Pick of the Bunch? – Selecting your CFL team

Pick of the Bunch? – Selecting your CFL team
Reading Time: 11 minutes.

It’s over a year since we wrote our last guide to picking a CFL team. That’s because normally we bring this guide out just before the season kicks off. But this year is different of course.

Thanks to Covid-19 we still don’t know if there will be a 2020 season at all. The league has its struggles, and some suggestions are being looked at.

But that shouldn’t stop you picking a team. If and when the league does come back then you’ll be ready and waiting with your team to shout for.

After all, one of the key steps when starting to follow a new sport or a new league is deciding who to support. There can be little doubt that becoming part of a fan group and having a community to call your own adds to the whole experience of following that new sport.

Addressing Frustration

A lot of UK based NFL & college ball fans bemoan this time of year as being devoid of football. In a normal year, following the CFL can help address that frustration.

Following the CFL means no long drought between the draft and the NFL pre-season, but instead actual pro football happening throughout summer. If you are one of those fans that hasn’t really considered the CFL I’m here to tell you that you 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.

Finding your CFL team

Finding your CFL team is harder than usual this year as play has not begun. It’s always a lot easier as a new fan to find someone or something to identify with in the league action.

The CFL themselves are looking to keep people engaged by getting people to vote for an All-Decade team. You could take a look there too, some of the past glories of teams and players might just inspire you. It might also be worth you checking out our own reviews of number one draft picks ranking the Grey Cup games of the decade.

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.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats

ticats
The Ticats D had a great year in 2019. Image from cfl.ca

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

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

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

Hamilton have an all time regular season record of 543-572-17 and 2019 was one of their most successful seasons for a while. They have appeared in 20 Grey Cup games since 1950, winning 8 times.

In 2003 they had the dubious distinction of the CFL’s most ever losses in a season with 17. 2019 however saw them reach the Grey cup following their best ever regular season showing.  

Having lost the 2019 Grey Cup, The Ti-Cats have the longest active streak without a CFL title.

First Grey Cup Win: 1953. Last Grey Cup win: 1999.

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

Team Websiteticats.ca Team Twitter@Ticats

Suggested fan twitter@BoxJBoys

2019 Record: 15-3. Lost Grey Cup final 33-12 to Winnipeg.

2010-2019 decade record: 88-92. Qualified for the playoffs 8 times. Appeared in 3 Grey Cup games (2013, 2014 & 2019), no Grey Cup wins.

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

QB Vernon Adams Jr (8) let the Als to their brightest season for some time in 2019. Image from cfl.ca

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 500-497-21 and the 2019 season saw them make the playoffs for the first time since 2014. They have appeared in 18 Grey Cup games winning 7.

For anybody who is wondering Montreal is predominantly French speaking and Alouette is French for Lark.

First Grey Cup win: 1949. Last Grey Cup win: 2010.

Colours: Blue, red and white. MascotTouché

Team Website: montrealalouettes.com Team Twitter@MTLAlouettes

Suggested fan Twitter@AlouettesFLDeck

2019 record: 10-8. Lost Eastern Semi Final 37-29 to Edmonton.

2010-2019 decade record: 81-99, Qualified for the playoffs 6 times, 1 Grey Cup appearance (and win) in 2010.

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

English born Canadian national kicker Lewis Ward (10), holds the Professional football record for most consecutive field goals made (69). Image from cfl.ca

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 44-62-2.  This includes going 2-16 in their 2014 expansion season, and 3-15 last year. From 2015-2018 they went 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.

First Grey Cup win: 2016. Last Grey Cup win: 2016.

Colours: Red, black and white. MascotBig Joe

Team Websiteottawaredblacks.com Team Twitter@REDBLACKS

Suggested fan Twitter@LumberJoes

2019 Record: 3-15. Missed the playoffs.

2010-2019 decade record: 44-62-2, Qualified for the playoffs 4 times, 3 Grey Cup appearances, and one win, in 2016.

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.

Toronto Argonauts

The Boatmen badly need to bounce back from consecutive 4-14 seasons. They also need to attract more fans to home games. Image from argonauts.ca

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 643-706-26. 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‘.

First Grey Cup Win: 1914 . Last Grey Cup Win: 2017.

Colours: Cambridge Blue, Oxford Blue and white. MascotJason

Team Websiteargonauts.ca Team Twitter@TorontoArgos

Suggested fan Twitter@argonautsfanuk

2019 Record: 4-14. Missed the playoffs.

2010-2019 decade record: 75-105 (going 4-14 back to back over the past 2 seasons has not helped here). Qualified for the playoffs 5 times, 2 Grey Cup appearances, and 2 wins in 2012 & 2017.

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).

Right, that’s the East Division. Don’t worry if none of that took your fancy, there are still 5 West Division teams to go!

Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The Blue Bombers and reigning CFL Defensive MOP Willie Jefferson had a lot to celebrate in 2019. Image from bluebombers.com

The defending Grey Cup champions, the Blue Bombers are based in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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 662-618-15. They have appeared in the Grey Cup 25 times and won it on 11 occasions.

Winning the Grey Cup in 2019 was part of an ongoing process of re-emergence for a team that has gone 44-28 over the past 4 years. It is also a huge relief to Winnipeg fans as they previously had the longest title drought, not having won it all prior to last year since 1990.

First Grey Cup Win: 1935. Last Grey Cup Win: 2019.

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

Team Websitebluebombers.com Team Twitter@Wpg_BlueBombers

Suggested fan Twitter@UkBombers

2019 record: 11-7. Won Grey Cup 33-12 against Hamilton.

2010-2019 decade record: 79-101. Qualified for the playoffs 5 times. (4 times in the last 4 years consecutively). 2 Grey Cup appearances, winning 1 in 2019.

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.

BC Lions

A 1-10 start consigned Shaq Johnson (88) & the rest of the Lions to a 5-13 West Division Basement position in 2019. Image from cfl.ca

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 544-556-24. They have appeared in the Grey Cup 10 times and won it on 6 occasions. 

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

First Grey Cup Win: 1964. Last Grey Cup Win: 2011.

Colours: Orange, black and white. MascotLeo the Lion

Team Websitebclions.com Team Twitter@BCLions

Suggested fan Twitter@BCLionsDen

2010-2019 decade record: 92-88. Qualified for the playoffs 8 times. 1 Grey Cup appearance, and 1 win, both in 2011.

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 whilst playing for BC, with 6,619 yards.

Calgary Stampeders

Bo Levi Mitchell is the fastest QB to record 60 wins in CFL history (78 games). He is 77-18-2 as a starter & he & the Stamps are used to success. Image from cfl.ca

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. They have appeared in the playoffs 15 years in a row. From 2012-2018 they appeared in 7 consecutive Western Finals and won 5 of them and therefore appeared in 5 Grey Cup games. They last had a losing season in 2007!

The Stampeders have an all time regular season record of 673-532-21. They have appeared in 17 Grey Cup games and won it all on 8 occasions.

First Grey Cup Win: 1948. Their last Grey Cup Win 2018.

Colours: Red, white and black. MascotRalph the Dog

Team Websitestampeders.com Team Twitter@calstampeders

Suggested Fan Twitter@CFl_Horsemen

2010-2019 decade record: 132-46-2. Qualified for the playoffs every year (10 times). Contested the Grey Cup 5 times, winning twice, in 2014 & 2018.

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 Football Team*

Trevor Harris signed with the green and gold in 2019 and was the undoubted leader across the 13 games he started for the team. Image from cfl.ca

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 685-495-18. They have appeared in the Grey Cup 23 times and won it on 14 occasions. They last won it all in 2015.

The Esks 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.

Edmonton’s team name is currently being reviewed following the decision to move on from the teams long-time Eskimos nickname.

First Grey Cup Win: 1954. Their Last Grey Cup Win: 2015.

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

Team Websiteesks.com Team Twitter@EdmontonEsks

Suggested fan Twitter@EskEmpirePod

2010-2019 decade record: 94-86. Qualified for the playoffs 7 times. Appeared in, and won, one Grey Cup in 2015.

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.

Saskatchewan Roughriders

Multiple cfl All-Star Charleston Hughes (39), joined the Riders in 2018. He has over 100 career sacks & led the league in sacks in 3 o the past 4 seasons (2016, 2018-19). Image from cfl.ca

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 593-612-23. They have appeared in the Grey Cup on 19 occasions and won it 4 times. They last won it all in 2013.

First Grey Cup Win: 1966. LAst Grey Cup Win: 2013.

Colours: Green and white. MascotGainer the Gopher

Team Websiteriderville.com Team Twitter@sskroughriders

Suggested fan Twitter@PifflePod

2010-2019 decade record: 87-93. They have appeared in the playoffs on 7 occasions. Appeared in2 Grey Cup games (losing a thriller in 2010 & winning it all in 2013).

FUN FACT: Saskatchewan’s  team name, ‘Roughriders’ comes from an alternate name for the North-West Mounted Police.

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.

As we wait to see if there will be any play in 2020 why not look back at some CFL highlights videos? They are a really good intro to the teams, the players and the styles of play.

When football does return another great 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’ and the line gap might confuse you to begin with, a beginners guide for UK fans is available here.

Banner Image: QB Cody Fajardo of the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Image from cfl.ca.

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