bombers in place for Regina, because the WIFU and Western Canada believes that the Blue Bombers had a better chance of winning the Grey Cup instead of the Roughriders. Before the Grey Cup was played, Regina sent a letter to the CRU and to the WIFU stating that Regina will participate in the Grey Cup instead of Winnipeg. The WIFU voted and decided that Regina will be going to the Grey Cup, but the ineligible players will not be able to compete, due to the ruling by the CRU, but there still was the problem of Regina traveling to Eastern Canada to play for the Grey Cup. Unfortunately that problem could not have been resolved and the Roughriders decided not to play in the Grey Cup that year. Instead the CRU decided that the Sarnia Imperials (winners of the Ontario Rugby Football Union) will play for the Grey Cup that year, ultimately winning that year's Grey Cup. With this controversy, the CRU decided that to have equal representation within the CRU.
During the 1937 season, Winnipeg defeated the Calgary Bronks to win the WIFU championship, and advance to the Grey Cup to play against the Toronto Argonauts in which Toronto won 4-3 in Varsity Stadium. After the Grey Cup defeat, Blue Bombers coach Bob Fritz, suggested that he will not take his Blue Bombers team to Eastern Canada for another Grey Cup because he feels that the rules should be universal in the country.
Blue Bombers head coach, Bob Fritz.
Before the start of the 1938 season, the Edmonton Eskimos joined the WIFU. Along with Winnipeg, Calgary, and Regina, the WIFU became a four club union.
One of the problems that were affecting the WIFU and the CRU was the competition at the Grey Cup, because as stated before clubs from Western Canada did not want to go east and clubs from Eastern Canada did not want to go west, so at the annual meeting of the CRU, the problem was solved (or so they thought). The way the problem was resolved was that the CRU decided to uniform the rules so that all of Canada can be under the same rules. Known as the standard playing rules, it had a two year stay of execution. If the unions liked and understood the rules before the beginning of the 1940 season, those will be the rules that will be enforced throughout Canada.
During the 1938 season itself, Winnipeg once again won the WIFU championship, by defeating Calgary 35-20 in the combined two game series, and the Blue Bombers returned to the Grey Cup to face the Toronto Argonauts. In the Grey Cup match itself, Winnipeg was winning 7-6 for three quarters, but Toronto came back in the fourth quarter and won the game 30-7.
Winnipeg's roster for the final game against the Calgary Bonks.
28 October 1938
Mewata Stadium, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
1939 was the beginning of World War II, and people from all over Canada were leaving to fight. Before Canada even declared their act of war, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth decided to visit Edmonton for moral support. With their visit to Edmonton, they indirectly affected football. For instance at Clarke stadium 1,500 seats and floodlights were added to the stadium.
During the 1939 season itself, the WIFU decided to go with a 12 game schedule. Games were played under the lights and the teams were playing two or three games in the span of three or four days just to minimize travel. The Blue Bombers once again was in first place, and waited for the winner between Calgary and Regina in the semi-final. In the end Calgary defeated Regina 24-17 and played Winnipeg for the Hugo Ross trophy. At the end of the two game championship series, Winnipeg won 35-20 and once again played for the Grey Cup in which they faced the Ottawa Rough Riders. At the end, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers won their second Grey Cup 8-7 over the heavily favoured Rough Riders.
The 1939 Grey Cup champions.
Osborne Stadium, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Before the 1940 season started, the WIFU decided to ask the CRU for an extension on the stay of execution that expired at the end of that season. The CRU rejected that proposition, and then the WIFU countered with that the union will give their rule differences if they can have the interference of five yards for all players. The CRU also denied that request. With the WIFU being shut down with their rule propositions, the CRU decided that only three huddles each quarter will be allowed. For every huddle over three a penalty of five yards will be amassed. With the disrespect felt by the WIFU, they decided to leave the CRU. The WIFU felt that this was an East-West problem due to the fact that Western Canada was getting better than Eastern Canada.
Prior to the 1940 season, Edmonton withdrew from the union, but the remaining teams (Winnipeg, Regina, and Calgary) had their own problems to deal with that season. Regina and Winnipeg lost a third of their roster due to World War II, and Calgary lost their financial backers.
Before the end of October, the WIFU decided to rejoin the CRU and with that decision, the WIRU was punished and the CRU decided that no team from the WIFU will not play for the Grey Cup that season.
In the WIFU season itself, the Calgary Bronks suffered another defeat to the Blue Bombers in the WIFU championship, when they lost 58-9 in a three game total point series.
Crest for the Winnipeg Football Club.