TORONTO – Calgary Stampeders fans hoping to repeat a Grey Cup tradition that started more than 60 years ago at Toronto’s Royal York Hotel were turned away today with a resounding “neigh.”
Despite several attempts, staff at the tony downtown hotel would not let a 15-year-old dark brown stallion through its front doors — a custom that Stamps fans started in 1948 when they rode a horse through the Royal York lobby.
Hotel spokeswoman Kerry Ann Kotani says Marty the horse couldn’t go inside due to safety concerns for staff and guests.
Instead, staff rolled out the hotel’s official red carpet, usually reserved for heads of state and dignitaries. Executive Chef Collin Thornton even prepared a bucket of apples and carrots — a horse’s favourite meal.
The horse’s rider, Calgary Grey Cup committee chairman Fletcher Armstrong, says he was disappointed the hotel wouldn’t budge — especially since it’s the 100th anniversary of the Grey Cup this year.
“It’s Calgary’s tradition,” he said, sitting atop the horse, which is also the team’s mascot. “We came here in 1948 to start the party with the horse into the Royal York and we’d like to make sure it happens (again).”
Armstrong tried to lead Marty through the throng of fans and media through the front doors, then through the hotel’s back entrance and at one point, pleaded with staff to let Marty stick his head into the lobby.
The request was declined each time.
Outside the hotel, a large crowd of Stampeders fans dressed in red jerseys and cowboy hats gathered outside to try to persuade the hotel to change its mind, chanting: “Let us in!” and “Go Stamps go!”
“It will be good luck,” Armstrong said of the horse entering the hotel. “As far as we’re concerned, as long as we get our horse in — we’ll be happy, happy, happy.”
After being refused entry into the Royal York, Marty took in some sightseeing in downtown Toronto by visiting a shopping complex and a local pub.
The Grey Cup game between the Calgary Stampeders and the Toronto Argonauts is Sunday at Rogers Centre.