Canadian Football League

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Canadian Football League
Ligue canadienne de football
Current season, competition or edition:
2014 CFL season
CFL Logo.svg
Sport Canadian football
Founded January 17, 1958[1]
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Commissioner Mark Cohon
Motto This Is Our League
Notre ligue. Notre football.
Inaugural season 1958
No. of teams 9
Country Canada
Most recent champion(s) Calgary Stampeders (7th title)
Most titles Edmonton Eskimos (10)
TV partner(s) TSN
TSN2
RDS
NBCSN, ESPN, ESPN2 (US)
Official website cfl.ca

The Canadian Football League (CFL) (Ligue canadienne de football (LCF) in French) is a professional sports league in Canada. The CFL is the highest level of competition in Canadian football, a form of gridiron football closely related to American football. Its nine current teams, which are located in nine separate cities, are divided into two divisions: the East Division, with four teams, and the West Division with five teams. As of 2014, the league will feature a 20-week regular season, which traditionally runs from late June to early November; each team plays 18 games with at least two bye weeks. Following the regular season, six teams compete in the league's three-week divisional playoffs, which culminate in the late-November Grey Cup championship, the country's largest annual sports and television event.[2]

The CFL was officially founded on January 19, 1958,[3] making it the second oldest professional gridiron football league in North America still in operation, although most of its teams long predate the modern formation of the league. The CFL is the second-most popular major sports league in Canada, after the National Hockey League.[4]

Canadian football is also played at amateur levels such as the Canadian Junior Football League, Quebec Junior Football League, Canadian Interuniversity Sport, and assorted senior leagues.

History[edit]

Early history[edit]

Further information: History of Canadian football
CFL logo from 1955–1968

Rugby football began to be played in Canada in the 1860s, and many of the first Canadian football teams played under the auspices of the Canadian Rugby Football Union (CRFU), founded in 1884.[5] The CRFU was reorganized as the Canadian Rugby Union (CRU) in 1891, and served as an umbrella organization that several leagues were part of. The Grey Cup was donated by Governor General Earl Grey in 1909 to the team winning the Senior Amateur Football Championship of Canada. By that time, the sport as played in Canada had diverged markedly from its rugby origins, and started to become more similar to the American game. From the 1930s to the 1950s, the two senior leagues of the CRU, the eastern Interprovincial Rugby Football Union (IRFU or Big Four) and Western Interprovincial Football Union (WIFU) gradually evolved from amateur to professional leagues, and amateur teams such as those in the Ontario Rugby Football Union (ORFU) were no longer competitive in their Cup challenges. The ORFU withdrew from Grey Cup competition after the 1954 season, heralding the start of the modern era of professional Canadian football, in which the Grey Cup has been exclusively contested by professional teams (Since 1965, Canada's top amateur teams, competing in Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), have competed for the Vanier Cup).

In 1956, the IRFU and WIFU formed a new umbrella organization, the Canadian Football Council (CFC), and in 1958, the CFC left the CRU, becoming the Canadian Football League. The CRU remained the governing body for amateur play in Canada, eventually adopting the name Football Canada. Initially, the two unions remained autonomous, and there was no intersectional play between eastern (IRFU) and western (WIFU) teams except at the Grey Cup final. This situation was roughly analogous to how the American baseball leagues operated for years. The IRFU was renamed the Eastern Football Conference in 1960, while the WIFU was renamed the Western Football Conference in 1961. Also in 1961, limited interlocking play was introduced. It was not until 1981 that the two conferences agreed to a full merger, with a full interlocking schedule of 16 games per season.

The separate histories of the IRFU and the WIFU accounted for the fact that two teams had basically the same name: the IRFU's Ottawa Rough Riders were often called the "Eastern Riders", while the WIFU's Saskatchewan Roughriders were called the "Western Riders" or "Green Riders". Other team names had traditional origins: with rowing a national craze in the late 19th century, the Argonaut Rowing Club of Toronto formed a rugby team for its members' off-season participation; the club name Toronto Argonauts remains to this day, and after World War II, the two teams in Hamilton—the Tigers and the Flying Wildcats—merged both their organizations into the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

CFL logo from 1969–2002

The league remained stable with nine franchises—the BC Lions, Calgary Stampeders, Edmonton Eskimos, Saskatchewan Roughriders, Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Toronto Argonauts, Ottawa Rough Riders and Montreal Alouettes—from its 1958 inception until 1981. After the 1981 season, the Alouettes folded and were 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. The demise of the Alouettes forced the League move its easternmost Western team, Winnipeg, into the East Division.

United States expansion[edit]

In 1993, the league admitted its first United States-based franchise, the Sacramento Gold Miners. After modest success, the league then expanded further in the U.S. in 1994 with the Las Vegas Posse, Baltimore Stallions, and Shreveport Pirates. For the 1995 campaign, the American teams were split off into their own South Division, and two more teams, the Birmingham Barracudas, and Memphis Mad Dogs, were added; at the same time, the Posse folded and the Gold Miners relocated to become the San Antonio Texans. In 1995 the Stallions became the first (and to date, only) non-Canadian team to win the Grey Cup.

Despite all American teams having the advantage of not being bound to the CFL's minimum Canadian player quotas, only the Stallions proved to be both an on-field and off-field success. The establishment of the NFL's Baltimore Ravens, worsening financial problems among the league's core Canadian teams, and the inconsistent performance of the American teams prompted the CFL to close the South Division and retrench its Canadian operations. The Stallions organization was used as the basis for a revival of the Montreal Alouettes.

Recent history[edit]

The CFL returned to an all-Canadian format in 1996 with nine teams; however, the Ottawa Rough Riders, in existence since 1876, folded after the 1996 season. Toronto and recently revived Montreal also were struggling; Montreal's woes were solved by moving to Percival Molson Memorial Stadium, a much smaller venue than the cavernous Olympic Stadium.

In 1997, the NFL provided a $3-million USD interest-free loan to the financially struggling CFL. In return, the NFL was granted access to CFL players entering a defined two-month window in the option year of their contract. This was later written into the CFL's collective bargaining agreement with its players. The CFL's finances have since stabilized and they eventually repaid the loan. The CFL–NFL agreement expired in 2006. Both leagues have been attempting to reach a new agreement, but the CFL broke off negotiations in November 2007 after Canadian telecommunications firm Rogers Communications paid $78 million to host seven Bills games in Toronto over five seasons.[6][7]

Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium (shown during player introductions prior to a game) is the largest venue in the CFL.

In 2002, the league expanded back to nine teams with the creation of the Ottawa Renegades. After four seasons of financial losses, the Renegades were suspended indefinitely before the 2006 season; their players were absorbed by the remaining teams in a dispersal draft.

In 2005, the league set an all-time attendance record with a total attendance of more than 2.3 million.[8] With the absence of Ottawa from 2006 onwards, league attendance has hovered around the 2 million mark. It stood at 2,029,875 in 2012 for a single game average of 28,193.[9] The 2007 season was a recent high point with average game attendance of 29,167, the best since 1983.[10] The 2012 season was another significant milestone for the league, marking the 100th anniversary of the Grey Cup award. With Toronto defeating Calgary, the league was rewarded with the highest ever television ratings for a championship game in English Canada.[11]

In 2008 the CFL granted a conditional expansion franchise to play in Ottawa.[12] With the East Division Ottawa Redblacks beginning play in 2014, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers moved back to the West Division.[13]

The CFL has the third highest per-game attendance of any North American sports league and the seventh highest per-game attendance of any sports league worldwide. A recent survey conducted at the University of Lethbridge confirmed that the CFL is the second most popular sports league in Canada, with the following of 19% of the total adult Canadian population compared to 30% for the NHL. The NFL had 11% following, with a total of 26% following at least one of the pro football leagues. This could be interpreted to mean that approximately 80% of Canadian football fans follow the CFL and about 55% follow the NFL.[4]

The 2010s will be a significant decade for the CFL in terms of growth, as teams have renovated, expanded stadiums, or plan to build entirely new stadiums. The Montreal Alouettes accomplished this first, adding 5,000 seats to Percival Molson Memorial Stadium in time for the 2010 CFL season.[14] The Edmonton Eskimos and Calgary Stampeders also renovated their respective stadiums and facilities for the 2010 season.[15] In 2011, the BC Lions played under a new, retractable roof in BC Place after spending one and a half seasons at Empire Field.[16] In 2013, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers moved to an entirely new stadium at the University of Manitoba. The 2014 expansion Ottawa Redblacks played in a new stadium,[17] and also in 2014, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats began using their new stadium.[18] The Saskatchewan Roughriders are also looking at moving to a new stadium in a few years.[19]

Season structure[edit]

Montreal Alouettes quarterback Anthony Calvillo looks down field with the ball during the 2005 Grey Cup game against the Edmonton Eskimos at BC Place

As of 2014, the CFL season includes:

  • A two-game, three-week exhibition season (or pre-season) in mid-June
  • An 18-game, 20-week regular season running from late June to early November
  • A six-team, three-week single elimination playoff tournament beginning in November and culminating in the Grey Cup championship in late November. Championship teams will play either two or three playoff games, including the Grey Cup game, depending on their standing at the end of the regular season. The division leader at the end of the regular season receives a bye in the first round of the playoffs.

Exhibition season[edit]

Team training camps open 28 days prior to the first regular season game of the season, a camp solely devoted to first year players is allowed the 3 days before the main camp opens. The pre-season exhibition schedule is two weeks long with each team playing two games against teams from its own division.

Regular season[edit]

The regular season is 20 weeks long, with games beginning Canada Day weekend and finishing by early November. The CFL's nine current teams are divided into two divisions: the East Division with four teams and the West Division, with five teams. Each team plays three games against two teams in its own division, and two games against the other six teams on a rotating basis. With 81 regular season games being played, each team gets two bye weeks except for one team that plays two games in one week and receives three bye weeks. The most popular featured week in the CFL season is the Labour Day Classic, played over the course of the Labour Day weekend, where the matchups feature the first half of home-and-home series between the traditional geographic rivalries of Toronto–Hamilton (a rivalry which began in 1873[5]), Edmonton–Calgary (see Battle of Alberta), and Winnipeg–Saskatchewan. With the return of Ottawa, it is expected that they will resume playing Montreal to round out the week's games. In years that Ottawa or Montreal were not in the league, BC would play against one of these teams.[20] The following week's rematch of these games is a popular event as well, especially in recent years, where the rematch of the Saskatchewan–Winnipeg game has been dubbed the Banjo Bowl. Other features of the regular season schedule are the Hall of Fame Game and the Thanksgiving Day Classic, the doubleheader held on Thanksgiving where the match ups usually do not feature traditional rivalries. Starting in 2010, a neutral site regular season game was played in Moncton under the name Touchdown Atlantic, which has been played in three of the last four seasons.

The league awards points based on regular season results (two for a win, one for a tie and none for a loss). As of the 2011 season, in the event two or more teams in a division finish the season with the same number of points, the tie is broken based on the following criteria (in descending order):[21]

  • Number of wins in all games;
  • Winning percentage in games between the tied teams;
  • Net aggregate of points scored (i.e. total points scored less total points conceded) between the tied teams;
  • Net quotient of points scored (i.e. total points scored divided by total points conceded) between the tied teams;
  • Winning percentage in divisional games;
  • Net aggregate of points scored in divisional games;
  • Net quotient of points scored in divisional games;
  • Net aggregate of points scored in all games;
  • Net quotient of points scored in all games;
  • Coin toss

Playoffs[edit]

The playoffs begin in November. After the regular season, the top team from each division has an automatic home berth in the division final, and a bye week during the division semifinal. The second-place team from each division hosts the third-place team in the division semifinal, unless a fourth-place team from one division finishes with a better record than a third place team in the other (this provision is known as the crossover rule, and while it implies that it is possible for two teams in the same division to play for the Grey Cup, only two crossover teams have won a semifinal since the rule's 1996 inception, and neither advanced to the Grey Cup). The winners of each division's semifinal game then travel to play the first place teams in the division finals. Since 2005, the division semifinals and division finals have been sponsored by Scotiabank.[22] The two division champions then face each other in the Grey Cup game, which, since 2007, has been held on the fourth or fifth Sunday of November.

Grey Cup[edit]

Main article: Grey Cup

The Grey Cup is both the name of the championship of the CFL and the name of the trophy awarded to the victorious team. The Grey Cup is the second-oldest trophy in North American professional sport, after the Stanley Cup. The Grey Cup game is hosted in one of the league's member cities. In recent years, it has been hosted in a different city every year, selected two or more years in advance. The Toronto Argonauts have won the most Grey Cups at sixteen, most recently in 2012. In 2012, the game was held in Toronto at the Rogers Centre, and for the second year in row the cup was won on a team's home field, Toronto beating Calgary 35–22.[23] In 2013, the Grey Cup was won at home for the third consecutive time (by the Saskatchewan Roughriders), which had not been done since Toronto won at home from 1945-1947. In 2014, the Grey Cup was won at BC Place by the Calgary Stampeders beating the Hamilton Tiger-cats 20-16.

As the country's single largest annual sporting event,[2] the Grey Cup has long served as an unofficial Canadian autumn festival generating national media coverage and a large amount of revenue for the host city. Many fans travel from across the country to attend the game and the week of festivities that lead up to it.

Awards[edit]

Following the Grey Cup game, the Grey Cup Most Valuable Player and Grey Cup Most Valuable Canadian are selected. A number of league individual player awards, such as the Most Outstanding Player and Most Outstanding Defensive Player, are awarded annually at a special ceremony in the host city during the week before the Grey Cup game; this ceremony is broadcast nationally on TSN. The Annis Stukus Trophy, also known as the Coach of the Year Award, is awarded separately at a banquet held during the off-season each February. While the CFL has not held an all-star game since 1988, an All-Star Team is selected and honoured at the league awards ceremony during Grey Cup week.

Broadcasting[edit]

The CFL Championship game, the Grey Cup, held the record for the largest television audience in Canadian history. Television coverage on CBC, CTV and Radio-Canada of the 1983 Grey Cup attracted a viewing audience of 8,118,000 people as Toronto edged B.C. 18–17, ending a 31-year championship drought for the Argonauts. At the time, this represented 33% of the Canadian population. This has since been surpassed by both the 2002 and 2010 Men's Olympic Gold Medal Hockey Game.

Canadian broadcasters[edit]

Currently, the official television broadcasters of CFL games are cable network TSN (which began televising CFL games in 1985), while TSN's French-language network RDS broadcasts Montreal Alouettes games for the Quebec television market.[24] 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.[25] TSN has created a tradition of at least one Friday night game each week, branded as Friday Night Football. CBC and TSN drew record television audiences for CFL broadcasts in 2005.[26] The 2006 season was the first season in which every regular-season game was televised, as the league implemented an instant replay challenge system.[27] In 2006, the CFL also began offering pay-per-view webcasts of every game on CFL Broadband.[28] Until the end of the 2007 season, CBC and RDS were the exclusive television broadcasters for all playoff games, including the Grey Cup, which regularly draws a Canadian viewing audience in excess of 4 million.[29]

Since 2008, TSN and RDS are the exclusive television and Internet broadcasters of all CFL games, including the playoffs and Grey Cup. The five-year agreement, which includes an option for a sixth year, is worth about $16 million annually and marks the first time since 1952 that CBC will not be broadcasting any CFL games. The CFL will no longer be broadcast on Canadian terrestrial television, unless TSN chooses to air the game on its terrestrial partners, CTV or CTV Two (formerly A-Channel); as of 2011, TSN has not transferred any CFL games to broadcast TV. The move to TSN all but assures that all CFL games will be broadcast in high definition.[2] As of 2006, TSN was available in about 8.8 million of Canada's 13 million households.[2] The two play-by-play announcers are Chris Cuthbert and Rod Black while the colour commentators are Glen Suitor (with Cuthbert) and Duane Forde (with Black). Instead of merely exercising the option on the contract, TSN opted to renew the contract with the CFL (and thus extend the terrestrial blackout) through 2018 in an agreement announced in March 2013.

Foreign coverage[edit]

On June 26, 2013, it was announced that the CFL's U.S. broadcast rights would return to the ESPN Networks for the 2013 season, with 5 games airing on ESPN2, and 55 airing on ESPN3.[30] This agreement was renewed in 2014 for five years, the same length as the TSN deal (ESPN holds a stake in TSN), with a stipulation that at least 17 games would be carried on ESPN2 (or another ESPN network, such as ESPN or ESPNEWS) each season, including the Grey Cup; this gives ESPN exclusive CFL rights during this time frame. As in previous years, ESPN3 will carry all games not carried on one of the linear channels online.[31][32][33]

Previous broadcasting arrangements[edit]

Canada[edit]

CBC Television, which held a monopoly on Canadian television until 1961, held Canadian professional football broadcast rights beginning the year of its debut, 1952. CTV was born in 1961 part because Toronto businessman Spence Caldwell had won the television rights to the Eastern Conference, and needed a network to air the games. From 1962 through 1986, CBC and CTV shared CFL broadcasting rights. They split playoff games and simulcast the Grey Cup. In 1962, 1965, 1967, 1968 and 1970, CTV commentators were used for the dual network telecast, while in 1963, 1964, 1966 and 1969, CBC announcers were provided. From 1971 through 1986, one network's crew called the first half while the other called the rest of the game. After the 1986 season, CTV dropped coverage of the CFL and the Grey Cup. From 1987 through 1990, the CFL operated its own syndicated network, CFN. Like CTV, CFN split playoff games with CBC. However, CFN had completely separate coverage of the Grey Cup, utilizing its own production and commentators. From 1991 to 2007, all post-season games had been exclusively on CBC; beginning in 2008, the Grey Cup was carried on TSN, although the cable provider reserves the right to move the game to sister network CTV.

United States[edit]

The predecessor to the CFL's East Division, the IRFU, had a television contract with NBC in 1954 that provided far more coverage than the NFL's existing contract with DuMont. NBC aired games on Saturday afternoons, competing against college football broadcasts on CBS and ABC. The revenue from the contract allowed the IRFU to directly compete against the NFL for players in the late 1950s, setting up a series of CFL games in the United States beginning in 1958 and a series of interleague exhibitions beginning in 1959. Interest in the CFL in the United States faded dramatically after the debut of the American Football League in 1960.[34]

In 1982, during a players' strike in the NFL, NBC broadcast CFL games in the United States in lieu of the NFL games which were cancelled; the first week of broadcasts featured the NFL on NBC broadcast teams, before a series of blowout games on the network and the resulting low ratings resulted in NBC cutting back and eventually cancelling its CFL coverage. ESPN host Chris Berman became a fan of the game in the early days of ESPN, when the network used to air CFL games, and continues to cover the Canadian league on-air.[35] FNN-SCORE (unrelated to the Canadian The Score) carried games in the late 1980s. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, SportsChannel America carried games, using CBC Television, CFN and TSN feeds. Beginning in 1994, with now four US-based teams in the league, ESPN reached a deal with the league to produce and air two games per week and all post-season games on its fledgling ESPN2. They also put some games on the main network to fill broadcast time vacated by the 1994 Major League Baseball strike. The 1994 and 1995 Grey Cups were shown live on ESPN2 and then re-aired on ESPN the following day, leading into the network's Monday Night Countdown show. ESPN's on-air talent included a mix of the network's American football broadcasters and established CFL broadcasters from Canada. Most of the US-based teams also had deals with local carriers to show games that were not covered in the national package. Though there were no US teams in the league after 1995, ESPN2 continued showing games until 1997.

America One held CFL broadcast rights in the United States from 2001 to 2009 and aired a majority of the league's games.[36] Until the 2007 season, America One syndicated CFL games to regional sports networks like Altitude, NESN, and MASN; these were discontinued in 2008, mainly because America One and the CFL were able to reach a deal only days before the season began, not allowing the network time to establish agreements with individual RSNs. The Grey Cup aired on Versus on November 22, 2008, with a replay the next day on America One. From 2006 through the 2008 season, Friday Night Football was carried exclusively on World Sport HD in the United States; however, due to the January 2009 shutdown of that channel's parent company, Voom HD Networks, America One reclaimed those rights.

NFL Network took over the league broadcast contract in 2010. For the 2010 season, the network carried 14 games, no more than one each week.[37] For 2011, the network increased its output to two games each week.[38] NFL Network declined to continue its coverage after the 2011 season.[39]

In late July 2012, NBC Sports Network acquired rights to the CFL for the remainder of the 2012 season. The NBCSN deal included nine regular season games starting August 27 (including both Labour Day Classic games) and all the playoffs.[40] NBC Sports renewed their agreement with the CFL for the 2013 season.[41]

ESPN America carried a collection of CFL games as part of its lineup until the network shut down in 2013.

Internet[edit]

On the Internet, all radio broadcasts of CFL games are available for free through each affiliate's Web site. As of 2010, ESPN3 is the only place where CFL games are broadcast on Internet television. ESPN3 (and its predecessor, ESPN360) have broadcast games since 2008; the service is only available in the United States (or its military bases) through specially negotiated cable providers and not in Canada. Video broadcasts were free in Canada at one time, but are no longer available; viewers are able to purchase previous games on the TSN website. A service known as "CFL Broadband" offered pay-per-view of CFL games in the United States and elsewhere prior to 2009, but the service ceased operations prior to the 2010 season. During America One's time broadcasting CFL games, some CFL video feeds could be found for free due to the fact that a small number of America One affiliates streamed their video on the Internet, even though the CFL discouraged this.

In Canada, Bell Mobility provides streaming of CFL games to its mobile devices, and TSN's streaming service, TSN GO, provides Internet streaming of CFL games to Bell TV and Rogers Cable subscribers.

Radio[edit]

CFL teams have local broadcast contracts with terrestrial radio stations for regular season and playoff games, while TSN Radio owns the rights to the Grey Cup.[42] In 2006, Sirius Satellite Radio gained exclusive rights for North American CFL satellite radio broadcasts and broadcast 25 CFL games per season, including the Grey Cup, through 2008.[43]

Players and compensation[edit]

The CFL began enforcing a salary cap for the 2007 season of $4.05 million per team. The cap was raised to $4.2 million in the 2008 season and remained at that level for 2009.[44] On June 29, 2010, a new collective bargaining agreement was ratified that raised the salary cap to $4.25 million for the 2010 CFL season and would continue to increase by $50,000 each season until 2013.[45] Financial penalties for teams that breach the cap are set at $1 to $1 for the first $100,000 over, $2 to $1 for $100,000 to $300,000 over, and $3 to $1 for $300,000 and above. Penalties could also include forfeited draft picks.[46] For 2010, the minimum team salary was set at $3.9 million while the minimum player salary was set at $42,000.[45] In 2006, the active roster limit was increased from 40 to 42. The import/non-import ratio, which required teams to keep at least 20 non-import ("A player who was physically resident in Canada for an aggregate of 7 years prior to turning 15 or if he’s a Canadian Citizen, was physically resident in Canada for an aggregate period of 5 years prior to turning 18")[47] players on their active roster, was retained at 50%, and thus a minimum of 21 non-import players must be on the active roster. Teams may have up to 4 players on their reserve roster, and up to 7 on their practice roster.[46] CFL players are represented by the Canadian Football League Players' Association (CFLPA). Each team elects two players to the CFLPA Board of Player Representatives, which meets once per year. Every two years, it elects an executive Board of Directors.[48] The average salary per player in 2011 was $82,500 CAD.

CFL Draft[edit]

For more details on this topic, see CFL College Draft.

Eligible non-imports (usually from CIS football or American college football) are drafted by teams in the annual Canadian College Draft. The CFL Draft usually takes place in May and consists of seven rounds. The first two rounds of the draft are usually shown live on TSN. The CFL Combine (formerly known as the Evaluation Camp), similar to the NFL Combine,[49] precedes the draft. A junior player in the locale of a team may be claimed as a territorial exemption and sign with that team before beginning collegiate play (one recent example is when the BC Lions claimed Andrew Harris[50]). Teams maintain "negotiation lists" of players they wish to sign as free agents.

CFL–NFL comparisons[edit]

During the 1950s and 1960s exhibition games were played between CFL and NFL/AFL teams using a mixture of each league's rules. The last such exhibition game was on August 8, 1961, when the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats defeated the AFL's Buffalo Bills. This was the only time in which a Canadian team defeated an American team in the series.

In the days when sports teams were financed almost entirely by ticket sales, the CFL and NFL were, financially speaking, on relatively equal footing.[51] In the 1970s, CFL teams signed top U.S. college football players such as Johnny Rodgers, Joe Theismann, and Tom Cousineau. As late as the 1970s and early 1980s, when high-capacity stadiums were built in Montreal, Edmonton, Vancouver, and Toronto, people such as Montreal Alouettes owner Nelson Skalbania continued to believe that relative parity could be sustained so long as the CFL could get larger stadiums built in its other cities and sell them out.[citation needed]

However, by the 1980s it became clear that financial parity between the two leagues would not be maintained, not so much because of the disparity in attendance figures, but because of the NFL's increasingly lucrative television contracts that now bring in a majority of the NFL's revenue. The CFL could not hope to negotiate similar contracts with Canadian networks because the U.S. television market is more than ten times the size of Canada's (whereas, at the time, the NFL only had three times as many teams as the CFL). One exception to this trend occurred in 1991 when the Toronto Argonauts signed U.S. college star Raghib "Rocket" Ismail to the then-unheard of sum of $18.2 million spread over four years. This proved unsustainable, and Ismail left for the NFL after two seasons. Currently, the difference in average salaries between the CFL and NFL is significant, with only a handful of CFL players making more than the NFL minimum.

There is a large salary discrepancy between the NFL and CFL, however this does not mean that the CFL necessarily has less talented players as the two games are very different, requiring different kinds of players. CFL teams often recruit skilled players who would be considered undersized by NFL standards. A player can be considered too small for the NFL and get cut from the team despite immense talent simply because that player's style of game due to body size would not translate into NFL success and sign in the CFL due to the players size and skill-set pertaining more to the Canadian game. However due to the stigma of the CFL's lower salaries attributed to the leagues lower television revenue and having been cut from the NFL, due to size rather than skill, many believe there is a large talent discrepancy between the two leagues when in fact the two leagues aim to find players with different physical tools and skill-sets. Since the CFL has a larger field playing surface in comparison to an NFL field, CFL rosters require players that are fast enough to take advantage of the open space while on offense and fast enough to cover the entire field while on defense. CFL players must take advantage of and cover more field where as the NFL players must cover less and have less space to work with.

There are many players who have played in both leagues and with many having achieved success in both leagues despite the two leagues' very different styles of play. Two people have been elected to both the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and the U.S. Pro Football Hall of Fame: quarterback Warren Moon and coach Bud Grant. There are many cases of CFLers going to the NFL and having success, appearing in the Pro Bowl including Joe Horn, Brendon Ayanbadejo, Joe Theismann, Cameron Wake, Doug Flutie, Brandon Browner, Jeff Garcia, Sam Etcheverry, Joe Pisarcik, Trent Green, Joe Kapp and Cookie Gilchrist. Pro Football Hall of Fame coaches Marv Levy and Bud Grant are also good examples. Some NFL players such as Ricky Williams, Vince Ferragamo, or Mark Gastineau were great in the NFL but their style of play did not translate to Canadian Football and resulted in very poor play.

League commissioners[edit]

Commissioners
Sydney Halter 1958–1966
Keith Davey 1966
Ted Workman (interim) 1967
Allan McEachern 1967–1968
Jake Gaudaur 1968–1984
Douglas Mitchell 1984–1988
Bill Baker 1989
Roy McMurtry (interim) 1990
J. Donald Crump 1990–1991
Phil Kershaw (interim) 1992
Larry Smith 1992–1996
John Tory 1996–2000
Michael Lysko 2000–2002
David Braley (interim) 2002
Tom Wright 2002–2006
Mark Cohon 2007–present

Teams[edit]

Active teams[edit]

Notes
1. The Alouettes play their regular season games at Percival Molson Memorial Stadium and playoff games at Olympic Stadium.[7]

Potential expansion[edit]

The most recent expansion of the CFL was the establishment of the Ottawa Redblacks which began play in 2014.

Potential CFL expansion markets are the Maritimes, Quebec City, London, and Windsor, all of which have been lobbying (unsuccessfully to date) for Canadian Football League franchises in recent years.[54][55]

Maritimes[edit]

Since the 1980s, the CFL has occasionally played exhibition and, later, regular-season games at various cities in the Maritimes, including Canada Games Stadium in Saint John, New Brunswick; Huskies Stadium in Halifax, Nova Scotia; and Moncton Stadium in Moncton, New Brunswick. The league conditionally approved an expansion franchise, the Atlantic Schooners, for play in the 1984 season, but the team never made it to play.

The Maritime Provinces lack a permanently suitable CFL stadium, which was the main problem that kept the Schooners off the field. As of 2010, the largest stadium in the Maritimes is Moncton Stadium, which has 10,000 permanent seats and can reach 20,000 capacity with temporary seats.[56] A pre-season game, dubbed Touchdown Atlantic, was held in Halifax in the 2005 CFL season and regular season games were played in Moncton under the same branding in 2010, 2011, and 2013.[57] All 20,000 seats for the 2010 Moncton game sold out in 32 hours;[58] the 2013 game did not sell out.

Although Atlantic Canada's expansion bids have typically branded themselves as covering all of Atlantic Canada, the presence of gridiron football at any level in Newfoundland and Labrador is practically nonexistent and none of the efforts have attempted to include that province.

Quebec City[edit]

There has also been interest in adding a team in Quebec City. In 2003, an exhibition game was held at PEPS Le Stade Extérieur between the Montreal Alouettes and Ottawa Renegades where Montreal won 54–23.[59] In May 2009, Christina Saint Marche, a British businesswoman, announced her interest in operating a team in Quebec City—stating that there would be a natural rivalry with the Montreal Alouettes.[60] During the 2010 Grey Cup state of the league news conference, Cohon noted that the Alouettes hold the rights for the entire province of Quebec and that any expansion would have to be negotiated with them first.[61]

Saskatoon[edit]

Saskatoon last hosted top-level Canadian football around 1941, when the Saskatoon Hilltops (along with another Saskatchewan-based team, the Moose Jaw Millers) suspended operations due to World War II; the Hilltops would remain an amateur team when they returned in 1947 (they have since played in the Canadian Junior Football League). Saskatoon had not won a provincial title since 1921 and by the point of the Hilltops' closure the Regina Roughriders had been the dominant team in the province for two decades.

In early 2012, management at Credit Union Centre publicly expressed its desire to bring a CFL team to Saskatoon. However, the Regina-based Saskatchewan Roughriders have long branded themselves as a province-wide team, and claimed that Saskatchewan is too small to support two teams.[62] In any event, Saskatoon also lacks a suitable outdoor stadium (the largest, Griffiths Stadium, seats only 6,171 spectators, and the Gordie Howe Bowl, which has hosted CFL exhibitions in the past, has even fewer seats).


Defunct and proposed teams[edit]

Defunct teams[edit]

Team City Stadium Years in CFL
Baltimore Stallions[63] Baltimore, Maryland Memorial Stadium 19941995
Birmingham Barracudas Birmingham, Alabama Legion Field 1995
Las Vegas Posse Las Vegas, Nevada Sam Boyd Stadium 1994
Memphis Mad Dogs Memphis, Tennessee Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium 1995
Ottawa Renegades Ottawa, Ontario Frank Clair Stadium 20022005
Ottawa Rough Riders Ottawa, Ontario Frank Clair Stadium 1876–1996
Sacramento Gold Miners Sacramento, California Hornet Stadium 19931994
San Antonio Texans San Antonio, Texas Alamodome 1995
Shreveport Pirates Shreveport, Louisiana Independence Stadium 19941995

Proposed teams[edit]

Team City Planned Debut Result of proposal
Atlantic Schooners Halifax/Dartmouth, Nova Scotia 1984 Dissolved due to lack of stadium.
San Antonio Texans San Antonio, Texas 1993 Folded before beginning play when owner ran out of money.
Miami Manatees Miami, Florida 1996 Dissolved due to end of US operations [8]
Notes
  1. ^ The Hamilton Tiger-Cats were created in 1950 as a merger of the Hamilton Tigers (founded 1869 as the Hamilton Foot Ball Club,[5] and merged with the Hamilton Alerts in 1914) and the Hamilton Flying Wildcats. Ivor Wynne Stadium is slated for closure in 2012, to be replaced by Tim Hortons Field in 2014; the Tiger-Cats are playing at the University of Guelph for the 2013 season.
  2. ^ The Alouettes' main home field is Molson Stadium. In recent years, they also play their final regular season home game and any home playoff games at Olympic Stadium.
  3. ^ The CFL considers the current Montreal Alouettes franchise (founded in 1994 as the Baltimore Stallions, moved to Montreal and renamed the Montreal Alouettes in 1996) to be a continuation of the original Montreal Alouettes (founded 1946, played in the CFL 19581981) and Montreal Concordes (founded 1982, renamed the Montreal Alouettes in 1986, folded just before the 1987 season).[64] However this does not include the Montreal Football Club that was formed in 1872, and joined the IRFU in 1907–1915, and the Montreal AAA Winged Wheelers, who played in the IRFU during the 1930s and 40's, winning the Grey Cup in 1931.
  4. ^ Created by a merger of the Winnipegs (whose roots go back to 1879) and the St. John's team on June 10, 1930, and become known as the "Winnipeg Pegs" before changing to the current name, Blue Bombers, in 1936.[65]
  5. ^ Not related to the Vancouver Grizzlies, who played one season in 1941.
  6. ^ Roots go back to the Calgary Rugby Foot-ball Club, which formed in 1909.[66]
  7. ^ While football in Edmonton was first played in 1890,[67] the Edmonton Eskimos recognize their first season in 1949.[68] This was further evidenced by the "60 seasons" decals worn on their helmets during the 2008 season.
  8. ^ Became Saskatchewan Roughriders officially in 1950, after the team became the only pro football team left in the province in 1948.
  9. ^ The San Antonio Texans formed in 1993 folded before playing a game. The 1995 Texans team listed here were the former Sacramento Gold Miners, who moved to San Antonio in 1995.
  10. ^ Percival Molson Memorial Stadium Phase II construction was completed in 2010, adding 5,000 seats, in the northwest corner and east grandstand.
  11. ^ The Miami Manatees were a proposed team that was abandoned before the 1996 season, after an exhibition game between Birmingham and Baltimore in Miami was poorly attended.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ 2009 Canadian Football League Facts, Figures & Records, Canadian Football League Properties/Publications, Toronto, Ontario, ISBN 978-0-9739425-4-5, p.281
  2. ^ a b c d William Houston (December 20, 2006). "Grey Cup moves to TSN in new deal". Globe and Mail (Toronto). Retrieved December 23, 2006. 
  3. ^ http://www.cfl.ca/uploads/assets/CFL/PDF_Docs/2011/Team_Record_Book_2011.pdf
  4. ^ a b Canadian Press (June 8, 2006). "Survey: Canadian interest in pro football is on the rise". Globe and Mail (Toronto). Archived from the original on February 1, 2010. Retrieved June 8, 2006. 
  5. ^ a b c "Canadian Football Timelines (1860–present)". Football Canada. Archived from the original on February 28, 2007. Retrieved December 23, 2006. 
  6. ^ "CFL ends working agreement with NFL". National Post. Canada. November 25, 2007. Retrieved July 1, 2010. 
  7. ^ "Bills’ plan exposes NFL-CFL relationship". Sportsnet.ca. October 20, 2007. Retrieved July 1, 2010. 
  8. ^ "CFL Sees Numbers Rise At The Gates". Sports Business Daily. November 17, 2005. Archived from the original on March 10, 2007. Retrieved December 3, 2006. 
  9. ^ "2012 CFL Attendance". Canadian Football Statistics Database. Retrieved May 31, 2013. 
  10. ^ "Sold-out stadiums and strong attendance across the board lead to highest average since 1983". CFL.ca. November 8, 2007. Retrieved December 29, 2007. 
  11. ^ url=http://www.tsn.ca/cfl/story/?id=410346%7Ctitle=100th Grey Cup Game Sets Viewership Records for TSN|accessdate=May 31, 2013|publisher=TSN.ca
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  16. ^ Canada (May 4, 2010). "Demise of famous roof begins BC Place renewal". The Globe and Mail (Toronto). Retrieved February 18, 2011. 
  17. ^ "New Lansdowne designs unveiled". Cfl.ca. Retrieved February 18, 2011. 
  18. ^ "Pan Ams will leave lasting legacy". Thespec.com. Retrieved February 18, 2011. 
  19. ^ Update on plans for downtown Regina domed stadium coming: Enterprise Minister Ken Cheveldayoff[dead link]
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  28. ^ "CFL debuts live webcast for entire schedule". CFL.ca. June 22, 2006. Retrieved December 3, 2006. 
  29. ^ William Houston (November 20, 2006). "Minor rise in Grey Cup ratings good for CBC". Globe and Mail. Canada. Retrieved December 3, 2006. 
  30. ^ Stoneberg, Allison. (June 26, 2013) ESPN to Deliver 60 Live Canadian Football League Games « ESPN MediaZone. Espnmediazone.com. Retrieved on July 26, 2013.
  31. ^ ESPN & CFL reach multi-year US broadcast deal, CFL.ca Staff, June 27, 2014
  32. ^ http://www.tsn.ca/cfl/story?id=455858
  33. ^ http://espnmediazone.com/us/press-releases/2014/06/espn-secures-exclusive-u-s-rights-to-canadian-football-league-games/
  34. ^ "54, 40 or Fight" (PDF). Retrieved February 18, 2011. 
  35. ^ Naylor, David (November 22, 2008). "Berman still shows loyalty to CFL". Globe and Mail (Toronto). Retrieved November 23, 2008. 
  36. ^ "CFL available in all U.S. markets". CFL.ca. June 13, 2007. Retrieved June 13, 2007. 
  37. ^ "CFL moves to a new home in the US". CFL.ca. June 13, 2007. Retrieved June 30, 2010. 
  38. ^ "Canadian Football League back on NFL Network". Retrieved June 25, 2011. 
  39. ^ McMillan, Ken (May 25, 2012). No CFL on NFLN, eh?. HudsonValley.com. Retrieved June 14, 2012.
  40. ^ 100th Grey Cup Game to air live in US on NBC Sports Network.
  41. ^ "NBC Sports Network to showcase CFL in 2013 | CFL.ca | Official Site of the Canadian Football League". CFL.ca. Retrieved January 5, 2014. 
  42. ^ CFL broadcasters page. Retrieved March 6, 2008.
  43. ^ "CFL Gets Sirius". CFL.ca. April 24, 2006. Retrieved December 3, 2006. 
  44. ^ Canadian Press (January 14, 2009). "CFL salary cap won't change". Globe and Mail (Canada). Retrieved January 14, 2009. 
  45. ^ a b "New CFL-CFLPA CBA at a glance". CFL.ca. Retrieved August 1, 2010. 
  46. ^ a b "Salary Management System". CFL.ca. Retrieved December 3, 2006. 
  47. ^ CFL.ca – Official Site of the Canadian Football League CFL – Import/Non-Import Classification
  48. ^ "Organization of the CFLPA". CFLPA.ca. Archived from the original on November 2, 2006. Retrieved December 3, 2006. 
  49. ^ "TransGlobe Evaluation Camp". CFL.ca. Retrieved May 22, 2007. 
  50. ^ "Harris completes journey from bleachers to Grey Cup glory". TSN.ca. November 28, 2011. Retrieved November 28, 2011. 
  51. ^ Brunt, Stephen (November 26, 2010). "Americans excel at Canadian football". Globe and Mail (Toronto). Retrieved November 27, 2010. 
  52. ^ "About the Ottawa REDBLACKS". Ottawa Redblacks. Retrieved 2014-02-16. 
  53. ^ Toronto Argonauts. The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved on July 26, 2013.
  54. ^ "Walling: The CFL will be coming east". The Sports Network. Retrieved February 18, 2011. 
  55. ^ Windsor 'ready and willing' for CFL expansion team
  56. ^ "Cohon has Moncton on his mind". National Post. Canada. Archived from the original on June 13, 2011. Retrieved December 8, 2008. 
  57. ^ "CANADIAN FOOTBALL LEAGUE | CFL's Touchdown Atlantic". Newswire.ca. May 28, 2010. Retrieved July 1, 2010. 
  58. ^ "CFL game in Moncton a sellout". Canada: CBC. March 25, 2010. Retrieved October 5, 2010. 
  59. ^ "Calvillo, Alouettes hammer Renegades". CBC Sports Online. June 9, 2003. Retrieved December 2, 2006. 
  60. ^ "British woman wants football franchise in Quebec City". Montreal Gazette. Archived from the original on May 11, 2009. Retrieved July 9, 2009. 
  61. ^ "CFL road to Quebec City goes via Montreal: Cohon". CBC Sports Online. November 26, 2010. Retrieved June 20, 2011. 
  62. ^ No Name."Saskatoon CFL team under discussion". Ottawa: CBC l. February 1, 2012. Retrieved February 1, 2012. 
  63. ^ Became the Montreal Alouettes in 1996; the league considers the current franchise a revival of the previous incarnation.
  64. ^ "History of the Montreal Alouettes". CFL.ca. Retrieved December 4, 2006. 
  65. ^ "History". Bluebombers.com. September 27, 2011. Retrieved September 27, 2011. 
  66. ^ "Calgary Stampeders — Team — Tradition". Stampeders.com. October 27, 1945. Archived from the original on April 29, 2011. Retrieved February 18, 2011. 
  67. ^ 2009 Canadian Football League Facts, Figures & Records, Canadian Football League Properties/Publications, Toronto, Ontario, ISBN 978-0-9739425-4-5, p.282
  68. ^ "History". Esks.com. August 23, 1978. Retrieved February 18, 2011. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

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