The last CFL threepeat – and why it wasn’t a trilogy
If you’ve come across Douglas Adam’s classic sic-fi/comedy book series the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, then you’ll know the answer to the universe is 42. Which is apt, as the last time a threepeat was seen in the CFL, was 42 years ago in 1980. Back then, the then-named Edmonton Eskimos rode a 13-3 season to their third straight Grey Cup win.
Oh, I know – it wasn’t really a threepeat. It was a ‘five-peat’. (Does that work? When did the term threepeat gain traction anyway?) I digress. Back to the point. Just as the original Hitchhiker’s trilogy was inaptly named as it brought out 5 books, Edmonton racked up 5 championships.
But in 1980 nobody knew this. Just that this was Edmonton’s third straight title. Just as we sit not knowing what the future holds for Winnipeg now.
Whatever happens, right now Winnipeg have a chance to be the first team to win three straight Grey Cup titles since 1980. To threepeat if you will. But how do the two threepeat teams compare?
The Threepeat teams
The 1970’s had been a good time to be a football fan in Edmonton. During the decade, the then named Esks had gone 97-55-8. That had led to six Grey Cup appearances and three wins. That success overlapped into the Early 1980’s with two more titles in an unprecedented run of five.
The biggest run of success was from 1977-1982. The team would be dominant going 70-21-5 and converting that into six straight Grey Cup appearances (they lost in 1977) and five straight wins.
By 1980, Edmonton were coming off a 13-3 regular season. After losing the Grey Cup match in 1977 Edmonton had won 2 more and were challenging for another in 1980.
Over that three year span they would go 35-9-4. They had won aganist Montreal 20-13 and 17-9 in back to back title matches. But in 1980 it was Hamilton who stood in their way. They blew them away with ease 48-10.
Now, Winnipeg have hit a purple patch of their own. Since 2016 they are 70-27 in the regular season. They too have won 2 straight Grey Cups against the same side (in their case Hamilton), and now face a different team.
Not to mention they too are coming off a dominant season with only 3 defeats to show. Toronto fans will want to avoid the kind of result the ticats suffered in 1980.
The 1980 Grey Cup Game
Edmonton managed their second franchise three-peat with a dominant performance from start to finish in this one. In 1980 they were undoubtedly the best team in the league and this performance just underlined that fact.
The 1980 Grey Cup game was far from being a classic. It was one of the biggest blowouts in CFL championship history. In fact the 38 point margin was second only to the 1923 game when Queens University topped Regina Rugby Club 54-0 when the Grey Cup had been a strictly amateur event.
Warren Moon went 21 of 33 for 398 yards and 3 TD’s to pick up the Outstanding Offensive Player award. On their way to the 48-10 win Edmonton compiled 606 yards of offence compared to Hamilton’s 201 yards.
The dominance was reflected by Edmonton being up 10-3 after one quarter, 24-9 at halftime, and 34-10 after three. Edmonton never let up. This remains the most recent Grey Cup in which one team did not score a touchdown. All of Hamilton’s points were scored by kicker Bernie Ruoff (three Field Goals and one rouge).
Referee Don Barker called the game with four seconds remaining, as celebrating fans had by that point come on to the the field of play. Those four seconds made scant difference to the result!
It’s an Edmonton thing – up to now
In the ‘modern era’ of the CFL, the threepeat has only been done twice – so far. Both by Edmonton. Because as well as the ‘five-peat’ teams, the Esks also generated three consecutive titles between 1954 and 1956.
Those Edmonton teams went 36-12 over three seasons. Edmonton would go an impressive 71-24-1 run between 1952 and 1957. That would include 4 Grey Cup appearances (they were runners up in 1952 as well as recording these wins).
The only other team to come close? The Winnipeg Blue Bombers between 1958 and 1962. From 1957 to 1962 the Blue Bombers were on a tear in the CFL. Led by Head Coach Bud Grant they recorded a 75-21 regular season run. Which translated into 5 Grey Cup appearances (they were runners up in 1957) and four wins.
But, despite winning it all in 1958, 59, 61 & 62 there is a gap. Right there in the middle. 1960. When they went 14-2. A franchise record performance. Just like the 15 wins Winnipeg recorded to set a franchise record this year. Following on from two wins over Hamilton just like this year.
Except that year (1960) they lost in the West Final. This year they have already gone one step further.
Does it all mean anything? Probably not much. Historical context is fun, but all that matters is what happens on the field on Sunday.
42 years since the last threepeat will we see another? That is the ultimate question. And one that will be answered in this year’s Grey Cup game. As ever, it will be fun to watch it all unfold.
Banner Image: Edmonton’s threepeat 1980 team was part of a five-peat lead by head Coach Hugh Campbell here getting lifted up here by Edmonton players. Image from reddeeradvocate.com