Yesterday, Nov. 19, marked an important and historic anniversary in professional football. It was the 20-year anniversary of the Baltimore Stallions’ victory over the Calgary Stampeders in the Grey Cup game to become the first and only American-based franchise to win the Cup.
Also notable was the fact that it was Baltimore’s 18th win of 1995, setting a CFL record for wins in a single season. Moreover, the game was historic for another reason: it was the first Grey Cup game ever held in Regina. Here’s a CBC News story on the game, below, and as you can tell all of Canada was stunned.
This week, Rolling Stone ran a piece about that Baltimore franchise. It only lasted two seasons and was part of the bizarre and failed American expansion experiment. They also ran into legal troubles; they had wanted to use the name Colts since the NFL had left, but that got blocked in court and so the team had to go their entire first season in the league without a name before settling on Stallions.
Despite this, of all the US franchises Baltimore was by far the biggest success. Their 1995 team featuring the likes of coach Don Matthews, running back Mike Pringle and quarterback Tracy Ham, is considered one of the best of all time in CFL history.
And the fans in Maryland embraced the team right from the start. As that Rolling Stone piece noted, baseball had gone on strike, so the CFL had Baltimore all to itself in 1994. And there was no NFL team to speak of. The only reason the CFL team eventually left Baltimore was because the Cleveland Browns announced during the ’95 season that they were moving in. And in fact the Grey Cup game marked the very last game for the American expansion experiment, because the Stallions became the Montreal Alouettes and the other American teams folded.
Earlier this year there was a reunion to celebrate the ’95 Stallions, and well they should be remembered. I think it’s really cool that Regina got to be a part of it all by hosting the Grey Cup that year.
In fact, I still find it bizarre that the Saskatchewan Roughriders were in the same league as teams from Birmingham, Memphis, Las Vegas, San Antonio etc. during those American expansion years. It was as if Saskatchewan woke up one day to find their football team in the USFL.
Weird times for Canadian football, indeed.