What a year for sport in Canada in 1976 as Montreal became the first Canadian city to host the Olympic Games in July.
The year was a leap year, which began on a Thursday and the CJFL kicked off with four Conferences and 31 teams. The Ontario Conference itself had three divisions and 13 teams, the Manitoba Conference had four, the Alberta Junior Conference tallied eight and had teams from Saskatchewan and the BC Conference had six strong. It’s interesting to note only one team finished the season undefeated; the Ottawa Sooners were 8-0 but lost in the Conference semi-final.
In the “Year of the Dragon” the road to the Canadian Bowl featured four Conference champions:
Ontario Football Conference – Hamilton Hurricanes defeated the Verdun Maple Leafs in a best of three series.
Manitoba Junior Football Conference – St. Vital Mustangs also beat the Winnipeg Hawkeyes in a best of three series
Alberta Junior Football League – Regina Rams beat the Edmonton Wildcats 62-28
Big Four Football (BC Conference) – Vancouver Meralomas shutout the North Shore Cougars 24-0
During the 1976 playoffs the CJFL featured a pair of Inter-Conference semi-finals to determine who would play for the Armadale Cup (known today as the Canadian Bowl). The Ontario champion Hurricanes pounded the Manitoba champion Mustangs 23-8 to advance, then the Alberta champion Rams dominated the BC champion Meralomas 48-0 to set a date with the Hurricanes.
The national championship Armadale Cup was played on November 13, 1976 in front of an incredible 10,000 fans in Regina. The Rams used the big crowd energy to perfection and crushed the Hurricanes 45-23. The victory marked the second straight season defeating the Hurricanes in the national championship game. In four 1976 playoff games the Rams’ defence pitched a pair of shutouts.
Off the field in 1976 the Apple Computer Company was formed by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. The CN Tower in Toronto opened its doors in June and Rocky was the top grossing movie of the year, knocking out the competition with $55,900,000 earned at the box office.
The first laser printer was also introduced in 1976 by IBM and Wings had the top song on the Billboard Charts with “Silly Love Songs.”
Pierre Trudeau was the Prime Minister watching the Montreal Canadians sweep the Philadelphia Flyers in four games to win the Stanley Cup. The Toronto Blue Jays were created in ’76, then played their first game the following season.
Back on the gridiron it was a battle of the Roughriders in the 64th Grey Cup when the Ottawa Rough Riders defeated the Saskatchewan Roughriders 23-20 in Toronto. Some experts still say this was the most thrilling Grey Cup. Meanwhile down south the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Dallas Cowboys 21-17 in Super Bowl 10.
That was the year of 1976!
At the beginning of the 1987 season, there were 29 teams across five different Conferences in the CJFL.
Incredibly of those 29 teams, seven of them finished with just one loss. It showed just how well balanced the CJFL was in the “Year of the Rabbit.”
The road to the Canadian Bowl started with the Conference winners, who were:
BCFC – Okanagan Sun
PFC – Regina Rams
MJFC – St. Vital Mustangs
OFC – Windsor AKO Fratmen
QMJFC – North Shore Broncos
To determine the final two teams to play for national gold, three Inter-Conference playoff games need to be played. The Rams were the first team to punch their ticket to the Canadian Bowl, which they would host after a 45-23 win over the Sun.
Meanwhile the Ontario champion Fratmen disposed of the Quebec champion Broncos 24-6, but then were pounded by the Manitoba champion Mustangs 52-14. That victory advanced the Mustangs to face the Rams in the national championship game.
In 1987 the CJFL trophy was called the Armadale Cup, which was played in Regina on November 15th in front of 7,492 screaming fans. The Rams made sure they would continue to scream with a 31-23 victory to claim the national title on home soil. It was the Rams second straight championship and fourth of the decade.
The night before the big game the CJFL handed out some hardware at the Banquet of Champions. David Wheeler of the Winnipeg Hawkeyes was named the Offensive Player of the Year while Ian Gordon of Victoria Payless was named the Defensive Player of the Year.
Off the field in 1987, Three Men and a Baby was the top grossing movie at the box office collecting $167,780,960. It starred Tom Selleck, Ted Danson and Steve Guttenberg. Meanwhile The Bangles, Walk Like an Egyptian was at the top of the Billboard Charts. Speaking of music, U2 released Joshua Tree while Michael Jackson released “Bad” and Aretha Franklin becomes the first woman to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
In the 75th Grey Cup in Vancouver, Edmonton scored 17-fourth quarter points and beat Toronto 38-36. As a matter of fact the City of Edmonton celebrated another sports championship in ‘87 when the Oilers beat the Philadelphia Flyers in seven games to win the Stanley Cup. Down south the New York Giants took down the Denver Broncos 39-20 in Super Bowl 21.
Finally, there was an animated television showed that made its debut as a short on The Tracey Ullman Show in 1987, and you may recognize this show as it still airs new episodes here in 2020; The Simpsons.
That was the year of 1987!
One of the most memorable Canadian Bowl games in the 2000’s came in Nanaimo, BC in 2006 when the VI Raiders hoisted their first national title with an exciting 27-26 final beating the Edmonton Wildcats.
The game was played on Remembrance Day in front of 2600 fans, mostly cheering for the BC Conference champion Raiders. These fans were used to seeing the Raiders win after finishing the regular season 10-0 that season and breezing through the playoffs.
That said the Wildcats were no stranger to winning either, finishing the regular season 8-0, dumping the Regina Thunder and Edmonton Huskies in the Prairie Conference playoffs, then dismantling the St. Leonard Cougars 52-13 in the national semi-final game.
In the Canadian Bowl the Raiders led 10-3 after the first quarter, then 17-13 at the half as the game went back and forth. In the third quarter the teams traded touchdowns setting up a thrilling fourth quarter. The Wildcats outscored the Raiders in the final frame, but a short field goal off the foot of kicker Scott Dixon for the home side would seal the victory.
The game featured two tremendous offensive threats. Future CFLer Andrew Harris led the Raiders with 52 yards on the ground on four carries and had four receptions for 81 yards and a touchdown. But it was on special teams that gave us a preview of his CFL potential returning three kicks for 113 yards including a 90 yard return for a touchdown. Ricky Clarke also caught three passes for 42 yards and a score.
Quarterback Tyler Kerpan threw both touchdowns and completed 11 passes overall for 225 yards.
Over on the defence Lucas Desmet had a game high 10 tackles, the only player to hit the double-digit plateau.
For the Wildcats their offensive punch came from running back Tristan Jones who was yard for yard with Harris. He carried the rock an incredible 30 times for 173 yards and a touchdown. He also came out of the backfield for three receptions and another 36 yards.
Meanwhile quarterback Brandan Maher finished with 15 completions, 186 yards and threw a 21 yard touchdown pass to Aaron Kehr. He also found Kevin Wuthrich four times for 44 yards and Mike Whattam three more times for 47 yards. Kicker Ryan Elaschuk was a perfect 4-4 in field goals.
Defensively Wildcat Jean-Marc Jones had the game’s lone turnover, intercepting a pass.
For the Raiders it was the beginning of dominance in the BC Conference that saw them win three Canadian Bowl titles in four seasons. They would go on the road to beat the Burlington Braves in 2008, 35-8 and again the Wildcats in Nanaimo in 2009, 51-14 behind another stellar performance by Harris in his final CJFL season. The only year in this run the Raiders did not complete for the Canadian Bowl was in 2007 when they lost to the Cougars in the national semi-final 27-24.
Most experts around the CJFL agree the 2006 Canadian Bowl was a Classic.