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FB | Johnny Shore Becomes First Ravens Football Player to Make Pro Debut in ’49

Written by Jeff Morris

Photo by 1950 Argos "Mud Bowl" featuring Carleton's Johnny Shore

Sept. 3 is an important day in the history of Carleton Ravens football.

It was the day that Johnny Shore, a member of the first ever Carleton football team, became the first former Carleton player to suit up for a Canadian professional regular season game.

In 1949, the CFL Eastern Division was known as the Interprovincial Rugby Football Union, also known as the Big Four, while the CFL West was the Western Interprovincial Football Union. Each year before the official formation of the CFL in 1958, the two champions would meet in the Grey Cup.

Shore, who played the position of “inside” (guard), was a member of the inaugural 1945 Carleton football team. That team played four games – two against Macdonald College of Montreal and two against the Queen’s Comets, the school’s intermediate level team. Coached by 1930s Ottawa Rough Riders all-star Tiny Hermann, the first Carleton team finished the year with a record of 1-2-1.

Shore had been a high school star at Glebe Collegiate in Ottawa. He served in the Royal Canadian Air Force and came home to enroll at Carleton as a 21-year-old. Shore was a member of the first Carleton football team and then transferred to the University of Toronto to continue his education. While there, he spent three seasons playing with the Toronto Varsity Blues.

After finishing his career at U of T, Shore was signed by the Toronto Argonauts. On August 20, 1949, he dressed for a 23-11 exhibition game victory over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The referee for the game was Hec Crichton, for whom the trophy for the most outstanding USports player is named for. At the time, the Argos were in the Interprovincial Rugby Football Union and played all 12 regular season games against the Ottawa Rough Riders, Montreal Alouettes, and Hamilton Wildcats. The Wildcats would eventually merge with the Hamilton Tigers of the ORFU and become the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

The 1950 Grey Cup Champions, Toronto Argonauts.

On Sept. 3, 1949, Shore would make his regular season debut with the Argos in their first game of the 1949 season, a 26-18 win over Hamilton at Varsity Stadium. Also in the line-up for the Argos were Frank and Jake Dunlap, who both played at St. Patrick’s College, which amalgamated with Carleton in the 1960s. Jake Dunlap was a longtime GM of the Ottawa Rough Riders, while Frank Dunlap, who also played hockey for St. Pat’s, played for hockey for the Toronto Maple Leafs before switching sports and playing Canadian football. Both became prominent Ottawa lawyers.

Shore played for the Argos for five years and would play inside (guard) his first year and snap (centre) for the next four years. He would win the Grey Cup in the legendary 1950 Grey Cup known in Canadian football history as the Mud Bowl. The Argos beat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 13-0.

After the game, the players all drank out of the Grey Cup. Because alcohol was not permitted in the locker room, the players sipped on 7-Up instead of champagne.