Canadian Football League

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From late June until late November each year in Canada, there’s a truly Canadian tradition that visitors, especially sports fans, should take-in…A Canadian Football League (CFL) game! As Canada, is bilingual, there is a French website, for the LCF (Ligue Canadienne de Football).

grey cup

Each CFL season ends with annual Grey Cup Game. A cup that has been played for both rugby and CFL football championships, since the early 1900s. The annual Grey Cup Game is played on Sunday, near the end of November.

The Grey Cup Game is played a different CFL city each year. The 105th Grey Cup Game will be played Sunday, November 26, 2017 in Ottawa! The 2016 Grey Cup game was won by the Ottawa Redblacks over the Calgary Stampeders. Here is a history of Grey Cup game winners and teams that played, in each year.

Although football in Canada and the United States are very similar and have their origins in rugby. History tells us that during the 1860’s Canadian rugby teams were the first to change the game and allow a forward pass.

The CFL game is specifically Canadian, as the rules (see below) are much different than NFL football played in the United States.

According to the CFL website, they describe the origins of the game are as follows:

“The rules of a hybrid game of English rugby devised by the University of McGill, in Montreal, QC were first used in the United States in a game at Boston between McGill and Harvard. On May 14, Harvard won 3-0 using Harvard rules. The next day, the teams tied 0-0 while playing Canadian rules. Harvard liked the new game so much they introduced it into the Ivy League. Both U.S. and Canadian football evolved from these games”.

Rules changed, during the later part of the 19th century and in 1909 Lord Earl Grey, the Governor General of Canada, donated a trophy to be awarded for the Rugby Football Championship of Canada. This became our cherished Grey Cup, now almost 100 years old! Two of the Eastern Conference teams, Hamilton Tiger Cats and the Toronto Argonauts, trace their origins directly back to 1868.

cfl teams

The post WWII period was when the CFL, as we know it now, began to develop. The league has teams in Vancouver (BC Lions), Calgary (Stampeders), Edmonton (Eskimos)*, Regina (Saskatchewan Roughriders), Winnipeg (Blue Bombers), Toronto (Argonauts), Hamilton (Tiger Cats), Ottawa (Redblacks)  and Montreal (Alouettes).

* Furthest north professional football team

In the past, many teams have competed, and won the Grey Cup. Since 1954 only CFL teams compete in the annual play-off, Grey Cup game that occurs in late November. Many of the games are played in league’s outdoor stadiums at Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Winnipeg, Hamilton, Montreal and Ottawa. If you take-in an outdoor Grey Cup, in the late season, at an outdoor stadium, be sure to dress warm!

Beginning 2014 Americans have access to most CFL games on ESPN. Here is a page about how you can watch CFL, around the world. For NFL fans, you will notice several distinct differences:

  1. The Canadian Football field is longer (110 yd.) and wider (65 yd.) with deep end zones (20 yd.), with goal posts lined-up on the goal line
  2. The centre line, of the field, is the 55 yard line
  3. The ball used in CFL is bigger
  4. The are 12 players on a CFL team
  5. CFL is 3 down football (e.g. 3 chances to make 10 yards)
  6. Our time clock is only 20 seconds, from the time the offensive team breaks their huddle.
  7. Unlimited backfield motion of offensive and defensive players
  8. Field goal or convert attempt kicks that are missed can be returned for touchdowns
  9. Opposing teams line-up further apart on the line of scrimmage
  10. No fair catch after a kick (i.e. If you catch it…you must run it and if you don’t receive it, the ball’s live, with 5 yards and can recovered by the other team)
  11. A ball that goes out of bounds, during a scrimmage, is the possession of the last team that touched it

When you come to Canada be sure to take in a CFL game, which Ya’Gotta (being Canadian) feels is the most exciting game of football in North America!

The University/College equivalent football league, to to CFL, is CIS Football, with their final goal being the Vanier Cup. It’s now played on the same weekend, in the same city, as the CFL Grey Cup, in late November.

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