Pro Football is nearly back once more. For all those fans who are complaining there’s no pro ball until the NFL pre-season, the CFL has its first pre-season game – Saskatchewan at Edmonton on Sunday May 27th.
Imagine that. Not the long drought between the draft and the NFL pre-season that so many bemoan, but actual pro football happening throughout summer. A lot of UK fans are locked on the NFL and don’t really consider the CFL. Those fans are missing out on a lot of fun.
Of course if you want to start following a game or a new league it is usually more interesting and certainly more fun if you pick a team to follow.
Perhaps the best way to do that is to find something about a team that attracts you. So to help you out below are a few pointers on each of the 9 CFL teams. The CFL has a great online community too, so with that in mind there are links to websites and suggestions for twitter fans to follow. Each team has lots of great fans online and the suggested ones here will hopefully act as a doorway to you finding more and discovering a whole new community.
BC Lions: Based in Vancouver, British Columbia the Leos play in the CFL West Division. Founded in 1954, they are currently coached by CFL living legend Wally Buono who is by all accounts entering his last season in the coaching ranks. According to fan forums the most popular NFL team in Vancouver is the Seahawks by some margin, but that doesn’t mean they don’t support BC too. Jeff Reinebold, well known in UK football circles, has returned to coaching in BC and has already been appealing to the UK fan base to get behind the Leos! They last appeared in, and won The Grey Cup in 2011.
Team Website: https://www.bclions.com/
Team Twitter: @BCLions https://twitter.com/BCLions
Twitter hashtag: #BCLions
Suggested fan Twitter account: @BCLionsDen https://twitter.com/BCLionsDen
FUN FACT: In 1991, Doug Flutie’s second year in the CFL, he set the all time single season passing yards record of not just the CFL but all of professional football with 6,619 yards.
Calgary Stampeders: Based in Calgary, Alberta the Stamps play in the CFL West Division. Founded in 1945 they are part of a football tradition in the city that dates back to 1909. Over the last 2 years Calgary are a regular season CFL best 28-6-2, only to be upset in The Grey Cup final by Ottawa & Toronto respectively. Formerly community owned, following financial difficulties they were put into private hands in 1991 and have been privately owned since. Former NFL stars who have played for the Stamps include QB’s Doug Flutie and Jeff Garcia. They were last year’s Grey Cup runners-up and last won The Grey Cup in 2014.
Team Website: https://www.stampeders.com/
Team Twitter: @calstampeders https://twitter.com/calstampeders
Twitter hashtag: #GoStampsGo
Suggested fan Twitter account: @StampsFans https://twitter.com/stampsfans?lang=en
FUN FACT: In 1992, the Stamps made Doug Flutie the highest paid CFL player when they signed him to a $1,000,000 contract. They won their 3rd Grey Cup championship that same year.
Edmonton Eskimos: Based in Edmonton, Alberta the Eskimos play in the CFL West Division. Founded in 1949, the Eskimos colour and uniform choice was decided for them as they started out with hand me down uniforms from the University of Alberta Golden Bears. They are one of the three community owned teams in the CFL. The Esks hold the distinction for the longest run of making the playoffs for any North American sports team – an incredible 34 years between 1972 and 2005. NFL fans will probably recognise the name Warren Moon, who helped lead them to 5 straight championships between 1978-82 They last appeared in, and won The Grey Cup in 2015.
Team Website: https://www.esks.com/
Team Twitter: @EdmontonEsks https://twitter.com/EdmontonEsks
Twitter hashtag: #OnEEmpire
Suggested fan Twitter account: @EskEmpirePod https://twitter.com/eskempirepod
FUN FACT: The Edmonton Eskimos CFL team was founded in 1949; however other teams existed with this same name in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats: Based in Hamilton, Ontario the Ti-Cats play in the CFL East Division. Founded in 1950 they were created by a merger of the Hamilton Tigers and Hamilton Cats – hence the name. In 2003 they had the dubious distinction of the CFL’s most ever losses in a season with 17. Hamilton and Toronto have been playing each other in one form or another since 1873, although those early games bore little to no relation to what we see now! They last appeared in The Grey Cup in 2014, but last won The Grey Cup in 1999.
Team Website: http://ticats.ca/
Team Twitter: @Ticats https://twitter.com/Ticats
Twitter hashtag: #Hamiltonproud
Suggested fan Twitter account: @BoxJBoys https://twitter.com/boxjboys?lang=en
FUN FACT: In an eleven season span from 1957 to 1967, the Tiger-Cats played in the Grey Cup nine times, winning it all on four occasions.
Montreal Alouettes: Based in Montreal, Quebec the Alouettes were founded in 1946 and they play in the CFL East Division. They have actually folded twice only to be re-formed. The league considers all the iterations of the Alouettes as one club dating back to their founding. The first known written account of a football game in North America comes from Montreal when a team of English troops played civilians from Mcgill University in 1868. The Alouettes had been pretty successful through the 2000’s and have had on their roster, Mike Pringle the CFL career rushing yardage leader and Antony Calvillo pro footballs all time passing yardage leader. They were a league worst 3-15 in 2017 and have brought in former NFL coach Mike Sherman. Bringing in a former NFL coach worked for the Argonauts, but Marc Trestman already had a deep understanding & experience of the Canadian game. It will be interesting to see how Sherman fares. For anyone wondering just what an Alouette is – it is french for Lark! They last appeared in, and won The Grey Cup in 2010.
Team Website: https://www.montrealalouettes.com/
Team Twitter: @MTLAlouettes https://twitter.com/MTLAlouettes
Twitter hashtag: #AlsMTL
Suggested fan Twitter account: @AlouettesFLDeck https://twitter.com/AlouettesFLDeck
FUN FACT: Professional wrestler ‘total Package’ Lex Luger played parts of the 1979, 1980, and 1981 CFL seasons for the Montreal Alouettes under his given name Larry Pfohl.
Ottawa Redblacks: Based in Ottawa, Ontario, the RedBlacks play in the CFL East Division. Founded as recently as 2014 the RedBlacks are a little misleading for new fans as there has been a team in Ottawa, on and off since 1876. The Ottawa Rough Riders were a founder member of the CFL and played up until 1996. An Ottawa Renegades team lasted only from 2002-2005. Many Ottawans see this team as the continuation of their former representatives but the CFL does not list them as continuous or connected in that way. Ottawa may well have liked to reinstate the Rough Riders name but Saskatchewan lobbied against this. The RedBlacks name came from a fan competition and is copyrighted in both English and French (Rouge et Noir). They last appeared in, and won, The Grey Cup in 2016
Team Website: https://www.ottawaredblacks.com/
Team Twitter: @REDBLACKS https://twitter.com/REDBLACKS
Twitter hashtag: #RNation
Suggested fan Twitter account: @LumberJoes https://twitter.com/LumberJoes
FUN FACT: The REDBLACKS made their CFL debut on July 3, 2014 in Winnipeg. Running back Chevon Walker scored the franchise’s first touchdown early in the first quarter.
Saskatchewan Roughriders : Based in Regina, Saskatchewan and playing in the CFL West Division. The most obvious comparison here is that they are sometimes referred to as the Packers of the North. Founded in 1910, the green and white are the 3rd oldest pro football team in existence behind the Arizona Cardinals and the CFL’s own Argonauts. They are a community owned team with a pretty rabid fan base. They sell close on as much merchandise as the rest of the CFL combined. In fact they sell more merchandise than any other sports team in Canada with the exceptions of the Toronto Maple Leafs & Montreal Canadiens, and not unlike the Packers fans and their cheeseheads, Riders fans have a tradition all of their own – the carved out watermelon worn on their heads! They last appeared in, and won The Grey Cup in 2013.
Team Website: https://www.riderville.com/
Team Twitter: @sskroughriders https://twitter.com/sskroughriders
Twitter hashtag: #RiderPride
Suggested fan Twitter account: @PifflesPod https://twitter.com/pifflespod?lang=en
FUN FACT: Saskatchewan’s team name, ‘Roughriders’ comes from an alternate name for the North-West Mounted Police.
Toronto Argonauts: Based in Toronto, Ontario, the double blues are North America’s oldest professional football team and play in the CFL East Division. The Argos were founded in 1873, initially as a rugby club and for the first 83 years of their existence were owned by the Argonaut Rowing Club. They have won a record 16 Grey Cups. Toronto perennially struggle with growing their fan base, which is a shame for such a big city. Some point to a TV blackout in the 70’s and 80’s that meant many potential fans became more engaged with the NFL. Also arguable is that Toronto is ‘not a football town’. A lot of potential support goes to the NBA’s Raptors and MLB’s Blue Jays as well as a growing number of MLS Toronto FC fans. In 2017 they hired ex Bears coach Marc Trestman & experienced CFL GM Jim Popp who are looking to bring success and with it more attention for the team. They are the defending Grey Cup champions.
Team Website: https://www.argonauts.ca/
Team Twitter: @TorontoArgos https://twitter.com/TorontoArgos
Twitter hashtag: #Argosfootball
Suggested fan Twitter account: @TheArgosOars https://twitter.com/TheArgosOARS
FUN FACT: The 1997 Toronto Argonauts were the first professional football team to have two different Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks on their roster; Doug Flutie (Boston College – 1984) and Andre Ware (University of Houston – 1989).
Winnipeg Blue Bombers: Based in Winnipeg, Manitoba the Blue Bombers play in the CFL West Division. Founded in 1930, Winnipeg have appeared in The Grey Cup 25 times, which is more than any other CFL team. They are a community owned team and ‘Big Blue’ have a very loyal fan base. Perhaps the most recognisable name from their coaching history for NFL fans would be that of Bud Grant who won 4 Grey Cups before famously going on to lose 4 Superbowl’s coaching the Vikings. Very few CFL all time records are dominated by Blue Bombers players, but Milt Stegall, who played briefly for the Bengals from 92-94 does hold a host of receiving records. They last appeared in The Grey Cup in 2011, but last won The Grey Cup in 1990.
Team Website: https://www.bluebombers.com/
Team Twitter: @WPG_BlueBombers https://twitter.com/Wpg_BlueBombers
Twitter hashtag: #ForTheW
Suggested fan Twitter account: @BomberFanTed https://twitter.com/BomberFanTed?lang=en
FUN FACT: Former Head Coach Bud Grant is one of only two people (along with Warren Moon) and the only coach to be in both the NFL Pro football and Canadian Football Hall-of-Fame.
Hopefully BT Sport and ESPN will again be covering the CFL in the UK (at the time of writing confirmation has not yet been seen), but just to get a flavour of the game and the teams it is well worth checking in on the CFL’s game recaps page. You can even start with last year’s Grey Cup highlights! https://www.cfl.ca/videos/2017-game-recaps/
So there you have it, a by no means definitive guide to each CFL team – the big question now is – which is the one for you?