The Longest CFL title droughts. What are they? Why bring them up? It came to me whilst looking back at the 2019 Grey Cup. In some respects you could have dubbed it the ‘Drought Bowl’.
That is because the 2019 Grey Cup saw the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats square off for the trophy. And they were sporting the longest current runs without the title going into the game.
But that got me to thinking. How do the long waits for Ti-Cat and Blue Bomber fans compare to the long waits fans of other teams have endured? So I thought I’d take a look at the longest title droughts for each team.
Longest Title Droughts: West Division Teams
Edmonton Football Team
Edmonton fans have feasted on some remarkable success down the years. Formed in 1949 by 1952 they were vying for the championship. And by 1954 they were winning their first Grey Cup. In fact they would win three in a row (1954-6) here before making an incredible 34 consecutive playoff appearances between 1972 and 2005.
Between 1972 and 1983 the then Esks would appear in nine out of ten possible title games. And win six. Including an unprecedented five in a row. They last won the Grey Cup in 2015 so are not that far removed from success.
So what was the worst run for such a successful team? Their longest title drought ran from 1958-1974 when they were kept from winning the Grey Cup game over a run of 17 years.
A span that saw them go 142-137-9 and make 12 playoff appearances, including three Grey Cup appearances.
The Nadir came in 1963 when they went 2-14. In fact from 1962-1965 they went 17-46-1 and missed the playoffs for four consecutive seasons. If four seasons without playoff football is your longest run then I think you’ve had a remarkable run!
Given that the CFL started being shown here on BT Sport in 2015, we are used to nothing but success from the Stampeders. After all in that time they have gone 67-21-2, appeared in three Grey Cups and won one of them.
So the idea of long periods with a title drought might seem a bit odd to UK based fans when it comes to the Stamps. But this year they are celebrating their 75th anniversary, and in that time there is almost bound to be some lengthy form of time without a title.
The Stamps have had long periods of sustained success over that span. But there are also two long title droughts. The first ran from 1949-1971. Following an undefeated season in 1948 they went 13-1 in 1949 and made it back to the Grey Cup but lost to Montreal.
Over that 22 season title drought they went 169-169-8, and appeared in three title contests before winning it all again in 1971.
That win would be followed by their second longest title drought. As from 1972 to 1991 they went without a championship. This nineteen year run saw a lot less success than the earlier title drought. This time the Stamps went 151-174-7. They would not return to the Grey Cup until 1991, or win it again until 1992.
Each of those title droughts is a distant memory now. Calgary haven’t had a losing season since 2007. And since the turn of the century they have been to seven championship games and won four of them.
The Roughriders may have been around 110 years but in that time they have only won the Grey Cup on 4 occasions. Now that isn’t as bad as it sounds. In the early years they won quite a few Western Titles without then challenging for a Grey Cup.
Their longest period without a Grey Cup may have run from 1910-1966 but that doesn’t mean it was their longest title drought simply because of the way Canadian football operated in the early part of this period.
We are focusing on the time from teams becoming part of the CFL in 1958 so this was only an 8 year gap to 1966. However they would then have to wait another 23 years before pciking up their second title in 1989. There would be a further 18 year wait to 2007 before the next win, but only six years to 2013 for the latest.
For our purposes then the roughriders longest title drought ran from 1967 to 1989. During that time they went 186-176-8. They appeared in 4 Grey Cup games along the way but they had a barren run from 1977 to 1987 without playoff action. The nadir came in a 8-39-1 run from 1978 to 1980.
They may only have won 4 times in nineteen Grey Cup appearances but you know Saskatchewan fans are desperate for them to make a 20th appearance and add to that winning tally along the way.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers
They would rename as the Blue Bombers for the 1937 season and have some remarkable success. Between 1937 & 1941 they appered in 4 Grey Cup games and won 2 of them. After a hiatus for the Second World War they returned to the championship game in 1945. They would lose that game and in a 13 year stretch lose 3 title tilts. But we are looking at the post 1958 CFL so this doesn’t really count for our look at longest title drought for Winnipeg.
1957-62 were great years to be a Blue Bombers fan. During that period, coached by Bud Grant, they would go 75-21. Appearing in 5 Grey Cup games and winning 4 along the way.
This would be followed by their longest title drought to that point. After winning in 1962 they would not win again until 1984. A span punctuated by only one more Grey Cup game appearance in 1965 too.
A 22 year title drought was followed by success as they won 3 Grey Cups in seven years (1984, 1988 & 1990).
Then came the longest title drought in club history. Up until last year they had the longest run without a championship in the CFL. This win was huge for Winnipeg. They got the monkey of their back in a big way in 2019. That run from 1984 to 2019 and first as a West Division team since 1984, (after two victories as an Eastern team), ended one of the longest championship droughts in CFL history.
The Lions were founded in 1954 and started out in the WIFU before joining the CFL in 1958.
They only had one winning season (9-7 in 1959) in their first nine seasons. But made the Grey Cup in 1963, and won their first title in 1964. The Lions reverted to type after this win. Their 1963, and ’64 seasons remained their most successful until the 1980’s. For the rest of the sixties they went 23-54-3.
It was following this first win that the Lions suffered their longest title drought to date. BC Lions fans had to wait until 1983 before they appeared in the Grey Cup, and 1985 before they pciked up their second title.
The Seventies were hardly much better than the Sixites for BC. Over that decade they went 67-85-8. The lone standout season was going 10-6 in 1977. They recorded their first playoff win since the Grey Cup that year but were knocked out of the playoffs 38-1 by Edmonton.
That title drought between 1964 and 1985 covered 21 years. Between their first and second championship years they went 140-167-13.
Longest Title Droughts: East Division Teams
Hamilton became the Tiger-Cats after they were formed out of a merger between the Hamilton Tigers and Hamilton Wildcats in 1950. Meaning that they can arguably trace their history back to 1869 as the Tigers.
However the CFL only recognises the Ti-Cats as a single entity starting in 1950. Either way it is true to say that since the 1950 merger the Tiger-Cats have won the Grey Cup on eight occasions. But what of the teams’ longest title drought?
When the CFL formed in 1958 the Ti-Cats were the defending Grey Cup champions and were in the midst of a hugely successful period. Between 1957 and 1967 they went 102-49-3, appeared in the Grey Cup nine times and won on four occasions.
They won the Grey Cup again in 1972. But a title drought did follow that as they would not earn the Cup again until 1986. A 14 year wait. That would be followed by a 13 year wait until winning in 1999.
Hamilton have not lifted the Grey Cup since that 1999 game. Because of that they and their fans are currently exeperiencing their longest title drought. Twenty seasons over twenty one years.
In that time the tabbies have gone 149-210-1 and appeared in the Grey Cup three times (2013-14, and 2019). A 1-17 season was a low point whilst last year was a record setting year with 15 regular season wins despite losing in the Grey Cup game.
It is kind of hard to have a long title drought over that span. Even if they’d been poor throughout. But the RedBlacks haven’t. Their current all time record of 44-62-2 is book ended by a 2-14 expansion season and a 3-15 return in 2019.
From 2015 to 2018 though they made four playoff appearances, played in three Grey Cups, and won it all in 2016. Three years isn’t much of a title drought! But then could you really expect a history of title droughts for such a new team?
The City of Ottawa
The Renegades were around for just four seasons. Between 2002 and 2005 they went 23-49 and made zero playoff appearances. So now we have a bigger gap for the CFL title drought in Ottawa. Between the Renegades debut in 2005 and the RedBlacks win in 2016 we have stretched it to eleven years.
But what if we add in the Rough Riders? Now things get very interesting. Founded in 1876 they had been one of the oldest and longest-lived professional sports teams in North America before folding.
The Rough Riders had won their first Grey Cup in 1925 (whilst briefly known as the Senators). They had gone on to contest the title game 15 times. Taking home the Grey Cup on nine occasions. The last of which had been in 1976.
After that the Rough Riders had played 20 further seasons without lifting the Cup. Their longest title drought ran from 1976 -1996 when they were disbanded. During that span they went 112-227-3.
There were a few low points. A 2-16 season in 1988 was part of a 12-59-1 run from 1986-89. Just as bad was a run of 14-58 from 1993-96. Made all the worse by the Rough Riders being wound up at the end of the run.
For the city of Ottawa however the title drought would last longer. If we add the Renegades run to the Rough Riders and RedBlacks where does that leave us?
With the longest of all the title droughts listed here. A 40 year title gap for the city of Ottawa that saw three different teams post a combined 149-298-3 record.
Founded in 1946 the Larks had won a Grey Cup by 1949.
The Alouettes would go into a brief decline from 1950-1952. After which they would again be dominant in the East from 1953-56. During that period they would appear in 3 consecutive title games (1954-6) and lose on each occasion to Edmonton.
This would be part of their first title drought as they would not win a Grey Cup again until 1970. That 21 year barren spell would see them compile a 112-151-9 run. The hight point was going 30-10 with Sam Etcheverry at the helm from 1954-6. And the low point going 7-31-4 from 1967-9 before winning that 1970 Cup game.
The Seventies were good to Montreal with seven Grey Cup appearances and three wins. The last of which was in 1977. They would not win a Grey Cup again until 2002. When looking for title droughts for the Als this looks a good place to start right?
Well it’s not as straightforward as it sounds. That 25 year gap included 4 seasons as the Als and 4 seasons as the Concordes. There followed an 8 year gap with no team from 1988-1995 before the Als returned in 1996.
That Als team was borne out of the defunct champions from 1995, the Baltimore Stallions. That Stallions team is not seen as part of the Als history, but each iteration of the Als name (1946-1981/1986-87 preseason/1996-present), and the Concordes, (1982-5) are seen as a non contniuous history of the same team.
So the Montreal Alouettes second long title drought ran for 25 years, taking in 16 seasons (one of which was just the preseason) along the way. That saw them go 125-124-5.
They last won the Grey Cup in 2010. So they have been waiting another 10 years (nine seasons) to add to their tally.
The Argonauts were founded in 1873, and have won more Grey Cups than any team – 17. Ten of those wins came before the CFL era and the Boatmen won their first Grey Cup in 1914. A 31 year gap. Of course that doesn’t count for our purposes. Plus these were very different times with no regular season until 1898.
So what about in the CFL era? Since 1958 where does the longest title drought lay for the Double Blue?
When they became a CFL member, the Argos had last won the Grey Cup in 1952. But they would not return to the title game until 1971. And they would not win it again until 1983. A 31 year title drought. During that time the Argonauts put together a 169-259-8 record.
A low period was going 16-40 from 1956-59. Whilst highlights came in going 10-4 in 1960 and 1971 (the latter leading to a Grey Cup berth), and having made the Grey Cup in 1982 the year before ending their longest title drought.
They would wait another eight years to win again in 1991. A wait equalled by the gaps between 2004 and 2012 Grey Cup wins. But nothing has come close to that 1983 team breaking the 31 year drought. No wonder that Condredge Holloway and the team are so fondly remembered by many Argo fans.
The Longest Title Droughts*
So let’s put those longest CFL title droughts together so we can see how much each fan base has suffered!
City of Ottawa: 40 years 1976-2016. Went 149-298-3 over that period.
Toronto Argonauts: 31 years 1952-1983. Went 169-259-8 over that period.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers: 29 years 1990-2019. Went 234-268-2 over that period.
Montreal Alouettes: 25 years (16 seasons) 1977-2002. Went 125-124-5 over that period.
Calgary Stampeders: 22 years 1949-1971. Went 169-169-8 over that period.
BC Lions: 21 years 1964-1985. Went 140-167-13 over that period.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats: 20 seasons over 21 years 1999-2020. Went 149-210-1 over that period. (This streak is current).
Edmonton: 17 years 1958-1974. Went 142-137-9 over that period.
Saskatchwan Roughriders: 17 years 1967-1983. Went 186-176-8 over that period.
- – we are looking at the post 1958 CFL era. You could argue that the longest Grey Cup title drought belongs to Saskatchewan. Founded in 1910 they did not win the Grey Cup until 1966. A total title drought of 42 seasons. (The dicrepancy of seasons and years is because Western teams were not allowed to compete for the trophy until 1921 and the Grey Cup was suspended for three seasons during the Second World War).
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