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It's no longer in the cards, as Guelph Cribbage League folds

After more than 70 years of competition, the Guelph Cribbage League is no more

The Guelph Cribbage League has been around since the Second World War, with physical records of the league dating back to 1955: around 445,815 games played, 50 million points pegged.

There were three teams that had been in the league the entirety of its existence: The Legion, The Red Chevron Club and the Jacks.

But the league is no more. There hasn't been a game since COVID.

Bob Hodgson was the president of the club for as long as he can remember, 47 years, until he left his post in 2020.

“We were wrapping up the year at that stage we had played the playoffs and went no farther,” said Hodgson. From the records, the last game was around March 3, 2020 and the playoffs wouldn’t have continued.

It wasn’t just a vacant president position that disbanded the league, but a lack of new players. Players passing away and then the pandemic taking over everyone’s lives in 2020 all lead to the league's demise. 

“I never thought I would ever see, for something that’s been going for as long as it has and to have to end like this,” said Hodgson.

The league’s treasurer John Olender, played on a team with his father Ray Barnes. On his first night playing, Barnes had a perfect cribbage hand of 29 points. He passed away last year.

“Him and I, even when he was sick right at the very end, we played crib right up to the very end. In fact, in his obituary I said, keep the pegs moving dad, I’ll be there for the game,” said Olender.

Families would play games like cribbage, because there weren’t as many entertainment options like TV, and the internet, many years ago, he said.

“Crib just wasn’t a popular game, it lost its pizzazz. It never carried on over the years,” said Olender. He thinks the game dropped in popularity in the 1980s.

Part of the decline in those years was the growth and popularity of poker, and laws banning smoking in indoor spaces in 2006, said Olender.

“To get the game back I think it would take … I’m not even sure if it's even possible. Just because I don’t think people play cards anymore,” he said.

Maybe the pegs have a chance to keep going, not knowing the future of the game in Guelph, said Olender.

There weren't enough people introduced to the game to allow it to flourish, he said.  

The average age of players in the league was 65. Usually the league would have 16 teams of 10 men but as the years went on the league dissipated to eight teams of 10.

There were efforts to try and recruit new members but we’re in a new era, where people play games on their phones, not in person anymore. They couldn’t get more players, said Hodgson.

Although the league is no longer, Hodgson and his wife Jo-Ann play cribbage with their daughter and son-in-law on the weekends. 

His wife started the Guelph Ladies Cribbage League, since women weren’t allowed to play in the men’s league. She said she believes the ladies league is still going.

Hodgson claimed he ran the largest cribbage tournament in all of Ontario, with 600 people from across the province and across the border playing at the legion.

“I’ve really enjoyed running the league all those years. Playing with the players that I did, meeting new people, meeting new players and am very, very sad to see it come to an end,” said Hodgson.

“Bob ruled that league with an iron fist, but he had a velvet glove on, because for as tough and hard as Bob could be he is the kindest guy you’d ever want and always thinking about other people,” said Olender.


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Santana Bellantoni

About the Author: Santana Bellantoni

Santana Bellantoni was born and raised in Canada’s capital, Ottawa. As a general assignment reporter for Guelph Today she is looking to discover the communities, citizens and quirks that make Guelph a vibrant city.
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