50 Years Ago – the 1970 Grey Cup Game
Would Hamilton have broken the longest championship drought in the league? Could Winnipeg defend their long-sought title? Or would we have seen a completely different scenario unfold? We will never know now of course. Plus we are all keeping our fingers crossed for the 2021 season.
This would have been the run up to the Grey Cup. And I thought it might still be interesting to do a series on the decade anniversaries of the big game. Starting 50 years ago, with the 1970 Grey Cup. (We looked at the 1969 contest last year).
The Run up to the Game
The Calgary Stampeders were in one of the more successful periods of their early history. Not since 1946-9 had they been in such rude health. Back then they had gone 34-8, and played in 3 Grey Cups and had a near perfect season in 1948.
Between 1967 and 1970 the Stamps had played in four straight Western Finals. This off the back of a 40-23-1 regular season run. Now they were looking to go one better than they had in 1968. When they had lost a tight Grey Cup game 24-21 to the Ottawa Rough Riders.
The Als on the other hand were coming off a 7-31-5 run over the last three years. They hadn’t had a winning season since 1958 going into the 1970 CFL season.
There was a new owner, new management, new coaching staff and 21 new players this year. So the Als had a new feel about them in 1970.
Montreal’s last four first placed finishes had come between 1953 and 1956. Then it had been their current coach, Sam Etcheverry at QB, leading them to the Grey Cup three times. Only to be thwarted on each occasion by Emdonton.
Not since 1949 had the Als won the Grey Cup. Ironically that win had come against the Stampeders who were vying with them for the title in 1970. Whichever team won would be ending a title drought. The Als had waited 21 years, and the Stamps 22 years to lift the Cup.
In 1970 one of them would finally do it.
1970 Grey Cup Playoffs
Both teams had finished third in their respecitive Divisions at the end of the 1970 season. The West has been dominated by a 14-2 Saskatchewan team. Whilst the East was won by an 8-5-1 Hamilton squad.
This meant both teams had played in the semi-final mathces. Calgary had won 16-9 away to a 9-7 Edmonton team. Whilst Montreal had bested an 8-6 Toronto Argonauts team 16-7 on their home turf.
The Western Conference Finals were a best of three series. In every game it was the away team that won. Calgary won the series 2-1, taking the decider 15-14 in Saskatchewan.
The Eastern Conference Finals were a two-legged affair where aggregate score won the day.
The Alouettes actually won both games against the Division Champion Ti-Cats recording a 43-26 aggregate win in the process.
Going into the 1970 CFL playoffs few were prediciting this Grey Cup matchup. But both teams made it through the hard way and deserved their shot at the title.
The 1970 Grey Cup Game
The two teams found themselves playing on a sodden field for the 1970 showpiece game. With constant rains the ground had been soaked before the tarpaulins were brought out. Any attempts to pull the covers back saw more water puddlig onto the pitch.
The Stampeders were very vocal about the poor field conditions. Head coach Jim Duncan calling them a “disgrace”. During the game Als QB Sonny Wade even tossed a sod of the grass to one side pre snap on a play!
In a reflection of how they had played all season the Als started the slower. Sonny Wade’s first pass attempt was intercepted by Calgary’s Frank Andruski, putting the Stampeders on the Montreal 49. The Als defence stood firm forcing Calgary to punt. But the kick reception was muffed and recovered by the Stamps 15 yards from the Montreal end zone. Two plays later, Hugh McInnis plunged over to put Calgary ahead.
The Als marched back downfield. But appeared to be about to lose big yardage. Instead a falling Halfback, Moses Denson threw to Ted Alfien in the end zone. The convert was missed and Calgary led 7-6. A 21 yard Field Goal gave the Als a 9-7 halftime lead.
In the third quarter the Stamps again beneffited on special teams. A high snap on an Als punt attempt allowed Calgary’s Dick Suderman to recover the ball on the Montreal 34. This was converted into three points and the Stamps led 10-9. That would be the last points and last lead of the 1970 Grey Cup game for Calgary.
The Alouettes take over
Still in the third quarter the Montreal D made a big play. Al Phaneuf grabbed his second pick of the game. Intercepting Jerry Keeling, and returning the ball to the Calgary 27.
On the subsequent drive Als QB Sonny Wade faded back at the seven yard line. It looked like a certain pass play. Instead he handed off to Tom Pullen who ran in an easy TD.
At 16-10 it was still anyone’s game. But now the Als D was holding the Stamps at bay. And Montreal put the game away in the fourth quarter. As Wade hit Gary Lefebvre on a 10 yard touchdown pass.
Montreal had gone from a 2-10-2 season the year before, to an unexpected championship with this 23-10 win.
What Came Next
The Als would go 6-8 the following season and not defend their title. However the 1970’s would prove fruitful. Montreal would go 79-66-6 in the regular season and make nine playoff apearances.
In the post season they would go 14-8. The Alouettes conested the Grey Cup six times in the Seventies (1970, 74, 75, 77, 78 & 79). Winning it all 3 times (1970, 74 & 77).
Sonny Wade played 10 seasons with Montreal as quarterback and punter. He played in five of those Grey Cups and won three. Wade became the first player to win the Grey Cup Most Valuable Player award three times (1970, 1974, 1977).
The Stampeders bounced back from losing in 1970 by recording a 9-6-1 season in 1971. And going on to lift the Grey Cup that year.
For the rest of the decade the Stamps weren’t that competitive. We are used to seeing them as an uber competitive machine that regularly dominates the regular season. But in the Seventies they went 69-85-6 missing the playoffs from 1972-77 entirely.
Oh, and Toronto City Council installed AstroTurf two years later at the stadium. In fact the 1970 game was the last Grey Cup played on natural grass until 1984.
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