That was a brief introduction to each team. Following on from that I thought it might be fun to look at each of the nine teams in a little more depth. Especially because, in that article we noted, “You need to find an affinity. Feel a connection. Have something that makes them, however they perform, very much your team.”
We have already taken a look at the the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Ottawa REDBLACKS, Saskatchewan Roughriders, BC Lions, Montreal Alouettes, Edmonton Elks, and latterly Winnipeg Blue Bombers. This time we are staying in the West Division to take a look at the Calgary Stampeders to see if there is something there that will make a connection for you to want to support them.
The Stampeders play at McMahon Stadium, a 35,400 capacity stadium (expandable to 46,020 with temporary seating). The Calgary Stampeders and Calgary Dinos (U Sports team), have both been resident at McMahon since it opened in 1960. Fellow tenants are, (since 1967), the Calgary Colts (a CJFL team).
The Stamps had their first regular season game at McMahon on August the 15th, 1960 losing 38-20 to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in front of 20,450 fans. The stadium was named after the McMahon brothers who had made their money in oil and now financed the building as well as donating $300,000 to the university and the citizens of Calgary. The build was done in a remarkably swift 103 days.
In 1975, a $1.125-million expansion took place at McMahon Stadium as Calgary prepared to host the Grey Cup that year. In 1978, the stadium received a $4.5-million boost that included the installation of 7,000 additional seats. Further improvements were made in the 1980’s ready to host the 1988 Winter Olympics. The university of Calgary acquired complete ownership of the stadium and land in 1985 after the original financing was retired.
Prior to moving into McMahon the Stampeders played from their inception up to the 1959 season at Mewata Stadium. This stadium was built by the federal government and opened in 1906. Starting in 1935, the Calgary Bronks started playing at Mewata. The Stampeders first game at Mewata took place on November the 3rd, 1945, a 12-0 victory over Regina Roughriders in a West semifinal contest. The Stamps’ final contest at the stadium was a 25-24 win over the Edmonton Eskimos on October the 17th, 1959.
The History – before the Stampeders
This year is their 75th anniversary of the Calgary Stampeders franchise. But football in one form or another has been played in Calgary for much longer than that. Rugby football was played as far back as the 1880’s.
As Calgary grew in size so did an interest in sports. The Calgary Rugby Foot-ball Club was formed in 1906 at Calgary City Hall. They Played in the Calgary Football Rugby Union (CRFU). In 1908 they would become the Calgary Tigers and by 1909 joined the Alberta Rugby Football Union (ARFU). The Tigers would win AFRU championships in 1911 & 1912. They eventually suspended play because of the First World War.
ARFU competition resumed with the Calgary Canucks finishing first in regular season play in 1919. In 1920, there were two Calgary teams in the ARFU — the Canucks and the Tigers — but in 1921 the Calgary Rugby Club was the city’s only team in the league.
This period is a bit of a patchwork. A Calgary Tigers team turned out from 1908–14, 1919–20, 1925, and 1928-30. Alongside that the 50th Battalion played the 1923-4 seasons and the Calgary Altomah-Tigers in 1931, and Calgary Altomah-Indians from 1932-34. probably the most notable thing about this period is that in 1929, a pass from Calgary player Gerry Seiberling to Ralph Losie is considered the first legal forward pass in Canadian football history.
Into the WIFU
The Calgary Altomahs folded after the 1934 season. Calgary found themselves with a new team, The Calgary Bronks ready for the 1935 season. The Bronks played in the WIFU, the Western Inter-Provincial Football Union (the predecessor to the CFL’s West Division).
Playing from 1935-1940 the Bronks posted a 28-23 all time record. They won ARFU championships in 1935 and 1936. Before losing in the WIFU finals in each remaining year. However, senior football in Calgary ended in 1940 due to the Second World War.
The Arival of the Calgary Stampeders
The Stampeders were founded in September 1945 by a group of investors, including player/coach Dean Griffing. There was no regular season in 1945, but the Stampeders defeated the Regina Roughriders 3-1 in their first game. They also went on to win a 2 game series against Regina before losing the WIFU final to the Blue Bombers.
Over the next two seasons they would go 9-7 in the regular season and once again lose to the Blue Bombers in each of the WIFU finals.
The Undefeated Season
In 1948 the nascent Stampeders did something quite remarkable. They put together an impressive perfect regular season and undefeated overall season. This was because of a 12-0 regular season, alongside going 1-0-1 in a playoff with the Roughriders as they drew one game 4-4, and won the other 17-6 for a 21-10 aggregate win.
The undefeated 1948 Stampeders were on the second Western team to win the Grey Cup. Their 12-7 win against the Ottawa Rough Riders is regarded as the icing on the cake of the only undefeated season in CFL team history.
One link in all of the Western teams first Grey Cup wins came via Melvin “Fritz” Hanson. He had been on three Grey Cup winning teams in Winnipeg (1935, 1939, & 1941), and was again here in Calgary.
The Stampeders followed up their undefeated season by going 13-1 in the WIFU, before losing in the 1949 Grey Cup game to Montreal.
A Fallow Period for the Calgary stampeders
Throughout their history the Calgary Stampeders have had remarkable periods of extended success. But there are also two long title droughts. The first ran from 1949-1971. Following their undefeated season in 1948, the Stamps had a 22 year title drought. Over that 22 season title drought they went 169-169-8, and appeared in three title contests before winning it all again in 1971.
It seems odd to us in the UK, as since BT sport started showing the CFL, the Stampeders have been an ultra successful outfit. But, following that 1971 win they had a mostly uncompetitive run. From 1972 to 1991 they went without a championship. This nineteen year run saw the Stamps go 151-174-7. They would not return to the Grey Cup until 1991, or win it again until 1992.
Even worse during the 1980s, the Stampeders were the only CFL team that did not win a playoff game. By the mid 1980’s years of declining attendance were taking a toll. However, a successful Save Our Stamps campaign in 1986 was successful lifting season ticket sales and restoring the club finances somewhat. in 1991 the team went from being community owned into private ownership.
After winning it all in 1992 the Stampeders became a pretty dominant outfit in the 1990’s. From 1993-1999 they went 92-34 in the regular season recorded six first place Divisional finishes, and appeared in 3 more Grey Cup games, winning again in 1998.
They started the 2000’s by going 20-15-1 and winning another Grey Cup title in 2001. From 2002-2007 they were less competitive going 43-64-1 with the nadir being a 15-39 run form 2002-4. However, by the end of the decade they were competitive once more going 36-17-1 from 2008-10 and lifting another Grey Cup trophy in 2008.
The Calgary Stampeders Today
The Stampeders can legitimately claim to have been the CFL team of the decade in the 2010’s. Calgary appeared in the playoffs every year of the decade. They contested the Grey Cup on five occasions, winning it twice in 2014 & 2018.
Across the decade they amassed an astonishing 132-46-2 record. They appeared in the playoffs ten times and went 10-7 in playoff games.
As successful as they were though they may well be remembered for losing two of the best title games of the decade in starting upsets in 2016 & 2017.
That aside, fans of the Stampeders will be hoping for more of the same level of dominance in the decade to come.
Are they right for you?
There are nine teams to choose from. This is just the latest. But could the Stampeders be the ones for you? Founded in 1945 the Stamps are celebrating their 75th anniversary this year. They are a team with remarkable sustained regular season success of late, and 8 Grey Cup titles to their name.
They are also said to be responsible for making the Grey Cup into an annual festival. Stamps fans who made the trip to Toronto in 1948 were responsible for bringing an new dynamic to a week-long party. A classic bit of Grey Cup folklore is Calgary alderman Don Mackay riding a horse into the lobby of the Royal York Hotel too.
When they score a ‘Touchdown Horse’ runs along the sideline. In 1993 the Stampeders introduced a white gelding to match the team’s trademark logo. The white mustang. “Quick Six” was introduced in 2003 and continues to run the Calgary sidelines to this day.
A UK connection
We like to find a UK connection if we can. No matter how tenuous it may be! So in honour of that may I present former Stamps kicker Mark McLoughlin. He is a Canadian national, but he was born in Liverpool in the UK. Is he worth claiming? Definitely!
He spent 16 years with Calgary, (1998-2003), played in 276 games and put up a franchise record 2,957 points. 673 career Field goals remain third most all-time in CFL history.
McLoughlin added 266 playoff points for the Stampeders, including the game-winning field goal on the final play of the 1998 Grey Cup. The team have even retired his number 13 jersey.
Banner Image: Bo Levi Mitchell looking to throw for the Stamps. Image from cfl.ca