The race to 400: reliving four iconic home victories as Stampeders take aim at historic milestone

Photo courtesy: John Bradley/CFLPhotoArchive.com

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Calgary Stampeders have more than just two points on the line this week when they face off at McMahon Stadium in the league’s marquee Week 8 matchup.

Both clubs sit on the precipice of becoming the first CFL team to collect 400 regular-season home wins, with each franchise sending their fans home happy exactly 399 times prior to kickoff on Saturday.

Calgary and Winnipeg are undefeated at home in 2022 and have overtaken the previous home win leaders in Edmonton, who have now gone since Oct. 12, 2019 without a victory at Commonwealth. That’s more than 1,000 days without a home victory and 11 straight losses to stay stuck at 397 home wins.

In Calgary, the Stampeders are 399-213-10 all-time. They boast the league’s longest home winning streak having once won 27 consecutive games between September 1992 and August 1995.

The Bombers, on the other hand, are 399-245-5 at home. Should they deny Calgary a home win this weekend, they’ll have the next shot to hit the historic mark when they host Montreal on Thursday, Aug. 11. Calgary won’t get their second chance until two days later, when they take on the Lions on Saturday, Aug. 13.

Admittedly, this has little bearing on the game as a whole and speaks more to an imagined talking point, but whenever a team passes such a milestone, it should be noted.

As the Stampeders chase their 400th win at home, I thought I’d look back at my four favourite wins that I’ve experienced from the stands. I got my first set of season tickets at age 14 in 1993 as a part of the “Quarterback Club,” which saw school kids get general admission endzone seats for $100. Once I reached my mid-20s, I bought my first set in my own name and have missed very few games since. In the interim, it was Labour Day Classics and other games of note in the $10 Safeway Section.

Nearly all of my favourite home wins seemed improbable at some point, whether they involved a massive comeback or some sort of breakout performance. Here they are, in no particular order:

Garcia wows in Classic debut

The 1995 Stampeders were a powerhouse team that rolled through all their opposition on the way to a Grey Cup matchup with the Baltimore Stallions — which would become the only time an American team would win the best trophy in sports.

In the Labour Day matchup, however, there was some trepidation for fans as the CFL’s GOAT Doug Flutie was heading into surgery and fresh-faced Jeff Garcia would be expected to shoulder the load.

Of course, before 3DownNation existed to give me all the info I needed, I was unaware of all of this. When Doug Flutie came out to take the first offensive snap, I nearly lost my mind thinking that head coach Wally Buono had been downplaying Flutie’s status all week as a way of blindsiding our hated rivals.

Sadly, that first snap was all Flutie would see on the day, but Garcia would go on to throw for a Stampeders’ record six touchdowns, 546 yards through the air and lay a Classic beating on the team from Edmonton.

Not a bad introduction to the home fans and Garcia continues to be a living legend anytime he comes back to Calgary as a result.

Stamps set record vs. Montreal

The Stampeders of 2022 have already amassed three comeback wins, having trailed at the half in each of the first three weeks of this season.

That hardly compares to their game against the Alouettes in 2013, as the Stampeders set a CFL record for largest comeback after 15 minutes when they surrendered 24 unanswered points in the first quarter. The Stamps came back to win in a game that featured Bo Levi Mitchell’s first career victory, as he took over from an injured Kevin Glenn to finish it out.

I was in the 52nd row that day and could hear Nik Lewis berating the team on the sidelines. He would later tell me on the Horsemen Radio podcast that he was furious about how the game had gotten out of hand so quickly and that he didn’t think the Alouettes were a good enough team to have done that to the Stampeders.

The team rallied around that speech and went on to score the game’s next 35 points to win 38-27.

Mitchell magic tames Lions late

Just a few years after the Miracle against Montreal, the Stamps once again found themselves trailing at home, this time much later in the game.

The B.C. Lions scored a touchdown with 4:33 to go in the fourth quarter to take a 41-26 lead that saw many head to the parking lot and miss what was to come.

Mitchell led the Stamps on a quick drive, going 84 yards in less than two minutes for a touchdown. A few plays later, Ciante Evans was returning an interception off of Jonathon Jennings to the B.C. 20-yard line and on the second play of the drive, the Stampeders were once again in the endzone thanks to a 12-yard pass from Mitchell to Bakari Grant.

A successful two-point conversion would tie the game and the Stamps were victorious in overtime when Tommy Campbell intercepted Jennings on the Calgary 10.

There weren’t many of us in the stands when the 44-41 win was all over in 2016, but those who stayed were treated to some of the best football the CFL had to offer.

The first “Blackout”

Back in the 90s Labour Day Classic file, the Calgary Stampeders debuted their black uniforms in 1994.

Calgary warmed up in their traditional red and white jerseys before the game and then headed into the locker room for the official introductions.

They came roaring out of the tunnel in the new black uniforms to the surprise and cheers of a sellout crowd. It even shocked the TV commentary team who only noted, “The Stampeders have added an extra wrinkle before the game, coming out in new uniforms!” They offered no other explanation.

“D2: Mighty Ducks” had come out earlier that year and featured the hockey heroes changing jerseys between periods in the title game before coming out to win. No word on if that was the inspiration for the last second reveal, but the effect was the same.

Calgary downed Edmonton by a score of 48-15 in what was seen as a measure of revenge after the green and gold had won the Grey Cup at McMahon the season prior.