Starting the streak

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:14 AM ET

You can learn from history. So let's go back to 1971 - the last year the Edmonton Eskimos missed the playoffs.

"My golf partner Gary Smith was quick to remind me the other day that I was on that team," said Ed Molstad.

There are four of them, still living in Edmonton, who were on that '71 team - Bayne Norrie, John Wydareny, Charlie Turner and Molstad.

"I've been hoping the streak goes on for 100 years," said Norrie. "When it's gone on this long, you kind of don't want it to come up publicly that you were on the last team to miss the playoffs."

Molstad has a different view.

"I look at it that I was on the team which started the streak," he said.

That's where maybe there's something to learn from history as the Eskimos take a 3-7 record into Friday's Labour Day Rematch against the Calgary Stampeders.

In 1971, it was even worse than this.

For some reason, the Eskimos opened with an Eastern road trip with games on Tuesday, July 27 in Ottawa and Thursday, July 29 in Hamilton. If players don't like today's Monday-Friday Labour Day double dip, try that sometime.

In 1971, they lost the first two, won one and then lost the next nine.

"When you've lost nine straight, you're hiding at the back of your locker. It was not a pleasant place to be," said Molstad.

JAUCH YUKS IT UP

"We came into the dressing room the next day after making it nine in a row and coach Ray Jauch came out and started yelling at us to come down to a meeting.

"He said he was going to ask one of our guys a question and he'd better be able to answer it. We had 35 guys praying it wouldn't be them. He picked Ron Forwick.

"He said 'What's the difference between a thief and a robber?'

"We're all sitting there trying to determine the deep meaning of this, what message was trying to be conveyed. Finally Forwick says 'I don't know, coach.'

"Jauch looked at him all serious and says 'A thief is somebody who steals something, a robber is a Ukrainian overshoe.'

"There was dead silence. We were staring at him as if he was crazy. Then somebody realized it was an ethnic joke and started laughing. That's when Jauch told us we weren't going to watch the game film of the last game. He said it doesn't matter what the situation is, you have to have fun playing the game. That's when we started winning.

"I look back and think, 'What a remarkable record!' For any team, over that length of time to be in the playoffs, especially in the CFL. I think it's more of an accomplishment than it's been made out to be.

"Turnover in this sport, in this league, is quite extreme. If any player looks at the gallery of his team pictures and the number of players on the team he played with in his first year who survived until his sixth year ... it's just a handful."

Five times the Eskimos missed the playoffs in the 60s. Today's team may look like one of those teams in the standings, but none of those teams had a quarterback like the 2006 Eskimos do with Ricky Ray.

"We had Don Trull and Rusty Clark. Essentially, we were without a quarterback. Trull had a shoulder separation in the NFL and he just lost it. He couldn't get the ball to anybody," said Norrie.

MORPHED INTO WINNERS

"We had the best defence in the league with John LaGrone, Greg Pipes, Dave Gasser, Jerry Griffin, Ron Forwick, John Wydareny ... they were all all-stars. But we didn't have much of a passing game or much of a running game and the offensive line was pretty young. When you also don't have a quarterback, it's really tough."

A quarterback did show up from the NFL cuts - Bruce Lemmerman was released by the Atlanta Falcons.

The team started having fun and won five in a row to finish the season and morphed into the team which began this amazing run the following year.

"The beginning of the streak at the end of that '71 season," said Molstad. "That was when it turned around. That's when the winning ways began. A team which had lost nine in a row, won the last five games we had left in the '71 season."

This team still has eight games to play.


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