August 28, 2020

Top 10 Exclusive : Biggest Audiences

The Winnipeg Football Club has 90 years of history to celebrate, dating way back to the days of leather helmets and the Great Depression.

Over that time there have been countless great plays authored by superstar players… and average Joes, too. There have been memorable games featuring iconic moments and, dating back to 1930, this franchise has captured a Grey Cup championship 11 times.

Each week cracks open the record book, dusts off the archives and dives deep into our collective memory banks for our Top 10 Exclusive list.

Top 10 Biggest Audiences 

Stadiums have been silent all across the Canadian Football League for weeks now – and will continue to be throughout the rest of the now-cancelled 2020 season.

And as for what 2021 might look like – that seems eons away right now – there’s hope fans will soon be back in the stands watching three-down football.

The CFL has some time to contemplate changes for next year, both to its business model and how it interacts with fans. There was a time in the 1980s when CFL crowds were massive, and it had us wondering what are the largest crowds the Bombers have ever played in front of, either for a regular season or playoff game, home or away.

Thanks to CFL stats guru Steve Daniel, we know have that list.

1. Grey Cup 2001 – Blue Bombers vs. Calgary, November 25 – 65,255 fans at Olympic Stadium in Montreal

We know how the story turns out, but the Bombers and Stampeders – two Western-based clubs – still managed to pack Olympic Stadium in Montreal for the first Grey Cup in that city since 1985. The Stamps got their storybook finish; the Bombers lived a nightmare in front of a full house and a national TV audience.

2. Blue Bombers at Montreal Alouettes – August 11, 1977 – 63,330 fans at Olympic Stadium in Montreal

The Alouettes moved to Olympic Stadium halfway through the 1976 season following the Olympic Games and played to record crowds. The Alouettes would win the Grey Cup later that year, but in their second home game of the ’77 season drew over 63,000 for a showdown against the Bombers in what was then the largest crowd in CFL history. Montreal would win 27-10.

3. Grey Cup 1984 – Blue Bombers vs. Hamilton, November 18 – 60,081 fans at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton

The Bombers ended what was then the longest championship drought in their history – dating back to 1962 – with a 47-17 beat down of the Tiger-Cats on a day when the temperate was -10C at kickoff in the Alberta capital.

4. Blue Bombers at B.C. Lions – October 11, 1985 – 59,478 fans at B.C. Place in Vancouver

The Bombers and Lions had a huge rivalry in the 1980s – back when ‘B.C. sucks!’ chants became a regular chant during their visits to Winnipeg Stadium. But with B.C. Place having opened its doors in 1983 the Lions regularly drew massive crowds including this one in a game featuring a 10-2 B.C. squad against the 10-3 Bombers. John Hufnagel came off the bench to spark the Bombers in a 31-10 victory.

5. West Final, 1985 – Blue Bombers vs. B.C., November 17 – 59,478 fans at B.C. Place

Winnipeg had captured both regular-season matchups with the Lions but struggled with a chance to go to the ’85 Grey Cup on the line. Roy Dewalt threw three TD passes and Tom Clements was picked off four times as the Lions won at home and then captured the championship a week later in Montreal.

6. Blue Bombers at B.C. Lions – October 27, 1984 – 59,421 fans at B.C. Place

First place in the West Division was at stake as the Bombers and Lions – both 11-3-1 – met in Vancouver in the final week of the regular season. The Lions forced six turnovers, including four interceptions, to earn the first-round bye.

7. West Final, 1984 – Blue Bombers vs. B.C., November 11, 1984 – 59,421 fans at B.C. Place

The Lions-Bombers rivalry was a huge draw in Vancouver, clearly. Just a couple of weeks after packing the joint for the regular season finale, the two squads filled B.C. Place again in the division final. The Bombers had pounded Edmonton 55-20 in the West Semi-Final while the Lions rested and then Tom Clements threw three TDs in the West Final to send the Bombers to the Grey Cup.

8. West Final, 1983 – Blue Bombers vs. B.C., November 20, 1983 – 59,409 fans at B.C. Place

The Bombers had ended the five-year Grey Cup run of the Edmonton Eskimos with a win in Winnipeg in the West Semi-Final, but ran into a buzz saw a week later in the West Final. The Lions scored 29 points in the second half – including three Roy Dewalt-to-Mervyn Fernandez TD strikes – in a 39-21 win.

9. Blue Bombers at Edmonton Eskimos – August 1, 1982 – 57,596 fans at Commonwealth Stadium

The 3-1 Bombers met the 2-2 Eskimos in an early-season clash in Edmonton. The victory, which included the Bombers surrendering a 10-point lead in the third quarter before rallying for a 32-26 win, was Winnipeg’s first in Edmonton since 1977.

10. Blue Bombers at B.C. Lions – August 20, 1983 – 56,852 fans at B.C. Place

The top two teams in the West, both 4-1, met in an early showdown. The Lions mauled the Bombers 44-6 as they scored two defensive touchdowns.