It’s a rematch. The 2018 Grey Cup pits the Calgary Stampeders (14-5) against the Ottawa REDBLACKS (11-8). A rematch of the 2016 final that saw Ottawa cause an upset.
Sometimes sports leagues like to play games up as a rematch when they don’t really fit the bill. I can remember the marketing for Superbowl XVII for instance billing it as a rematch of Superbowl VII between Miami and Washington. A decade had passed. So many players, coaches, and indeed approaches to the game had changed that calling it a rematch was a stretch.
This genuinely is two teams that know each other well however. Despite the fact that CFL teams can have high roster turnovers, a good nucleus of the 2016 teams that met remain here.
The redemption ring?
Whichever quarterback leads their team to victory on Sunday in the 106th Grey Cup will have a tale of redemption to tell. Both starters could feel like they have got a monkey off their back by winning it all.
For Stamps fans this all has a ring of familiarity. This is a team that will now have appeared in 3 straight Grey Cups. Not to mention 4 of the last 5 and 5 of the last 7 championship games to boot. For all of that dominance they have just one ring to show for it.
Bo Levi Mitchell has the highest winning percentage of any QB in the league. If he leads his team to the big game and loses again though it will always be seen as a mark against him.
Jim Kelly and the Buffalo Bills dominated the AFC int he early 90’s in the NFL. People don’t tend to remember them so much as a great team that won four AFC titles however. Rather as the team that couldn’t win on the biggest stage of all. Bo Levi and the Stamps won’t want to be thought of in the same way.
The REDBLACKS have had remarkable success in their first five years of existence. Though there has been football in Ottawa since 1876 this team was only founded in 2014. Following a 2-16 debut season they have won the East Division 3 times, won the 2016 Championship and are appearing in their third Grey Cup.
So why would there be a redemption arc? Look no further than their starting QB Trevor Harris. Harris was picked up by Ottawa in 2016 and got himself a Grey Cup ring. During that season however he and Henry Burris alternated the starting job. Ultimately Harris watched as Burris led Ottawa to the city’s first Grey Cup win in 40 years.
The Harris led REDBLACKS finished second in the East last year and were knocked out of the playoffs by Saskatchewan. Perhaps unfairly Harris was developing a reputation of not winning ‘the big games’. In the East Division final he carved up Hamilton tossing a CFL record 6 touchdowns and looked pretty comfortable at this level. Now he has the chance to add another ring – but this one would be ‘his’ as the starting QB.
Taking home the prize
This year has really demonstrated the value of getting the bye and being rested come the Divisional finals. Both division winners sat at home in the early part of the playoffs. Now they will be facing off in Edmonton trying to win it all.
For Winnipeg and Hamilton fans the wait goes on. Neither has won the Grey Cup since the 1990’s, so for them and their fans getting so close is a little heartbreaking.
The odds-makes have Calgary installed as favourites. Ottawa fans will point to the fact that Calgary were favoured in the last two championship games too and lost them both. Either it will be third time lucky for the Stamps and their fans or the REDBLACKS will carry on the remarkable success of their early franchise history.
Whoever wins I am sure all the neutrals will be hoping for a game that is as remotely entertaining as the last 2 finals have been. As ever, it’s going to be fun seeing how it all plays out.
Images from cfl.ca