Breaking down the four possible matchups for the 109th Grey Cup in Regina

Photo: David Mahussier/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

In any league, it is customary for talking heads to use the final four as an opportunity to speculate on potential matchups for the championship from a historical, off-the-field and on-the-field perspective.

In this edition, we look at the many possibilities of what might unfold at the 109th Grey Cup in Saskatchewan.

B.C. Lions vs Toronto Argonauts

THE HISTORICAL

These two sides have made some great history in the two championship games in which they’ve played each other.

The first-ever Grey Cup played indoors happened at BC Place in 1983 when the Leos hosted the Argos in front of a packed house of 59,345 and more than 8 million more watching on TV. Bob O’Billovich’s Boatmen sank the Lions for Toronto’s first Grey Cup in 31 years. It is also remembered by many as the last big moment for the good ship Argo before the Blue Jays got competitive and took over the number two spot in Toronto behind the Leafs. Interest in the CFL in Canada’s biggest city hasn’t been the same since.

2004 in Ottawa wasn’t bad either. Known for then-B.C. head coach Wally Buono’s bizarro choice to sit league Most Outstanding Player Casey Printers in favour of a rusty Dave Dickenson, then-Argos coach Mike “Pinball” Clemons gave an epic locker room pregame speech still shown on highlight reels to this day. It was another great moment in the lore of Argo football and yet another sour defeat for a Lions’ team still hungry to beat Toronto in a Grey Cup.

OFF THE FIELD

As two of the three major markets in this country, Vancouver and Toronto have not connected with Canadian football in the way the CFL needs them to as of late. Some badly needed exposure in these cities would result from a matchup like this.

The fact the game is being played in Saskatchewan would also show these cities how it’s done and what it looks like. The Canadian Football League is great when celebrated and showcased properly. There is no better place to do that to Toronto and Vancouver audiences than through a setting like Regina’s Mosaic Stadium. It’s an important opportunity to showcase the brand to new Canadians as well, who will be vital to the CFL’s success going forward.

ON THE FIELD

Nathan Rourke going for the gold — or the Grey — in his first season as Lions starter and as the first star Canadian quarterback since the 1960s will be a ratings bonanza for the league. That will be music to the ears of a TSN network in desperate need of a jolt, suffering from declining ratings so far in the playoffs and no Roughrider presence to rescue those numbers.

B.C. Lions vs Montreal Alouettes

THE HISTORICAL

These two sides have connected in the big game on two previous occasions but in this matchup, it has been the Lions who’ve held the edge both times.

In the final CFL game of the 20th century, these two hooked up on a frosty afternoon in Calgary’s McMahon Stadium. The Lions, with an 8-10 record, would become the first team in CFL history to win a Grey Cup after posting a losing record in the regular season after Steve Buratto replaced Greg Mohns as head coach 7 games into the season. Anthony Calvillo marched the Alouettes down to score a late touchdown to bring Montreal without two points but it would be a failed 2-point convert attempt that would ultimately seal the deal. It was a 28-26 win for B.C. in the final game of 46-year-old kicker Lui Passaglia’s career, a fitting end for someone who battled just to keep his career going at an age one year older than Tom Brady is right now.

2006 in Winnipeg was a much different storyline. B.C. was the favourite and it was Montreal who had switched coaches from Don Matthews to Jim Popp late in the season. The week was fantastic — as they all are on the prairies — but the game itself was a real stinker. No touchdowns were scored through the air and the biggest highlight was Lions kicker Paul McCallum tying a Grey Cup record with 6 field goals on 6 tries. At least B.C. fans got to see their side show off some sweet retro orange helmets with the old-school Lions claw evoking fond memories of Joe Kapp from the 1960s. This game was also known for then-Lions offensive lineman and current offensive line coach Kelly Bates breaking the cup during post-game celebrations. Luckily, they were able to make repairs and somehow preserve a century-old trophy.

OFF THE FIELD

Again, for two of the three major markets in this country where the CFL has been shaky lately, some badly needed exposure would result from a matchup like this. Fans flying in from Montreal and Vancouver would get a real taste of what a Grey Cup is supposed to look and feel like out of a trip to Regina.

Lions’ head coach Rick Campbell going head-to-head with his old boss and fellow 2005 Grey Cup champion Danny Maciocia would generate some good storylines, especially since it was Rick’s dad, Hugh Campbell, who hand-picked Maciocia to be a CFL head coach and later GM. This would happen in a town where Hugh Campbell made his name as a star receiver, catching passes from Ronnie Lancaster with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

ON THE FIELD

Nathan Rourke is the story here but that doesn’t count Vernon Adams Jr out from playing a role before it’s all said and done. Just imagine V.A. coming off the bench to beat the team who replaced him with someone else earlier this season.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers vs Toronto Argonauts

THE HISTORICAL

The Bombers and Argos have collided in a half dozen Grey Cups, with Toronto winning all six of them. What might be more interesting is the fact that it has been 72 years since any of those confrontations and the most recent one was by far the most epic.

The Mud Bowl of 1950, played at Varsity Stadium in Toronto in front of 27,101 fans, is remembered not so much for the 13-0 Argo victory as much as it is for the near-death experience by Blue Bomber lineman Bud Tinsley, who was shown on camera laying face down in a puddle of mud. Tinsley later insisted he never really came close to drowning but the game’s eventual MVP, Argo running back Nick Volpe, later testified that he himself nearly did on a separate occasion that day.

It would be fitting to see these two juggernauts get together again in Regina some seven decades later in a game where the weather would almost certainly play a factor once again — although mud is unlikely to be an issue on the artificial turf of Mosaic Stadium. Volpe passed away just over one year ago and would be thrilled to watch his Argos from up above play another weather classic against those Blue Bombers. The Mud Bowl was also refereed by Paul Dojack, who has a youth centre in Regina named after him just a 10-minute drive away from the site of this year’s big game.

OFF THE FIELD

The party in Regina is always at its best on Labour Day weekend when Winnipeg fans infiltrate the streets. One can only imagine the Labour Day-on-steroids scenario that could play out should the Blue Bombers make it to Regina this November.

In another twist, Blue Bomber head coach Mike O’Shea would be coaching in a championship game against his former team on the same field his son, Mike O’Shea Jr, played in the Canadian Bowl one week earlier for the Okanagan Sun in what is billed as Canadian junior football’s Super Bowl.

ON THE FIELD

Argos’ running back Andrew Harris might be healthy enough to go against his old mates but it would also be an opportunity for his replacement, Brady Oliveira, to take over the throne. Pick the Blue Bombers as they are built for November on the prairies in ways the Argos never will be.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers vs Montreal Alouettes

THE HISTORICAL

This is the part where we would summarize all past Grey Cups between the Blue Bombers and Alouettes if there were any. Alas, in the previous 108 incarnations of the big game, not once have Montreal and Winnipeg ever hooked up. A remarkable fact, given the limited combinations available for a championship final in a league with only eight or nine different options to go head-to-head.

Some of this can be attributed to the fact Winnipeg spent 13 seasons in the same division as Montreal and another nine seasons had no CFL franchise in Montreal at all. It is still a unique statistical marvel; this would be a first and a rare wrinkle that would add to the intrigue of this year’s Grey Cup Sunday. In a nine-team league where variety is always a challenge, this original matchup would provide just that.

OFF THE FIELD

Roughrider fans looking to dump unwanted tickets would welcome a Winnipeg invasion into Regina, however cheering for the Blue Bombers and their fans on Grey Cup Sunday is still an absolute no-no. It would provide a rare opportunity for Saskatchewan and Montreal fans to unite toward a common cause which would be great for national unity. After all, the Grey Cup is supposed to pull Canadians from different backgrounds together and this scenario would do just that.

And Zach Collaros hoisting the Cup on the same field where he played for a Roughrider team that gave up on him would only add a bit more juice to it all.

ON THE FIELD

This is a mismatch on paper favouring the Blue Bombers but let’s not forget that it was the Alouettes who strutted into Winnipeg this summer and boldly did something no other visiting team has gone since before the pandemic: win at IG Field.

Sure, Marc Liegghio helped them out by missing a couple of kicks he normally makes but give the Als credit for putting themselves in a position to dig that cookie out of the jar. Winnipeg has to be favoured but it has the potential to be an epic showdown.

Brendan McGuire has covered the CFL since 2006 in radio and print. Based in Regina, he has a front-row view of Rider Nation.