Last time Hamilton hosted the Grey Cup, CFL fans were treated to a classic contest. Because in November 1996, the fifteen win strong Toronto Argonauts outlasted the Edmonton Eskimos by a score of 43-37. But it was a game that was not without controversy.
This coming Sunday, Hamilton will be hosting the 108th Grey Cup. Whilst this match-up will see the home town Hamilton Tiger-Cats face the defending champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers, neutrals will be hoping for a more even contest than the 2019 championship game between these two.
Whilst this will be the 11th time that the city of Hamilton has hosted the Grey Cup then it is the first time they have hosted it for a quarter of a century.
That game was one of the great Grey Cup contests. We can only hope this game brings some of the intensity of that one to the table.
Last time Hamilton hosted – 1996
Last time Hamilton hosted the Grey Cup, the city hosted a contest between a 15-3 Argos and 11-7 Esks team. 38,595 fans were on hand at Ivor Wynne Stadium to see a game so thick with snow that it became known as ‘the snow bowl’.
The game had it all. It was full of big plays, controversy and snow flurries falling during the action. Wonderful. Plus you got to see the only multiple 6,000 yard passer Doug Flutie in action.
Edmonton Eskimos receiver Eddie Brown watched a long bomb slip through his fingers, but, incredibly, the ball hit his knee, and his foot, and bounced back into his hands for a touchdown. Also for the Esks, Henry “Gizmo” Williams returned a kickoff 91 yards for an Edmonton TD.
All of it however culminated in a thrilling 43-37 victory for the Argos. But one moment stands out from that game. One that Edmonton fans still haven’t let go.
The controversial call
The game had been full of big plays and end to end excitement. Edmonton had taken a 9-0 lead after one. But the second had seen the game explode. The teams traded 41 points. 27 for Toronto from 3 touchdowns and 2 field goals. While Edmonton added 14 points from two touchdowns of their own. The Argos led 27-23 at the half. Toronto extended that to 33-23 with a further 2 field goals. But in the final period Edmonton punched in a touchdown to make it 33-30 with seven minutes to go.
On the ensuing drive, Flutie led Toronto on a 71 yard drive that extended the lead back to six. But on that drive Flutie clearly fumbled a third-down snap. If it hadn’t been for an official quickly whistling the play dead the Argos would have turned the ball over to an Esks team full of momentum. To make matters worse, they then gave Toronto a very generous spot of the ball to claim a first down. Esks coach Ron Lancaster ran onto the snow covered pitch to demonstrate his sense of unfairness at the situation.
Instead of a turnover and momentum shift, Toronto tacked on a field goal. And to add insult to injury they then returned a pick six. Edmonton would score again but it was too little too late at that point.
After the snow bowl
For Head Coach Don Matthews this was a second consecutive 15 win season. He had been the architect of the Baltimore Stallions success the year prior. There would be a third the very next year, as once again Toronto went 15-3 and lifted the Grey Cup. This Toronto squad went 34-6 over two seasons (including playoffs) & are remembered as one of the great CFL teams. But, Edmonton fans will always tell you that Toronto got lucky here.
So there we have it, the last time Hamilton hosted the Grey Cup it was an instant classic with a real moment of controversy. Fans would love to see such an exciting game again on Sunday. But, let’s avoid the controversy if we can!
Don’t forget, if you want to watch this game you can find it via the CFL’s own Grey Cup Portal. It is an absolute classic and well worth your time.
Banner Image from cbc.ca