1981 CFL season

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1981 CFL season
East Champions championsOttawa Rough Riders
West Champions championsEdmonton Eskimos
69th Grey Cup
DateNovember 22, 1981
ChampionsEdmonton Eskimos
CFL seasons seasons
← 1980
1982 →
Canadian Football League team locations: Red pog.svg West, Blue 000080 pog.svg East

The 1981 CFL season is considered to be the 28th season in modern-day Canadian football, although it is officially the 24th Canadian Football League season.

CFL News in 1981[edit]

The Eastern and Western Football Conferences, which had carried on as separate and autonomous entities since the founding of the CFL in 1958, agreed to a full merger prior to the start of the 1981 season.

With the merger, the Eastern and Western Football Conferences were dissolved and renamed as the East and West Divisions.

The merger authorized the CFL to have full authority over decisions, including the adoption of a full interlocking schedule for both divisions. All nine teams played each other twice, once home and once away, regardless of their affiliated division. Other than during the three seasons of the CFL's U.S. expansion era from 1993 to 1995, the League's teams played at least one game home and one away versus every other team in the League since the 1981 season; this continued until the 2021 season.

In addition, the merger set up the CFL Board of Governors and the CFL Management Council to replace the Executive Committee and the General Managers Committee. After the 1980 season, after owning the team for over ten years, Montreal Alouettes owner Sam Berger retired and sold the team to Nelson Skalbania, who brought in high priced NFL talent who did not adapt to the Canadian game, bringing a terrible losing season to Montreal (they did, however, make the playoffs due to the weak division that year), and with it, a loss of fan support, and he lost money and because of the high priced talent he bankrupted the team. So the team folded after the season, but a year later, a new team, the Montreal Concordes, owned by Expos owner Charles Bronfman, took over the team's players and history.

The East was so weak this season that the Calgary Stampeders, despite being the West's fifth place team, finished with a better record than the second place Ottawa Rough Riders. Ottawa nevertheless upset the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and qualified for the Grey Cup despite winning only five games in the regular season finishing seventh overall.

The ensuing controversy over having a 5–11 team playing in the Grey Cup played a large part in eventually persuading the league to implement a cross-over rule permitting a fourth place team in one division to qualify for the playoffs in place of a third place team in the other division with a weaker record. Nevertheless, the current rule makes no provision to allow a fifth place team to make the playoffs even if its record is better than that of the second place team in the other division, which occurred in 2018.

Regular season standings[edit]

Final regular season standings[edit]

Note: GP = Games Played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, PF = Points For, PA = Points Against, Pts = Points

West Division
Team GP W L T PF PA Pts
Edmonton Eskimos 16 14 1 1 576 277 29
Winnipeg Blue Bombers 16 11 5 0 517 299 22
BC Lions 16 10 6 0 438 377 20
Saskatchewan Roughriders 16 9 7 0 431 371 18
Calgary Stampeders 16 6 10 0 306 367 12
East Division
Team GP W L T PF PA Pts
Hamilton Tiger-Cats 16 11 4 1 414 335 23
Ottawa Rough Riders 16 5 11 0 306 446 10
Montreal Alouettes 16 3 13 0 267 518 6
Toronto Argonauts 16 2 14 0 241 506 4
  • Bold text means that they have clinched the playoffs.
  • Edmonton and Hamilton have first round byes.

Grey Cup playoffs[edit]

The Edmonton Eskimos are the 1981 Grey Cup champions, defeating the Ottawa Rough Riders, 26–23, at Montreal's Olympic Stadium. Edmonton won their fourth-straight championship on a last second Dave Cutler field-goal. The Rough Riders' J.C. Watts (QB) was named the Grey Cup's Most Valuable Player on Offence and John Glassford (LB) was named the Grey Cup's Most Valuable Player on Defence. The Eskimos' Neil Lumsden (RB) was named Grey Cup's Most Valuable Canadian.

Playoff bracket[edit]

November 8: Division Semifinals November 15: Division Finals November 22: 69th Grey Cup @ Olympic StadiumMontreal, Quebec
E2 Ottawa Rough Riders 17
E3 Montreal Alouettes 16 E1 Hamilton Tiger-Cats 13
E2 Ottawa Rough Riders 20 E2 Ottawa Rough Riders 23
W1 Edmonton Eskimos 26
W3 BC Lions 16
W3 BC Lions 15 W1 Edmonton Eskimos 22
W2 Winnipeg Blue Bombers 11

CFL Leaders[edit]

1981 CFL All-Stars[edit]



Special teams[edit]

1981 Western All-Stars[edit]



Special teams[edit]

1981 Eastern All-Stars[edit]



Special teams[edit]

1981 CFL Awards[edit]


  1. ^ "CFLapedia".