Go Stamps Go? Best Season/Worst Season: Calgary Stampeders
Welcome to the third in an occasional series looking at the best and worst seasons for each of the nine CFL teams. We started with the BC Lions. Then followed that up with the Ottawa RedBlacks & Montreal Alouettes.
This time we are heading back West to take a look at the Calgary Stampeders.
But first some ground rules. Some of the teams have been around long enough to post completely winless seasons. For example, the Toronto Argonauts went 0-6 in 1898. But is that really a fair comparison? I would say not, as it was a different era with much different teams, games and leagues. So we will be looking at the ‘modern’ era only. Which will also allow us to compare the best and worst seasons of all of the teams over the same time frame.
You might think the modern era should begin in the post CFL era from 1958 to present day. However, whilst the CFL may have had responsibility for the Grey Cup since 1958, we should note that Wikipedia suggests that “1954 is reckoned as the start of the modern era of Canadian football, in which the Grey Cup has been exclusively contested by professional teams”.
So based on that we will take 1954 as our starting point for our best/worst season comparisons. Which should mean for the Stamps we would miss their first Grey Cup win. Which we simply cannot do, – you’ll see why!
Special Mention – 1948
Because of how we set the parameters above we are judging from 1954 onwards. But you cannot look at the Calgary Stampders’ best season and not look at their legendary 1948 season. This was an unbeaten almost ‘perfect rarity‘, a perfect season.
The Calgary Stampeders were undefeated in all of their games that they played this season. As of 2022, they remain the only team in the history of what is now the CFL to achieve such a feat.
The Stamps are in their 76th season. 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.
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.
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 outlasted the Ottawa Rough Riders 12-7 before a crowd of 20,013 at Varsity Stadium Toronto. In doing so they became only the second West Division team to win the Grey Cup after Winnipeg. You can read more about the game on the Stamps website
The Calgary defence was able to stop the favoured Rough Rider drives at the 8, 10 and 22 yard lines and hold them scoreless on each occasion.
The highlight of the game was the “sleeper play”. A play that was later outlawed by the CFL in 1961. The Stamps scored a touchdown when Norm Hill hid near the sidelines (he actually flopped onto the field, face first). Then when Spaith threw the ball Hill caught it while lying on his back. The score was referred to for years as the “sitting touchdown.”
The Stampeders followed up their undefeated season by going 13-1 in the WIFU, before losing in the 1949 Grey Cup game to Montreal.
Best Season – 2014
We are not going to find another unbeaten season on this list to match 1948. However, we set out parameters, so let’s take a look at the best season between 1954 and 2022.
There are some great seasons to choose from too. Because the Stamps have had a lot of success down the years. With multiple 15 win teams.
But which is their best (not 1948) season? We are going to go with their 2014 season. Beause that year they went 15-3 and won the Grey Cup.
From 1993 to 1995 they won 15 games three straight seasons but came away with no trophy. While in 2016 they went a regular season best 15-2-1, but again came away without the Grey Cup. 1995 & 2016 both stung as they lost in the Grey Cup game too,
But in 2014 it all came together. A 15 win season, winning the West Division and taking home the Grey Cup.
This was the peak of a remarkable run from 2008 to 2019. Over that span they posted a regular season record of 155-58-3. Resulting in 10 West Final appearances, 6 Grey Cup appearances and 3 Grey Cup wins.
Consistency is key
When you look at the 2014 Stamps record, no huge blowouts jump off the page. Their three biggest wins being three score affairs (29-8, 38-17 & 32-7). But they knew how to win. Six games were won by 7 points or less. While their defeats were 1 point and 5 points. Apart that is from a surprsing 31-15 (16 points) loss in Montreal.
They posted 511 points and conceded 347 giving them an average game score of 28-19. Once in the playoffs Bo Levi Mitchell threw four touchdown passes and ran for another in his first career playoff start, as the Stamps jumped out to a 29-4 halftime lead. In the end they swept away a 12-6 Edmonton team by a margin of 43-18.
Then in the Grey Cup they defeated a 9-9 Hamilton Tiger-Cats team 20-16. It was closer than it should have been perhaps. But Calgary, who had dominated the regular season for so long, finally had another Grey Cup to show for it.
Mitchell had another good showing throwing for 334 yards, going 25-of-34 on pass attempts. His performance was remarkable, completing 22 of his first 25 passes while marking the third-highest completions streak in Grey Cup history (at that point) with 10 in a row during the third quarter.
They had 5 all-stars. While Jon Cornish was named Most Outstanding Canadian, Brett Jones took Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman, and John Hufnagel was Coach of the Year.
Worst Season – 1985
Who am I to argue you might ask? After all, the Stamps own website calls 1976 (2-12-2) ‘the worst season in franchise history‘. But statistically over a 16 game season they lost twice and tied twice – that’s four times they weren’t losers. Whereas in the 16 game 1985 season they went 3-13. That’s only 3 times they didn’t lose.
Admittedly, the 2 wins they posted in 1976 remain, to this day, the least wins in a season in team history. So how bad was that 1976 team? They shot out of the blocks, to an 0-10-1 start. Perhaps you could say converseley they ended well going 2-2-1 to end the season.
Either way they placed dead last in the West Division. Scoring 316 points on the season and allowing 422. Or to put it another way, they averaged a 26-20 loss per game. They had an All-Star too. DE John Helton was named to the All-Star team that year.
Meanwhile in 1985 the 3-13 Stamps started better going 2-10 to start the season. They didn’t pick it up from there though, finishing out 1-3 and falling by a combined 94 points to 31 over their last three games. Not a glorious way to end a season.
In fact that year Calgary averaged a 27-16 defeat per game. That’s an average 5 points per game worse off than those 76 Stamps. Nor did they have a single All-Star. Which is why I am arguing that 1985 was their worst year.
Banner Image: The Stamps celebrate the 2014 Grey Cup win. Image from ctvnews.ca