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Now that's a rivalry

During the course of today's playoff showdown I checked out the historical rivalry between the Eskimos and Blue Bombers. I knew it was close as both teams have taken their turn at ascendancy, especially in the 1950s when they were by far the class of the old Western Interprovincial Football Union (which is before even my time, but the scores are recorded on stone tablets). The two teams met in the post-season 10 times in the 11 years 1950-60, including 9 times in the best-of-3 finals with 7 of those series going the limit. That's an incredible 26 playoff games over those 11 seasons, with each team winning 13 games and advancing 5 times. 13 games were played in each town, with the visitors winning 5. Four of the series were upsets, with each side winning twice.

Many of the games were defensive tong wars in brutal conditions, if scores like 4-1, 5-4 and 4-2 are our guide. One such occasion occurred in 1957 when the Bombers ended the Esks' run of three Grey Cups by winning Game 3 in Edmonton by the highly unusual score of 17-2 in overtime. That was a famously wind-blown game that ended Pop Ivy's otherwise triumphant four-year run as Eskimos coach.

Since the CFL became a truly integrated national league in 1961 (when interlocking play started) the teams have met more rarely in the post-season, in part due to the rise of other powers and rivalries in the west and in part because Winnipeg has bounced back and forth between conferences. The teams did meet 5 times in 6 years 1980-85, with the Esks scraping by the Bombers en route to their 5th straight Cup and the Bombers ending the dynastic run the next year with a decisive home victory in Warren Moon's last game, 25 years ago this week.

Overall since 1961, the old rivals have met 8 more times in single-game Western playoffs, splitting 4 wins apiece; and twice in the Grey Cup game in the early 90s, each team winning once. So the series was still dead even, until today's unusual meeting in the East playoffs. Today's win gives the Eskimos the leg up again, the green and gold having won the series or sudden death game 11 times to Winnipeg's 10. Counting all of those best of three series that went the limit in the old WIFU, Eskimos have won 19 games, the Bombers 18. Winnipeg has actually outscored Edmonton 673-622 for an average game score of EDM 17 WPG 18.

For those who are interested in such trivia, here's the playoff history of the remarkably even Edmonton-v.-Winnipeg rivalry, scraped from Iggy's CFL. Edmonton always listed first, series winner in italics, * designates home team.

1950 WIFU F : EDM 17 WPG* 16; 12*-22; 6-29*
1951 WIFU SF: EDM* 4 WPG 1
1952 WIFU F : EDM 12 WPG* 28; 18*-12; 22-11*
1953 WIFU F : EDM* 25 WPG 7; 17-21*; 24-30
1954 WIFU F : EDM* 9 WPG 3; 6-12*; 10*-5
1955 WIFU F : EDM* 29 WPG 6; 26-6*
1957 WIFU F : EDM* 7 WPG 19; 5-4*; 2*-17 (ot)
1958 WIFU F : EDM 7 WPG* 30; 30*-7; 7-23*
1959 WIFU F : EDM 11 WPG* 19; 8*-16
1960 WIFU F : EDM 16 WPG* 22, 10*-5; 4-2*

1966 WFC SF : EDM 8 WPG* 16
1976 WFC SF : EDM 14 WPG* 12
1980 West F : EDM* 34 WPG 24
1982 West F : EDM* 24 WPG 21
1983 West SF: EDM 22 WPG* 49
1984 West SF: EDM 20 WPG* 55
1985 West SF: EDM 15 WPG* 22

1990 GREY CUP: EDM 11 WPG 50
1993 GREY CUP: EDM 33 WPG 23

1996 West SF: EDM* 68 WPG 7
2008 East SF: EDM 29 WPG* 21