Canadian Football League West Division

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The Canadian Football League West Division is one of the two regional divisions of the Canadian Football League, their counterpart being the East Division. Although the CFL was not founded until 1958, the West Division and its clubs are descended from earlier leagues.

History[edit]

Pre-1936[edit]

The first organized football club in Western Canada was the Winnipeg Rugby Football Club, a forerunner of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers which was founded in 1879. At the time the sport was generally called rugby or rugby football because its rules were similar to rugby union's, although this would change drastically in the coming decades. The first organized competition in the West was formed in 1888 Winnipeg Football Club, St. John's College and the Royal School of Infantry formed the Manitoba Rugby League, later re-organized as the Manitoba Rugby Football Union. Football was being played in what was to become Alberta and Saskatchewan by 1890, and by 1907 the new provinces had organized their own respective competitions and agreed to adopt the rules of the national governing body, the Canadian Rugby Union. A provincial union was not formed in British Columbia until the 1920s. The four rugby unions in the West were named the Manitoba Rugby Football Union, Saskatchewan Rugby Football Union, Alberta Rugby Football Union and the British Columbia Rugby Football Union

The three provincial unions then in existence soon set out to create a unified Western Canadian competition, with the view that the Western champion should be able to challenge for the Canadian Rugby Union's new championship trophy, the Grey Cup. To this end, the Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta unions formed the Western Canada Rugby Football Union in 1911, with the Calgary Tigers winning the first Western championship later that year. Initially, the Western champions were not allowed to compete for the Grey Cup, because the CRU believed the calibre of the new competition to be inferior to those in the East. It was not until 1921 that a Western team was finally allowed to compete in the Grey Cup game, when the Edmonton Eskimos lost 23–0 to the Toronto Argonauts. Initial challenges for the trophy met with futility, largely because the Western champion invariably had to travel to the East to compete in the championship game. Finally in 1935 a Western team, the Winnipeg Pegs (soon to be known as the Blue Bombers) captured the Grey Cup, after they defeated the Hamilton Tigers 18–12.

Western Interprovincial Football Union (1936–1961)[edit]

In 1936, the Western Interprovincial Football Union was formed, succeeding the WCRFU as the West's premier football competition. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the MRFU, the Regina Roughriders of the SRFU and the Calgary Bronks of the ARFU were the original teams. Teams from Edmonton and Vancouver also competed in some seasons prior to suspension of the competition in 1942 for the duration of the Second World War. The league resumed play on a limited basis in 1945 with Winnipeg, Regina and the newly renamed Calgary Stampeders. The competition was fully resumed by 1946. The Regina Roughriders became the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 1948, the Edmonton Eskimos permanently rejoined the league in 1949 and in 1950 the third place team was granted a playoff berth. The regular season schedule was also expanded, from eight games per team in 1946 to 12 in 1948, 14 in 1949, and finally 16 games in 1952. The West continued to play a 16-game schedule for the next three decades. The expansion of the schedule coincided with the WIFU's gradual transformation from a semi-professional competition into a fully professional league - a development which, combined with the growing use of air travel in Canada, made expansion to Vancouver a viable option. In 1954, the BC Lions joined the league, thus giving the West the same five teams that compete in the modern CFL.

The WIFU was not always guaranteed a berth in the Grey Cup game at first. In 1940 the Western champions, the Blue Bombers, were disqualified from the Grey Cup in a rules dispute. By 1945, however, the WIFU's quality of play was almost equal to that of the strongest Eastern union, the Interprovincial Rugby Football Union (Big Four). From that year onward, the WIFU champion regularly faced the Big Four champion for the Grey Cup. Still, well into the 1950s, while the Big Four champion got an automatic berth to the Grey Cup, the Western champion was often obliged to play the champion of the Ontario Rugby Football Union—the only purely amateur union still playing for the title—in a Grey Cup semi-final. However, the ORFU was eventually proven to be a much weaker league, and stopped challenging for the Grey Cup after the 1954 season. The Western champion has always been guaranteed a berth in the Grey Cup since that time. Although the amateurs would not be formally locked out of Grey Cup play for another four years, 1954 is usually viewed as the start of the modern era of Canadian football.

In 1956, these two leagues agreed to form the Canadian Football Council as an umbrella organization. In 1958, the CFC withdrew from the CRU and renamed itself the Canadian Football League. The new league also assumed control of the Grey Cup, though it had been the de facto professional championship of Canadian football for four years before then. Long before the formation of the CFL, the WIFU had become known informally as the Western Conference or Western Football Conference in the media.

Western Football Conference (1961–1980)[edit]

The WIFU was officially renamed the Western Football Conference in 1961. The same year, and agreed to a partial interlocking schedule with what was by then known as the Eastern Football Conference. Although the WFC was part of the CFL, its merger with the EFC was only a partial merger for the next two decades. During this time, the conferences maintained considerable autonomy, much like the two Major League Baseball leagues operated in the 20th century. For example, the West had a different playoff format until 1973 and a longer schedule until 1974. During this time, attendances increased substantially for most clubs and television revenue gained prominence and importance. However, by the start of 1980's rising player salaries had caused considerable financial losses for some teams. In an effort to bolster the league's stability, CFL clubs decided to proceed with a complete merger of the two regional conferences.

West Division (1980–1994, 1996–present)[edit]

In 1980, the CFL's two conferences agreed to a full merger and a full interlocking schedule. Although the WFC has carried on since that time as the CFL's West Division, full authority is now vested within the CFL itself. The decision to create a full interlocking schedule meant that the teams were playing fewer divisional games, consequently the league decided add two extra divisional games per team, thus extending the schedule to the current 18 games per team starting in 1986.

The West Division has undergone major changes since the dissolution of the WFC. In 1987 an East Division team, the Montreal Alouettes, folded. Consequently, Winnipeg, the easternmost city in the West Division, was transferred to the East Division to keep the divisions equal in size. This led to the first "all-Western" Grey Cup in 1988 when the Blue Bombers won the East Division championship for the first time.

In 1993, the CFL decided to expand to the United States, leading to the addition of the league's first American-based team, the Sacramento Gold Miners. In 1994, the division added a sixth team, the Las Vegas Posse. Following the 1994 season, the Posse folded while the Gold Miners moved to San Antonio and became the Texans. For the 1995 season, all eight Canadian teams competed in the North Division.

Prior to the 1996 season however, all of the American clubs disbanded, with one (the Baltimore Stallions) returning to Montreal. The pre-1987 divisional alignment was restored, only to see Winnipeg return to the East after one season when the Ottawa Rough Riders folded. The Blue Bombers returned to the West in 2002 after an expansion franchise was granted in the nation's capital. With the suspension of the Ottawa Renegades for the 2006 season, the Blue Bombers moved back to the East. With the launch of the Ottawa Redblacks in 2014, the Blue Bombers moved back to the West.

Grey Cup record[edit]

Prior to 1954, Western clubs found limited success in the Grey Cup. Since 1954 however, the West has generally been on an equal footing and in recent decades has often dominated the East in the regular season. Since 1954 the West has won 31 Grey Cups and lost 24. If the 1995 season is counted, the West has lost 26. It should also be noted that two of the West's Grey Cup losses were to the Blue Bombers, who have played in the West for most of their history.

The West was particularly dominant from 1978 to 1989, winning all but two Cups in that period.

Playoff format[edit]

For most seasons since 1950, the top three teams in the West have made the playoffs. For many years, the semi-final and final was a two-game or even a best-of-three game series, but this was abandoned in the 1970s in favour of one-game play-offs. Quite often a fourth-place team in the West had a better record than the third-place team in the East, with the western team out of the playoffs.

This was rectified beginning in 1986 when the CFL instituted a rule that permitted a fourth-place team in one division to make the playoffs provided it had more points in the standings than the third-place team in the other division. That year in the West the first-place Eskimos (13–4–1) defeated the fourth-place Stampeders (11–7–0) by a score of 27–18. The second-place Lions (12–6–0) defeated the third-place Blue Bombers (11–7–0) by a score of 21–14. The Eskimos then demolished the Lions in the West Final 41–5 and advanced to the Grey Cup. In the East the first-place Argonauts (10–8–0) played a two-game total point series against the second-place Tiger-Cats (9–8–1). The Argonauts won the first game 31–17, but the Tiger-Cats won the second game by a score of 42–25—and with it, a berth in the Grey Cup final. The Tiger-Cats, in their third consecutive Grey Cup game, were victorious over the Eskimos 39–15.

With the demise of the Montreal Alouettes on the eve of the 1987 season the playoff format reverted to the top three teams in the respective divisions making the playoffs. In 1997, the present cross-over rule was implemented, allowing the fourth-place team from one division to take the play-off place of the third-place team in the other division, should the fourth-place team earn a better record. Since 1997, the fourth place team in the West has taken advantage of the cross-over rule five times, but not until 2008 did a Western team (Edmonton) advance to the Eastern final. As of 2010 no team from the East has crossed over into the Western playoffs.

List of Western champions[edit]

  • Clubs in italics finished in first place during the regular season.
  • Clubs in bold won the Grey Cup.

Champions of the Western Canada Rugby Football Union[edit]

Year Champion Runner-up
1911 Calgary Tigers Winnipeg Rowing Club
1912 Regina Rugby Club Winnipeg Rowing Club
1913 Regina Rugby Club Winnipeg Rowing Club
1914 Regina Rugby Club Winnipeg Rowing Club
1915 Regina Rugby Club Calgary Canucks
1916 Regina Rugby Club
1917 No season: World War I
1918 No season: World War I
1919 Regina Rugby Club Calgary Canucks
1920 Regina Rugby Club Calgary Tigers
1921 Edmonton Eskimos Winnipeg Victorias
1922 Edmonton Elks Winnipeg Victorias
1923 Regina Roughriders Winnipeg Victorias
1924 Winnipeg Victorias Calgary 50th Battalion
1925 Winnipeg Tammany Tigers Regina Roughriders
1926 Regina Roughriders University of Alberta
1927 Regina Roughriders University of British Columbia
1928 Regina Roughriders St. John's College
1929 Regina Roughriders Calgary Tigers
1930 Regina Roughriders Vancouver Meralomas
1931 Regina Roughriders Calgary Altomahs-Tigers
1932 Regina Roughriders Calgary Altomahs
1933 Winnipeg Pegs Calgary Altomahs
1934 Regina Roughriders Vancouver Meloromas
1935 Winnipeg Pegs Calgary Bronks

Champions of the Western Interprovincial Football Union[edit]

Year Champion Runner-up
1936 Regina Roughriders1 Winnipeg Blue Bombers
1937 Winnipeg Blue Bombers Calgary Bronks
1938 Winnipeg Blue Bombers Calgary Bronks
1939 Winnipeg Blue Bombers Calgary Bronks
1940 Winnipeg Blue Bombers2 Calgary Bronks
1941 Winnipeg Blue Bombers Regina Roughriders
1942 No season: World War II
1943 No season: World War II
1944 No season: World War II
19453 Winnipeg Blue Bombers Calgary Stampeders
1946 Winnipeg Blue Bombers Calgary Stampeders
1947 Winnipeg Blue Bombers Calgary Stampeders
1948 Calgary Stampeders Saskatchewan Roughriders
1949 Calgary Stampeders Saskatchewan Roughriders
1950 Winnipeg Blue Bombers Edmonton Eskimos
1951 Saskatchewan Roughriders Edmonton Eskimos
1952 Edmonton Eskimos Winnipeg Blue Bombers
1953 Winnipeg Blue Bombers Edmonton Eskimos
1954 Edmonton Eskimos Winnipeg Blue Bombers
1955 Edmonton Eskimos Winnipeg Blue Bombers
1956 Edmonton Eskimos Saskatchewan Roughriders
1957 Winnipeg Blue Bombers Edmonton Eskimos
1958 Winnipeg Blue Bombers Edmonton Eskimos
1959 Winnipeg Blue Bombers Edmonton Eskimos
1960 Edmonton Eskimos Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Champions of the Western Football Conference[edit]

Year Champion Runner-up
1961 Winnipeg Blue Bombers Calgary Stampeders
1962 Winnipeg Blue Bombers Calgary Stampeders
1963 BC Lions Saskatchewan Roughriders
1964 BC Lions Calgary Stampeders
1965 Winnipeg Blue Bombers Calgary Stampeders
1966 Saskatchewan Roughriders Winnipeg Blue Bombers
1967 Saskatchewan Roughriders Calgary Stampeders
1968 Calgary Stampeders Saskatchewan Roughriders
1969 Saskatchewan Roughriders Calgary Stampeders
1970 Calgary Stampeders Saskatchewan Roughriders
1971 Calgary Stampeders Saskatchewan Roughriders
1972 Saskatchewan Roughriders Winnipeg Blue Bombers
1973 Edmonton Eskimos Saskatchewan Roughriders
1974 Edmonton Eskimos Saskatchewan Roughriders
1975 Edmonton Eskimos Saskatchewan Roughriders
1976 Saskatchewan Roughriders Edmonton Eskimos
1977 Edmonton Eskimos BC Lions
1978 Edmonton Eskimos Calgary Stampeders
1979 Edmonton Eskimos Calgary Stampeders
1980 Edmonton Eskimos Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Champions of the Canadian Football League West Division[edit]

Year Champion Runner-up
1981 Edmonton Eskimos BC Lions
1982 Edmonton Eskimos Winnipeg Blue Bombers
1983 BC Lions Winnipeg Blue Bombers
1984 Winnipeg Blue Bombers BC Lions
1985 BC Lions Winnipeg Blue Bombers
1986 Edmonton Eskimos BC Lions
1987 Edmonton Eskimos BC Lions
1988 BC Lions4 Edmonton Eskimos
1989 Saskatchewan Roughriders Edmonton Eskimos
1990 Edmonton Eskimos4 Calgary Stampeders
1991 Calgary Stampeders Edmonton Eskimos
1992 Calgary Stampeders Edmonton Eskimos
1993 Edmonton Eskimos Calgary Stampeders
1994 BC Lions Calgary Stampeders
19955 Calgary Stampeders5 Edmonton Eskimos5
1996 Edmonton Eskimos Calgary Stampeders
1997 Saskatchewan Roughriders Edmonton Eskimos
1998 Calgary Stampeders Edmonton Eskimos
1999 Calgary Stampeders BC Lions
2000 BC Lions Calgary Stampeders
2001 Calgary Stampeders Edmonton Eskimos
2002 Edmonton Eskimos Winnipeg Blue Bombers
2003 Edmonton Eskimos Saskatchewan Roughriders
2004 BC Lions Saskatchewan Roughriders
2005 Edmonton Eskimos BC Lions
2006 BC Lions Saskatchewan Roughriders
2007 Saskatchewan Roughriders BC Lions
2008 Calgary Stampeders BC Lions
2009 Saskatchewan Roughriders Calgary Stampeders
2010 Saskatchewan Roughriders Calgary Stampeders
2011 BC Lions Edmonton Eskimos
2012 Calgary Stampeders BC Lions
2013 Saskatchewan Roughriders Calgary Stampeders

1: Regina did not take part in the 1936 Grey Cup game.

2: Winnipeg was disqualified from the 1940 Grey Cup due to a rules dispute.

3: No regular season was played in 1945.

4: Winnipeg won two Grey Cups (in 1988 and 1990) while in the East Division.

5: All Canadian teams competed in the North Division in 1995.

External links[edit]