March 20, 2021

1985 Lions Restored Championship Joy To Province

21 years. In Grey Cup life, that can seem like an eternity in between championships. Like, just imagine the next time our BC Lions hoist Lord Earl Grey’s trophy isn’t until 2032.. Yeah, we won’t even contemplate that any further. This current edition of the Leos is primed for a run in 2021 and we’re grateful for the opportunity to get back on the field. But for now, we pay homage to a 1985 Lions team that got an enormous monkey off their back and restored championship joy to a diehard fan base throughout the province for the first time since their first championship win in ’64.

The CFL Grey Cup on Demand Portal has been a really cool history archive for die-hard fans as we head toward a return to normal life. Every two weeks, a new decade of Grey Cup games is made available. We are now into the 80s, a decade that provided Lions fans many wonderful memories. The pinnacle of all that was 1985 when Roy Dewalt, Mervyn Fernandez, John Henry White and a ferocious defence led by the likes of James ‘Quick’ Parker, Rick Klassen and Nick Hebeler led the squad to a third-straight first-place finish in the West and victory over Winnipeg in front of a packed madhouse at BC Place.

Standing in their way of that elusive second Grey Cup victory was a Hamilton Tiger-Cats squad that had lost to Winnipeg in the title game the year before. With Fernandez injured, young receiver Ned Armour filled the void with two touchdown receptions from Dewalt, including an 84-yard connection to set the tone early as the Lions led 10-0 after one quarter.

A big turning point came late in the first half with Hamilton ahead 14-13 and the Lions facing a punting situation in their own territory. Lui Passaglia evaded an oncoming Ticat defender and would instead scamper for about 22 yards for a first down. Instead of a punt block, the Lions had a fresh set of downs and took advantage with Armour’s second touchdown grab of the game. They never looked back.

The second half saw a dominant defensive front make life miserable for Hamilton quarterback Ken Hobart and another touchdown pass by Dewalt to Jim Sandusky helped put it out of reach. Lions 37 Ticats 24. Ending a two-decade-long drought never felt so good. 1985 was the year of the Lion.

In honour of the CFL's Grey Cup On Demand Portal, we look back at the 1985 Lions victory that ended a long championship drought.

B.C. Lions general manager Bob Ackles and his wife Kay, walk with the Grey Cup at the Vancouver International Airport on Nov. 25, 1985. The Canadian Press/Chuck Stoody.

Other Observations From 1985 Grey Cup Re-Watch

  • Hat tip to Lion Hall of Famer Al Wilson on winning his first Cup. Nobody had felt the sting of a long drought quite like the lineman from Duncan. It was his 14th season where he finally got to sip from the trophy. And a reminder to the naysayers who think it’s “easy” to win a title in this league. Not the case at all.
  • There was something about Don Matthews that just oozed swagger. You’d still be hard-pressed to find a cooler looking head coach. That obviously trickled down to his players in every city he worked. He truly was one of our league’s gems.
  • A common theme of every Lions team that won it all was an elite defensive front and pass rush. 1985 was certainly no exception with the names we mentioned above. Some of the current defensive linemen slated to be here in 2021 may not jump out to the average fan, but this writer is excited to see what they can do.
  • How far has technology come in the live sports world? After a few minutes of watching this on the Grey Cup Portal, I asked myself how in the world did we ever watch football games without the yellow first-down marker or score bug in the top corner of our screen? These graphics were probably considered ‘state of the art’ in 1985!
  • Is the 1985 team the best Lions one ever assembled? Certainly debatable. And a lot has to do with what era you prefer. Yours truly will always be partial to the 2006 champs. 1985 and 1994 are neck and neck for second in my books.
  • Some quick love for the Ticats uniform combo. Those yellow helmets were awesome. A big Oskie Wee Wee to that!
  • We realize Olympic Stadium in Montreal has been the butt of many jokes throughout its history, but seeing it as a pure outdoor venue here is pretty neat. Even if the conditions may not be like the 1977 Ice Bowl between the Alouettes and Edmonton.
  • As we all reflect on living in one-year of pandemic times, remember when watching re-broadcasts of old classic games became a big part of our routine last spring? It was a fun way to pass the times, but let’s all rejoice in the fact we’ll be back at our favourite CFL venues real soon!
  • For now, get your CFL fix by checking out the On Demand Portal itself. With the 90s games soon to be available, the Lions Grey Cup will only improve!

Matt Baker: