The CJFL has been in existence since 1908 taking on many forms, but always keeping the core values of providing young people an opportunity to play highly competitive post-high school football across the country. Several of the current 18 CJFL franchises are able to boast a rich history as part of the CJFL for many, many years.
So relatively speaking the GTA Grizzlies are still one of the youngest franchises, playing in the Ontario Conference. They first became a full CJFL member in 2014, calling the largest city in Canada home. When they first began play they would call Father Henry Carr Catholic Secondary school home before moving to their current location of Etobicoke Centennial Stadium.
Heading into just their third season in 2017 the team rebranded to their current blue and white colours to reflect their growing partnership with the Toronto Argonauts. That season they also launched their new logo that we know them by today.
In their first six seasons they have qualified for the CJFL playoffs in the last three straight years, but are still looking for that first playoff win.
Speaking of the playoffs, one of the most exciting moments in Grizzlies team history came on October 13, 2018 with a playoff berth on the line. The Grizzlies were hosting the Ottawa Sooners and needed to beat them by at least 19 points to advance to the post-season. The stadium was packed with high school students cheering on their Grizzlies to an impressive 39-0 shutout punching their ticket to the playoffs.
Despite their youth, the Grizzlies program has already produced some talented players including Michael Sanelli and Kelvin Muamba who are in the CFL playing for the Montreal Alouettes and Saskatchewan Roughriders respectively. Last season’s (2019) CJFL Rookie of the Year Harvey Mafuta could be joining them in the CFL ranks in the not too distant future.
Former head coach Mark Houlder is more proof that the Grizzlies recipe for success is working. Houlder was recently elected to the CJFL Executive Board to lend his experience and expertise to move the league forward in various paths. He was the head coach of the Grizzlies in 2019, but with this elected position, he has had to step down from coaching but will no doubt assist the club in their search to fill the vacant role.
The Grizzlies find themselves in a unique position in the Toronto area, and have just now started to make a name for themselves. Sure they are in the most populated area in the country, but there are several Universities and other opportunities for young football players coming out of high school to continue to play. With that said and their most recent success, the Grizzlies will no doubt start attracting more players once they are able to get back to normal recruiting and practicing following the pandemic.
The club has the right people in place to grow their team into a consistently competitive franchise once football resumes.
Quick Grizzlies Facts:
Conference – Ontario Conference
Location – 56 Centennial Park Rd, Etobicoke ON
Grizzlies President – Karen Escoffery
Head Coach – An announcement is coming soon
Stadium - Etobicoke Centennial Stadium
Motto – Keeping the Dream Alive
Social Handle – @gtagrizzlies / @gtagrizzlies_
Primary Colours – Dark & light blue, and white