Grey Cup flashback: Sam Etcheverry turned Als around

By Ian MacDonald, The Gazette April 26, 2010

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Though he rewrote the Canadian Football League record books during his record run – er, pass – through the mid-1950s, Sam (The Rifle) Etcheverry never led the Alouettes to a Grey Cup victory as a player.

But in 1970, during his first year as head coach, Etcheverry took the Alouettes all the way, beating the Calgary Stampeders 23-10 for Montreal’s first Grey Cup championship in 21 years.

The victory launched a decade that would see the Alouettes play in six Grey Cup games, with two more victories. In 1974, the Als beat the Edmonton Eskimos 20-7 in Vancouver, and in 1977 they hammered the Eskimos 41-6 in front of 68,318 at Olympic Stadium, a crowd that remains a Grey Cup record.

They haven’t won another Grey Cup since.

The 1970 win was surprising, with the Alouettes becoming the first third-place team in the regular season to capture the Grey Cup. Ironically, the Stampeders finished third in the Western Division.

The Alouettes had little success during the 1960s. But after the ’69 season, Sam Berger bought the team from Joe Atwell. In trying to rekindle the spirit that the Alouettes created during the ’50s, Berger not only signed Etcheverry as coach, but also brought back Red O’Quinn, one of Etcheverry’s great receivers, to serve as general manager.

The 1970 team had 23 new players and finished the regular season with a 7-6-1 record. Only days after the regular season was over, Etcheverry suspended – actually, fired is a better word – two first-string players for breaking one of the team’s few off-field regulations. Import fullback Dennis Duncan, who led the East with 1,037 yards rushing and nine touchdowns, and Canadian slotback Bob McCarthy were bounced for frequenting a drinking establishment that had been labeled out of bounds for the players.

Without Duncan and McCarthy in the lineup, the Als knocked off the second-place Toronto Argonauts 16-7 in the Eastern semi-final, and then defeated the first-place Hamilton Tiger-Cats 32-22 and 11-4 in a home-and-home Eastern final.

In the Grey Cup, the Als fell behind early on a Jerry Keeling touchdown pass to Hugh McKinnis. The Alouettes would bounce back, scoring on a strange play. Running-back Moses Denson was stopped on a third-down gamble from in close, but while Calgary defender Terry Wilson had a lock on Denson’s legs, he managed to throw a pass to Ted Alflen in the end zone.

Tom Pullen, on a run, and Gerry Lefebvre, on a pass from Sonny Wade, scored the other Alouettes touchdowns, while George Springate kicked a field goal. Terry Evanshen, who caught six passes for 95 yards, and defensive-back Al Phaneuf, who had two interceptions, were both outstanding, while Wade was named player of the game.

After the 1970 victory, the Alouettes stumbled during the next two seasons, but recovered in 1973 after Marv Levy was hired as coach. From 1974 through ’79, the Alouettes played in five of six Grey Cup games

Kicker Don Sweet was the star in their 1974 victory, scoring 13 points on four field goals and a single. Larry Sherrer scored the Als’ lone touchdown on a 5-yard run.

In 1977, the Als were the class of the league, finishing with an 11-5 record. They edged the Ottawa Rough Riders 21-18 in the Eastern final, before routing the Eskimos in a Grey Cup game that won’t soon be forgotten.

Despite a transit strike and a snowstorm, thousands of fans hiked from downtown to Olympic Stadium. The frozen field made the footing treacherous, and credit went to defensive-back Tony Proudfoot, now a commentator on CJAD’s Alouettes broadcasts, for coming up with the idea of putting staples on the bottom of the Montreal players’ cleats.

Wade threw touchdown passes to Peter Dalla Riva, John O’Leary and Bob Gaddis, while Sweet kicked a record six field goals.

Members of the 1970 team were: Ted Alflen, Justin Canale, Gordon Judges, Barry Randall, Wally Highsmith, Mike Webster, Garry Lefebvre, George Springate, Charlie Collins, Jorma Kuisma, Moses Denson, Tony Passander, Gene Gaines, Larry Fairholm, Bobby Lee Thompson, John Couture, Steve Booras, Steve Wormith, Bruce Van Ness, Angelo Raffin, Peter Dalla Riva, Gene Ceppetelli, Ed George, Tom Pullen, Mark Kosmos, Mike Widger, Ted Collins, Steve Smear, Al Phaneuf, Terry Evanshen, Sonny Wade, Pierre Desjardins, Merl Code, Bob Storey, Lewis Cook and Rickie Davis.

On the 1974 team, it was: Jimmy Jones, Don Sweet, Rudy Florio, Phil Price, Johnny Rodgers, Tony Proudfoot, Steve Ferrughelli, Ward Smith, Wally Buono, Wayne Conrad, Barry Randall, Glen Weir, Joe Critchlow, Peter Dalla Riva, Chuck Zapiec, Marv Luster, Art Edgson, Dan Yochum, Gary Chown, Ian Mofford, Sonny Wade, Keith Eaman, Dickie Harris, Gene Gaines, Larry Sherrer, Mike Widger, Larry Smith, Doug Mitchell, Ray Watrin, Dave Braggins, Ed George, Carl Crennel, Gordie Judges, Junior Ah You, Pat Bonnett, Jerome Gantt, Jake Zumbach and Doug Smith.

The 1977 team included: Barry Ardern, Dwayne Crump, Gerry Dattilio, Horace Belton, Chuck McMann, Dickie Harris, Pat Bonnett, Larry Smith, Dan Yochum, Marvin Davis, Peter Dalla Riva, Ray Watrin, Barry Randall, Joe Barnes, Ian Mofford, Bob Gaddis, Tony Proudfoot, Les Strayhorn, Clifton Alapa, Brock Aynsley, Wally Buono, Gary Chown, Gabriel Gregoire, Jim Burrow, Randy Rhino, Vernon Perry, Junior Ah You, Doug Smith, Chuck Zapiec, Glen Weir, Gordon Judges, Wayne Conrad, Sonny Wade, John O’Leary, Don Sweet, Carl Crennel, John Beaton, Max Huber and Andy Hopkins.

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