Garbage Bowl

The Garbage Bowl is a yearly football matchup that takes place on the 1st day of January each year in Montreal West, Quebec, Canada. Overseen by the Montreal West Garbage Bowl Association, this match has taken place every year since 1950 on the Royal West Academy football field.

How It's Played

The match takes place between two teams, the Northern Combines and the Southern Bombers. The players are not paid and volunteer their time and effort in order to raise donations. Historically, the Northern Combines are made up of Montreal West residents living North of the C.P.R. Crossing while the Southern Bombers are made up of those living South of it. This division isn't stressed as much as in the early years, as many non-residents now participate in the game. Many players have played the game yearly for upwards of 20 years and the age of players varies considerably between teenagers and those in their 50's. Each team is made up of a 30 man roster (on average).

Proceeds from the game are donated to children's and youth organizations supported by the Montreal Westward Rotary Club. Each year the "Garbage Bowl" donates upwards of $10,000 in this way.Some of the proceeds come from the purchasing of "Garbage Bowl" Buttons, with a new one being produced each year. Examples can be seen in a picture on the right-hand side of this page.

The "Garbage Bowl" is known for its generous donations and for the fact that grown men are playing football in their pyjamas. But more than anything, it's the fact that the game is often played on frigid cold days and involves icy and/or snow laden conditions.


Lloyd Johnson is credited with the original idea of the "Garbage Bowl" and his friends at the old Montreal West High School were the first participants. Three hundred and fifty fans watched that historic game in 1950 between the boys from the south of the C.P.R. railroad tracks and the boys from the north. The South, led by Dick Brook, won the first game 15-10 never realizing they were creating a rivalry that would endure for decades.

Initially, the Southern Bombers were dressed in green pyjamas and the Northern Combines were wearing red longjohns but in the mid-fifties, the South changed their uniform to green longjohns. Due to the absence of goal posts in the early years of the game, converts were made by tossing the football into garbage cans positioned at both ends of the field. From these humble beginnings came the name of the game and also numerous imitations of the game across the continent.

The "Garbage Bowl" became associated with the Montreal Westward Rotary Club in 1952 when the club started sponsoring the game as a fund-raising event. The first beneficiary of the game's proceeds was the newly merged School for Crippled Children and the Mackay Institute for the Deaf. While the Mackay Centre for Deaf and Crippled Children continues to be a recipient of funds, the list of beneficiaries has expanded to include most organizations sponsored by the Westward Rotary Club. In keeping with the spirit of the game, the money was collected by volunteers carrying garbage cans around the field into which fans would toss their donations.

No football championship would be complete without a queen to preside over the event and the "Garbage Bowl" is no exception. In fact, the "Garbage Bowl" was probably the first football game to eliminate sexism from the competition to become queen. Miss Leftovers, the "Garbage Bowl" Queen, is a student at Royal West Academy "picked" by her peers. All the names of the contestants are placed in a hat and the last person whose name is picked from the hat becomes Miss Leftovers. The second and third to last names chosen become Miss South and Miss North.

Many famous Montreal gridiron members of the past, present and future have either played with or coached Garbage Bowl teams. People like Johnny Newman, Sam "The Rifle" Etcheverry, Red O'Quinn, Tex Coulter, Moses Denson, Terry Evanshen, Red Storey, Brodie Snyder, George Dixon and someone known only as "The Shadow" have all been "on the field" on January 1 no matter how rotten their weather to make the "Garage Bowl" game a memorable start to the New Year. Over the years the game has had its controversial moments. Tex Coulter had his eligibility questioned in 1957 when it was claimed that he was purposely directed to the wrong (North) side of the tracks by Combine scouts. Johnny Newman resolved the problem when he produced Tex's contract written, in true Garbage Bowl fashion, on a bread wrapper. In other years, supporters have engaged in torch light parades and even effigy hangings to rally their team to victory.

Perhaps the most exciting play in "Garbage Bowl" history was in the 1951 game when only one player knew all the plays for the North. At the start of the game however he was nowhere to be seen. Just before kick-off, a taxi roared up and out came Jack Birks wearing his tuxedo and clutching longjohns in hand. After pulling on his "uniform", he got on the field and returned the opening kick-off for a 102 yard touchdown.

Since having aligned with the Montreal Westward Rotary Club, the term "Garbage Bowl" has come to involve a more lasting meaning. It now symbolizes the hope to put a child's crutches in the garbage. That is, not as a devilish jesture, but by helping to buy the operation needed to cure them.

External links

* [ Official Garbage Bowl Site]

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