BC Lions

Notable Seasons

1963  Grey Cup Finalists

Before the start of the 1963 season, new optimism was voiced at the chances that the Lions could be a strong contender for the Grey Cup, which was to be played at Empire Stadium. With a veteran roster headlined by Joe Kapp and Willie Fleming, the Lions would end up finishing the season in first place for the first time in franchise history with a 12–4 record. After a 2–1 series victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Western Finals, the Lions lined up in the 51st Grey Cup game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. However, their momentum would be stalled as a series of injuries affected the team’s performance in the championship game.

In the Grey Cup game, star running back Willie Fleming was injured after he received a late, out of bounds hit by Ti-Cat defensive tackle Angelo Mosca. This proved to be a huge blow to the Lions’ chances of pulling out a victory. Hamilton won the 51st Grey Cup with a 21–10 victory, but the following year, the Lions would get their revenge.

After the season, Joe Kapp became the first BC Lion to receive the Jeff Nicklin Memorial Trophy as the Most Valuable Player of the Western Conference and Tom Brown became the first Lion to win the CFL’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player Award. In addition, Dave Skrien became the first Lions head coach to receive the Annis Stukus Trophy as Coach of the Year, and fullback/kicker Peter Kempf also became the second Lion to win the Dr. Beattie Martin Trophy for Rookie of the Year honours in the Western Conference

1964  Grey Cup Champions

After achieving an 11–2–3 regular season record in 1964, and defeating the Calgary Stampeders in a three-game series in the Western Conference Finals, the Lions would advance to meet the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in a Grey Cup rematch at Toronto‘s Exhibition Stadium. In the rematch, BC would get their revenge as Kapp, Ken Appleby, Willie Fleming, and Bill Munsey, who gave a two-touchdown, two-way starring effort, helped the Lions to their first Grey Cup victory. With the addition of two field goals and an extra touchdown by the field goal unit, the Lions won the Grey Cup for the first time in franchise history with a 34–24 victory. The win would end 11 years of waiting for the British Columbia faithful. At the end of the 1964 season, defensive lineman Tom Brown was named a CFL All-Star, a back-to-back Schenley award winner as CFL’s Most Outstanding Lineman Award, and won the Jeff Nicklin Memorial Trophy as the Most Valuable Player in the Western Conference. Joining Brown as All-Stars on defence were Mike Cacic, Dick Fouts, and Munsey. Joe Kapp and tackle Lonnie Dennis were named CFL All-Stars on offence.

1985  Grey Cup Champions

The Lions’ 1985 season began with much promise. Mervyn Fernandez shattered several team receiving records and second year receiver Jim Sandusky broke the 1,000 yard mark. Rookie defensive tackle Mike Gray was the most visible of several rookies. With depth and few injuries, the final season record of 13–3 was the best in team history, bringing the Lions their third consecutive first place divisional finish. The Lions avenged their prior year’s playoff defeat by handling Winnipeg 42–22, despite the fact that the Blue Bombers had won both regular season meetings and wide receiver Fernandez was out with a leg injury. One week later, the same Lions line-up met Hamilton at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal. 21 years of waiting ended with a 37–24 Grey Cup championship victory over the Tiger-Cats in the 73rd Grey Cup. Quarterback Roy Dewalt won the Grey Cup’s Most Valuable Player award on offence, while defensive end James “Quick” Parker took home the Grey Cup’s Most Valuable Player award on defence. Kicker Lui Passaglia was named the Grey Cup’s Most Valuable Canadian. Don Matthews won his first CFL Coach of the Year award. Mervyn Fernandez became the first Lion to win the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player Award and defensive tackle Mike Gray won both the CFL’s Most Outstanding Rookie award and the Jackie Parker Trophy. Linebacker Tyrone Crews won the first of two consecutive CFL Players Association Outstanding Community Service Awards. The CFL champions returned to Vancouver for a victory celebration that swept across the entire province.

1994  Grey Cup Champions

The Lions entered the 1994 campaign with a new quarterback, Kent Austin, at the helm. Off-season trades with Ottawa provided offensive guard Denny Chronopoulos, defensive lineman Andrew Stewart, and rush linebacker Angelo Snipes. A group of young, unknown, and aggressive linebackers emerged at training camp, Henry Newby, Tyrone Chatman, and Virgil Robertson, while the secondary was strengthened with the additions of Charles Gordon and Enis Jackson. The Lions opened the season at B.C.Place and gave the fans a taste of things to come with a hard-fought 24–20 victory over Winnipeg. The Lions offensive power was amply demonstrated the following week with a 57–18 thumping of the Ottawa Rough Riders. By the end of August, 1994, the Lions were 7–1–0, and had broken several single-game offensive records, including a 67–15 point record win over Shreveport. The Leos’ secondary was further bolstered by the signing of former NFL stars James Jefferson and Barry Wilburn. The team endured a dry spell at the season’s midpoint, losing close games to Winnipeg, Edmonton, Saskatchewan, and Baltimore. A late season win over Las Vegas (45–7) and a close 24–23 loss to Calgary, gave the Lions new hope heading into the playoffs, as well as an 11–6–1 regular season finish. The team travelled to Edmonton for the Western Division Semi-Finals, where the Lions had only managed one playoff victory at Commonwealth Stadium. With just over four minutes left in the game, defensive back Charles Gordon’s miraculous end-zone interception stopped the Eskimos in their tracks and gave new life to the Lions. Quarterback Kent Austin, replacing an injured Danny McManus who had started the game, mounted a Lions’ drive which ate up the clock and the field. Lui Passaglia kicked the winning field goal with 30 seconds left to give the Lions a tough 24–23 come-from-behind victory. The following week, in one of the most memorable CFL games ever, the Lions and the Doug Flutie led Stampeders traded touchdowns and field goals all night at McMahon Stadium. In the swirling snow with two minutes left in the game, Calgary, who led by 5 points, set up to kick a field goal. Lions’ wide receiver Ray Alexander leapt up and made an amazing block, giving the Lions renewed hope and decent field position. Danny McManus, who had replaced Kent Austin in the second half after Austin re-injured a separated shoulder, staged a furious last-minute drive, hitting receivers all the way down the field to the Stampeder’s four yard line. With Calgary leading 36–31, with four seconds left in the game, McManus found receiver Darren Flutie alone in the end zone to give the Lions their first playoff victory over Calgary in 30 years, and a berth in the Grey Cup against Baltimore at B.C. Place. The dramatics continued the following week in the 82nd Grey Cup. With 55,097 cheering fans looking on, the Lions and Stallions staged another thriller with both teams playing great football. Baltimore took a 17–10 lead at halftime, and extended their lead to 20–10 early in the third quarter. Lions’ quarterback Danny McManus entered the game and staged a second-half rally. Seemingly stalled at the Baltimore 30 yard line, Lui Passaglia and Darren Flutie staged a fake field goal to gain a big first down, which changed the momentum of the game. McManus ran in from the two-yard line to tie the score at 20–20. After the teams traded field goals to make the score 23–23, McManus engineered another late-game drive to the Baltimore 37 yard line. Passaglia missed the field goal with just over one minute remaining, but the Lions’ defence rose up to deny Baltimore and stop them cold within their own five-yard line. After a punt and a couple of runs to set up another field goal try, Passaglia converted a field goal with no time remaining on the clock to give the Lions an incredible 26–23 victory, the third Grey Cup championship in the team’s history. Passaglia went on to win a well-deserved Grey Cup Most Valuable Canadian award for his heroics.

2000  Grey Cup Champions

The Lions began the 2000 campaign with only one goal in mind: win the Grey Cup. Six months later, the Lions would fulfill that destiny, but the path to the 88th Grey Cup was one of the most adventurous, unpredictable, and memorable ever in CFL history. The year started well enough, with victories over Hamilton and Saskatchewan, but a 35–2 loss to Calgary began a four-game losing streak and a lot of finger-pointing. A win over the Toronto Argonauts halted the slide, but following the game, Head Coach Greg Mohns resigned to join the XFL. Long-time CFL coach Steve Buratto, who joined the club only two weeks earlier as a receivers coach, was promoted to the top job, and got instant results with a huge 51–4 win over the Argos in the second of back-to-back games. Despite a promising start, the Lions only won one of their next five games to sit at 5–9 on Thanksgiving. Nevertheless, the Lions came together when it counted the most, winning three of their last four heading into the playoffs, and the offence jelling to become the best in the CFL that season. Quarterback Damon Allen broke Ron Lancaster‘s CFL record for career passing yardage. Lui Passaglia played in a memorable, “Luv Ya Lui” night at his final game at B.C. Place, and also set a CFL record for single season field goal percentage. The Lions finished the year 8–10 and in third place in the Western Division, but were the team other teams did not want to face in the playoffs. A snarly defence started to show its grit, and the Lions roared confidently into Edmonton and emerged with a 34–32 Western Semi-Final victory, thanks to a Passaglia field goal on the final play. The Lions next faced Calgary in the Western Finals, and the Lions steamrolled to a decisive 37–23 win. The Leos’ Cinderella season came to a close on November 26, 2000 in the Grey Cup at McMahon Stadium in Calgary, as the Lions won their fourth championship in team history with a nail biting 28–26 victory over the Montreal Alouettes. Running back Robert Drummond won the Grey Cup’s Most Valuable Player award, while backfield teammate Sean Millington took home the Grey Cup’s Most Valuable Canadian trophy. The Lions’ triumph marked the first time a team with a sub-.500 regular season record won the Grey Cup, and it signalled a marvellous end to Lui Passaglia‘s outstanding, 25-year CFL career.

2006  Grey Cup Champions

The 2006 season saw Casey Printers go off to the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs, however a new quarterback controversy of sorts threatened to develop. During the off-season 2005s third stringer, Buck Pierce won the back-up role and early season injuries to Dave Dickenson forced him into action. Pierce’s best game as the starter was on October 6 against the Calgary Stampeders, where he threw 25 for 31 for 297 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. He began the game with one incomplete pass, and then hit his next 14.

The Lions in the off-season also acquired former Roughrider Paul McCallum to stabilize the kicking game which had not recovered from Lui Passaglia‘s retirement in 2000. After a sluggish 2–3 start in 2006, Coach Buono signalled that no starting job was safe by releasing runningback Antonio Warren and defensive back Sam Young. The team responded by winning the next six games. New running back Joe Smith ran for over 100 yards in his first game. Brent Johnson, Barron Miles, and Mark Washington led a dominant defence; 10 different defenders scored touchdowns on turnovers. They also held opposition offences to 17 points or less on 6 occasions. Receiver Geroy Simon dominated opposing defensive backs in a manner not seen since Mervyn Fernandez in the 1980s, and broke the club record for single season receiving yardage for the second straight year. The Lions clinched first place on October 6, earning a third straight bye into the Western Final at home, and tied a team record with a 13–5 mark for the season. 50,084 (league best for 2006) saw BC crush the Roughriders 45–18 in the West final. Looking fully recovered from earlier concussions, Dickenson went 27 for 37 with 3 TDs and no INTs. Paris Jackson made two circus catches for TDs, Jason Claremont bulled his way to 98 yards on 6 catches, Joe Smith scored twice and ran for 116 yards, McCallum was 5 for 5 in field goals, and the BC defence dominated Saskatchewan all afternoon.

On November 19, the BC Lions captured their first Grey Cup Championship since 2000 by defeating the Montreal Alouettes 25–14 at Canad Inns Stadium in Winnipeg. Dave Dickenson was named the Most Valuable Player of the game, while Paul McCallum was named the Most Valuable Canadian. In the post-game exuberance, the team snapped the Grey Cup off the lower base with the engraved names, but it was repaired the following Monday.[6] The game is also noted for kicker Paul McCallum going 6 for 6 in field goals, making him a perfect 11 for 11 in the post season. Coach Buono also used all three quarterbacks in the game: Dickenson, Pierce and third-string Jarious Jackson all took snaps.

The record setting season was capped off with Buono’s third CFL Coach of the Year Award. The Lions nearly swept the annual player awards, with Brent Johnson, Geroy Simon, Rob Murphy, Mark Washington, and Aaron Hunt (BC’s sixth Outstanding Rookie in nine years) all taking home hardware.

2011  Grey Cup Champions

The 2011 BC Lions season marked what would be known as perhaps one of the greatest season turnarounds in CFL history. The Lions entered the 2011 campaign with a lot of question marks. The team had almost exactly the same coaching staff as they had the year before, which had been criticized by many fans the past season. The team also lost a few key players, most notably Emmanuel Arceneaux to the NFL. As well, the team opted to go with inexperienced third year pivot Travis Lulay to start at quarterback.

Despite a questionable lineup, the Lions, as well as many fans and critics alike, believed that the team was good enough to win the Grey Cup, especially since the game was scheduled to be played in Vancouver at the newly renovated BC Place Stadium. However, the season started out with five straight losses which forced changes to be made. The Lions signed two notable CFL players; defensive back Tad Kornegay, who had just been released by Saskatchewan, and wide receiver Arland Bruce, who was acquired in a trade with Hamilton. The Lions got their first win of the season when they beat the Saskatchewan Roughriders 24–11 in week 6, but the following week, the Lions were swept by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for the first time in ten years. Now sitting at 1–6, many fans and critics started to doubt the Lions playoff hopes, but after a convincing 36–1 win over the Edmonton Eskimos, the Lions went on a remarkable 8-game winning streak, skyrocketing the Leos all the way to the top of a very competitive West Division. The Lions winning streak ended after a 42–10 loss to Hamilton in week 17, but after that, the Lions won their last two games of the season, which included a 43–1 clobbering of the two-time defending Grey Cup champions Montreal Alouettes in the regular season finale. After starting the season 0–5, the Lions rebounded to win 11 of their last 13 games to clinch 1st place in the West Division with a 11–7 record, as well as a bye in the first round of the playoffs and a home playoff game.

In the West Division Final, the Lions faced the Edmonton Eskimos, the same team that beat the Lions in the 2005 West Final, which denied the Lions a home game in the Grey Cup, since Vancouver hosted the Grey Cup that year. However, in 2011, a home game in the Grey Cup is what the Lions would get, as the Leos dominated the Eskimos 40–23 as the Lions advanced to the big game for the first time in five years. In the Grey Cup, the Lions were up against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for only the second time in Grey Cup history. Although Winnipeg won both regular season meetings with BC, the Lions would go on to beat the Bombers 34–23 in front of a home crowd to win their 6th Grey Cup championship in franchise history. Travis Lulay was named Grey Cup Most Valuable Player, while Winnipeg native Andrew Harris was named Most Valuable Canadian. With the Grey Cup win, the BC Lions became the first team to start a season 0–5 and win the Grey Cup.

Head coach Wally Buono announced shortly after the Grey Cup that he would step down as head coach but will remain as vice president and general manager.[13] The BC Lions were named The Canadian Press Team of the Year for 2011 in voting by sports editors and broadcasters across Canada.[14]

Best Seasons