CFL

The Choice is yours: Selecting your CFL team

It is time for our third annual guide to picking a CFL team for UK based fans. The 2019 schedule gets underway at the end of this month with the first pre-season game. So this seems an ideal time to think about who you might support going into the season.

A lot of NFL fans complain at this time year about the long gap from the draft to the season. Why not give the CFL a go? It is a lot of fun with some great athletes and action to grab the attention. Plus, pro football in summer – who doesn’t like that?

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 CFL teams.

East Division

There are 9 teams in the CFL currently. 5 in the West Division and 4 in the East Division which is where we are starting.

Montreal Alouettes

The Alouettes are heading into 2019 with a new logo and a new look. Image from underconsideration.com

Based in Montreal, Quebec, the Montreal Alouettes were founded in 1946, though the team has folded and been revived twice. The league considers all the iterations of the Alouettes as one club dating back to their founding.

The Als have an all time regular season record of 490-489-21 but their last winning season was in 2012. They have appeared in 18 Grey Cup games winning 7. They last won it all in 2010.

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, (79,816 yards).

Calvillo played for Montreal between 1998 and 2013. However, Montreal has struggled since then and have yet to be as competitive as an era that saw them win 3 Grey Cups.  

Team colours: Blue, red and white. Team Mascot: Touché

Team Website: montrealalouettes.com Team Twitter: @MTLAlouettes

Suggested fan Twitter: @AlouettesFLDeck

Toronto Argonauts

Heir apparent to the retired Ricky Ray – will James Franklin be the man in Toronto? Image from lastwonrdonsports.com

Based in Toronto, Ontario, the double blue are North America’s oldest professional football team. In fact, as they were founded in 1873 they are the oldest existing pro sports team in North America still using its original name. Not to mention the oldest-surviving team in the modern-day CFL.

The Boatmen have an all-time regular season record of 639-692-26 and their last winning season was in 2015 although ultimately they were more successful in 2017.

Toronto have appeared in 23 Grey Cup games winning 17. They last won it all in the ‘Snowglobe Game‘ in 2017.

The Argonauts are looking for a new identity in 2018 following the retirement of certain future Hall of Fame quarterback Ricky Ray.

Team colours: Cambridge Blue, Oxford Blue and white. Team Mascot: Jason

Team Website: argonauts.ca Team Twitter: @TorontoArgos

Suggested fan Twitter: @argonautsfanuk

Ottawa REDBLACKS

CFL rookie of the year 2018 Lewis Ward had a record setting season for Ottawa. Image from ottawaredblacks.com

Based in Ottawa, Ontario, the REDBLACKS were founded as recently as 2014. This is 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. 

Although the CFL do not see them as a continuous franchise as they do with Montreal, some Ottawans see this team as the continuation of their former representatives.

The REDBLACKS name came from a fan competition and is copyrighted in both English and French (Rouge et Noir).

This Ottawa team has an all time regular season record of  41-47-2. This includes going 2-16 in their 2014 expansion season.

Since then they have gone 39-31-2 in the regular season and 3-1 in the playoffs. This includes 3 East Division titles, 3 Grey Cup appearances and 1 championship win. They last won it all in 2016.

Team colours: Red, black and white. Team Mascot: Big Joe

Team Website: ottawaredblacks.com Team Twitter: @REDBLACKS

Suggested fan Twitter: @LumberJoes

Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Hamilton QB Jeremiah Masoli had a great 2018 season. Image from ticats.ca

Based in Hamilton, Ontario, the Tiger-Cats were founded in 1950 as a result of a merger between the Hamilton Tigers (1861) and Hamilton Wild-Cats (1941).

While the Tiger-Cats were only founded in 1950, football in Hamilton goes back much further than that.  In fact, Hamilton has one of the oldest traditions of football in the country. 

Those early post merger Tiger-Cats were successful, as the team finished first or second in every year from 1950 to 1953, winning their first Grey Cup in 1953.

Hamilton has an all time regular season record of 528-569-17 and their last winning season was in 2015.

They have appeared in 20 Grey Cup games since 1950, winning 8 times. They last won it all in 1999.

Team Colours: Black, gold and white. Team mascot(s): Tc & Stripes as well as crowd hyper Pigskin Pete.

Team Website: ticats.ca Team Twitter: @Ticats

Suggested fan twitter: @BoxJBoys

West Division

In recent years the West Division has unarguably been the stronger. These are the five teams you can pick from here.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Re-signing 2018 defensive MOP was a big move for the Blue Bombers. Image from cfl.ca

Based in Winnipeg, Manitoba the Blue Bombers were founded in 1930.
They are a community owned team and ‘Big Blue’ have a very loyal fan base.

Perhaps the most recognizable 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.

Winnipeg has an all time regular season record of 651-611-15. They have appeared in the Grey Cup 24 times and won it on 10 occasions.

Whilst they have emerged from a slump and been successful over the last 3 years (33-21) they have the longest Grey cup drought in the league. They last won it all in 1990.

Team Colours: Royal blue, gold and white. Team Mascot(s): Buzz and Boomer

Team Website: bluebombers.com Team Twitter: @Wpg_BlueBombers

Suggested fan Twitter: @UkBombers

Edmonton Eskimos

Edmonton Eskimos newly acquired quarterback Trevor Harris (left) was one of a number of players drafted in during the off-season following the departure of Mike Reilly. Image from edmontonsun.com

Based in Edmonton, Alberta the Eskimos were founded in 1949. They are a community owned team with a loyal fan base. 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.

NFL fans will probably recognize the name Warren Moon, who helped lead them to 5 straight championships from 1978-82.

Edmonton has an all time regular season record of 677-485-18. They have appeared in the Grey Cup 23 times and won it on 14 occasions. They last won it all in 2015.

The Esks missed the playoffs for the first time in five years last season. They have had a turnover at key positions in the off-season & it will be fascinating to see how they approach the coming season.

Team Colours: Green, gold & white. Team Mascot(s) : Punter & Nanook

Team Website: esks.com Team Twitter: @EdmontonEsks

Suggested fan Twitter: @EskEmpirePod

BC Lions

There is no disputing BC made the big splash in free agency signing QB Mike Reilly from the Esks and making him the face of the franchise. Image from bclions.com

Based in British Columbia, Vancouver the Lions were established in 1954. The BC Lions fan-base is one of the smaller ones alongside Toronto and Montreal.

Vancouver is one of the few CFL cities with an NHL team, an MLS team, and a sizable NFL fan-base. 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.

The Leos have an all time regular season record of 539-543-24. They have appeared in the Grey Cup 10 times and won it on 6 occasions. The Lions last won it all in 2011.

It is all change for BC as legendary coach Wally Buono has stepped down and first year man DeVone Claybrooks is now in charge.

Throughout this century the Lions have been consistently competitive without ever achieving dominance.

Team Colours: Orange, black and white. Team Mascot: Leo the Lion

Team Website: bclions.com Team Twitter: @BCLions

Suggested fan Twitter: @BCLionsDen

Saskatchewan Roughriders

Roughriders fans enjoying a game atmosphere. Image from google

Based in Regina, Saskatchewan the Roughriders were founded in 1910. Alongside Edmonton & Winnipeg, Saskatchewan are the last of the community owned teams in the league.

The Riders are the 3rd oldest pro football team in existence behind the Arizona Cardinals and the CFL’s own Argonauts. 

More Rider merchandise is sold than any other sports team in Canada with the exceptions of the Toronto Maple Leafs & Montreal Canadiens.

Saskatchewan has a pretty rabid fan base who have have a tradition all of their own – the carved out watermelon worn on their heads! You will often find someone in a ‘Rider jersey in a sports crowd – and not just CFL games.

I believe they have the largest fan base in the CFL. Invariably if somebody goes on social media & decides to support a team based on how many responses they get from each franchise’s fans they will end up supporting Saskatchewan!

The Roughriders have an all time regular season record of 580-607-23. They have appeared in the Grey Cup on 19 occasions and won it 4 times. They last won it all in 2013.

Team Colours: Green and white. Team Mascot: Gainer the Gopher

Team Website: riderville.com Team Twitter: @sskroughriders

Suggested fan Twitter: @PifflePod

Calgary Stampeders

The Stamps players recently picked up their 2018 Grey Cup rings – who will be earning them this year? Image from stampeders.com

Based in Calgary, Alberta the Stampeders were founded in 1945 although they are part of a football tradition in the city that dates back to 1909.

In 1948 the Stampeders became only the second Western Division team to win the Grey Cup. That year, including playoffs they finished 14-0-1 and to this day the ’48 Stamps remain the only undefeated team in CFL history.

Formerly community owned, following financial difficulties they were put into private hands in 1991 and have been privately owned since.

The Stamps are the most dominant team in recent CFL history. Appearing in 7 consecutive Western Finals they have won 5 of them and therefore appeared in 5 Grey Cup games.

The Stampeders have an all time regular season record of 661-526-21. They have appeared in 17 Grey Cup games and won it all on 8 occasions.

Calgary have been in 4 of the last 5 championship games and won two of them. They last won it all last year, in the 2018 final.  

Their rivalry with Edmonton is known as the “Battle of Alberta”.  For Stamps fans the return of 2018 MOP and Grey Cup MVP Bo Levi Mitchell at QB will have been a welcome sight following him testing the free agency waters.

Team Colours: Red, white and black. Team Mascot: Ralph the Dog

Team Website: stampeders.com Team Twitter: @calstampeders

Suggested Fan Twitter: @CFl_Horsemen

So what now?

If after all of that you still aren’t sure who to pick then why not do it randomly?

Alternatively you could wait for the next expansion team. If it comes you’d be looking at the Atlantic Schooners and be in on the ground floor.

If you are looking to get in to the game then the CFL does great weekly highlights videos. Over the last 5 years BT Sport have shown CFL games too.

Another avenue to explore is TSN/CFL fantasy football. It is very easy to play and adds another dimension to following the game.

However you approach it I cannot recommend it enough. It is a fun, fast game that you will really enjoy.

Because things like the ‘waggle’ anfd the line gap might confuse you to begin with, a beginners guide for UK fans is available here.

Banner image from Westernmustangs.ca

Article written by:

Chris Lawton joined the NFLGirlUK.com team in 2017 and has been writing about the CFL ever since. He originally started following the NFL with the 'first wave' of fans when it was shown on Channel 4 in the 1980's. He has been a keen supporter of the Miami Dolphins since 1983. Chris first encountered the CFL in 2016 and instantly fell in love with the Canadian game. He has been writing about the CFL from the inception of Ninety-Nine Yards. You can find him on twitter as @CFLfanUK

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