August 26, 2019

The Rivalry: Part 1

With this year’s Labour Day home-and-home series featuring the two top teams in the CFL, is taking a four-part look at the history of the Battle of Alberta.

The competition between Edmonton and Calgary is older than Alberta. While the rivalry dates back to the 1880s when it was between railroad routes and fur-trading areas, the Battle of Alberta morphed into sports with the Eskimos and Stampeders setting the tone. The teams have met back-to-back in each of the last 25 seasons.


Sept. 6, 1949

Sept. 6, 1949 marked the return of professional football to Edmonton. Fittingly, the Eskimos first-ever game was Labour Day, against the Calgary Stampeders.

Edmonton Journal reporter George Mackinosh wrote:

“After a 10-year lapse football came back to Edmonton before an all-time record sports crowd of 11,123 enthusiasts at Clarke Stadium Monday night, and although the Eskimos finished up on the lowly end of a 20-6 score against the Dominion champion Calgary Stampeders, there wasn’t a dissatisfied fan in the throng.”

Coach Annis Stukus was pleased with the effort of the newly formed team and predicted “we’ll win our share of games.”

Calgary scored a touchdown in the first quarter and Edmonton responded in the second. Lineman Bill Radovich, who had sacked Stampeders quarterback Keith Spaith on the game’s first play, blocked a Calgary punt. Edmonton got ball on the one-yard line and a couple of plunges later Andy Marefos scored.

Calgary came right back, marching downfield on four pass completions to the Edmonton 10. Normie Kwong, who would later become one of the Eskimos all-time great running backs, swept around the left end for the go-ahead touchdown.

Journal Sports Editor Hal Pawson said the game was “just about the best sports promotion ever put on in Edmonton.”

Clarke Stadium hosted the Labour Day game until 1953 when it was discontinued until 1959 when the rivalry sprang up again, this time in Calgary and lasting through 1963.


Sept. 7, 1959

An inspired Don Getty at quarterback led the Eskimos to a 16-10 win over the Stamps on Monday in Calgary, after losing 15-8 in Edmonton on Saturday to the first-place Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The weekend split left Edmonton at 3-3, four points back of Winnipeg and two behind Calgary and B.C.

Coach Eagle Keys said it was “greatest team effort I’ve seen.”

Getty, playing in place of the injured Jackie Parker, completed 11-of-18 passes for 221 yards, recovered a fumble and made a couple of key runs, including a seven-yard gain early in the game to set up Kwong’s opening TD run.

The Stampeders fumbled six times and lost five of them in front of a record 17,268 fans in Calgary’s Mewata Stadium


Sept. 1, 1969

After a five-year absence the game was renewed in 1969. Calls for firing coach Neil Armstrong arose after the Eskimos lost their fifth straight game, 16-14 to the Stampeders in Calgary.

Edmonton started strongly with Ed Molstad recovering a fumble at mid-field and a double reverse saw flanker Terry Swarn carry to the 16. Quarterback Corey Colehour passed 10 yards to Jim Thomas but the offence stalled and settled for a Dave Cutler field goal and a 3-0 lead.

Another record crowd of 23,616 saw Calgary QB Jerry Keeling hit Dave Cranmer with a five-yard TD pass late in the first half. With 22 seconds left in the half Edmonton defensive back Dick Dupuis fielded a punt in the end zone and instead of running it out, kicked it and Calgary got it on the 27 yard line. They promptly kicked a field goal for a16-3 half time lead.

The Eskimos tried to rally in the second half and although they finished the game with superior statistics, couldn’t punch the ball into the end zone more than once. They were deep in Calgary territory four times but had to settle for a field goal, a single and the single major.

Their only touchdown came in the dying minutes on a 33-yard pass to Swarn. Edmonton tried a short kickoff but Calgary got the ball and ran out the clock.

Stay tuned to tomorrow for part two of “The Rivalry,” covering historical moments in the Labour Day series from 1989-99.