The Stampeders’ 1992 championship was a long time coming for Calgary and few people knew that better than George Hopkins.
It was in 1972, the year after the Stamps’ previous Grey Cup title, that Hopkins joined the Red and White as a ball boy. The Stamps were a team in transition at that point, which is a nice way of saying the next championship seemed a long way off.
“One year,” says the veteran equipment manager, “we were 2-12-2. So I saw some lean times. I didn’t even get to the playoffs until (head coach) Jack Gotta’s second year (1978). That was an accomplishment just to get back into the playoffs.
“It was 20 years before I even went to (a Grey Cup), let alone win one. You get a little spoiled when they start to come with a bit more regularity. Twenty years before going to one? Yeah, that’s a long, long time.”
When he thinks back to the season that finally snapped the slump, Hopkins remembers the magic performed by quarterback Doug Flutie.
And once the Stamps made it to the Grey Cup contest against Winnipeg, Hopkins quickly came to believe that long-awaited championship was finally at hand.
“The one thing I remember from that game was the very first play where Flutie rolled out and hit (Derrick) Crawford downfield for 40 yards or something like that,” recalls the man known as ‘Geo’ to his many friends. “I turned to Patty (Clayton, the Stamps’ longtime trainer) and I said, ‘This one’s ours.’
“I remember that Marvin Pope knocked the hell out of Matt Dunigan all game long. It was just one of those games. It almost seemed too easy. We were just that good that year.”
The Stamps reached the Grey Cup thanks to a thrilling win over the Edmonton Eskimos in the West final. That contest at McMahon had a notable moment from an equipment manager’s perspective – Flutie lost a shoe on his way to the end zone on the last-minute game-winning touchdown.
“The shoe’s actually still in our possession,” chuckles Hopkins. “It’s a good thing we weren’t a sponsored league at that point because Doug was wearing Pony all the time and there’s a Nike shoe flying through the air in slow motion.”