February 16, 2017

Wally’s world

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Stampeders’ 1992 Grey Cup championship squad. In the coming months, we’ll be taking a look back at the squad that snapped the Stamps’ 21-year title drought and the cast of characters responsible for the conquest.

One of the best moves in Calgary Stampeders history happened in 1990 under the watch of general manager Normie Kwong.

In need of a head coach to replace the departed Lary Kuharich, Kwong turned to one Pasquale Buono, better known in the CFL world as “Wally.”

Previously an assistant on Kuharich’s staff, Buono guided the Stamps to a pair of 11-win seasons in his first two years on the job.

Then, in 1992, Buono added the general manager’s duties and the Red and White took the next giant step in their progression, winning 13 games and capturing the Grey Cup.

There’s lots of evidence of Buono’s coaching exploits – the man, after all, is the winningest coach in CFL history – but less statistical proof comes in the man’s willingness to surround himself with smart and competent people.


Buono was comfortable enough in his own abilities to employ strong, confident men who knew the game and would bring lots of ideas to the meeting rooms.

In his first seasons as the helm of the Stamps, Buono’s staff included a handful of future CFL head coaches including Don Sutherin, Jeff Tedford, George Cortez, Tom Higgins and a chap named John Hufnagel.

All told, that quintet went on to coach CFL teams to 236 regular-season victories including Hufnagel’s 102 wins and pair of Grey Cups with the Stamps. That doesn’t even factor in Tedford’s success at the collegiate level at Cal or Huff’s experience in the NFL working with quarterbacks such as Tom Brady and Eli Manning.

The only staff that can surpass the early-1990s Stamps coaching was Hugh Campbell’s group of assistant during the Eskimo dynasty years. That impressive collection of football knowledge included Don Matthews, Cal Murphy and Joe Faragalli.

As for Buono’s 1992 staff, Higgins served as assistant head coach and Hufnagel was the offensive coordinator.

With weapons like Doug Flutie, Allen Pitts, David Sapunjis, Carl Bland and Derrick Crawford at his disposal, Hufnagel helped introduce the era of five- and six-receiver sets and the 1992 Stamps passed for more than 6,000 yards and scored 607 points.

The other coach on the 1992 squad was Chuck McMann, who later served as head coach at the university level with McGill and is currently part of former Montreal Alouettes teammate Buono’s staff with the BC Lions.