CFL fans everywhere will no doubt be missing the Thanksgiving Day Classic being played this year. We are not that far removed from the pain of the lost Labour Day games amid a cancelled season either.
As has been noted October is when the playoff run-ins really come alive. But there is something extra special about the Thanksgiving Games early on in the month.
But what do UK based CFL fans know of the Canadian Thanksgiving Day games? Whilst we are au fait with the NFL version of Thanksgiving games, most are less aware of the CFL version in early October.
The Missing Thanksgiving game in 2019
In late 2017, a proposal was put forward to move the start of the CFL season to five or six weeks earlier than now. That way the Grey Cup would be held on the third weekend of October, instead of the fourth Sunday in November.
Had the proposal taken effect, Thanksgiving Day weekend would have overlapped with the CFL’s conference championship games.
In the end this change was not implemented. Even though the season schedule remained the same, the league did not schedule any Thanksgiving Day games in 2019 because of it.
This was the first time since 1958 that the CFL Thanksgiving Day classic had not been played. Which is a shame. Not only did it do away with 60+ years fo tradition. But it missed an opportunity. On Canada Day and Labour Day viewing figures are up for the league. I feel sure Thanksgiving would be the same. The CFL needs to take every opportunity it can get for extra publicity like this.
The First CFL Thanksgiving games
The first official CFL Thanksgving games were played in 1958 and involved every team except the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
I say first ‘official’ CFL thanksgiving games because the Canadian teams had been playing each other long before the advent of the CFL. Plus, originally Thanksgiving in Canada was in November.
However, on January 31st, 1957, Canadian Parliament announced that Thanksgiving would be on the second Monday in October. And with the formation of the CFL in 1958 an opportunity was taken for these games.
Since the UK has been watching
We have been lucky enough in the UK to have had five years of CFL action on our screens now.
Which means we encountered our first Thanksgiving game in 2015. A game that saw the Toronto Argonauts win 25-17 in Montreal.
In that time, between 2015 and 2018 there have been a total of six games played involving five different teams – Toronto, Montreal, Emdonton, Calgary and Saskatchewan.
The team’s Thanksgiving records
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats embraced the Thanksgving game tradition playing annually in all but three years between 1958 and 1982. That sequence was eventually broken. But they have still appeared in a Thanksgiving Game 32 times and hosted them 26 times.
The Montreal Alouettes have also hosted the game 26 times. But they have the most appearances with 34. This is because they have regularly been given hosting duties for the opening game since 1997 due to not being part of the Labour Day Classics.
This year would have seen the Als host the Argonauts. A rematch of the above mentioned 2015 matchup with Toronto. Let’s hope that 2021 brings better things for all of us. And that one of the things we can be giving thanks for is a CFL Thanksgiving Day Classic to entertain us all.
Team by team record:
Montreal Alouettes: 16-18
Edmonton Football Team 19-13-1
Hamilton Tiger-Cats 17-14-1
Winnipeg Blue Bombers 18-10-1
Calgary Stampeders 14-14
Toronto Argonauts 10-17
Saskatchewan Roughriders 11-11-1
Ottawa Rough Riders/Renegades 8-11
BC Lions 5-10
Main image: The Toronto Argonauts defeat the Montreal Alouettes 25-17 in the 2015 Thanksgiving Game. Image from nationalpost.com