Since the days of Warren Moon, the CFL has been seen as a pass first league with the likes of Moon, Calvillo, and Flutie putting up legendary individual seasons.
But in 1998, Mike Pringle gave us a run to glory as he became the only 2000 yard rusher in league history. In year 1 of the first post-Flutie CFL era, he picked a good time to make his mark.
When he was doing what he did, how much of a buzz was there as he made his run for history? As he got closer, how big a deal was it? And what was it like when he reached the magic number?
EDM cut him yet its never talked about.
He did it in Montreal, against Winnipeg, I believe. There was a 2,000 yard banner unfurled in his honour. Nothing in the CFL was huge at the time. Everyone was taking pay cuts and there was a story about players having to buy their own footwear, Pringle included. Dave Ritchie was the coach in Montreal, and Pringle used to get a lot of his yards late in the game when Montreal just continued to pound the ball.
That was a great time for exciting football, the pay cuts notwithstanding. Montreal was inching towards its dynasty years, with Eastern Final losses in 1996 and 1997 to Toronto Argonauts. The 1997 game was lost in the last minute. In 1998, the Alouettes were defeated by Tiger-Catson the last play of the Eastern Final, and then the following year lost another nail-biter, this time at home to Hamilton.
In 2000, Montreal lost in the Grey Cup, once more in the waning moments.
That’s kind of what it was like.
In 2002, the Alouettes cut Mike Pringle - Don Matthews was the head coach - and Montreal finally won the Grey Cup.
I seem to remember Pringle’s acceptance speech when he won MOP, starting as follows: “I’d like to thank Doug Flutie for leaving the CFL so that I could win this award.” (Or something to that effect.)
It was funny, although Pringle had already won the award in 1995 when Flutie was injured.
During that historic 1998 campaign, Pringle played a game at Toronto wherein his helmet came off and he sustained a serious burn to his scalp. Memorably, Chris Walby quipped on the broadcast: “If you want to know how that feels, put your head on the carpet and run to the fridge.”