Best of the West: when BC & Winnipeg 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 out 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?

Let’s take a look back then at the East Division matchups that have been played out in the past between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and BC Lions.

They have only met in the West Final four times. You might expect it have been more with them both being in the same 5-tam Division. However, the Blue Bombers have spent a good bit of time in the East for historical reasons.

1983: BC Lions 39-21 Winnipeg Blue Bombers

BC Place Stadium. Vancouver.

Between 1983 and 1988 the BC Lions had one of the best tuns in team history. Playing as they did in six consecutive West Finals and making it to three Grey Cup games. All of this built out of a 70-31-1 regular season run. Along the way they would play three consecutive finals against Edmonton (1986-1988) and three before that against Winnipeg (1983-1985). This was the first of those games.

This was the first season the team moved into BC Place, and they marked it by winning the West Division with an 11-5 record. They won the final after being 14-3 down against the 9-7 Blue Bombers after the first quarter. It was 21-18 after three to Winnipeg, but BC struck with 21 unanswered points in the final period to take the win.

1984: BC Lions 14-31 Winnipeg Blue Bombers

BC Place Stadium. Vancouver.

Once again, BC had won the West, this time with a 12-3-1 record. However, Winnipeg were much closer this time around, having gone 11-4-1 themselves. The tables were turned in the game itself as once again Winnipeg took the lead, being up 17-7 at halftime. Unlike the year before there was to be no comeback as the Blue Bombes outscored the Lions in every quarter of the game for the win.

1985: BC Lions 42-22 Winnipeg Blue Bombers

BC Place Stadium. Vancouver.

In the final game of the trilogy of West Division titles, BC once again got to host having had the best record in the West. They finished the season 13-3, again just ahead of Winnipeg who had themselves gone 12-4. During the regular season however, they had met in back-to-back games and the Blue Bombers had won both by scores of 33-26 and 31-10, so this was by no means a gimme for the Leos.

Once again, Winnipeg led after the first period of play, 8-7. But this time it was BC who exploded for points. A 17-16 halftime lead was massively increased when BC registered 22 third quarter points and held Winnipeg scoreless before the last stanza where they ran out 42-22 winners.

This would be the apex for the Lions, because after three years of trying, and a Grey Cup loss in 1983, they finally won it all in 1985. Coach of the Year Don Matthews had the first of five Grey Cup wins he would record with four different teams, and the only one he would win in BC.

In an ironic twist, with the loss of the Montreal Alouettes, the Blue Bombers had been moved to the East Division from the West for balance in 1987. By 1988 then the BC Lions were in their sixth straight Wet Final and won 37-19 over Edmonton. Meanwhile, Winnipeg had won the East meaning these two met in the 1988 Grey Cup. It could not have been closer, with Winnipeg taking it 22-21.

After that they would not meet in the playoffs again until a West Division semi-final game in 2002. Before Winnipeg returned to the West in 2014, the two met again in the 2011 Grey Cup. This time BC ran out the winners 34-23.

Once both were reunited in the West Division, it would take until last year before they met in a West Division Final again.

2022: Winnipeg Blue Bombers 28-20 BC Lions

Embed from Getty Images

IG Field. Winnipeg. Attendance 30,319.

This one is still fresh in the memory as it is only from last year. The Blue Bombers had set a team record with a fifteen-win season (15-3) to take the West and were hosting the Lions who had finished 12-6. Winnipeg were the two-time defending Grey Cup winners and were looking to threepeat, first by getting past the Lions to be in the big game.

During the season, Winnipeg had won 43-22 in BC, and 24-9 in Winnipeg but lost to BC away 32-40. Winnipeg went into this one heavily favoured after a dominant season. Winnipeg made it a threepeat of Western Final wins before tripping up in the Gey Cup. They will be very keen to get back to the Grey Cup again and reclaim their crown.

2023: Winnipeg Blue Bombers ??-?? BC Lions

IG Field. Winnipeg.

As ever it will be fun to see how these two old rivals fare against each other in the latest of their West Division Final clashes.

Feature Image Credit: Johany Jutras / Canadian Football League



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