When TSN announced they were putting out an eight-team tournament to crown the greatest Grey Cup champion it meant at least one fan base was going to be left out in the cold considering the CFL is a nine-team league.
Then you remembered that the Baltimore Stallions existed and that meant two current franchises were going to be left out. When the list was unveiled we found out which two teams: the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
This is probably going to tick off a lot of people in Rider Nation, but leaving Saskatchewan out of this makes sense. With just four Grey Cup championship teams to choose from, it is hard to make the case that any of them were truly great teams.
The 1966 squad probably has the best case, but we have seen discussion in recent days about the 2013 and the 1989 teams and they just don’t cut it. Neither team was truly dominant — the ’13 team was 11-7 and second in the West, while the ’89 team finished a mediocre 9-9 in the regular season and just got hot at the right time.
That brings us to the Ticats. Even if you only count their eight Grey Cup wins as the amalgamated franchise, there are still plenty of options to choose from.
The 1963 team rolled off seven straight wins after a 3-4 start and lost just once — the second half of the two-game East Final after winning the first leg 45-0 — after mid-September en route to winning the Grey Cup.
The 1972 team may have been even more dominant, winning ten straight after a 1-3 start with their only loss after August 19 coming in the first leg of the two-game East Final before winning the Grey Cup at Ivor Wynne Stadium. One could even argue that the 1999 Ticats — the last Hamilton team to win the championship — deserves some consideration.
But all of those teams pale in comparison to the one team in franchise history that definitely should have made TSN’s tournament: the 1967 Ticats.
What makes that year’s team so special? It starts with the defence.
We have seen teams dominate on one side of the ball or the other, but we have never seen what the ’67 Ticats did on defence over the last month and a half of the season. After a 6-1 start was followed by a three-game losing streak, the Ticats rolled off seven straight wins (including the playoffs) to capture the Grey Cup.
Finishing the season with a 10-4 record might not jump off the page, but what does is what they did to get to 10-4 and ultimately win the whole thing — not allow a touchdown over their final six games.
No, that is not a typo. The Ticats smothered their opponents over their final six games, giving up no more than five points in any game and an average of 2.8 points per game over their final six games. Yes, 2.8 points. Playing six games without allowing a touchdown is a feat we will likely never see again.
It was also one of the most dominant playoff runs we have ever seen. Hamilton took both legs of the two-game East Final, beating Ottawa 11-3 on the road in game one and then walloping them 26-0 in Hamilton in game two.
They capped the season with a 24-1 beatdown of the defending champion Saskatchewan Roughriders and Landsdowne Park in Ottawa. It is the lowest score allowed in a Grey Cup in modern CFL history, and just one of three Grey Cup performances ever to allow a single point (there have also been six shutouts, but none since 1950).
Since the Ticats allowed just one point in the 1967 Grey Cup, we have only seen four single-digit scores in the Grey Cup. It was truly a dominating defensive performance that ranks among the most impressive in postseason and Grey Cup history.
The ’67 team also capped off the greatest era of Ticats football to date. From 1957 to 1967, the Ticats went to nine Grey Cups, won four and finished first in the East Division nine times. For the first ten years of the modern CFL they were the model franchise, making the playoffs in all but one season.
What the Ticats accomplished over those eleven seasons isn’t in the same realm as Edmonton’s run of five-straight titles, but it is equal or better to what the Montreal Alouettes accomplished in the first decade of the 2000s and what the Calgary Stampeders did in the 2010s.
The roster of the 1967 team is also littered with Hall of Famers and all-time greats that still hold reverence today. Angelo Mosca, Garney Henley, John Barrow, Ellison Kelly, Tommy Grant, Hal Patterson, Tommy Joe Coffey, Bill Danychuk, Willie Bethea, Bob Krouse, Dave Fleming — not to mention Ralph Sazio on the sideline. It is a who’s who of Hamilton and CFL greats that could match up with any of the best teams in league history.
But it isn’t just as easy as adding a team — you have to take one away as well. Luckily for us, TSN provided the perfect team to exclude: the 2011 B.C. Lions.
I know what that team did, starting 0-5 and winning the Grey Cup, but that team finished with an 11-7 record — the same mark as the 2013 Riders that didn’t make the list.
B.C. has one massive blemish on their end-of-season run from 2011, a 42-10 pasting by the Ticats in late October. In a nit-picky practice of ranking Grey Cup champs, that loss sticks out like a sore thumb.
That Lions team was really good to close the year, but they weren’t a dominant team and they stunk for the first third of the season. You can’t make the same claim about the 1967 Ticats. Outside of the anomaly of the Lions starting 0-5 and winning it all — a talking point that gets brought up every time a team gets off to a sluggish start that I wish would stop — I’m not sure if we’ll talk about that 2011 Lions team fifty years from now like we still talk about the 1967 Tiger-Cats.
If historical significance matters like TSN said it did, then the 1967 Ticats have to be included. A first-place finish, a dominant playoff run, six games with no touchdowns allowed, 2.8 points per game allowed during that span, and a great cap to the greatest run the franchise ever had. If those aren’t historically significant markers, I don’t know what is.
There are a lot of great Grey Cup champions — and seven of the eight that TSN selected are pretty unimpeachable — but they are missing one that could have made the tournament a perfect one.
That one is the 1967 Hamilton Tiger-Cats.