I don’t like hockey. I never have. As a kid I wasn’t great on a pair of skates and the game never captured my imagination. I don’t like Labatt Blue, Molson Canadian or Moosehead. I have never watched Degrassi. I can’t stand Geddy Lee’s voice and the next cup of coffee I get from Tim Hortons will be my first.
If you thought all of that sounds un-Canadian well than try this one on for size: I miss the Las Vegas Posse! I pine for the days of American teams playing our glorious three down football. CFL expansion has been a big topic this week and how could it not be with all the positive reviews coming out of Moncton?
All this expansion talk got me to thinking about July 7, 1993. That was the day the Sacramento Gold Miners took on the Ottawa Rough Riders, the first time a Canadian team played against an American team in a CFL league game. This game was a big deal; the fact that Ottawa won 32-23 was an even bigger one. I think a lot of us privately were concerned about the optics if the Miners of Sacramento had won. It would have brought up issues of the talent level of the CFL and more importantly of Canadian football players. I know I was rooting hard for Ottawa that night. We all wanted to show the rest of North America just how good we were at football.
That was the start of the glorious failure by the league to expand south of the border. My own best case scenario would see Ottawa succeed in 2013 and another team in Quebec City, but after that I’d love to see the league give it another try. I believe the CFL is in a stronger place now than it was in the early and mid 1990s. The NFL Network is bringing the game to a whole new audience and the internet allows anyone to experience our league. In 1993, sports fans in the States did not have the same sort of technological advantages that we have now.
Now I know that for most diehard CFL fans the American expansion era must leave a bitter taste in your mouth. Well I’m here to tell you that it wasn’t all bad. I thought back to my own memories of the American invasion plus I did some digging around and you know what … the good ole’ US of A gave us so much good:
(1) Is there anything better as a Canadian sports fan than rooting against America? Sure we may have the world’s largest unprotected border, but that never stopped us from taking a little extra glee whenever we beat them in any sporting event.
(2) The emergence of Mike Pringle. A relative unknown when he got the job with the Baltimore Stallions, Pringle ripped off 1,972 yards in 1994 and 1,791 yards in 1995. The guy was an absolute beast in the 1995 playoffs rushing for 484 yards and four touchdowns while helping Baltimore win the Grey Cup over Calgary.
(3) The Las Vegas Posse “Showgirls.” They get two separate mentions. Posse head coach Ron Meyer instructed them to hang around the BC Lions bench in an attempt to distract them. I love that story! We wouldn’t see a coach try that move for another 15 years until Coach Jimmy McGinty tried the same move to help the Washington Sentinels win a game during the 1987 strike season. All right, maybe that was from ‘The Replacements’ but either way, I wish there were more stories like this.
(4) He may not have had the same impact as Pringle, but soon to be the CFL’s all-time passing leader, Anthony Calvillo started his illustrious CFL career with the Las Vegas Posse.
(5) When I say “Matt Dunigan” what comes to your mind? I’m sure most of you would say his dominant years in Edmonton and Winnipeg or his gutty Grey Cup win with the Argonauts. If you’re under 25 maybe you think about his work on TSN or his goofy cooking endeavours. Of course, the correct answer is the Birmingham Barracudas. Did you know that Matt, playing in only 14 games, had his best statistical season in 1995? The guy passed for 4,911 yards and had 34 touchdowns leading the league in every important passing category. And you didn’t remember just because he was playing in the heart of Alabama. Shame on you.
(6) Everyone likes making fun of the fact that we’ve seen two teams go by the same name but the Rough Riders have nothing on this American doozy. Baltimore spent much of their initial season without an official name because the NFL sued them for trying to use the name “Colts”. Before becoming the “Stallions” they were sometimes referred to as the Baltimore CFLers. CFLers! Are you serious? That has to be the laziest name in sports history. I think that’s at least as lazy as two Rough Riders (or is it Roughriders).
(7) Speaking of names, if Miami had been given a team there was a great chance they’d be called the Miami Manatees? That would have been the best/worst name ever. Aren’t sports teams named after animals that are you know are fast or dynamic? The Manatee ranks right up there with the Panda as the most useless/lazy animal out there. “Let’s go Manatee’s!”
(8) Tim Cofield’s crazy 1995 season. Playing for the Memphis Mad Dogs, Cofield led the league with 24 sacks, fourth all time and just three behind the all time single season record holder James Parker.
(9) Dennis K.C. Parks! I know a lot of people were offended by his butchering of the Canadian National Anthem. Don’t look at it as an attack on Canada but rather a constant source of one minute and 34 seconds of hilarity. The mullet, the tepid response he got from the crowd, Oh Christmas Tree … this rendition has it all. I know it’s used all the time for Top 10’s on SportsCentre, but I think it deserves another viewing.