The CFL season is heading towards the playoffs and before we know it the Grey Cup will be upon us.
In the run up to that game in November I thought it might be interesting to do a series detailing the first time each team in the league captured the grand old trophy.
The 23rd Grey Cup saw 6,405 fans on hand at the Hamilton AAA Grounds. There they witnessed the 3-0 Winnipeg ‘Pegs defeat the 7-2 Hamilton Tigers 18-12.
The Run up to the Game
The ’Pegs were undefeated champions of the West. However their season ended three weeks before an eastern winner was crowned. Because of that coach Bob Fritz opted to take his club East a week before the Grey Cup and operate out of Detroit.
Winnipeg held a week-long training camp at Detroit university and even took time out to attend the 1935 U.S. Thanksgiving game between the Lions and Chicago Bears, won 14-2 by Detroit. Those same Lions went on to win the 1935 NFL title, beating the New York Giants 26-7.
Hamilton were pretty confident. They were at home. No Eastern team had ever lost a Grey Cup match to a team from the West. In fact the East was so dominant in the early days that in the Cup games they had an aggregate score of 236–29 over their Western counterparts.
The Tigers had already won the Grey Cup 4 times. This season they finished 7-2 and followed up with playoff wins of 44-4 & 22-0. The latter came against a strong Sarnia Imperials team who had won the Cup the year before.
The Grey Cup Game
The match-up would be played out on a frozen and slippery field in Hamilton. Winnipeg adjusted to the conditions better.
Hamilton let a ball bounce early which was recovered by the ‘Pegs and an early touchdown soon followed.
That set the tone and Winnipeg went in 12-4 ahead at the half. For the first time in multiple attempts it seemed a Western team could take the Grey Cup.
A touchdown and a rouge for Hamilton saw the lead cut to 12-10 in the third quarter. The key play in a tight game followed on a 78 yard punt return touchdown. That came via Melvin “Fritz” Hanson.
Hamilton added a safety in the 4th quarter. They even had the ball near the Winnipeg end zone on the last play of the game. The win was preserved as Hansen returned an onside kick out of the endzone and the game finished 18-12 to Winnipeg.
Hansen was great returner who would collect 3 titles with Winnipeg in 1935, 1939 & 1941. He also won in 1948 with Calgary.
During this game it is thought he totaled over 300 yards in punt returns. He was surely a key reason the Cup was won by a team from the West for the first time.
WHAT CAME NEXT
The Winnipeg ‘Pegs would morph into the Blue Bombers during 1935. This was the start of a period that saw the Winnipeg team as a Western powerhouse.
From 1937 to 1949, the Blue Bombers appeared in the Grey Cup 7 times. They contested the trophy in 1937, 1938, 1939, 1941, 1942, 1943, and 1945. Although they only won it in 1939 & 1941.
There was hiatus from 1942-44 due to the Second World War. Following that Winnipeg remained competitive. They would appear in 6 Grey Cups between 1945 and 1957 but lose them all.
The most successful period in Bomber history to that point ensued. Bud Grant became coach in 1957 and the Blue Bombers promptly appeared in the Grey Cup 5 times in 6 years. This time they won it on 4 occasions.
As of now, fans of Winnipeg have had the longest wait of any CFL teams fans for a Grey Cup win. They last won it in 1990. Since then they have lost five finals.
You sense that when the first Western team to win the trophy regains it, there will be a heck of a party in Winnipeg!
Banner image: The Grey Cup of the day. Image from nationalpost.com