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The name game

Speaking to MLSsoccer.com today, Martin Rennie infuriatingly referred to the Voyageurs Cup as the “Canadian Cup.” He’s hardly the first person to do so. Many people, IN ALL FOUR CITIES IN THE COMPETITION, have made that mistake. It doesn’t excuse it. You can be sure that Rennie, or others, would be quick to correct themselves if they were to slip up with the sponsors name – Amway Canadian Championship, not Nutrilite Canadian Championship, thank you very much – so it’s also reasonable that it be expected that the cup be correctly identified.

For those new to following the game in Canada this rant may seem like a bit of an over reaction. A little history lesson may be in order. I’ve written this history every year of the competition. Hopefully one day the history will be well known enough that I don’t have to.
The first thing you need to understand is that the heritage of the competition is fully fan driven. The Canadian national team supporter’s group, the Voyageurs, was the impetus behind the cup and instrumental in ensuring that there remained a Canadian champion named at a time when the club game in this country was at an all-time low.

In 2002, the idea that there would be three Canadian teams playing in MLS was absurd. The pro game looked close to its deathbed and no one in an official position was willing to consider creating a national cup competition – long-term vision was being sacrificed for short-term survival.

The fans didn’t think that was right. And, as it’s often been in the recent history of the game here, fans weren’t content to sit back and accept the status quo. Instead, they created their own competition.

A cross-country fundraising effort was made. We’re not talking thousand dollar donations, either. Rather, it was average people making modest donations. The Voyageurs Cup was bought with $25, $50 and $10 contributions by fans from all parts of the country, working together for the betterment of the game.

That’s, sadly, a very rare situation in Canadian soccer. You can understand why the fans are proud of their effort and why they want to keep the name alive.

When the pro clubs approached the Voyageurs in 2008 to use the cup in the newly created Canadian championship tournament (at the time sponsored by Nutrilite) it wasn’t a slam-dunk that the fans would allow it. Many felt that the heritage they created would be lost. Every time someone calls it the Canadian Cup those fears are realized a tiny little bit.

Demanding that it be called the Voyageurs Cup seems a small thing to ask.