Their First Grey Cup: The BC Lions

Their First Grey Cup: The BC Lions
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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 TorontoWinnipegCalgary MontrealHamilton and Edmonton. Now we move onto the BC Lions and their first win in 1964.

The 52nd Grey Cup saw 32,655 fans on hand at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto. There they saw the 11-2-3 Lions defeat the 10-3-1 Hamilton Tiger-Cats 34-24.

The Run up to the Game

The Lions had been founded in 1954. They were not an immediately successful team going an aneamic 1-15 in their first year in the WIFU.

Over their first nine seasons they must have tested the loyalty of their new fan base as they went 41-98-5. Their standout season was 1959 when they went 9-7. However, they were shellacked in the playoffs by an aggregate margin of 61-15 by the Esks.

The big breakthrough had been the year before this game in 1963. That year they went 12-4 and won the West for the first time ever.

They would lose their first Grey Cup match-up, held on their home ground. That defeat had been inflicted by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. So now the Lions had a shot at redemption and revenge!

Grey Cup Playoffs

BC and Hamilton both won their Divisions. That meant they had the luxury of watching other teams fight it out to reach the West and East Division Finals respectively.

BC found themselves playing a three game series against the 12-4 Calgary Stampeders.

The Lions triumphed 2-1 in a three game series. Although they lost the second game 14-10, they won the other 2 convincingly by scores of 24-10 & 33-14.

Hamilton played a 2 game series against the 8-5-1 Ottawa Rough Riders. Both teams won convincingly at home.

Ottawa won 30-13, and a week later Hamilton won 26-8. That home win saw the defending champions squeak into the Grey Cup by an aggregate score of 39-38.

The Grey Cup Game

Despite squeaking into the Grey Cup, Hamilton were still the defending champions and they went into this contest as 8 point favourites.

As can be seen in this brief clip, the game was played in the rain on a muddy field.

It was the team from Vancouver that adapted much the better to the conditions.

Unlike the previous year when the Lions scored their only touchdown late in the game, B.C. jumped out to a 34-8 lead before the Ti-Cats made the score respectable.

The game’s unlikely star

Fullback Bob Swift opened the scoring in the first quarter before being injured. That injury led to an unlikely scoring star of the game – HB/DB Bill Munsey who scored on both sides of the ball.

In his second CFL season in 1964, Munsey had 9 interceptions and was named to both the West and CFL All-Star teams at defensive back.

Rookie fullback Bob Swift had rushed for over a thousand yards in the regular season. However he left the game with a broken leg and the Lions turned to Munsey. 

The Lions were already up 20-1 at the half when Munsey burst into action in the third quarter.

During the third he responded after the Ti-Cats first TD of the game. That response came in a series of crunching defensive hits, a 71 yard fumble recovery return for a touchdown and an 18 yard scamper to pay-dirt on offense.

The Lions led 34-8 going into the fourth quarter. Hamilton dominated the end of the game but their 16 unanswered points were too little too late.

The Lions had won their first Grey cup and had they been awarding an MVP at this time then Munsey would surely have been favourite.

What Came Next

The Lions reverted to type after this win. Their 1963, and ’64 seasons remained their most successful until the 1980’s. For the rest of the sixties they went 23-54-3.

The 1970’s were hardly much better. Over that decade they went 67-85-8. The lone standout season was going 10-6 in 1977. They recorded their first playoff win since the Grey Cup that year but were knocked out of the playoffs 38-1 by Edmonton.

BC found their second golden period from 1983-88 when they went 60-23-1, and appeared in 3 Grey Cup games, winning it all in 1985.

Since then Lions fans have seen periods of boom and bust come and go. They have won 4 more championships. They last won the Grey Cup in 2011.

Having gone 21-33 over the last three seasons, their fans will be hoping for a return to a boom period soon.

Banner Image: The 1964 Grey Cup winning BC Lions. Image from:

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