Their First Grey Cup: The Edmonton Eskimos

Their First Grey Cup: The Edmonton Eskimos
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The CFL season is heading towards the playoffs and before we know it the Grey Cup will be upon us.

In the run up to that game in November I thought it might be interesting to do a series detailing the first time each team in the league captured the grand old trophy.

The series has so far looked back on wins for Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary , Montreal and Hamilton. Now we move onto the Esks first win in 1954.

The 42nd Grey Cup saw 27,321 fans on hand at Varsity Stadium in Toronto. There they saw the 11-5 Eskimos defeat the 11-3 Alouettes 26-25

The Run up to the Game

The Eskimos were a relatively new team having been founded in 1949. After a 4-10 opening season they had quickly become competitive in the WIFU.

From 1950-1952 they had appeared in the WIFU final. The final year of that run saw Edmonton make their first Grey Cup appearance, where they lost 21-11 to the Argonauts.

Their desire for success came to fruition between 1953 & 1957 as they went 62-18 and won 5 straight Division Titles.

That success was burnished further in this their first Grey Cup win in 1954.

The Montreal team they would face were also a young franchise having been formed in 1946.

They already had a Grey Cup title to their name. Now they were looking to return to glory after a few down years.

Grey Cup Playoffs

Edmonton took a bye as Winnipeg and Saskatchewan fought it out in a WIFU Semi-Final.

The Blue-Bombers came through and squared off against the Esks in a best of 3 series.

Three closely contested games were fought within the space of a week. Because of their 2-1 win (by a total points margin of 25-20), the Esks marched to the Grey Cup Semi-final.

There the Kitchener Waterloo Dutchmen awaited. The Dutchmen were overwhelmed 38-6 by Edmonton. The Esks had their second shot at taking home the Grey Cup.

Montreal’s route to the game was much simpler. That was because they only played a best of 3 series against Hamilton in the IRFU Finals.

Hamilton were dispatched 2-0, by scores of 24-19 & 14-9 to set up a first Grey Cup match-up between Edmonton and Montreal.

The Grey Cup Game

Another Grey Cup, another controversial call. This time around a fumble. Jackie Parker’s 90-yard recovery and return of that fumble stood as the longest ever until surpassed in 2017.

This was the first Grey Cup game to be televised and fans got a treat. The red hot favourite Alouettes put up 656 yards of total offence but still came up short.

Red O’Quinn set a record with 13 receptions for 316 yards during the game. Numbers any modern day receiver would be feted for.

Both teams were strong in the fourth quarter. If it was close then it was thought it would be interesting to see how that affected things.

In the end it was Edmonton’s resolve that won out as they scored twice in the last 8 minutes of the game.

Edmonton led 11-6 after the first. They had two touchdowns, one of which they converted. The big play of that opening quarter though belonged to Montreal. O’Quinn hauled in a 90 yard catch and run touchdown.

The second quarter belonged to the Als as they notched another two touchdowns to a lone Field Goal from Edmonton.

At the half the Larks led 18-14, they extended that lead with a single in the third.

A 13 yard touchdown pass early in the 4th quarter saw Montreal 25-14 ahead. It looked good for the favourites.

The Eskimos’ ensuing drive ended with a rushing touchdown to cut the lead to 25-20, but the Als had the ball back.

The favourites found themselves with a first-and-ten on the Eskimos’ 10-yard line and three minutes remaining.

A hand-off saw their RB tackled behind the line & Parker returning a disputed fumble 90 yards for the winning score.

Montreal had one last chance but fumbled the ball on the Esks 35 yard line. Edmonton had their first Grey Cup.

What Came Next

The Esks would go on to win the Grey Cup 14 times and have periods of sustained success.

They famously won it five consecutive times between 1978 and 1982. However their first dominant period occurred right away.

The newly crowned champs won the trophy three times in a row between 1954 & 1956. Each time defeating the Alouettes in the final.

After that they would remain competitive but only make one more appearance in the Grey Cup game (1960), prior to returning to the game, and again losing, in 1973.

After that they were astonishingly successful. The Eskimos hold a North American professional sports record by qualifying for the playoffs for 34 consecutive years from 1972-2005!

They would set a modern-era record for Divisional Championships and go on the amazing Grey Cup winning spree noted above.

By the Esks lofty historical standards they have not had as much success as they crave of late.

Edmonton last took home the grand old trophy in 2015, and Esks fans doubtless feel they should be heading back to the summit by now!

Banner Image: The Esks would go on to ‘three-peat’ after their first win. Here they celebrate their 1956 win. Image from Wikipedia.

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