20 Years Ago – the 2000 Grey Cup Game
The CFL season that never was would have given way to the playoffs by now. And ultimately the Grey Cup this November.
Instead we are left to wonder what might have been. Could the Saskatchewan Roughriders have emulated the 2013 game and won it all at home?
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.
We started with the 1970 game, moved on to 1980,and 1990. Now it is time to move forward another decade and look at the 2000 Grey Cup.
The 2000 Grey Cup saw 43,822 fans on hand at McMahon Stadium in Calgary to witness the BC Lions edge a thriller against the Montreal Alouettes 28-26.
The Run up to the Game
The BC Lions had given their fans a mixed bag in the decade preceding this game. Through the Nineties there had been high points. Like 10+ wins in a season in 1991, 93, 94, 95 & 99. There had been a Grey Cup win in 1994 against the Baltimore Stallions that had seen the Leos backed by a nation.
But there had also been low points. Going 13-5 in 1999 but falling in the Western Final in a heartbreaker to the Stamps when so close to a home Grey Cup game still stung. And there had been losing seasons in 1990, 92, 96 & 97. A 3-15 return in 1992 was best forgotten about.
But in some ways the 2000 season alone must have felt like an adventure all of its own to Lions fans. Following on from their 13-5 1999 season the Lions set off well enough going 2-0 out of the gate. But a 35-2 loss at Calgary sent them into a 4 game spiral.
A win over Toronto got the Lions to 3-4 but Head Coach Greg Mohns resigned to join the XFL after that week. Steve Buratto, who joined the club two weeks earlier as a receivers coach, was promoted to Head Coach. He did have plenty of CFL experience at least.
He led the Lions back to .500 with a 51-4 win over Toronto. But then the Lions lost five of their next six. Before winning three of their last four to finish 8-10 and take the last playoff spot in the West. What a rollercoaster. The 2000 season was like a microcosm of the up and down decade Lions fans had just experienced!
A Returning Team
By contrast, fans of the Alouettes could say they were most happy about the fact that they actually had a team!
The Als had folded after the 1987 pre-season and been inactive from 1988 to 1995. Since their return in 1996 they had been a success in the East Divison. The run from 1996 to 1999 had seen them go 49-22 and appear in four straight Eastern Finals. Unfortunately they lost the lot.
Now however, following a 12-6 season in 2000 they had finally cleared that hurdle and made it to the Grey Cup for the first time since 1979.
2000 Grey Cup Playoffs
As East Division champions the 12-6 Alouettes had a week off before the Division Finals. When that game did come around they welcomed the 7-10-1 Winnipeg Blue Bombers to their home field.
The game went to form as the Alouettes defeated Winnipeg for the fourth time in five meetings that year. The number one seed knocked off the number three seed 35-24.
Over in the West the Lions themselves were the number three seed. But they had come into the playoffs with their offence starting to really click.
In the Western Semi-Final they got out to a 31-14 lead against Edmonton after three. Edmonton would mount a furious comeback in the fourth quarter. But BC hung on and escaped with a 34-32 win to advance.
The West Division mirrored the East. The number one seed (Calgary) would host the number three seed. Except this time the result would be somewhat different.
Once again BC built up a lead. They were up 34-11 after three. Calgary posted 12 fourth quarter points. But their comeback was nowhere near as close as Edmonton’s and once again BC walked away with the win – this time by a score of 37-23.
The 2000 Grey Cup Game
For the first time it came to pass. The 8-10 Lions became the first team ever to finish with a regular season record below .500 and win the Grey Cup.
And they did it using the same formula they had throughout these playoffs. Establish a lead. Then hold on in the fourth. And it was a pretty exciting final period of play too. After a slow starting game both teams scored three times in a back and forth final period of play.
Going into the game there was attention on Lions QB Damon Allen. Now into his second decade in the CFL. From 1992-5 he had had played for three different teams. Including a pretty ordinary season with the Memphis Mad Dogs expansion franchise.
Allen had some of his most accurate and successful passing seasons in BC. And now he had another shot at the title.
The first point was a rouge from legendary kicker Lui Passaglia. And Allen would plunge over for a 1 yard TD. The Als responded with a Field Goal to make it 8-3 after one.
In the second Passaglia added a second rouge and a Field Goal for a 12-3 halftime lead. Montreal responded with a TD pass from Anthony Calvillo to Jock Climie to make it 12-10 after three.
The Fourth Quarter
The fourth quarter however saw the game really open up. 55 seconds into the fourth quarter, Lions RB Robert Drummond broke through the Al’s defence for a forty-four yard TD. Increasing the Lions’ lead to 19–10.
The Als repsonded with a Field Goal to make it 19-13 with 11:30 to play. BC responded as Lions’ quarterback Damon Allen ran for his second touchdown of the day. His 1 yard plunge was followed by a failed 2 point conversion and BC were up 25-13.
The Alouettes responded with a 5 yard TD from their great back Mike Pringle. The CFL’s only 2000 yard rusher and 2 time MOP ran for 155 yards on the day. Now it was 25–20 to BC with 3:42 left in the game.
BC responded again. This time with another Passaglia Field Goal to lead 28-20 with 1:25 left to go. Even then it wasn’t over. Calvillo hit Ben Cahoon for a 59 yard catch and run with 44 seonds to go. A 2 point coversion faild – amidst calls from the Als for a pass interfence call.
Then, when the Lions recovered an onside kick it was over. A breathless, exciting final quarter had seen the Lions do it again. Take a lead and hang on at the death.
With a 122 yards on 10 carries and 1 TD, the Lions Robert Drummond was named MVP.
What Came Next
Although they lost the 2000 Grey Cup game, this was a great time to be an Alouettes fan. Following a mediocre 9-9 season in 2001 they would dominate in the East Division.
Between 2002 and 2012 they would go 137-71. Along the way they finished first in the East 8 times, won 7 Eastern Finals appearing in 7 Grey Cup games, and winning three of them (2002, 2009-10).
An extensive run of success accompanied their return to the league. This saw the Als make the playoffs every year from 1996 to 2014. A mini slump occured from 2015-18 when Montreal went 21-51 but they returned to the playoffs again in 2019.
The Lions followed their Grey Cup year with another 8-10 season. This time there would be no fairytale finish as they were beaten 28-19 by Calgary in the Western Semi-Final.
This win did come amidst a run of success though. BC made the playoffs every season from 1997-2016. During the 2000’s they would have their best run of success between 2002 and 2008. Over that period they had a 84-41-1 record and made the Grey Cup twice. Runners up in 2004, and winners in 2006.
The 2010’s saw them have some success. Particularly winning the Grey Cup in 2011. But it was a decade that mirrored the Nineties in some way as they had a few ups and downs along the way.
Banner Image: YouTube.com