Beasts of The East: when Montreal & Toronto Have Met In Division Finals
By Chris Lawton
The CFL playoffs are in full sway and this coming weekend will see the East and West Division Finals played out. Following the semi-final games being played, we have the same matchups as we did a year ago at this stage. Which got me to thinking. How often have these teams met at this stage? And more than that, historically how have they done against each other?
The two teams have met each other several times in the East Final. Perhaps not surprising when both franchises have appeared in so many Grey Cup games. The Als beat the Argos 38-36 at Molson Stadium Montreal in front of 21,103 fans in 1955. That was in the IRFU final, the precursor to the moder East Division tilt. However, because we are focused on CFL games here that is not listed below.
1996: Toronto Argonauts 43-7 Montreal Alouettes
Sky Dome. Toronto. Attendance 28,390.
In 1995 the Argos had been 4-14, but with Doug Flutie at QB they improved by 11 wins – the greatest turnaround in team history. Their 15-3 finish in 1996 and 1997 was the team record until their 16-win season this year. Montreal had finished second in the East with a 12-6 record. Earlier in the season Toronto had recorded wins of 27-24 and 40-31 against Montreal. The Alouettes had returned to Montreal, built out of the very successful Baltimore Stallions franchise. They would go on to be very successful, but this was Toronto’s time as they eased their way in the Grey Cup.
1997: Toronto Argonauts 37-30 Montreal Alouettes
Sky Dome. Toronto. Attendance 32,085.
In 1996 the defending champion Argonauts again finished 15-3. They were possibly even more dominant than the year before. This time they had beaten the Alouettes 46-8 and 28-21 during the regular season but had dropped the final game of the year to them 43-38. Montreal again finished second in the East, this time with a 13-5 record. The Argos would win back-t0-back Grey Cup titles out of a dominant 34-6 run (including playoffs).
2002: Montreal Alouettes 35-18 Toronto Argonauts
Olympic Stadium. Montreal. Attendance 57,125.
When the Montreal Alouettes returned to the CFL, built around a core of ex Baltimore Stallions, they were hugely successful. The Als returned as a force in the East Division. They appeared in the playoffs every year from 1996 to 2014 whilst compiling a 214-127-1 record and appearing in the Grey Cup 8 times (winning on 3 occasions).
The first Grey Cup win came in 2002 after the 13-5 Als had despatched an 8-10 Argonauts team in the East Final.
2003: Montreal Alouettes 30-26 Toronto Argonauts
Olympic Stadium. Montreal. Attendance 60,007.
Just as the Argonauts had made back-to-back Grey Cup appearances in 1996-7 after despatching the Alouettes, so Montreal turned the tables in 2002-3. The biggest difference being that Montreal only won one Grey Cup game in the repeat appearances.
This time they got to the big game by recording another 13-5 season and putting away a 9-9 Toronto team in the East Final.
Don Matthews who had coached the Argos in 1996-97 was now coaching the Als (2002-6)
2004: Montreal Alouettes 18-26 Toronto Argonauts
Olympic Stadium. Montreal. Attendance 51,296.
In 2004 the Alouettes went 14-4, their best return since returning to the CFL. The Argonauts trailed them in second in the East at 10-7-1. During the regular season the Als had swept Toronto, winning 19-9, 22-10, and 58-20, but the Argos, who would go on to win the Grey Cup, slipped in a win at the most important time.
2005: Toronto Argonauts 17-33 Montreal Alouettes
Rogers Centre. Toronto. Attendance 44,211.
In a turnaround from the year before the Argos finished atop the East with an 11-7 record putting them a whisker ahead of the 10-8 Alouettes. Their regular season games had seen Montreal record an 18-10 win whilst the Argos had wins of 36-24 and 49-23. Montreal extracted the perfect revenge for being upset at home the previous season by doing the exact same thing to Toronto a year later.
2006: Montreal Alouettes 33-24 Toronto Argonauts
Olympic Stadium. Montreal. Attendance 35,607.
This would be the final matchup of a streak of five consecutive East Final tilts. Both teams had finished with 10-8 records. Montreal had the head-to-head advantage by taking the season series 2-1 with wins of 31-7 and 24-20, whilst Toronto managed a 31-6 win. They were up 30-10 heading into the fourth quarter of the East Final and made it stick for the win.
2010: Montreal Alouettes 48-17 Toronto Argonauts
Olympic Stadium. Montreal. Attendance 58,021.
The Montreal Alouettes were the defending CFL champions, and although they were not as dominant as the 15-3 team of 2009, their 12-6 record was good enough to take the East Division again. Toronto meanwhile had finished third in the East but fought through a semi-final for a shot at Montreal. It did not go well as they were 17-0 down after one quarter, 26-7 down at the half and were outscored in every quarter of the contest. Montreal would emulate the 1996-7 Argos and win back-to-back titles behind the leadership of Anthony Calvillo at QB.
2012: Montreal Alouettes 20-27 Toronto Argonauts
Olympic Stadium. Montreal. Attendance 50,112.
In 2012 the Als had topped the East Division with a n 11-7 record, whilst Toronto came into the playoffs at 9-9. The Argos had beaten the Als 23-20 early in the season but since lost twice to them by scores of 31-10 and 24-12.
In the East Final, Chad Owens, who had been traded by the Als to the Argos in 2010, was the star of the game. He had 11 catches for 207 of the 399 yards Ricky Ray threw for as Toronto caused the upset. They would go on to win the 100th Grey Cup game over Calgary.
2022: Toronto Argonauts 34-27 Montreal Alouettes
BMO Field. Toronto. Attendance 21,331.
This one is still fresh in the memory as it is only from last year. The 11-7 Argos had taken the division from the 9-9 Alouettes. All three regular season contests had been close, with Toronto winning 20-19 and 24-23, whilst the Als picked up a 38-33 win. AS the Argonauts are the defending CFL champs they would be very happy to replicate the 2022 playoff results.
2023: Toronto Argonauts ??-?? Montreal Alouettes
BMO Field. Toronto.
As ever it will be fun to see how these two old rivals fare against each other in the latest of their East Division Final clashes.
Feature Image Credit: The Canadian Press
Chris originally started following the NFL with the ‘first wave’ of fans when it was shown on Channel 4 in the 1980’s. He has been a keen supporter of the Miami Dolphins since 1983. Chris first encountered the CFL in 2016 and instantly fell in love with the Canadian game. He has been writing about the CFL 2017. Chris has a degree in history, postgraduate degree in librarianship and can be found on twitter as @CFLfanUK