Canadian Football League History
The league remained stable with nine franchises from its inception until
1982 when the Montreal Alouettes folded and were subsequently replaced
the same year by a new franchise named the Concordes. In 1986 the
Concordes were renamed the Alouettes to attract more fan support, but
the team folded the next year.
In 1993 the league admitted its first U.S. franchise, adding the
Sacramento Gold Miners in an attempt to broaden Canadian football's
popular appeal and boost league revenues. Spearheading the efforts were
two former World League of American Football owners, Fred Anderson and
Larry J. Benson, who would each receive a franchise. While Benson's
team, the San Antonio Texans, would not play a single down, the Gold
Miners would see action, finishing a respectable 6-12 (but remaining at
the bottom of the West Division).
The 1995 season saw the loss of the Posse and the move of the Gold
Miners to San Antonio, while the Birmingham Barracudas and Memphis Mad
Dogs were added. However, fan interest in Canadian football, with the
possible exception of the Stallions (largely because the Stallions were
a top team), was sparse at best, with fans being driven away to see
American college football or the NFL late in the season. At the end of
the year, which saw the Stallions become the first American team to win
the Grey Cup, all but the Stallions and the San Antonio Texans folded
due to financial difficulties. The Stallions would later move to
Montreal (renamed the Alouettes) when the NFL announced that a new team
was to be added in Baltimore, and owner Jim Speros could not see the
Stallions remaining there for long. The Texans would later fold with a
After three seasons of American teams, the CFL returned to an
all-Canadian format in 1996 with nine teams; however, the Ottawa Rough
Riders folded following the season. In 2002 the league expanded back to
nine teams with the Ottawa Renegades. After Ford Field was opened in
Detroit, there was a small amount of talk about using the Detroit Lions
of the NFL's former home, the Pontiac Silverdome, for a CFL team.
Detroit, Michigan is right next to Windsor, Ontario, and this franchise
could possibly have been referred to as the CFL franchise from Windsor,
or a joint Detroit/Windsor franchise, but would play in Detroit.
The CFL is considered to be a major league by many Canadians, often
placing it second behind the National Hockey League. However, in other
parts of North America it is viewed as a minor league to the National
Football League, due to the similar (but distinct) gridiron codes.
Due to the disparity between the CFL and NFL's income, the CFL teams are
forced to assemble their roster from a smaller talent pool that consists
of many players who, while they may have been stars in college (such as
Pinball Clemons and Damon Allen), they were unable to show their skills
in the NFL because of the NFL's "bias" towards small players. In the
days when sports teams were financed almost entirely by ticket sales the
two leagues were on equal footing and the CFL could sign top U.S.
college football stars such as Johnny Rodgers and Joe Theismann. In
fact, during the 1950's and 1960's exhibition games were played between
CFL and NFL teams using a mixture of rules. The last such exhibition
game saw the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats defeat the NFL's Buffalo Bills.
However, since the 1970s the advent of television revenue has allowed
the NFL to far outspend the CFL. The CFL also sets a limit on the number
of non-Canadian born players on Canadian teams.
Although ice hockey is currently Canada's most popular sport, the CFL is
highly popular in Quebec and west of Ontario, and its franchises there
enjoy a greater level of support than Ontario teams. However, since the
2004 season, both Toronto and Hamilton have seen a resurgence in
attendence. The Edmonton Eskimos regularly boast the league's highest
average attendance, drawing about 40,000 people per game. Football has
been gaining in popularity in Quebec with the recent success of the
Alouettes, and Quebec university football teams now lead the country in
attendance and on the field, with Laval University and the University of
Montreal, and Concordia consistently in the top ten in the country. In
Southern Ontario, the CFL is now recovering from the bankruptcy that
plagued the Toronto and Hamilton teams in the 2003 season. Both teams
have improved their attendance figures dramatically since the 2003
season. The league is currently looking to add a tenth team in Atlantic
Canada or Quebec City. Quebec City and Halifax have recently hosted CFL
exhibition games, both of which sold out quickly. Moncton is expected to
host a game next season.
League training camps open in May, with regular season games beginning
by late June and finishing by early November. The current season format
has each team playing 18 games over this 20 week span (thus giving each
team at least 2 bye weeks, while one team must play 2 games in one week
at some point during the schedule, because of the odd number of teams).
Teams are divided into 2 divisions, with 4 teams in the East and 5 in
the West. Each team plays a home game and an away game against every
other team, with 2 additional games versus divisional rivals.
The principal television broadcaster is TSN, with some games also shown
on CBC and RDS within Canada, and a variety of regional networks in the
U.S. Games are typically scheduled for Thursday to Saturday evenings
during June, July and August, but switch to more Saturday and Sunday
afternoon games during September and October. TSN has also created a
tradition of at least one Friday night game each week.
The playoffs begin in November. After the regular season, the top team
from each division has an automatic berth to the Division Finals, and
the second place team has an automatic berth in the Division Semifinals.
The third place team from each division will face the second place team,
unless the fourth place team from the opposite division finishes with a
better record (this provision is known as the crossover rule). The two
division champions then face each other in the Grey Cup, which is held
on the 3rd or 4th Sunday of November.