The choice is yours: Picking a CFL team for you

The choice is yours: Picking a CFL team for you
Reading Time: 12 minutes.

The choice is yours: Picking a CFL team for you

“The choice is yours…” That was the catchphrase on the delightfully naff British game show Blind Date. Based on the Australian show Perfect Match, which was itself a version of Chuck Barris’ US format The Dating Game. The premise was simple – try and pick from three hopefuls who would be your ideal match and go on a date with them.

Well, here in our annual CFL team selection article we are saying to you once again, “The choice is yours…” But here you will be chosing from nine teams and we will arm you with plenty of information so it feels a lot less like a blind choice.

Will you be making a match? Can you find the CFL team that suits you? That is always the question when you decide on a new league and a new team to follow. Can you make a match? Will you find a team that just fits for you? Well, the choice is yours.

Will you make a choice that will lead to years of frustration and disappointment? Or a match with a choice leading to multiple successes and celebrations? Either way, still, have you made the right choice 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 at 99 Yards Towers and help. We want you to make a choice that will help you find a team that you can feel a real bond with.

This will be our seventh 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 choice, and ultimately feel an affinity with the team you 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?

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.

East Division

There are 9 teams in the CFL currently. 5 in the West Division and 4 in the East Division. We will start in the East as that is the home of the reigning champions.

Toronto Argonauts

2022: 11-7 Grey Cup Champions.

If the defending Grey Cup champions are the right choice for you, then that’s the Toronto Argonauts.

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 663-718-26. They finished first in the East Division standings in 2022 and defeated Montreal in the playoffs before defearing two-time defending champions Winnipeg in a thrilling Grey Cup game.

Toronto have appeared in 24 Grey Cup games winning 18. They are the reigning champions.

Best season -1997, Worst season – 1981 – read about them here.

First Grey Cup Win: 1914 . Last Grey Cup Win: 2022.

Colours: Cambridge Blue, Oxford Blue and white. MascotJason

Team Team Twitter@TorontoArgos

Suggested fan Twitter@pxw13, & @BygoneBoatmen

Suggested podcastDouble Blue podcast/Xs and Argos Podcast

A UK connection

In three straight Global Drafts (2021/2022/2023) the Argonauts selected a British player. The British DB Tigie Sankoh was taken in 2021. Sankoh was born in Sierra Leone, and initially raised for a good part of his childhood in Maryland in the US. At the age of 15 he arrived in the UK meeting up with his family. During his time here he turned out at some level for the Kent Exiles, South London Renegades, and eventually London Warriors.

Last year they picked up British defensive Lineman Simeon Okonta-Wariso. He has arrived here by way of Loughborough University & The London Blitz in Britain before playing for Lubeck Cougars in the German Football League. 

This year they selected Emanuel Falola taken with the final pick. The 6 ‘2, 230-pound linebacker plays for team GB and has appeared in the European League of Football for the Prague Lions & the British Premiership for the Bristol Aztecs.

Not to mention, the Argonauts first team captain H.T. Glazebrook was an Englishman by birth – so there has been a UK connection to this club from the very beginning!

Montreal Alouettes

2022 – 9-9 Beaten in East Division Final.

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. While the Alouettes were originally founded in 1946, the city has a much longer history with the sport dating back to 1872. That was when the the Montreal Football Club was founded.

The Alouettes got off to a blistering start to their existence, going 28-18-2 over their first four seasons and winning their first Grey Cup in 1949. The Als have an all time regular season record of 516-513-21.

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

Best Season – 2009, Worst Season – 1987 – read about them here.

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

Colours: Blue, red and white. MascotTouché

Team Website: Team Twitter@MTLAlouettes

Suggested fan Twitter@AlouettesFLDeck

Suggested podcastAlouettes Flightdeck

A UK Connection:

The team website has a history section that notes, “The first written account of a football game in Montreal, which some authorities characterize as the first football game played in North America, appeared on Oct. 10, 1868…The game was played between a team of officers from the English troops garrisoned in Montreal and a team of civilians, mainly from McGill University at Montreal’s downtown cricket ground”.

Much more recently, Lawrence Okoye, the former team GB discus thrower was on the Alouettes practice roster in 2017 & 2018, appearing in one game in 2017.

As it stands, Montreal are the UK’s “local “ team. A mere 3,021 miles away from the UK they are the geographically closest team currently playing in the CFL.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats

2022 – 8-10 Beaten in East Division Semi-Final.

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).

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 bear little to no relation to what we see now!

Hamilton have an all time regular season record of 550-588-17. The two seasons preceding last year they went 23-9 but came up short in the Grey Cup game both times. They have appeared in 22 Grey Cup games since 1950, winning 8 times. Hamilton has the longest current run of any CFL team without a title having last won in 1999.

Best Season – 1972, Worst Season – 2003 – read about them here.

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 Team Twitter@Ticats

Suggested fan twitter@BoxJBoys

Suggested podcastPodskee Wee Wee

A UK Connection:

Former special teams coordinator Jeff Reinebold has served with multiple CFL clubs, BC, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Montreal and even the defunct Las Vegas Posse. But the seven seasons he spent (on and off) with Hamilton are far and away the most with any single team.

Jeff has a connection with the UK fan base. He has been involved with NFLUK live tours. As well as covering the NFL on Sky Sports. He can even occasionally be seen at an NFL viewing party in the UK. He is a recognised and respected face for UK football fans. For some, he has even been a gateway into the CFL and in turn the team he was with. For most of the time the CFL has been shown in the UK, that is Hamilton.

The UK’s David Izinyon was selected by Hamilton in the 2021 CFL Global Draft.

Ottawa RedBlacks

2022 – 4-14 Last in the East Division

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 51-87-2. Which is a little misleading as they went 2-16 in 2014 and 10-40 over the past three seasons. In their brief history though they have also had plenty of success.

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.

Best Season – 2016, Worst Season – 2014 – read about them here.

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. MascotBig Joe

Team Team Twitter@REDBLACKS

Suggested fan Twitter@LumberJoes

Suggested podcastMouchoir podcast/Behind the R

A UK Connection

RedBlacks kicker kicker Lewis Ward is a Pro Football record holder. He set the Pro Football record for consecutive Field Goals made. Hitting on 69 straight on a stretch of success covering parts of the 2018 & 2019 CFL seasons. In October 2019 he hit a 56-yard field goal, the longest in Ottawa professional football history.

Ward is a Canadian citizen but he was born in England and only moved to Canada just before beginning high school. Perhaps we can claim him as one of ours?

West Division

Time to switch over to the West Division. There can be little dound that this has been the stronger circuit in recent years. And they have provided three of the last four Grey Cup champions.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers

2022: 15-3 West Division Winners & Grey Cup runner-up.

If one of the most consistently successful squads of the last few years are the right call for you, then it’s possible 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 688-624-15. They have appeared in the Grey Cup 27 times and won it on 12 occasions.

As recently as 2015 the Blue Bombers were enduring a 5-13 season. Part of a four year 21-51 run. Not to mention not having won a Grey Cup since 1990. However of late they have become the team to beat. Winning the Grey Cup in 2019 & 2021 has been the icing on a 70-34 regular season run over the past six seasons.

First Grey Cup Win: 1935. Last Grey Cup Win: 2021 .

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

Team Team Twitter@Wpg_BlueBombers

Suggested fan Twitter@UkBombers/@EdTaitWFC

Suggested podcastHandled internally/Let’s Go Bombers Podcast

A UK Connection: 

Winnipeg has a small but very active fan presence here in the UK. You can find them on Facebook here. You can make contact with @ukbombers the driving force behind this community and a huge supporter of the Blue and Gold here in the UK. He is always looking for new UK based fans, and a few exiles and friends to connect with.

BC Lions

2022 – 12-6 Beaten in West Division Final.

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. However, new team owner Amar Doman has been hard at work improving that.

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 561-571-24. 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 Team Twitter@BCLions

Suggested fan Twitter@BCLionsDen

Suggested podcast1standnow

A UK Connection:

You might say this team is an easier choice in name alone. They are the British Columbia Lions after all. Not to mention, the Lion is one of the symbols associated with Britain. Equally of course you may want to disassociate with any sense of past colonialism. Which is why it is always good to find a player based connection.

Paul McCallum could be that connection. It took McCallum a few years to find a team and a regular kicking job in the CFL, but once he established himself, he proved to be one of the most dependable kickers in the league. Just before that however, he was the punter and placekicker for the Scottish Claymores when they won the World Bowl in 1996 contributing 46 and 50 yard field goals to the teams’ 32-27 win.

After a period with Saskatchewan he would turn out for the BC Lions from 2006 to 2014 and win 2 Grey Cups along the way, as well as being named Most Valuable Canadian in the 2006 Grey Cup.

Calgary Stampeders

2022 – 12-6 Beaten in West Division Semi-Final.

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.

Before Winnipeg rose to the top, the Stamps were the most dominant team in recent CFL history. They have appeared in the playoffs 16 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!

In fact, should they have a winning season in 2023 they will become the first CFL team ever to have a record above .500 for 15 consecutive seasons.

The Stampeders have an all time regular season record of 693-544-21. 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 Team Twitter@calstampeders

Suggested Fan Twitter@Stampeders1945

Suggested podcast: The Go Stamps Go Show/Horse Power podcast

A UK connection:

May we present former Stamps kicker Mark McLoughlin. He is a Canadian national, but he was born in Liverpool in the UK. Is he worth claiming? Definitely!

He spent 16 years with Calgary, (1998-2003), played in 276 games and put up a franchise record 2,957 points. 673 career Field goals remain third most all-time in CFL history.

McLoughlin added 266 playoff points for the Stampeders, including the game-winning field goal on the final play of the 1998 Grey Cup. The team have even retired his number 13 jersey.

Saskatchewan Roughriders

2022 – 6-12, fourth in the West Division

Based in Regina, Saskatchewan the Roughriders were founded in 1910. Alongside Winnipeg, Saskatchewan are another 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 608-629-23. 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 Team Twitter@sskroughriders

Suggested fan Twitter@PifflesPod

Suggested podcast: Piffles Podcast

A UK Connection: 

Back in the 1980’s and early 90’s there was a British connection – Saskatchewan Roughriders kicker Dave Ridgway.

The man known as ‘Robokicker’ hit “the kick” that went down in team folklore picking up their second Grey Cup in 1989. Ridgway, who is in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, hailed from that well-known hotbed of CFL talent, Stockport in England. He is a Canadian citizen. Having emigrated as a teen and taken citizenship he was even voted ‘Most Outstanding Canadian’ in the 1989 Grey Cup. But that doesn’t mean we can’t claim the link – he was born in Greater Manchester after all.

You can read a bit more about how celebrated Ridgway and teammates are in Saskatchewan here.

Edmonton Elks

2022 – 4-14 Last in the West Division

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 in 2021. 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 692-520-18. 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) : Spike & Punter

Team Team Twitter@EdmontonEsks

Suggested fan Twitter@ElksNews

Suggested podcastElks Podcast/The Turf District Podcast

A UK Connection:

We have another UK connection in former player Vic Chapman. Chapman played from 1952 to 1962 during his career with the BC Lions, Calgary Stampeders, Edmonton Eskimos and Montreal Alouettes. Chapman punted 838 times with a 41.3 yard average over his career. He was with Edmonton from 1959-1962, seeing out his football career in green and gold. And after football wound up working at Buckingham Palace!

Hopefully one of those teams had something that hooked you in. If not, don’t give up. Watch some CFL football. It’s fast, fun and action packed! Give it a try and see what you think – fill that summer football void and fall in love with a whole new league.

Banner Image: the CFL as an all-Canadian all fabulous 3 down good time.

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