When the Calgary Stampeders and Saskatchewan Roughriders meet this Sunday, it will be only the fourth time in 17 years that these two Western rivals have locked chinstraps in the postseason.
That's a pity since Calgary versus Saskatchewan used to be a rite of autumn; as automatic as the first snowfall and the match-up to end all Canadian Football League match-ups.
From 1967 to 1971, Calgary and Saskatchewan were as inseparable as Wayne and Shuster, Ed Sullivan and Topo Gigio, Bonanza and Lorne Greene. If you saw Stampeders' linebacker Wayne Harris playing on a cold November afternoon back then, you knew he had to be looking for 'Riders' running back George Reed.
That was the way it was.
Think about this for a moment: in those five consecutive years, Calgary and Saskatchewan played a grand total of 12 playoff games, some in a best-of-three format, some in a two-game total-point format. No two other CFL teams met as often, and the confrontations were never dull.
Occasionally, the Stampeders would win big (32-0 in 1968). Occasionally, the 'Riders would (36-13 in 1969). More often, the games were close, hard fought and memorable.
The best of which was the 1970 showdown between the two powerhouses. In the first game, Calgary won 28-11 and was trailing 4-3 in the second when Saskatchewan defensive end Ed McQuarters forced a fumble, recovered the ball and returned it 80 yards for the clinching touchdown.
In the third and final game, Calgary was trailing 14-12 with well under a minute to go on what was a horrendous day weather-wise. Running back Hugh McKinnis gained 16 yards to give the Stampeders a first down at the Saskatchewan 26-yard line. What happened next is still open to debate.
Calgary defensive back Larry Robinson lined up for a 33-yard field goal against a howling wind, blowing snow and near white-out conditions. His kick barely made it over the crossbar. To this day, there are Saskatchewan faithful who believe Robinson's kick wasn't good and that the on-field officials couldn't really tell.
Whatever the truth, the Stampeders stole a 15-14 win and earned a trip to the Grey Cup.
The last time Calgary and Saskatchewan met in the playoffs was in 1997 - in the Western semi-final at McMahon Stadium. Calgary was 10-8 that season; Saskatchewan 8-10. 'Riders' quarterback Reggie Slack bedeviled his foes more with his running than his throwing and posted a 33-30 win.
This Sunday, the 10-8 Stampeders are at home to the 9-9 'Riders and their quarterback Kerry Joseph, who can run as easily as his throws. Toss in the fact there are so many ex-Riders playing for Calgary and ex-Stampeders playing for Saskatchewan and we're almost assured of an outstanding affair.
Just like they used to be back in the day.