Rick Zamperin: 107th Grey Cup matchup dripping with juicy storylines

Hamilton Tiger-Cats quarterback Dane Evans (9) throws against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers during the first half of CFL action in Winnipeg on Friday, September 27, 2019.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats quarterback Dane Evans (9) throws against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers during the first half of CFL action in Winnipeg on Friday, September 27, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

The 107th edition of the Grey Cup at McMahon Stadium between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Winnipeg Blue Bombers is chock full of storylines.

But these aren’t your run-of-the-mill news tidbits that seem to crop up every time the Canadian Football League‘s championship game comes about.

These five Grey Cup storylines are dripping with complexity and intrigue.

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A matchup 35 years in the making. The Ticats, who won a franchise record 15 games this season, and Bombers have not met in the CFL final since 1984 — a game that Winnipeg handily won, 47-17, at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton.

Amazingly, Hamilton and Winnipeg played each other in the Grey Cup seven times in 12 years between 1953 and 1965, including five times from 1957 to ’62.

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Blue Bombers Advance To Grey Cup
Blue Bombers Advance To Grey Cup

From the field to the sideline. Orlondo Steinauer and Mike O’Shea share a lot more in common than leading their respective teams as head coaches, they also won the Grey Cup as teammates. Each played with the Tiger-Cats in 2000 before teaming up on the Toronto Argonauts from 2001 to 2008, winning the Grey Cup in 2004.

Next man up mentality. When Hamilton’s star quarterback, Jeremiah Masoli, crumpled to the turf at Tim Hortons Field in a game against the Blue Bombers on July 26, many fans and CFL pundits were quick to speculate that the Ticats’ Grey Cup chances may have evaporated. However, backup QB Dane Evans jumped into the spotlight and has helped the club rattle off an incredible 11 wins in their last 13 games, including seven in a row.

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Cinderella Man. Zach Collaros suffered a concussion in Saskatchewan’s first offensive possession of the season after taking a late hit to the head from Hamilton linebacker Simoni Lawrence. He was shipped off to Toronto in July but never played for the Argos, and then was traded to Winnipeg just before the CFL trade deadline on Oct. 9.

Collaros, who led the Tiger-Cats to their last Grey Cup appearance in 2014, now finds himself back in the big game as the Blue Bombers’ starting pivot.

The Drought Bowl. The Blue Bombers and Tiger-Cats have the two longest active Grey Cup championship droughts. Hamilton has not celebrated a title since Most Outstanding Player Danny McManus led the team to a 32-21 victory over the Calgary Stampeders at B.C. Place in 1999. Ask any Ticats fan and they’ll tell you the last 20 years has felt like an eternity.

The drought in Winnipeg is even longer. The Bombers last hoisted the CFL’s ultimate prize in 1990, an astonishing statistic given that there’s only nine teams in the league.

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These storylines will give football fans plenty to chew on this week leading up to Sunday’s championship game where the most important script will be written.