Mud and guts: a history of Toronto and Winnipeg meeting in the Grey Cup

Screenshot of Mud Bowl footage

It’s perfectly understandable if you don’t remember the last time the Toronto Argonauts and Winnipeg Blue Bombers met in the Grey Cup as it’s been over seven decades since it last happened.

The two teams haven’t met in the CFL’s championship game since 1950, which is eight years before the Western Interprovincial Football Union and the Interprovincial Rugby Football Union merged to form the Canadian Football League in 1958. That’s right: the most recent Grey Cup between Toronto and Winnipeg is older than the CFL itself.

The Argonauts and Blue Bombers have met in six previous Grey Cups, though the league doesn’t have any individual non-scoring statistics for championship games played earlier than 1952. As such, we know very little about these matchups. We know the final scores, who scored, and the yardage both teams generated. That’s about it.

We also know that a number of legendary Argonauts played in most of these games, including Royal Copeland, Byron Karrys, Joe Krol, Steve Levantis, Frank Morris, Jack Wedley, and Art West. Eddie James, Les Lear, Ches McCance, Fritz Hanson, Lou Mogul, Russ Rebholz, Greg Kabat, Bud Marquardt, Jeff Nicklin, and Art Stevenson are among the notable Blue Bombers who played in several of the games listed below.

25th Grey Cup, Varsity Stadium in Toronto on Dec. 11, 1937
Toronto Argonauts, 4 — Winnipeg Blue Bombers, 3

Earl Selkirk kicked a field goal for the Argos in the first quarter, which accounted for almost half the points scored on the day by both teams combined. This game remains tied for the lowest-scoring Grey Cup in history as both teams struggled to navigate blustering winds. Toronto finished the game with zero passing yards but still managed to generate nine first downs, while Winnipeg managed only five.

This game was officiated by Hec Crighton, who went on to rewrite the Canadian football rulebook and whose name is on the award given annually to the top football player in U Sports. It was also the latest Grey Cup ever played until 2021 when the Blue Bombers and Hamilton Tiger-Cats faced one another on Dec. 12 due to the season’s delayed start.

26th Grey Cup, Varsity Stadium in Toronto on Dec. 10, 1938
Toronto Argonauts, 30 — Winnipeg Blue Bombers, 7

The Argos trailed 7-6 heading into the fourth quarter before exploding for 24 points in the final frame. Red Storey scored three touchdowns for Toronto, which remains one short of the all-time record set by Art Wilson in 1913, while Greg Kabat kicked two field goals for Winnipeg. At the time, Toronto’s point total was tied for third-most all-time by one team in a Grey Cup. This game was also officiated by Crighton.

33rd Grey Cup, Varsity Stadium in Toronto on Dec. 1, 1945
Toronto Argonauts, 35 — Winnipeg Blue Bombers, 0

This wasn’t the first Grey Cup that ended with the losing team being shut out but it remains the second-most recent one. Joe Krol returned an interception 65 yards for a touchdown, which means the Blue Bombers were outscored not only by Toronto’s offence but its defence as well. Doug Smylie and Billy Myers scored two touchdowns apiece for the Argos as they out-gained Winnipeg by 292 net yards.

34th Grey Cup, Varsity Stadium in Toronto on Nov. 30, 1946
Toronto Argonauts, 28 — Winnipeg Blue Bombers, 6

Joe Krol threw three touchdown passes in this contest and remains in a tie with 12 other players for the most all-time in a single Grey Cup. The only player with more, Russ Jackson, threw for a record of four in 1969. The Blue Bombers generated more first downs than the Argos and almost as much net yardage but clearly weren’t able to convert their drives, not scoring their lone touchdown until the fourth quarter.

35th Grey Cup, Varsity Stadium in Toronto on Nov. 29, 1947
Toronto Argonauts, 10 — Winnipeg Blue Bombers, 9

Winnipeg led this game 9-1 at halftime but let it slip through their fingers as Royal Copeland scored a touchdown in the third quarter before Joe Krol added three fourth-quarter singles. Both teams managed 15 first downs and had virtually identical net yardage. If the Blue Bombers were ever going to knock Toronto off in the Grey Cup, this is the one they probably should have won.

38th Grey Cup, Varsity Stadium in Toronto on Nov. 25, 1950
Toronto Argonauts, 13 — Winnipeg Blue Bombers, 0

The legendary Mud Bowl (pictured) was played in miserable conditions caused by snow, plows, and rain that fell throughout the game. Al Dekdebrun scored the game’s only touchdown as the clubs combined for only 56 passing yards. This marks the most recent Grey Cup in which the losing team was shut out.

Check out the highlights below, complete with an interview with Nick Volpe, who played in the game for the Argos. The interview was conducted decades after the game took place and features an appearance from the late Chris Schultz.

Editor’s note: Toronto and Winnipeg also met in the 30th Grey Cup played on Dec. 5, 1942. The Blue Bombers and Argonauts did not compete that season due to the war effort, though the Toronto RCAF Hurricanes defeated the Winnipeg RCAF Bombers by a score of 8-5 at Varsity Stadium.

John Hodge is a CFL insider and draft analyst who has been covering the league since 2014.