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Don't plan victory parade yet

Early success doesn't mean Blue will hoist Grey Cup at end of season

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 9/7/2014 (1140 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Here's something to ponder:

If the Winnipeg Blue Bombers beat the Alouettes in Montreal Friday -- and the Bombers won each of the last three times they visited La Belle Province -- it would be just the third time since 1987 a Bombers team opened the regular season at 3-0.

Johnny Sears

Johnny Sears

Bombers receiver Aaron Kelly expects to play in Montreal, even though he was hurt in practice earlier this week.


Bombers receiver Aaron Kelly expects to play in Montreal, even though he was hurt in practice earlier this week.

So it'd be easy street to the Grey Cup with a win in Montreal, right?

Not so fast. It's not how you start, but how you finish in the CFL -- a league where six of the nine teams make the playoffs at season's end.

The disappointing history of those two other 3-0 Bombers teams since 1987 illustrates that point perfectly. The 2003 Bombers opened at 4-0 before they lost their first game, but it was all for naught as that team lost four of their last six regular-season games and the West semifinal, fizzling out when it mattered most.

It was the same story in 1987, when the Bombers also won their first four regular-season games, only to lose two of their last three regular season games and get spanked in the East final.

Winnipeg's Grey Cup history since 1990 suggests how this franchise starts a season doesn't mean a whole lot. Consider:

The Blue Bombers have played in six Grey Cups since 1990, winning in '90 and losing the next five (in 1992, 1993, 2001, 2007 and 2011). In those Grey Cup years, the Bombers opened at 2-0 three times (in 1990, 2001 and 2011); they started 1-1 twice (in 1992 and 1993); and they opened 1-0-1 once (in 2007).

All of which is to say you can safely hold off buying any ticker tape just yet.

"It's a long season," said veteran Bombers defender Johnny Sears Wednesday, "and each game has more significance than the last."

If that's true, then it bodes well for the Bombers their third game of this season will be played in a place where they have feasted in recent years.

It is one of the stranger quirks of the recent history of the Bombers they have thrived on the road in Montreal even as they struggled everywhere else.

Consider: Of the three measly games the Bombers won in 2013, two of those victories came at Stade Molson in downtown Montreal.

Add another Bombers win in Montreal in October 2012 ( a season the Bombers won just six games) and Winnipeg will carry a three-game winning streak into a city that, with all its fabulous and infamous temptations, has derailed more than a few visiting CFL teams over the years, but somehow, not the Bombers.

Maybe it's got something to do with the scolding they get every year from coaches.

"Every time we're in Montreal," said offensive lineman Steve Morley with a laugh, "It's always the same speech: 'There's a lot of distractions here, this city will eat you alive. Stay off of Ste-Catherine Street. Don't stay out all night type of thing.'

"Every year it's the same thing."

And every year, at least for the last two, the Bombers have somehow resisted those temptations of the flesh (and other things).

Sears said he thinks his team has thrived in Montreal precisely because it is such a big league city.

"It's a great city and that plays into it -- atmosphere has a lot to do with it," said Sears. "I like playing there -- it's a great place to play. It's never too cold, the fans always show up -- even if they're against us.

"It's a good atmosphere -- it just feels good when we go there... You get into the hotel, you get to see the big city, the buildings and the trees and everything. And you sit back and say, 'OK, work in the morning.'

"When you feel good, you play good. When you play good, you have good results."

Bombers head coach Mike O'Shea was asked if he plans to put in place any measures to make sure his team doesn't feel too good in Montreal.

"They will police themselves -- they know what they should and shouldn't do," said O'Shea. "Do I talk to them and tell them Montreal is full of distractions? Absolutely. Do I warn them? Absolutely. But you let them be professional."

Twitter: @PaulWiecek

Read more by Paul Wiecek.


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Updated on Thursday, July 10, 2014 at 7:05 AM CDT: Corrects typo

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