The 69th Grey Cup was played on November 22, 1981, at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Quebec in front of 52,487 fans. The 1981 Grey Cup game is considered to be one of the ten best Grey Cup games of all time. CFL football fans saw an unexpectedly exciting game, as the 22.5 point underdog Ottawa Rough Riders, sporting a woeful record of 5 wins and 11 losses (which is the worst record in CFL history by any Grey Cup finalist team), came within 3 seconds of denying the Edmonton Eskimos. The Esks, with a 14-1-1 record, were almost the victims of what would have been the biggest upset in the history of the Grey Cup.
This was the final appearance in the Grey Cup game for the Ottawa Rough Riders, who folded in 1996. A team from Ottawa would not return to the Grey Cup until 2015. Canadian Football Hall of Fame legends Tom Wilkinson (Edmonton) and Tony Gabriel (Ottawa) played their final game in the 69th Grey Cup as did veteran Edmonton centre Bob Howes. Future US Congressman J.C. Watts was Ottawa’s quarterback. He won the Grey Cup Most Valuable Player (Offensive) award.