It's that time in Canada once again for the winter classic known as the Grey Cup Championship game. And for the second consecutive year, the game will be indoors. And for the first time since 2002, the home team will be playing for the Grey Cup on home turf come Sunday, November 23rd.
The Combatants and Their History
The 96th Grey Cup, hosted in Montreal's Olympic Stadium, will feature the Beast of the East Montreal Alouettes (11-7) playing in their first Grey Cup since 2006. Anthony Calvillo and company easily defeated the Edmonton Eskimos 36-26 in the Eastern Semi-Final to move on to the Alouettes 17th Grey Cup appearance in franchise history.
It will be the first time since 1979 that the Alouettes have played in the Grey Cup game that they have also hosted in the same season. That season, the Alouettes were defeated by the dynastic Edmonton Eskimos 17-9. It would be the second of five straight Grey Cups for the Eskimos.
The Alouettes have also appeared in home Grey Cup games in 1977 (a 41-6 win over the Eskimos) and in 1931 as the Montreal AAA (22-0 win over the Regina Roughriders).
In their 17 Grey Cup appearances, the Alouettes have won five, the last coming in 2002 (25-16 over the Eskimos).
Meeting the Alouettes in the 96th Grey Cup will be the western champion CalgaryStampeders (13-5). The Stampeders, led by outstanding quarterback Henry Burris, defeated the BC Lions 22-18 in the West Semi-Final to advance to the Stampeders 12thGrey Cup appearance—of which the Stampeders have also won five, the last coming in 2001 (27-19 win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers).
Historically, the Stamps and Als have met only twice in the Grey Cup, with the Als winning both times—once in the 37th Grey Cup in 1949 (28-15 win for the Als) and again in the 58th Grey Cup in 1970 (23-10 win for the Als).
With their appearance in the 96th Grey Cup, the Stamps end a six-year drought from the Grey Cup game, the second longest drought from the Grey Cup game next to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, now at nine seasons (since 1999).
With Montreal being the hosts this season and Calgary being the hosts for the 97th Grey Cup next season, this is a big game. A win for Calgary could put them in a situation to repeat at home next season. No CFL team has repeated as champions since the Toronto Argonauts won the 84th and 85th Grey Cups (1996 & 1997).
The Teams and Key Players To Look For
Both offenses are explosive as the numbers show during the regular season. Anthony Calvillo finished second in the CFL, to Edmonton Eskimos QB Ricky Ray, in total yards with 5,633 yards. Calvillo's 69.2 completion rate was also second to Ray, yet his yards per game was tops in the CFL at 331.4. His 43 touchdowns was tops in the CFL.
Calvillo had success this year due to the success of threading the ball to his receivers, most notably veteran slotback Ben Cahoon and wide receiver Jamal Richardson. In his first season in Montreal, Richardson finished fourth in the league in receiving yards with1,287. His 16 TDs was tops among receivers in the CFL.
Close behind Richardson was Cahoon with 1,231 yards. Cahoon also led the CFL with 107 receptions. Montreal WR Kerry Watkins also finished in the top 10 with 1,178 yards.
Henry Burris had a resurgence this season, bringing the Stamps back into respectability and back to the top of the West. Burris finished third among QBs with 5094 yards and a 64.5 completion rate. Right behind Calvillo, Burris' 39 TDs are second in the CFL.
Burris is blessed to have the top receiver in the CFL this season in veteran WR Ken-Yon Rambo. Rambo led the league with 1,473 yards receiving and finished third in receptions with 100. His 81.8 yards per game was second only to BC Lion's WR GeroySimon.
Other favourite targets of Burris' include WR Nikolas Lewis, who finished with 1,109 yards and finished tied for second in the CFL with 10 TDs on the season. And don't forget the always dangerous Jermaine Copeland, who had a so-so year with only 764 yards in 16 games. Despite low yardage this season, Copeland finished with 7 TDs.
The Long and Short Of It
With two explosive offenses meeting November 23rd in Montreal's Olympic Stadium, this 96th Grey Cup will be one great showdown. It will be carried by TSN in Canada.