Blue Bombers sitting pretty to host first West Final in 17,913 days

17,913 days is a long time to wait for anything, much less a football game.

It’s been 49 years since the Winnipeg Blue Bombers hosted the CFL’s West Final and barring a stunning turn of events, the club will snap that streak on Sunday, Dec. 5 at IG Field.

Winnipeg (7-1) currently holds a four-point lead in the West Division with just six games remaining on their schedule. They have already secured the tiebreaker over the second-place Saskatchewan Roughriders (5-3), which means a 4-2 finish will guarantee Winnipeg first-place in the West Division even if Saskatchewan closes the season a perfect 6-0.

The Blue Bombers have a fairly light schedule remaining, including two games against Edmonton (2-5) and Montreal (3-4). Anything can happen in the CFL, but it’s pretty tough to imagine the West Final being played anywhere but IG Field at this point in time.

It hasn’t been 17,913 days since the Blue and Gold won their division, but let’s not forget that Winnipeg has switched between divisions several times over the past few decades.

The club finished atop the East Division standings seven times following the collapse of the Montreal Alouettes in 1987. They had brief stints in the North Division (1995) and West Division (1996, 2002-05) but played primarily in the East Division until the return of the Ottawa Redblacks in 2014.

This means the Blue Bombers won the East Division a respectable seven times in 21 years, including a string of four titles in five seasons during the early 1990s. Clearly, it’s easier to win the East Division than the West Division.

The team’s success in the regular season did not generally translate to the playoffs as Winnipeg converted just one of its first-place East Division finishes to a Grey Cup title in 1990. The club also captured a Grey Cup while representing the East Division in 1988 but did so after finishing 9-9 in the regular season, ten points back of the first-place Toronto Argonauts.

The Blue Bombers have won the West Division six times since the formation of the modern CFL in 1958 with five of those first-place finishes coming in consecutive seasons (1958-62). Winnipeg went on to win the Grey Cup in four of those seasons with each of the victories coming against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Winnipeg’s lone remaining West Division title came in 1972 when the team finished atop the standings despite sharing a 10-6 record with Edmonton. The club was upset by the third-place Saskatchewan Roughriders in the West Final before the Ticats captured the Grey Cup.

The Blue Bombers will look to avoid recreating the disappointment that followed their last first-place finish in the West Division, but they say good things come to those who wait — and 17,913 days is a very, very long time to wait.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.