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The Canadian Football League.
June 8, 2001.
The Canadian Football League (CFL) begins its season shortly. In fact, most clubs are starting their training camps tomorrow. We thought this would be a good time to bring you some statistics and history on our game. We have even included a couple of jokes at the end to add a little humour to your day. This entire article has been researched, compiled and written by one of our long-time readers (and contest winners), Gary from North Vancouver, British Columbia. Gary and I used to work for the same company (too many years ago to mention) and I played on various softball teams with him and his sister. Gary, as well as being an excellent hitter and pitcher, is an avid CFL fan, which made it an easy decision for me to ask him to write this article. He agreed, and here it is. Enjoy the read and the upcoming season.
The Canadian Football League
By Gary Murray
Brief History -- The game as it has evolved into the entertainment we experience today
Canadian football has been played in one form or another since the turn of the last century, with intercollegiate Rugby Football Unions competing against amateur clubs. The fourth Earl Grey donated a trophy (designed and produced by Birks) in 1908 to be awarded to the champion of these teams starting in 1909. Today this coveted trophy is still fought over every November. As the popularity of the game increased more club teams began using professional players, making it unfeasible for the intercollegiate teams to compete using only amateurs. Hence the trophy shifted to being awarded to the winner of the final game of the CFL season. The Canadian Football League as it is known today was established in 1964 when nine teams (from east to west: Montreal Alouettes, Ottawa Rough Riders, Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Toronto Argonauts, Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Saskatchewan Roughriders, Calgary Stampeders, Edmonton Eskimos, and British Columbia Lions) officially formed the CFL. The Ottawa Rough Riders have since folded, having played their last game in 1996.
The rules of play have been refined and changed over the years, developing the game into what we watch today. For example; the forward pass was first used in 1929; touchdowns were increased to six points from five in 1956; and blocking on punt returns was allowed in 1975. However, the unique and enduring characteristics of the Canadian game, the traits that make it more exciting than and superior to the American style of football are these: a larger field of play, 12 men on the field, and three-down football. CFL fan Jon Leblanc provides a really good side-by-side comparison of the CFL vs. the NFL (National Football League) on his Web site.
Despite the differing formats of NFL and CFL football, the fundamentals of the game are the same -- i.e., running, blocking, passing, tackling, etc. These skills are generally more refined in players trained in the US due to their exposure to more and better coaching as they develop. The easy accessibility to higher-skilled American players by CFL teams caused the CFL clubs to take measures to protect the Canadian content and identity of their game. The result was roster ratios based on where a player trained in football, and these ratios have been a part of Canadian football for decades. While many CFL fans still consider this policy highly controversial, it gives the average fan an affinity to his local club, where he can (perhaps) cheer for someone from his home town. Skilled Canadian-trained players are a rare, highly-coveted commodity, and are usually the backbone of any championship team.
The CFL's popularity appeared to peak in the mid 1970s and into the mid 1980s -- teams were heralding booming attendance figures, the Edmonton Eskimos dynasty was fashioning a string of five consecutive Grey-Cup wins, the BC Lions moved into the league's first covered stadium in 1983, and all appeared well with the league. However, over the next 15 years, both Montreal and Ottawa would fold their teams (although Montreal now has a new team), the Lions would leave behind the days of community team ownership and change private owners four times, the commissioner's office would seemingly develop a revolving door, and the League's brief fling with franchises in US cities would fail.
The Grey Cup -- What all players, coaches and fans want
The Grey Cup is symbolic of the championship of the Canadian Football League. The most recent winners are the British Columbia Lions, who won the Cup in Calgary's McMahon Stadium after defeating the Montreal Alouettes 28-26 before 43 822 fans on November 26, 2000.
This "silver bowl" was originally destined to be presented to the senior hockey champions of Canada. However, after Sir H. Montague Allan offered the Allan Cup for hockey competition, His Excellency Lord Albert Henry Earl Grey (1851-1917), the fourth Earl Grey, and Governor General of Canada (1904-1911), donated the Cup in 1908 to be awarded to the team winning the Senior Amateur Football Championship of Canada. (As an aside, and contrary to popular belief, Albert Henry George was not the inspiration for the blend of tea that bears his family name. Earl Grey tea was named for Charles Grey [1764-1845], the second earl in succession, who was prime minister of England and a social reformer in the early 19th century under King William IV. Tea legends say the blend was given to him by a Chinese Mandarin seeking to influence trade relations.)
Unlike the NFL's Vince Lombardi trophy (awarded to the winner of the Super Bowl), the Grey Cup has survived the test of time, being passed annually to new champions while celebrating former legends by listing each winning player on its base (which had to be elongated in 1987 in order to accommodate the continuing tradition). When not on loan to the current champions, the Grey Cup trophy resides in the CFL Hall of Fame in Hamilton, Ontario.
The very first Grey Cup winners were from the University of Toronto who defeated the Parkdale Canoe Club 26-6 in 1909 at Varsity Stadium in Toronto in front of 3807 spectators. The Grey Cup was presented by his excellency Lord Grey to the University of Toronto team, who would subsequently win the Cup the next two years and again in 1920, following a three-year hiatus as a result of World War One.
As time passed, some of the amateur football organizations that played for the trophy were becoming more professional, and eventually the intercollegiate teams, restricted to using only amateur players, ceased to challenge for the Cup. The development of the interprovincial football unions as the strongest organized football associations in both the West and the East led to the formation of the Western and Eastern Divisions of the Canadian Football League. Since 1954, no Football Union team has competed for the Grey Cup.
The Grey Cup game, along with the parades and festivities put on by the various host cities, has long been regarded as a unifying force in Canada, bringing together fans from across the country to cheer for their favourite teams and celebrate the uniqueness and diversity of Canadian culture. In fact, the Calgary Stampeders fans began the tradition of Grey Cup Week with their unique style of boisterous celebration, and telecasts of the big game have even been mandated by legislation in order that citizens across the country would have the opportunity to partake of this Canadian event.
Since its inception the trophy has been won by a team from Toronto on 21 occasions, Hamilton has won it 15 times, Edmonton 11 times (including a record five consecutive wins in the 1980s), Winnipeg 10 times, Ottawa nine times, and Montreal six. The reigning champions, the British Columbia Lions, have won it four times, as have the Calgary Stampeders. The Queen's University Golden Gaels won the Grey Cup in three consecutive years in the 1920s, while a team from Sarnia, Ontario, and the Saskatchewan Roughriders have each won the CFL Championship twice. The Baltimore Stallions were the first and only US-based team to win the Canadian Football League Championship, during the CFL's short-lived and misguided expansion into US markets in the mid-1990s.
This year's Grey Cup game will be played in Montreal at Olympic Stadium on Sunday, November 25, 2001. Team officials with the Alouettes report that ticket sales are going extremely well for the upcoming 89th Grey Cup. Contact your local team or the CFL for further information.
Please see the end of this newsletter for a list of all of the Grey Cup winners since its inception.
Spring Training -- What this time of year means to Canadian football fans
June's arrival each year (here in Canada) brings the mellowing of spring, the stirring of nature from her wintry rest into summer, flowers in full blossom, and trees swaying in the gentle breeze under the warmth of the sun. June's arrival also heralds the stirring of the blood of CFL fans and players as teams open their training camps to prepare for the pursuit of the coveted Grey Cup. In June, every team is undefeated. In June, every player is an all-star candidate. In June, every coach is brilliant. In June, the real work begins.
Many years ago players would arrive at training camp to shake off the off-season rust and use the workouts just to get back into decent physical condition. There would often be a kind of country-club atmosphere around camp, especially with the veteran players, despite the best efforts of coaching staff in enforcing curfews. Tall tales abound, from contraband beer being chilled in nearby creeks to players arriving back in their dormitory just in time to eat breakfast. However, with so many young, fast, skilled players graduating from Canadian and American universities and colleges each year, the veterans now know that they have to arrive at camp fit and ready to fend off the young challengers for their place on the roster. Players face two weeks of grueling workouts twice daily, full-contact drills, live-action scrimmages, and the intense scrutiny of coaches. Aches and injuries have no home here. Training camp is the place where a Grey Cup champion is born out of hard work, commitment, and teamwork.
Teams will have spent the six months of the off-season evaluating their personnel and reorganizing their rosters. Players retire or move to new cities due to trades or free agency, and a fresh crop of rookies who are half a step quicker, a fraction taller, or a little bit stronger arrive eager to show their talents in the hope of achieving their dream of playing professional football. Coaches watch and instruct their players in the hope of achieving their dream of creating a championship team. We, as fans, scrutinize their every move, cheering their successes and judging their mistakes, in the hope of achieving our dream of *our* team becoming Grey Cup Champions!
This year the first pre-season games take place June 20, with the Edmonton Eskimos visiting the Calgary Stampeders and the Saskatchewan Roughriders hosting the BC Lions.
== IMPORTANT TRAINING CAMP DATES ==
Saturday, June 9 -- Veterans and rookies report for medicals.
Sunday, June 10 -- Opening day of training camp, sessions begin at 9:00 am and 4:00 pm.
Monday, June 11 -- First cut-down day as all CFL member clubs must reduce their rosters by 11:59 pm EDT to a maximum of 65 players.
Wednesday, June 20 -- Edmonton play at Calgary the pre-season's first game, 7:30 pm MDT.
Saturday, June 23 -- Second cut-down day as all CFL member clubs must reduce their rosters by 3:00 pm EDT to a maximum of 50 players.
Tuesday, June 26 -- Calgary play at BC, 7:00 pm PDT.
Saturday, June 30 -- The third cut-down day arrives as all CFL member clubs must reduce their rosters by 3:00 pm EDT to 19 Canadians, 17 imports and 3 quarterbacks.
== TRAINING CAMP INFORMATION AVAILABLE SO FAR ==
The Campus du Fort Saint-Jean ("The Proud Home of the Montreal Alouettes Training Camp") is located in the town of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, on the grounds of the historic Fort Saint-Jean which was home to the former Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean. The facilities are set in beautiful outdoor surroundings along the Richelieu River, approximately 30 minutes from downtown Montreal. The Montreal Alouettes will kick off training camp on June 10. (Each August, Saint-Jean-sur-Richeleu also hosts the "Festival Montgolfiere", with over 100 hot-air balloons of all colours, shapes, and sizes filling the skies for two days.)
Calgary Stampeders hopefuls will report to camp on June 9 for physicals and take to the field on June 10 for the first of several twice-daily workouts.
Edmonton Eskimo training camp opens June 9 at the Edmonton Garrison.
BC Lions training camp information:
- Dates: June 10-24.
- Site: Townsend Park, Wolf Road (at Ashwell), Chilliwack, BC.
- Hotel: Best Western Rainbow Country Inn, 43971 Industrial Way, Chilliwack, BC. (604) 795-3828.
- Camp Office: Phone (604) 795-7088, fax: (604) 795-7028.
- Camp Contact: Jon Taylor, (604) 930-5482.
- Practice Times: 9:00 am and 11:00 am (subject to change).
- First Pre-Season Game: June 20 at Saskatchewan.
- Second Pre-Season Game: June 26 at BC Place Stadium.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders, Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Toronto Argonauts, and Hamilton Tiger-Cats had not posted their training camp information on their Web sites at the time of writing. You can use the links below to find updated information.
== SOME CFL HUMOUR ==
Do you remember brothers Bob and Doug McKenzie from SCTV? Well, we found out what Bob was up to last November during the Grey Cup -- he won a free ticket from his local sports-radio station and went to the Grey Cup in Calgary.
Unfortunately, when Bob arrived at the stadium he realized his seat was in the last row in the corner of the stadium -- he was closer to the Goodyear Blimp than the field. About halfway through the first quarter Bob noticed an empty seat ten rows off the field right on the 55-yard line. He decided to take a chance and made his way through the stadium and around the security guards to the empty seat.
As he sat down he asked the gentleman sitting next to him, "Excuse me. Is anyone sitting here?" The man said no.
Now very excited to be in such a great seat for the game, Bob again inquired of the man next to him, "This is incredible, eh! Who in their right mind would have a seat like this at the Grey Cup and not use it?"
The man replied, "Well, actually, the seat belongs to me. I was supposed to come with my wife, but she passed away. This is the first Grey Cup we haven't been to together since we got married in 1967."
"Well, that's really sad, eh," said Bob, "but still, couldn't you find someone to use the ticket? A relative or a close friend?"
"No," the man replied, "they're all at the funeral."
And another one:
The Argos' football coach walked into the locker room before a game, looked over at his star player and said, "I'm not supposed to let you play since you failed your math exam during your last semester before we drafted you, but we need you in there. So what I have to do is ask you a math question. If you get it right, you can play."
The player agreed and the coach looked into his eyes intently and asked, "OK, now concentrate. What is two plus two?"
The player thought for a moment or two and then answered, "4?"
"Did you say 4?" asked the coach, excited that he got it right.
At that, all the other Argo players began screaming, "Come on coach, give him another chance!"
== GREY CUP WINNERS ==
Year Winner Year Winner 1909-11 University of Toronto 1912 Hamilton Alerts 1913 Hamilton Tigers 1914 Toronto Argos 1915 Hamilton Tigers 1916-19 No competitions 1920 University of Toronto 1921-1 Toronto Argos 1922-24 Queens University 1925-26 Ottawa Rough Riders 1927 Toronto Balmy Beach 1928-29 Hamilton Tigers 1930 Toronto Balmy Beach 1931 Montreal AAA 1932 Hamilton Tigers 1933 Toronto Argonauts 1934 Sarnia Imperials 1935 Winnipeg Blue Bombers 1936 Sarnia Imperials 1937-38 Toronto Argonauts 1939 Winnipeg Blue Bombers 1940 Ottawa Rough Riders 1941 Winnipeg Blue Bombers 1942 Toronto RCAF Hurricanes 1943 Hamilton Wildcats 1944 St. Hyacinthe-Donnaconna 1945-47 Toronto Argonauts 1948 Calgary Stampeders 1949 Montreal Alouettes 1950 Toronto Argonauts 1951 Ottawa Rough Riders 1952 Toronto Argonauts 1953 Hamilton Tiger-Cats 1954-56 Edmonton Eskimos 1957 Hamilton Tiger-Cats 1958-59 Winnipeg Blue Bombers 1960 Ottawa Rough Riders 1961-62 Winnipeg Blue Bombers 1963 Hamilton Tiger-Cats 1964 British Columbia Lions 1965 Hamilton Tiger-Cats 1966 Saskatchewan Roughriders 1967 Hamilton Tiger-Cats 1968-69 Ottawa Rough Riders 1970 Montreal Alouettes 1971 Calgary Stampeders 1972 Hamilton Tiger-Cats 1973 Ottawa Rough Riders 1974 Montreal Alouettes 1975 Edmonton Eskimos 1976 Ottawa Rough Riders 1977 Montreal Alouettes 1978-82 Edmonton Eskimos 1983 Toronto Argonauts 1984 Winnipeg Blue Bombers 1985 British Columbia Lions 1986 Hamilton Tiger-Cats 1987 Edmonton Eskimos 1988 Winnipeg Blue Bombers 1989 Saskatchewan Roughriders 1990 Winnipeg Blue Bombers 1991 Toronto Argonauts 1992 Calgary Stampeders 1993 Edmonton Eskimos 1994 British Columbia Lions 1995 Baltimore Stallions 1996-97 Toronto Argonauts 1998 Calgary Stampeders 1999 Hamilton Tiger-Cats 2000 British Columbia Lions
== PREVIEW ==
On Sunday I profile Willie de Wit, tell you about Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, give you some information on "Folklorama" in Winnipeg, continue with the new feature "Other Historical Events This Week", and answer a question about two bridges in Quebec City.
Thank-you, Gary, for all your hard work. I'm sure our subscribers and those dropping by our site will enjoy the read. Our Friday Feature will return next month on July 6th.
== LINKS AND RESOURCES ==
FactsCanada.ca -- http://www.factscanada.ca
Canadian Football Hall of Fame and Museum
Canadian Football League
British Columbia Lions
Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Canadian vs. American Professional Football Rules
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