History | Edmonton Eskimos
 
 
History

 

Green and Gold 1949-1969

The Eskimos adopted their now famous Green and Gold uniforms in 1949. The following year Edmonton would make history when they met Winnipeg in the first professional playoff game played at night under lights.  Edmonton was defeated 21-11 by Toronto in the 1952 Grey Cup played at Toronto’s Varsity Stadium. In 1953, Eskimo halfback Billy Vessells was named the first winner of the Schenley Award as the league’s Outstanding Player.  Led by Head Coach Frank "Pop" Ivy, the Eskimos "original dynasty" would win the first of three consecutive (1954-1956) Grey Cup titles, starting with a thrilling 26-25 win over Montreal in the 1954 Grey Cup in Toronto that featured Jackie Parker’s fumble recovery and 84 yard touchdown that has become one of the most famous plays in Canadian sports history. Edmonton and Montreal would be back in the Grey Cup the following year in Vancouver and the Eskimos prevailed 34-19. Edmonton’s Normie Kwong took home the Schenley as the league’s top player. In the ’56 Grey Cup, Edmonton with Canadian quarterback Don Getty at the helm romped over the Als 50-27. Normie Kwong took home his second consecutive Schenley and "Pop" Ivy was named Coach of the Year.   Edmonton’s bid for a fourth straight Cup would end in the West Final with a loss to Winnipeg, but there were plenty of individual honours as Jackie Parker won the Schenley, Johnny Bright was the league’s leading rusher and Mike Lashuk was the top rookie.

In 1958, Sam Lyle replaced Ivy as the Esks head coach. Jackie Parker won his second straight Schenley and Johnny Bright was again the CFL’s top rusher. Lyle would step down following the season. Former Eskimo player Eagle Keys was named head coach in 1959. The Eskimos ushered in the Swingin’ 60’s with a16-6 loss to Ottawa in the Grey Cup. Jackie Parker won his third consecutive Schenley Award. The Esks stumbled through the 1962’-63 seasons with a record of 8-23-1. In 1964, Neill Armstrong replaced Eagle Keys as coach and the Esks adopted the nine man board of directors to help manage business operations. In 1966, Norm Kimball was promoted from coordinator of minor football to general manager and the work would start on Edmonton’s "Next Dynasty".


Building the Next Dynasty 1970 - 1983

In 1970, Ray Jauch replaced Neill Armstrong and was named CFL Coach of the Year in his first year at the helm. Two former Eskimo greats were inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame: Johnny Bright (1970) and Jackie Parker (1971). 1973 was highlighted by Edmonton’s 8th trip to the Grey Cup. The Esks lost 22-18 to Ottawa, but the team served notice of great things to come. George McGowan tied a CFL record with 15 receptions in one game and was named 1970 Schenley Award winner while teammate Dave Cutler set a new league mark with 32 field goals in a season.

Quarterback Tom Wilkinson who had joined the Eskimos in 1972 as part of a key multi-player deal with BC led the Eskimos to the 1974 Grey Cup only to fall 20-7 to Montreal. Wilkinson would be named the Schenley Award winner that year.

The 1975 edition of the Esks would roll to a 12-4 regular season record and a trip to the first ever Prairie Grey Cup at McMahon Stadium in Calgary. Edmonton would get all of its field goals from Dave Cutler to defeat Montreal 9-8. After dropping to third in the Western Conference and losing to Saskatchewan in the 1976 West Final, Edmonton named Hugh Campbell as Head Coach in 1977 and the move paid immediate dividends.

Linebacker and future Hall of Famer Dan Kepley won the Schenley as the CFL’s top Defensive Player. Playing before a record crowd of 68, 318 at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, Edmonton lost the 1977 Grey Cup 41-6 to the hometown Alouettes.  On August 23, 1978, the Esks played their last game at Clarke Stadium and moved to the newly constructed Commonwealth Stadium. With a punishing defence led by Dan Kepley and "Dr. Death" Dave Fennell Edmonton would beat Montreal 20-13 in the 1978 Grey Cup and the "Five in a Row" Dynasty was off and running. The Esks and Als met again in the 1979 Grey Cup with Edmonton prevailing 17-9. There was no shortage of individual honours as receiver Brian Kelly was named top rookie, Dave Fennell Outstanding Canadian and Mike Wilson the top lineman. The city clearly loved the Green and Gold as the Esks set a Western Conference attendance record of 340,239.


The 1980’s

The new decade would start much the way the last one ended. The talent laden Eskimos piled up 505 points en route to a 13-3 regular season record and meeting with Hamilton in the 1980 Grey Cup in Toronto. Tom Scott had 3 TDs and Jim Germany added a pair as Edmonton hammered the Tiger-Cats 48-10. Dan Kepley was named the CFL’s Outstanding Defensive Player. Winning had now become a habit, and the next season the Esks set league records with a 14-1-1 record and their fourth straight Grey Cup when they defeated Ottawa 26-23. In 1982, the Esks stumbled out of the gate with a 3-5 record and Hugh Campbell announced it would be his last season. Campbell was named Head Coach of the NFL’s Houston Oilers in 1977. Following Campbell’s announcement, the Esks reeled off 8 straight wins, a West Division championship and a trip to the 1982 Grey Cup against Toronto. Edmonton soundly beat the Argos 32-16 to win their fifth straight Grey Cup. Dave Fennell won Outstanding Canadian and Outstanding Defensive Player in the Grey Cup, quarterback Warren Moon was Outstanding Player and James "Quick" Parker won the Schenley Award as the CFL’s Outstanding Defensive Player. 

1983 marked the end of the dynasty and ushered in a period of 're-tooling' for the Green and Gold. Moon left for the Houston Oilers and Pete Kettela had the unenviable task of following in Hugh Campbell’s footsteps. Kettela was fired following a Labour Day loss in Calgary and replaced by Jackie Parker who led the Esks to three consecutive third place finishes (1983, ’84, ’85). In 1986, the Esks rebounded with a record of 13-4-1 and a first place finish, but were trounced 39-15 by Hamilton 1986 Grey Cup in Vancouver. Hugh Campbell returned to Edmonton as the clubs’ General Manager, a post he would hold until 1997.

With Joe Faragalli as head coach, 1987 marked recording setting seasons for receiver Brian Kelly and kick returner Gizmo Williams, a return to form for the Esks and Edmonton’s tenth Grey Cup title. Quarterback Damon Allen was chosen Outstanding Player in the Esks 38-36 Grey Cup win over Toronto.

The Eskimos celebrated their 40th anniversary in 1989 and set a record for most wins in a season (16), most points (644), most TDs (70), yards gained (7,951) and Tracy Ham set a league record for yards rushing by a quarterback in a season (1,051).


The 90’s

The Eskimos entered the new decade with a trip to the Grey Cup against Winnipeg but lost the championship game 50-11. Faragalli left following the season and was replaced by Ron Lancaster who,, in his first season, led the Esks to a 12-6 first place finish before losing to Calgary in the West Final. Fullback Blake Marshall tied the CFL record for most TDs in a season (20) and was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Canadian. Gizmo Williams continued to electrify fans and established new records for most punt returns in a season (1,140), most punt returns in a game (232) and most punt return TDs in a season (5).

In 1992, the Esks advanced to the West Final for the 13th time in 21 years but lost to Calgary. Linebacker Willie Pless was named the CFL’s Outstanding Defensive player. The following season, Edmonton shook up its roster with a blockbuster eight for eight trade with Toronto. The Esks obtained Ed Berry, Eddie Brown, Bruce Dickenson, Rickey Foggie, J.P. Izquierdo, Len Johnson, Darrell K. Smith and in a separate deal reacquired Damon Allen from Hamilton. Edmonton rolled to eight consecutive victories including a 33-23 win over Winnipeg to win their 11th Grey Cup. Sean Fleming accounted for 21 of Edmonton’s points and was named Outstanding Canadian in the Grey Cup.

Edmonton posted back to back second place finishes in 1994 and ’95, Willie Pless was named the CFL’s Outstanding Defensive Player two straight seasons (1994’95), and in 1995 set a new league record by qualifying for the playoffs for a 24th straight season. In 1996, the Eskimos finished second in the West and advanced to their 19th Grey Cup appearance, losing 43-37 to Toronto. Ron Lancaster passed Hugh Campbell for most wins as an Eskimo head coach with 71 and Lancaster became just the third coach in team history to be named CFL Coach of the Year. With Edmonton hosting Grey Cup ’97, the Eskimos finished first in the West with a 12-6 record, only to be upset in the West Final at Commonwealth Stadium by Saskatchewan  Lancaster left the Eskimos following the 1997 season as the winningest coach in team history (83). 1998 marked the one and only season for ex-Sacramento and San Antonio head coach Kay Stephenson who replaced Lancaster. Stephenson resigned following the ’98 season and was replaced by the winningest coach in CFL history - Don Matthews. The Esks were 6-12 and third in the West in Matthews first season, but qualified for the playoffs for the 28th straight year.


2000 - present

The start of the new millennium was the end of the great Gizmo Williams’ playing career. After 200 games in Green and Gold, Williams left football as the leading kick returner of all-time and the Eskimos most popular player.
In 2001, Don Matthews was replaced as head coach by General Manager Tom Higgins prior to the Esks first pre-season. Jason Maas became the first Eskimo quarterback since 1990 to be named a CFL West All-Star in leading Edmonton to a first place finish and a trip to the West Final. Sean Fleming set a team record with 22 consecutive field goals and was named a West All-Star as both punter and kicker.

Edmonton was named host city for the 90th Grey Cup and the Eskimos didn’t disappoint fans who were hoping they would become the first Western team since BC in 1994 to both play in and host a Grey Cup game. Led by rookie quarterback Ricky Ray, CFL leading rusher John Avery, slotback Terry Vaughn, who set a league record with his 8th consecutive 1000 yards receiving season, and CFL sack leader Elfrid Payton, Edmonton finished 13-5, good for first in the West and second overall. Edmonton defeated Winnipeg 33-30 in the West Final and advanced to the Grey Cup against Montreal, which the Als won 25-16.

Six Eskimos were named to the CFL West All-Star team: John Avery, Jason Tucker, Terry Vaughn, Bruce Beaton, Elfrid Payton and Sean Fleming. Avery, Fleming, Payton, Vaughn and Tucker were selected to the 2002 CFL All-Star team. Payton capped his career year by winning the CFL Outstanding Defensive Player award, while teammate Bruce Beaton was runner-up as Outstanding Lineman. 

Expectations were high for the Grey Cup finalists from the year previous and with off-season acquisitions of Kevin Lefsrud, Mike Pringle and Thomas Haskins from the Montreal Alouettes, there was no shortage championship flavor in the Eskimo locker room. Led by super-sophomore Ricky Ray, the Eskimos tore up the CFL in numerous offensive categories with Mike Pringle leading the league in rushing touchdowns and Terry Vaughn enjoying a career year in receiving yardage. The offensive line allowed the fewest sacks propelling a Ray and co. to another 13-5 mark, first place in the West Division and second overall in the CFL. Edmonton defeated Saskatchewan 30-23 in the West Final and crashed the 'Riders Grey Cup party in Regina. The Eskimos exacted revenge on their foes from the east by defeating Montreal 33-24 for their first championship in 10 years and their twelfth in team history. Eight Eskimos were named to the CFL West All-Star team: Mike Pringle, Terry Vaughn, Ed Hervey, Dan Comiskey, Bruce Beaton, Donny Brady and Shannon Garrett. Hervey, Beaton and Brady were selected to the 2003 CFL All-Star team.

In 2004, Mike Pringle passed George Reed to become the CFL’s all-time leading rusher and Jason Maas became the 2nd player in Eskimo history to pass for more than 5,000 yards (5270) and also set a new CFL record for consecutive completions in a game with 22 versus Winnipeg.  Malcolm Frank set a new league standard for touchdowns on interception returns with five.

The Eskimos began 2005 with a new head coach when Danny Maciocia was named the club’s 17th head coach and the team’s first Canadian-born head man since Annis Stukus (’49-’51).  Sean Fleming kicked his 465th career field goal, passing Dave Cutler for 1st on Edmonton’s All-Time Field goal list. Ricky Ray became the 3rd Eskimo player to pass for 5,000 yards in a season (joining Warren Moon and Jason Maas). The Eskimos made the playoffs for the 34th consecutive year and won the Grey Cup with a 38-35 overtime win against Montreal.  Ricky Ray set a Grey Cup completions record by completing 35 of 45 passes on his way to being named the Grey Cup MVP.

In 2006, QB Ricky Ray led the CFL in passing yards with 5,000 and he and WR Jason Tucker are both named CFL All-Stars.  The Eskimos finish the season 7-11 and miss the playoffs for the first time in 35 years. The team missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season in 2007. 

The Eskimos returned to the playoffs in 2008 after finishing the season 10-8. The Esks crossed over to the East Semi-Final against Winnipeg and became the first western team to win a crossover game in the playoffs. The green and gold lost to the Montreal Alouettes in the East Final the following week. Several team and league records were set: QB Ricky Ray broke two Warren Moon club records to become first in career touchdown passes (145) and first in passing yards in a season (5,648). He also set a CFL single-game record with a 92% completion rate when he went 23 of 25 for 302 yards and two touchdowns in the final game of the season. DB Jason Goss tied Eskimo records for interception touchdowns in a game (2) and interceptions in a game (3) and became second in CFL history for most interception return yards in a game (144).

Before the 2009 season Danny Maciocia steps down as Head Coach and is named General Manager and Director of Football Operations. Long-time Saskatchewan defensive coordinator Richie Hall is named Eskimo head coach. He leads the team to a 9-9 record, third in the CFL West, and lose to Calgary in the West Semi-Final.  Fred Stamps leads all CFL receivers with 1,402 yards.