July 29, 2011

Road to ’71 Cup started 40 years ago

It was exactly 40 years ago Saturday that one of the great seasons in Stampeders history got under way.

As coincidence would have it, the Stamps’ game on July 30, 1971, is at the same place the Red and White is playing on July 30, 2011 — Regina’s Taylor Field. Calgary fans hope this season turns out as well as that season did.HarrisonKeeling1971.jpg

The Canadian Football League schedule started much later four decades ago, so that July 30 contest was the 1971 team’s season-opener. A right smart start it was, too, as the Stamps recorded a 21-0 win over the Roughriders.

Four months or so later, the Stampeders became Grey Cup champions by downing the Toronto Argonauts 14-11 at Vancouver’s Empire Stadium.

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Calgary has won five other championships in its history, but the 1971 Grey Cup was notable for a couple of principle reasons.

• It was the Stamps’ first title in 23 years and the next Grey Cup conquest wouldn’t come for another 21 seasons
• The championship was a crowning achievement for the Stamps veterans who had performed well for Calgary’s consistent contenders in the 1960s but had met with ultimate disappointment in the fall. Most notable on that list are Wayne Harris, Larry Robinson and Jerry Keeling, who joined the Stamps in 1961 and waited more than a decade for their first sip from the Grey Cup

In the 11 seasons prior to 1971, the Stamps had made the playoffs 10 times and finished at least second in the West on seven occasions. In the end, however, the Stamps’ hearts were broken including losses in the 1968 and 1970 Grey Cups.

Under the guidance of third-year head coach Jim Duncan, the Stamps would not be denied in 1971. There were some bumps along the way — Calgary was winless in its final four regular-season games after a 9-3 start — but a superb performance by Harris and touchdowns by Herm Harrison and Jesse Mims made the final chapter a glorious one for the Red and White.