Ranking the possible Grey Cup matchups

This has certainly been a weird year in the CFL, so it might be fitting for this to end with something we’ve never seen before. There are four chances out of the nine possible Grey Cup matchups that have never happened before in history.

Even among the other five we could see, the only one that’s happened in the past 25 years is the Stampeders against the Tiger-Cats. The absence of frequent Grey Cup participants Montreal and Toronto from the East Division playoffs means there was bound to be a few new match ups this year.

Here are my rankings of the best matchup we could see Nov. 27 at BMO Field in Toronto, in reverse order:

  1. Winnipeg vs Hamilton

Last meeting: 1984, Winnipeg won 47-17

Season series: 2-0 Winnipeg

The last time the Blue Bombers represented the West in the Grey Cup was 1984, when they whipped the Ticats at Commonwealth Stadium. At least these two teams have played some interesting games over the past few seasons, but would you call this a real rivalry? The Matt Nichols story would be a fun one to follow if the quarterback manages to pull off a pair of upsets to get there, but he wouldn’t have the edge in that area if Zach Collaros proves he’s back to his form of 2014.

  1. Calgary vs Ottawa

Last meeting: 1968, Ottawa (Rough Riders) won 24-21

Season series: 1-0-1 Calgary

A rematch of the 1948 Grey Cup, back in Toronto where the tradition began. That might be interesting for a couple of seconds, and fun when the Stampeders fans put a horse in the lobby of a posh hotel, but on the field it lacks lustre. Sure, Henry Burris would be facing his former team — for the first time this season no less — and this is the matchup of first-place teams, but something about this doesn’t seem all that thrilling. Maybe it’s because the Stamps handled the RedBlacks with ease in the last meeting back in Calgary, despite letting Ottawa back in enough to make it close for a brief minute.

  1. Calgary vs Hamilton

Last meeting: 2014, Calgary won 20-16

Season series: 2-0 Calgary

Two years ago, these two teams played a tight battle at B.C. Place Stadium, which the Stamps won by four points thanks to a called-back punt-return touchdown. While the Stamps are just as good as that team two years ago, the Ticats are nowhere near the same bunch, starting with Zach Collaros, who has struggled with injuries over the past two seasons. There would be a bunch of stories about Collaros vs Bo Levi Mitchell Part II of what could be a regular meeting in the big game, kind of like Ricky Ray vs Anthony Calvillo more than a decade ago. There would be no doubt the Stamps hold the heavy advantage if this one happens.

  1. Winnipeg vs Edmonton

Last meeting: 1990, Winnipeg won 50-11

Season series: 2-1 Edmonton

Owners of the longest consecutive season drought, the Blue Bombers would be facing the team they last beat to win a title. That was back 26 years ago, so there isn’t much in common between the two matchups, especially since they would be representing opposite divisions (have I mentioned how we should ditch the division format? OK good). The Eskimos topped the Bombers twice this season in what were entertaining, offensive games. The key battles would be the Bombers defence against the twin towers in the Eskimos receiving corps of Adarius Bowman and Derel Walker and of course Matt Nichols against his former team. If this happens, it would be one of those rare times two third-place teams went on the road and qualified for the Cup. The last time that happened was 1970 when Montreal and Saskatchewan met in the big game

  1. B.C. vs Hamilton

Last meeting: 1985, B.C. won 37-24

Season series: 2-0 B.C.

There have been plenty of instances where the team that hosts the division semifinals win that playoff game and carry that momentum all the way to the Grey Cup. Both teams would need to catch fire for this to happen. This would be interesting to say the least. Wally Buono back in the saddle leading the Lions back to the Grey Cup for the first time since he walked away from the head coaching job in 2011. The Ticats meanwhile would be making their third appearance in four years, but they would still be searching for their first victory since 1999. It would be the Battle of the Cats.

  1. B.C. vs Ottawa

Last meeting: Never

Season series: 2-0 B.C.

This would pit the most experienced quarterback (Henry Burris) against the least experienced one (Jonathan Jennings). Burris wants to cement his Hall-of-Fame states. Jennings want to prove he will be elite one day. The thing is Burris didn’t throw a pass against the Lions this season, not that they will have forgotten how to defend the league’s oldest thrower. It would be fun if the oldest position player (Burris) and the oldest kicker (Paul McCallum, 46) both played a role and we could call this the Geriatric Bowl.

  1. Winnipeg vs Ottawa

Last meeting: Never

Season series: 1-1

It was the return of Ottawa that put the Bombers back into the West, so that’s the major juice of this matchup. The RedBlacks would probably enter as favourites, seeing as they have more experience at quarterback. This would be the best chance for Henry Burris to win a third ring, his second as a starter, and it would be great to see him put an emphasis on what is already a Hall-of-Fame career. If the Bombers get there, it will be because of great defence, so they would at least pose a good challenge for Burris.

  1. B.C. vs Edmonton

Last meeting: Never

Season series: 1-1

An all-West matchup in the Grey Cup would be intriguing. A Lions-Eskimos Grey Cup is something most people have never even fathomed. There are plenty of playoff meetings in the past that were fun, but this on a neutral field would certainly be more of a sawoff. The Lions built their second-place standing in the West by beating up on the East Division (7-1), so it would be funny if they end up not playing against one in the big game. Both teams would be coming off big road wins if this happens too. Mike Reilly would be facing his former team, with rising star Jonathan Jennings leading the other side. There are too many other fun things to list in this one, especially for those out West.

  1. Calgary vs Edmonton

Last meeting: Never

Season series: 2-0 Calgary

The Battle of Alberta, fought out over every Labour Day for the past few decades and in the West final 12 times, including the past two seasons, would finally net one of the teams a Grey Cup. How strange would that be? For a province devastated by a struggling economy, it might be a boon to see the two clubs going head-to-head for a title for the first time in any major sport. It wouldn’t help build any excitement in Toronto though, as fans in that province might not be able to foot the bill for a last-minute trip to the Big Smoke. Like the other possible all-West matchups, this one would be less appealing for those in the Eastern time zone. It ranks highest though as it’s the best possible matchup of winning teams and for the curiosity factor.

Ian Busby

Ian Busby

Ian Busby has covered the Stampeders and the CFL since 2003, with eight years as a beat reporter. He is now a producer at Breakfast Television.
Ian Busby
Ian Busby
About Ian Busby (175 Articles)
Ian Busby has covered the Stampeders and the CFL since 2003, with eight years as a beat reporter. He is now a producer at Breakfast Television.

16 Comments on Ranking the possible Grey Cup matchups

  1. I think if you’re trying to sell tickets it better be anybody vs Hamilton. Too many empty seats in a Calgary Edmonton final. Nice idea but not in Toronto

    • Guess there are a lot more “homers” than football fans in southern Ontario.
      Too bad; You may miss a good game.

  2. Ham n’ Pegs, hold the toast(ed)!

    Our Year!

  3. It’s unfortunate for the cfl but the only way your gonna sell alot more tickets is if a southern ontario team makes the grey cup which is being held in southern ontario of all places. NOTE TO THE CFL ..ticats need a little help to get there can you make that happen lol.

  4. jimmy Breslin // November 10, 2016 at 10:29 am //

    I guess no one here realizes that Ottawa sells out every single game they play at home. Toronto is a mere 4 hour drive from the nation’s capital. Ottawa and whoever will generate a lot of ticket sales. Far more than the Argos ever would. And that is about as sad as what just happened in the US.

  5. I wish that were true, Jimmy And maybe it would be, but Hamilton still best option and if they get by Edmonton, they can easily get By Ottawa.

  6. Redblack_Attack // November 10, 2016 at 1:25 pm //

    Even though I would want my Redblacks to make it to the Grey Cup, I think Hamilton in the game is best for the league. There will be too many empty seats if the Ti-Cats don’t make it and it will make our league look like a joke. That being said, my father, brother and I will definitely go down if Ottawa wins the East Division final, so there’s three seats filled at BMO!

    • Time will tell … but I am less pessimistic about how many would show up for the RedBlacks.

      Anyone know if cutting the RedBlack cookie is considered a “competitive advantage” to be barred, like in Edmonton?

  7. The second-last sentence of the article – “Like the other possible all-West matchups, this one would be less appealing for those in the Eastern time zone” – is precisely why divisions exist in the CFL.

  8. lol Ottawa would not be considered the favorite against the Bombers what are u drinking? winnipeg has only lost to 1 team on the road this year and thats to calgary twice, and calgary lucking out one of those wins ona fluke 56 yard game winning field goal. As well winnipeg is not heavy underdogs against the bc lions they beat them both times, what a stupid article and you say that winnipeg vs ottawa has never happened in a grey cup hey? do you mean the redblacks version cuz the bombers faced ottawa a few times in the past, learn to write your columns with more precision and accuaracy. what a horrible article and edmonton vs calgary would not be the most entertaining grey cup final by far, that would probably be the most boring.

  9. Also they should never mess with the traditional east west grey cup game its just not the same if no eastern team representitive is there, whoever it may be.

  10. For the record, Ian, Winnipeg and Ottawa have met in the Grey Cup before – twice. 1939 and 1941, Winnipeg won both. And Edmonton and Winnipeg last met in a Grey Cup in 1993, not 1990 (edmonton won the last one). Maybe nitpick, but if your whole article is about match-ups and your second sentence is about match-ups that have never happened, you kind of would want to get your facts straight.

    • Close … on the Winnipeg/Ottawa GC but the GC Wiki says there are three meetings.

      1925 – Ottawa Senators beat Winnipeg Tammany Tigers.
      1939 – Winnipeg BB beat Ottawa Rough Riders.
      1941 – Winnipeg BB beat Ottawa Rough Riders.

  11. Dreamin’ in technicolor bud, if you think Edmonton is gonna represent the “East” in the top two possible matchups. Delusional, watch and learn.

  12. Why is it fans of a losing team are always worried about attendance at the winning team’s stadium or for that matter the Grey Cup! Hamilton fan says the only way they will sell tickets is if Hamilton is in the cup? Well, guess what your team has green garbage bag day today! I would like to see a Stamps/Eskie game but I have to say I would love also a red black/Stamps game as well.

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