Perhaps the biggest advantage of playing your home playoff games in a domed stadium, like the Rogers Centre, is that when you cram thirty or forty thousand people into an indoor facility, it gets loudâ€¦really, really loud! In fact, when more than 40,000 Argo faithful pack the Rogers Centre on Sunday November 20, one can be rest assured that crowd noise will be a larger contributing factor to an Argo victory than one would expect. As an Argo fan for many years, let me take you back to the last time the Argonauts hosted an East Division Championship.
The year was 1997 and the Argos had just completed their second straight regular season as the CFLâ€™s elite club, posting 15-3 records in both seasons. The air outside was crisp, the wind was strong and there was a buzz around the stadium. In the mind of a Canadian football fan, those variables only result in one thing: Road to the Grey Cup.
That year, the Argonauts were playing host to division rival Montreal Alouettes in the East Division Final, with the winner earning a trip to Edmonton to play Saskatchewan in the Grey Cup. The Argos were undoubtedly the favorites, but the Alouettes had been playing their best football of the season heading into the playoffs. The Als strong late season drive assured that if the Argos wanted to repeat as champions, they would not achieve it without a fight.
One could tell just by looking at the crowd that afternoon that the stadium was going to be boisterous. That assumption was confirmed when the announced crowd of 32,085 roared when running back Robert Drummond plunged over the goal line for the first Argo major and a six-point lead.
The teams traded scores back and fourth throughout the entire contest and as the game intensified, the crowd seemed to get louder and louder. The Argo defence, led by Adrion Smith, responded to the support of the crowd by shutting out the Alouettes in the fourth quarter and set the stage for one of the most memorable moments in Argo history.
With the game tied at thirty-a-piece, legendary QB Doug Flutie hit RB Mike â€œPinballâ€? Clemons over the middle with forty seconds left in the contest. Clemons broke a tackle, dodged two more, and raced 58-yards to the endzone to win the game.
The crowd erupted, jumping in the air, screaming at the top of their lungs and hugging each other with joy. They did so knowing one thing; the Argos were going to the Grey Cup.
When the final whistle sounded, the gameâ€™s hero, Michael Clemons, leaped into the crowd to hug wife Dianne and rejoiced with several fans. Pinball and his entire team raised their helmets in the air in salute of the 30,000 plus Argo supporters who cheered them to victory.
The players saluted the loyal fans once more two weeks later at their Grey Cup parade after capturing the 1997 Grey Cup.