The rivalry

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 10:05 AM ET

There are rivalries based on geography, like Winnipeg vs. Saskatchewan, or Calgary and Edmonton.

There are rivalries built on high-level competition, like the one Edmonton and Montreal have developed by meeting in three of the last four Grey Cups.

And then there are rivalries like the heaping helping of hatred raging between the Blue Bombers and Alouettes, an open sore that's produced all kinds of nastiness for the better part of the last eight years.

"I know they hate us," Bomber GM Brendan Taman told Home Turf. "And I don't have a lot of use for them."

These teams have not only brawled on the field, they've called each other liars in the front office, poached each other's players and accused each other of cheating.

The last time they met here, July 15, the game produced 28 penalties for 246 yards and accusations of running up the score.

That one ended with pictures, broadcast on national TV, of Bomber head coach Doug Berry and defensive coordinator Greg Marshall giving one-fingered salutes to the Als bench.

Berry, who came over from Montreal this season after seven years as an assistant there, says there's always been a rivalry between the two.

"I didn't have anything against Winnipeg -- what'd they ever do to me?" he said. "But I know there was one. And there was some between the players ... some animosities. Lucky me, I get to be part of it on both sides of the fence."

Berry says the bad blood probably started when Dave Ritchie had a falling-out with Als management and joined the Bombers after the '98 season.

But if Ritchie got this thing out of the starting blocks, Berry has grabbed the baton with both hands and kept running with it, making no bones about how badly he wants to beat his old team.

His competitiveness may have got the better of him in July, though.

On the short end of a 44-16 thumping in what we'll call Fingergate, the first-year coach accused his old boss, Don Matthews, the dean of CFL coaches, of piling on -- and promised revenge.

"Give me an opportunity," Berry said after that game. "And see what I do next time."

Whether or not he gets the chance tonight remains to be seen.

One thing's for sure, though: as long as Berry runs the Bombers, the Winnipeg-Montreal rivalry should remain as heated as ever.

To help set the scene for tonight's game, Home Turf looks back at the history of this not-so-friendly turf tiff.

The Opening Shot -- July 21, 1999

The speculation was Ritchie, the new Bomber boss, and Montreal GM Jim Popp hadn't gotten along, resulting in Ritchie leaving the Als despite 13- and 12-win seasons.

That speculation was confirmed when Ritchie took his Bombers into Montreal for the first time.

"Everyone in our organization needed to be on the same page," Popp told the Sun. "Two of the three (the owner and the GM) were. One wasn't. And the one was fired."

Ritchie was livid with the suggestion he was fired, saying he left Montreal at the expiration of his contract.

The seeds of a rivalry were sewn.

Frustration Mounts -- Nov. 7, 1999, July 28 and Sept. 16, 2000

There's nothing like losing to get under your skin.

The Als squashed the Bombers' playoff hopes with a 45-10 laugher to end the '99 season, then dropped the Bombers to 0-4 with a last-second field goal in 2000.

Ritchie was at his wit's end after that one, calling for the Winnipeg Stadium timekeeper to be fired for not letting the clock run out on the previous play.

Seven weeks later, the Bombers finally beat the Als, but not without accusing them of going after quarterback Khari Jones, who was playing with a bad shoulder.

Cheap shots and late hits would become the norm whenever these teams met.

Popp, the Weasel? -- Sept. 27, 2000

The bad blood spilled into the front offices, as Taman accused Popp of reneging on a trade that would have brought offensive lineman Dwayne Morgan to Winnipeg.

Popp claimed innocence.

"I'll take a lie-detector test," Taman said at the time. "I'd like to see Popp take one, too."

Less than two weeks later, Taman got his revenge, putting in a claim for defensive lineman Ed Philion from the Als injured list.

Teams have a gentleman's agreement to leave each other's injured players alone, but Taman ignored it, and made no apologies.

"It's payback for Dwayne Morgan," Taman said.

The Als thought it was dirty pool, and emotions would boil over the next time the teams met.

The Brawl in Montreal -- Oct. 15, 2000

The spark became an all-out inferno, as the Bombers and Als brawled during a game at Molson Stadium.

The fighting broke out when the Bombers scored a touchdown and the Als defence broke up their planned touchdown dance.

Milt Stegall and Kelly Wiltshire were ejected and eventually fined, Stegall went after a referee and Ritchie got into it with the fans after one flipped him the middle finger.

Oh, and the Bombers lost again.

The animosity was now firmly rooted throughout both organizations, from top to bottom.

Public Enemy No. 1 -- Nov. 19, 2000

Montreal's Philion forever cemented his place in Bomber lore by leveling Khari Jones with a couple of late hits in the East Final.

Jones wasn't himself in the second half, the Bombers blew a lead and players vowed retribution.

Philion, for his part, said he'd do it all over again.

"The Philion and Khari thing really blew it up," Taman says now.

The Choke -- Nov. 25, 2001

The Bombers' choke in the '01 Grey Cup game didn't come against Montreal -- it was in Montreal, against Calgary.

But the Als took a substantial amount of glee from it, nonetheless, as we'd find out nearly three years later.

Crossing the Line -- July 27, 2002

Philion struck again, this time with his mouth, allegedly hurling racial slurs at Bomber kicker Troy Westwood and his affinity for the aboriginal culture.

The CFL investigated, but couldn't find proof, and Philion went unpunished.

"In the end, Mr. Philion as a human being is a piece of garbage in my estimation," Westwood would say later.

Philion's rebuttal was still two years away.

War of Words -- July 28, 2003

Although accusations of dirty play run rampant between these teams, they're not usually as direct as the words of Als linebacker Duane Butler on this day.

"When you've got guys who are, like, 6-foot-11 out there and they're purposely kicking you in your knee and they're not even trying to block ... I don't think that's football," Butler said. "I don't want to say names -- right tackle -- but if that's how people want to play ..."

At the time, Dave Mudge was the right tackle for the Bombers.

Interestingly, Mudge and Butler are now trying to get along as teammates in Montreal.

The Ceasefire -- Jan. 26, 2004

There hadn't been a shot fired for a while, and the ceasefire became official when Taman and Popp actually spoke long enough to complete a trade.

Kick returner Keith Stokes came to Winnipeg for a pair of draft picks.

The warm-and-fuzzies would be short-lived, however.

Spygate -- July 16, 2004

Less Browne, then a Bomber assistant coach, spotted an Alouettes staffer videotaping the Winnipeg sideline during a game in Ottawa.

The Bombers, believing Montreal was trying to steal coaches signals, lodged a complaint to the CFL.

Problem was, there's no rule against the practice -- it's simply seen as unethical by most teams.

Then again, the Alouettes aren't most teams. And Don Matthews certainly isn't your typical head coach.

A month later, with Montreal in town, Matthews made it pretty clear what the Bombers thought of him -- and how much he cared.

"I'd rather be at the top of the mountain as a hated person than at the bottom of the mountain as a loved person," he said.

Philion vs. Westwood, Round 2 -- Aug. 25, 2004

Asked about his feud with Westwood, Philion hit the Bomber kicker where it really hurt, using ammunition he'd been storing for nearly three years.

"If you go back to the 2001 Grey Cup," Philion began. "Indoors in Montreal, turf, no wind conditions, no field conditions to kick on at all. Troy Westwood was 1-for-4 in that game. They ended up losing that game by eight points.

"So if he doesn't miss the points that he missed in that game, in the biggest game of his life, they win that football game. If that doesn't humble you ... and keep you quiet, then nothing I can say or do will make any difference."

Touche.

Flipping the Bird -- July 15, 2006

Perhaps we should have seen this coming, because things had been rather quiet.

It's not often you see coaches making obscene gestures at each other, but that's exactly what Berry and Marshall did on this night.

What set them off was a Montreal touchdown with 2:27 to go, an attempt by Matthews, they felt, to run up the score.

Asked if he lost his cool, Marshall said: "No. I knew exactly what I was doing."

A week later, in Edmonton, the Bomber defensive guru apologized for his actions.

Berry never did.

Both were fined by the league.

Berry also took some heat for his actions immediately following the game, when he said he had "two succinct words" for Matthews, and brushed off Montreal linebacker Duane Butler's attempt at a handshake.

"He told me to get the f--- away," Butler said. "In a way, my respect for him is gone. I was embarrassed he could stoop to that level."

Berry said it was nothing personal. He was simply frustrated after a bad day at the office.

The next day, Berry was looking forward to payback.

"There will be another game," he said. "So take notice."

Where this rivalry is concerned, it seems there will always be another game.

This may be their last meeting of the regular season, but it certainly won't be the last chapter in what has become one of the CFL's most bitter rivalries.

"I want to beat them when it counts," Taman said, looking ahead to the playoffs. "I know the next time we see them, it'll count."


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