Toronto Argonauts: The team for you?

Toronto Argonauts: The team for you?
Reading Time: 8 minutes.

Could the Toronto Argonauts be the CFL team for you? We recently ran an article giving you some pointers as to which CFL team you might want to support. It was about making the right choice for you.

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 started with a look at the the Hamilton Tiger-CatsOttawa REDBLACKSSaskatchewan RoughridersBC Lions,  Montreal AlouettesEdmonton Elks, Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and latterly Calgary Stampeders. This time we are headed over to the East Division to take a look at the final team. Last but not least we are looking at the Toronto Argonauts to see if there is something there that will make a connection for you to want to support them.

The Stadium

The Argonauts have called BMO Field home since 2016. With a capacity of 25,000 for CFL games it was already the home of Toronto FC football (soccer) team. As well as being the home stadium for Canada Men’s national soccer team. BMO Field officially opened in 2007 at a cost of $62.9 million (Canadian dollars).

BMO Field is the fifth stadium to be built at this location, Exhibition Place. The Argos have inhabited a few stadiums along the way, including previously on this spot too.

The Argonauts have called a number of Stadia home over the years. Including Rosedale Field, which is probably most famous for being the site of the first ever Grey Cup game. Before going on to Varsity Stadium from 1898-1907, and 1916-1958. In 1959 they moved into Exhibition Stadium in the aforementioned Exhibition Place area of Toronto.

In 1989 they called the SkyDome home. They were co-tenants with the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team who still call this stadium home. The SkyDome was the first major team sports stadium in North America with a fully operational retractable roof. Toronto made their latest move from here to BMO in 2016 as it better fitted the attendances they were getting. Ownership would doubtless like to see attendances improve greatly in the open air confines BMO offers situated near Lake Ontario.

The History

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. The Toronto Argonauts Football Club was formed as part of the Argonaut Rowing Club. They chose the double blue colours of Oxford and Cambridge Universities.

The new branch of the club was for rugby football enthusisats. Their fists two games, in 1873 were a defeat to the Univerity of Toronto and a victory over Hamilton. The Rowing Club executive permitted non-members to play on the rugby football team for the first time at the rate of $1.00 a season from 1874 onwards.

In 1883 the Argos joined the ORFU. That season they won the ORFU championship defeating Ottawa FC 9-7 in the final. By 1907 the Argonauts, entering into their 10th season of organized league play, also became part of the IRFU, the predecessor to the current CFL East Division.

Just prior to the First World War they had a successful period going 18-6. Appearing in the Grey Cup on three occasions (1911, 1912 & 1914 – the latter being their first win). That 1914 season the Scullers finished 5-1-0. Scoring a record setting 47 points against Ottawa and 145 points during the season. Toronto and Hamilton had identical win-loss records and played off. However the game ended 9-9 and was called due to darkness. The Argos won the second game. Then went on to defeat the U of T 14-2 for the Grey Cup win.

The Argonauts between the World Wars

As the IRFU resumed full operation the Argonauts went 3-3 in 1919. This was followed by another brief but brilliant period as from 1920-22 they went 16-1-1 and appeared in the Grey Cup in 1920 and 1921. Winning their second title in the latter defeating Edmonton 23-0 for the Cup. That was the season of Lionel “Big Train” Conacher who set an IRFU scoring record of 85 points on 14 touchdowns, including 12 rushing.

After this period of success the Argonauts missed the playoffs 10 years in a row. Only to break that duck by winning the 1933 Grey Cup. From 1933-1941 they went 40-13-2, appearing in the IRFU finals seven times and winning the Grey Cup on three occasions. The latter two wins in 1937-8 were a back to back match up as both Grey Cups games were contested by the Argos and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. They were pretty even affairs too. The Argos won in 1937 4-3. And in 1938 it was 7-6 to Winnipeg in the final quarter. But then 20-year old Red Storey came off the bench and into Argonauts folklore when he scored three touchdowns in just 12 minutes of action, and set up another to hand the Argos the win.

This successful period was followed by an interruption for the Second World War between 1942 and 1945.

After the Second World War

The Boatmen had been prety successful on the run up to the Second World War. But that was nothing to the success that followed it.

The Argonauts won three consecutive Grey Cups from 1945-1947. Once again they beat Winnipeg in each Grey Cup game. Joe Krol and Royal Copeland, known as the “Gold Dust Twins” led the Argos to 35-0, 28-6 and 10-9 wins. This was part of a period (1945-52) when the Argos went 47-35-6 and picked up five Grey Cup titles (winning again in 1950 & 1952).

The 1950 edition of the Grey Cup has gone down in CFL legend as the ‘Mud Bowl’. During the week, Toronto was hit with a powerful snowstorm and the day prior to the game grounds keepers at Varsity Stadium decided to bulldoze the field. Then on game day the weather turned much warmer, and the snowfall turned to rain. The result was a slippery mess on which traction was an issue. The Argonauts wore the longest cleats they could find and QB Al Dekdebrun had thumb tacks taped to his fingers to help grip the ball. In the end they posted a 13-0 win.

An Argonauts Title Drought

After winning the Grey Cup in 1952, the Argos 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 equaled 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 1980’s – 2000’s

After a fallow period from 1952-1983, the 1980’s were a pretty good decade for the Argos. Despite a poor start to the decade (Going 8-24 between the 1980 & 1981 seasons), the Argos had some success. From 1982 to 1989 they would go 78-55-3 and appear in the Grey Cup game on 3 occasions (1982, 1983, & 1987) with the drought breaking win coming in 1983.

The 1990’s started really well. The Argonauts went 23-13 in 1990 and 1991 and picked up another Grey Cup win in 1991. The latter capping off an incredible year. This was a year that had seen the Argos bought by a group lead by L.A. Kings owner Bruce McNall, NHL great Wayne Gretzky and legendary comedian/actor John Candy. They signed college football standout Heisman Trophy winner Raghib “Rocket” Ismail. The team went 13-5 and highlighted by a thrilling 87-yard kickoff return by Ismail, the Argos won the 79th Grey Cup defeating Calgary 36-21 in the coldest championship game on record at Winnipeg (minus-17 C at kickoff). 

Things soon fell apart however. From 1992-1995 the Argos went 20-52. Part owner John Candy passed away in March 1994. McNall and Gretzky sold the club to TSN Enterprises the same year. But there is far more to this story than there is space for here in a brief introduction!

Another Argonauts Dynasty

1996 saw the Argonauts post a 15–3 record and qualify for the playoffs after missing out during the previous season when they finished 4–14. The 11 win improvement was the greatest single-season turnaround in franchise history and the team’s 15 regular season wins was the most ever recorded by an Argos team. In fact the 1996-97 Argos had back to back 15-3 seasons led by legendary QB Doug Flutie. A CFL star so transcendent that in 2006 he was voted the best CFL player of all time.

Arguably the greatest Heisman winner to play in the CFL, Flutie led a 15-3 team into a snowstorm against Edmonton in the Grey Cup in 1996 and a controversial decision on a potential fumble helped them on the way to a win. The 1997 team also went 15-3 and went from 3-0 down against Saskatchewan to a 41-9 lead on their way to a comfortable 47-23 win.

One thing is clear, the Argos have had some serious ups and downs. The following decade was much the same. During the 2000’s they went 80-98-2. With highs (42-29-1 from 2004-7) and lows (7-29 from 2008-9). That decade saw them appear in and win one Grey Cup in 2004.

The Toronto Argonauts today

The Argonauts are one of only two teams to win the Grey Cup more than once in the 2010’s. (The other being Calgary) Toronto picked up the trophy in 2012 & 2017.

The one thing Toronto has not managed throughout the decade is consistent success. Over that time they went a regular season 75-105. (Going 4-14 in back to back seasons in 2018 & 2019 really hurt those numbers). The Boatmen appeared in the playoffs on five occasions and went 6-3 in those games.

It was all change at the top for the Argonauts in 2019. That’s because GM Jim Popp had been relived of his duties and replaced by Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons.

Pinball could be called ‘Mr Argos’ given his amazing career with the club. Clemons spent 12 seasons with the Argos as a running back. He had a legendary career. Clemons recorded 25,438 combined yards with the Argos, a CFL record, while winning three Grey Cup championships as a player.

Clemons has been the head coach of the Argos twice. Over that span he had a 67-54-1 record and won a Grey Cup in 2004. He was also the Argos team president from November 2001 to September 2002 and chief executive officer (December 2007 to November 2008) before being appointed vice chair of the team in May 2009, a role he held until this appointment.

One thing you will get from him is psoitivity. He has been tasked with rebuilding the franchise and that is being done in the front office, and on the field, where more local talent is being combined with a change in culture.

It will be interesting to see how this all unfolds for the Argonauts now the CFL teams are back in action.

Are they right for you?

There are nine teams to choose from. This is our look at the final one. But could the Argonauts be the ones for you? Based in Toronto, Ontario, the double blue are North America’s oldest continually playing professional football team. In fact, as they were founded in 1873 they are the oldest existing pro sports team in North America still using its original name. Not to mention the oldest-surviving team in the modern-day CFL.

Although there have been fallow periods they have also had successful times. All of which sees them hold the record with 17 overall Grey Cup wins.

The truth is that in Toronto they are a long way back in support to the Raptors of the NBA and the Maple Leafs of the NHL. But, if you start supporting them you will find a very warm and welcoming online collective of supporters. Who will welcome you into the Double Blue family. And the ardent Argos supporters lack nothing when it comes to passion and commitment.

A UK Connection

Currently on the practice squad for the Argonauts is ‘Global Player’ DB Tigie Sankoh. The British DB was actually born in Sierra Leone, and initially raised for a good part of his childhood in Maryland in the US. At the age of 15 he arrived in the UK meeting up with his family. During his time here he has turned out at some level for the Kent Exiles, South London renegades, and eventually London Warriors.

Having gone through the NFL international player pathway he was on the practice roster of the Cleveland Browns for a couple of seasons. Now he has a chance to ply his trade on the wider fields of the CFL.

Not to mention, the Argonauts first team captain H.T. Glazebrook was an Englishman by birth – so there has been a UK connection to this club from the very beginning!

Banner Image: from cfl.ca

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