Giving thanks for the return of the CFL Thanksgiving day games

Giving thanks for the return of the CFL Thanksgiving day games
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CFL thanksgiving day games are back. This coming Thanksgiving Monday in Canada, there will be two CFL Thanksgiving day games played. We will see the Ottawa RedBlacks square off with the Montreal Alouettes. Whilst the Hamilton Tiger-Cats will play host to the Toronto Argonauts.

For CFL fans this is a welcome return. Because there hasn’t been a CFL Thanksgiving day game since 2018. But how did we go from thanksgiving games being played every year from 1958 to 2018 to a 2 year gap?

The Missing CFL Thanksgiving game in 2019 & 2020

In late 2017, a proposal was put forward to move the start of the CFL season to five or six weeks earlier than usual. That way the Grey Cup would be held on the third weekend of October. Instead of the usual 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. Of course, the 2020 absence is easily explained. The CFL cancelled the 2020 season due to Covid-19.

Giving thanks for the return

Losing the game in 2019 was a real shame. That was the first time since 1958 that the CFL Thanksgiving Day classic had not been played. Not only did it do away with 60+ years of tradition. But it missed an opportunity. On Canada Day and Labour Day viewing figures are up for the league.

I feel sure Thanksgiving could be the same. The CFL needs to take every opportunity it can get for extra publicity like this. I believe the CFL has survival woven into its genes. This league has stared into the abyss more than once. And survived. But it does need to maximize opportunities like this. Which is why after a 2-year absence I am so thankful for the return of the coming CFL Thanksgiving day games.

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.

If you are UK based you are probably much more used the the NFL thanksgiving games in November. However, the origins of Canadian Thanksgiving are more closely connected to the traditions of Europe than of the United States. It is timed much more like our Harvest celebration.

Since the UK has been watching

We are lucky enough in the UK to be watching our sixth full season of CFL action this year.

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, Edmonton, 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 we get to see the Als, RedBlacks, tabbies and Argonauts in action. If there is one thing we can be giving thanks for is a CFL Thanksgiving Day Classic returning 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

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