CFL History: The All-Star Game

CFL History: The All-Star Game
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We love the history of the game here at Ninety-Nine Yards Towers.

That is why we have looked back at some legendary former teams and notable mention non-teams. As well as the careers of some of the greats. Including Barron MilesGrover Covington,  Michael “Pinball” Clemons,  Warren Moon, Russ Jackson, Fritz Hanson and many more too.

So it was fascinating to come across mention of the CFL All-Star game. Something I knew little about. Time to learn and share!

The All-Star Game – a history

The CFL doesn’t have an equivalent to the NFL Pro Bowl. There is no All-Star game although an All-Star team is named.

However there has been an All-Star game in the CFL’s history – the first being played in 1955 and the last in 1988.

Even over that 33 year period it wasn’t a regular thing being played only 14 times. The two periods that have seen the game played regularly are the 1950s’ and 1970s’.

You can find a clip of the last ever CFL All-Star game from 1988 online too.

The 1950s’

The first game was in 1955 and came prior to the formation of the CFL and was known as the Shrine Game. Featuring WIFU and IRFU All-Stars playing to a 6-6 tie in front of 15,088 fans.

This triggered a run of games from 1956-8. Whilst there were over 13,000 hardly souls on hand for the 1956 game numbers dropped precipitously for the next two.

5,000 fans turned out in 1957 and 7,000 in 1958. The games were being played in December in a Canadian winter and didn’t count for a championship. So perhaps that affected attendances. At any rate the poor turn-outs saw the concept dropped and it did not return again in the 1960’s.

The 1970s’

The All-Star Game was resurrected in 1970. This time the format had been tweaked however. Now an All-Star squad would take on the previous season’s Grey Cup champion.

The 1970 game saw the All-Stars defeat the Ottawa Rough Riders 35-14 in front of 23,090 fans in Ottawa.

These matches were held for five consecutive years from 1970-74. There was no game in 1975 however. I cannot find the reason why – anybody who knows do get in touch.

An All-Star game returned in 1976 and was played up until 1978. The returning game went back to its roots and the earlier history of the game as an East and West All-Star team faced off once more.

The 1980s’

The last game played in the 70’s came in 1978. After that the event was a five yearly one. This meant it was played in 1983 and 1988 during this decade.

As ever with the history of this game things changed again. Because of this the 1983 game was an East v West affair whereas the 1988 game was between the CFL All-Stars and Edmonton Eskimos.

The 1988 game was to be the last CFL All-Star game played. The last game actually had its biggest attendance as 25,573 fans turned out in Edmonton to see the Esks fall 15-4 to the All-Star team.

Consigned to History

In fact the last All-Star game had been played in 1988 specifically because Edmonton were the league champs. At the time the Edmonton 1987 season ticket base of around 27,000 was the best in the league. Hence the league and Players Association decided to cash in.

By the end of 1988 money troubles were piling up around the CFL. Clubs did not have reserve funds and attendances did not look set to match rental and player costs. The focus was elsewhere.

Looking in a different direction

Even if the CFL had been interested in resurrecting the game on a 5 year cycle things had really moved on by 1993. Larry Smith had was leading the ill-fated American invasion. A moment in CFL history that has seen some of the bygone US teams achieve cult status – but not an environment conducive to the anachronistic ‘old time’ feel of the All-Star game.

So, the game was gone – history, and has never returned since.

1955December 3, 1955Varsity Stadium TorontoEast All-Stars 6, West All-Stars 6 (tie)
1956December 8, 1956Empire Stadium VancouverWest All-Stars 35, East All-Stars 0
1957December 7, 1957McGill Stadium MontrealEast All-Stars 20, West All-Stars 2
1958December 6, 1958Civic Stadium HamiltonWest All-Stars 9, East All-Stars 3
1970July 2, 1970Lansdowne Park OttawaCFL All-Stars 35, Ottawa Rough Riders 14
1971June 29, 1971Autostade MontrealCFL All-Stars 30, Montreal Alouettes 13
1972June 28, 1972McMahon Stadium CalgaryCalgary Stampeders 23, CFL All-Stars 22
1973June 27, 1973Ivor Wynne Stadium HamiltonCFL All-Stars 22, Hamilton Tiger-Cats 11
1974June 26, 1974Lansdowne Park OttawaOttawa Rough Riders 25, CFL All-Stars 22
1976May 29, 1976Clarke Stadium EdmontonWest All-Stars 27, East All-Stars 16
1977June 4, 1977Exhibition Stadium TorontoEast All-Stars 20, West All-Stars 19
1978June 3, 1978McMahon Stadium CalgaryWest All-Stars 24, East All-Stars 12
1983December 3, 1983BC Place Stadium VancouverWest All-Stars 25, East All-Stars 15
1988June 23, 1988Commonwealth Stadium EdmontonCFL All-Stars 15, Edmonton Eskimos 4

Banner image from change.org

4 thoughts on “CFL History: The All-Star Game

  1. If I remember correctly, the 1988 game was suppose to be played in Regina but they were getting new artificial turf installed and the stadium wouldn’t be ready in time so the game was moved to Edmonton.

    1. Thanks Dave. Interesting. My knowledge of it is thin – the idea of the game being in Edmonton due to attendance coming from a book on the history of the league by Frank Consetino.

  2. The 1975 CFL all star game was scheduled to take place at Montreal’s Autostade, but it was cancelled less than a week out due to poor ticket sales. News reports from the time said that only about 2,000 tickets had been sold and the CFLPA was worried about taking a huge financial hit.

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