The halfback in Canadian football, and most commonly the Canadian Football League, refers to the defensive back rather than the running back, as in American football. The defensive halfback lines up inside covering the slotback. They are usually slightly larger than the cornerback to assist the linebackers in stopping the run. They can also be seen backing off the line early, to counter the forward motion of a slotback, which is allowed before the snap in the CFL.
The cause of the difference in naming between the two positions between the American and Canadian game, which otherwise uses the same names for positions, stems from the early history of the game. In both games, the early formations featured identical offensive and defensive formations, with seven down linemen and four players (five in Canada) in the backfield. Thus, both offense and defense had quarterbacks, halfbacks and fullbacks. Over the course of the 20th century, the American and Canadian games both placed an increased emphasis on forward passing, resulting in both offensive and defensive formations spreading out and morphing into modern formations. Furthermore, the abolition of the one-platoon system in the 1940s led to a tendency for position names being used on only one side of the ball. The American game, which still held a significant running component, kept two running backs, which led to the retention of the "halfback" and "fullback" identifications on that side of the ball. In Canadian football, however, passing was a greater portion of the game (due in part to the larger field and fewer downs in that game, and only one running back was regularly used, leading to the offensive distinction between halfback and fullback becoming obsolete. Thus, Canadian football kept the halfback distinction for defense instead of offense.
|Positions in American football and Canadian football
||Guard, Tackle, Center
||Tackle, End, Nose tackle
||Placekicker, Punter, Kickoff specialist
||Long snapper, Holder
||Halfback (Tailback), Fullback, H-back
||Cornerback, Safety, Halfback
||Punt returner, Kick returner
||Wide receiver, Tight end, Slotback
|Formations (List) — Nomenclature