Will you be making the right call? That is always the question when you decide on a new league and a new team to follow. Have you made the right call or a decision that will lead to years of frustration and disappointment? Or the right call with a choice leading to multiple successes and celebrations? Either way, still, have you made the right call for you? That’s the thing with selecting a sports team to follow. You need to find an affinity. Feel a connection. Have something that makes them, however they perform, very much your team.
Which is where we hope to step in and help. We want you to make the right call and find a team that you can feel an affinity with.
It is that time of year again. When we produce a guide to which CFL team you might want to follow. This will be our fifth annual guide for UK based CFL fans looking for a team to follow when the season kicks off. So hopefully there will be enough information here for you to make an informed selection, and ultimately the right call for you on which team to follow.
Addressing a common Frustration
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. A good starting point can be to get some context. In which case, it might be worth you checking out our own reviews of number one draft picks & ranking the Grey Cup games of the previous decade.
Perhaps the best way to ensure you make the right call, as mentioned already, 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.
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.
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. Mascot: Touché
Team Website: montrealalouettes.com Team Twitter: @MTLAlouettes
Suggested fan Twitter: @AlouettesFLDeck
Suggested podcast: Alouettes Flightdeck
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.
Based in Toronto, Ontario, the double blue are North America’s oldest continually playing 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. Mascot: Jason
Team Website: argonauts.ca Team Twitter: @TorontoArgos
Suggested fan Twitter: @argonautsfanuk, @pxw13, & @BygoneBoatmen
Suggested podcast: Double Blue podcast/Xs and Argos Podcast/
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).
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. Akin to the situation 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. 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.
(Of course if you do accept all the Ottawa teams as one non-continous entity, like Montreal, then their first Grey Cup win came in 1925 as the Ottawa Senators).
Colours: Red, black and white. Mascot: Big Joe
Team Website: ottawaredblacks.com Team Twitter: @REDBLACKS
Suggested fan Twitter: @LumberJoes
Suggested podcast: Mouchoir podcast
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.
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 Website: ticats.ca Team Twitter: @Ticats
Suggested fan twitter: @BoxJBoys
Suggested podcast: Podskee Wee Wee
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.
In recent years the West Division has unarguably been the stronger. These are the five teams you can pick from here.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers
If the defending Grey Cup champions are the right call for you, then that’s the Blue Bombers. The 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 Website: bluebombers.com Team Twitter: @Wpg_BlueBombers
Suggested fan Twitter: @UkBombers
Suggested podcast: Blue Bomber Talk/Handled internally
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 three people (along with Marv Levy and Warren Moon) to be in both the NFL Pro football and Canadian Football Hall-of-Fame.
Based in Edmonton, Alberta, the Elks were founded in 1949. For much of that time they were known as the Eskimos. Edmonton announced their name rebrand earlier this year. This came after a review leading to a decision to move on from the teams long-time Eskimos nickname. The rebrand has been generally well received.
They are a community owned team with a loyal fan base. Their 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.
Edmonton 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.
First Grey Cup Win: 1954. Their Last Grey Cup Win: 2015.
Colours: Green, gold & white. Mascot(s) : Punter & Nanook
Team Website: esks.com Team Twitter: @EdmontonEsks
Suggested fan Twitter: @EskEmpirePod
Suggested podcast: Eskimo Empire podcast
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.
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. Mascot: Leo the Lion
Team Website: bclions.com Team Twitter: @BCLions
Suggested fan Twitter: @BCLionsDen
Suggested podcast: BC Lions Den Pawdcast/1standnow
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.
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. Mascot: Gainer the Gopher
Team Website: riderville.com Team Twitter: @sskroughriders
Suggested fan Twitter: @PifflePod
Suggested podcast: Piffles Podcast
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.
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.
Like the idea of an unbeaten team? Perhaps the Stamps are the right call for you. 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. Mascot: Ralph the Dog
Team Website: stampeders.com Team Twitter: @calstampeders
Suggested Fan Twitter: @CFl_Horsemen
Suggested podcast: Horsemen Radio/Horse Power podcast
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.
So what now?
If after all of that you still aren’t sure who to pick then why not do it randomly? Sometimes the right call can come down to pin-sticking!
If you are looking to get in to the game then the CFL does great weekly highlights videos. Over the last 5 seasons 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 the CFL, I cannot recommend it enough. It is a fun, fast game that you will really enjoy. Just remember to make the right call on the team you select.
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: The Blue Bombers are the defending champions, having won the last Grey Cup to be contested in 2019. Image from cfl.ca