Super Bowl LIV was truly a game to remember for all American football fans. Trailing 10-20 with just six and a half minutes to go, and the ball on their own 35-yard line at 3rd and 15, all seemed lost for the Kansas City Chiefs. Yet somehow, albeit largely thanks to superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes, they emerged the 31-20 winners over the San Fran cisco 49ers, after three unanswered touchdown drives ended the game in style.
With the regular NFL season not returning until Thursday 10th September it can feel like a long summer ahead with no American football to watch. But don’t worry, all is not lost because the Canadian Football League season runs right through the summer, giving gridiron fans something to cheer about while they wait for the return of the main event. But what is the CFL all about and how does it work?
The Canadian Football League
The Canadian Football League (CFL) is the Canadian version of the NFL, and is played under the same rules, making it easy to follow for any fan of the sport.
The league comprises nine teams in two divisions, all competing for a place in the final to see who will win the Grey Cup 2020. Saskatchewan Roughriders, Calgary Stampeders, Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Edmonton Eskimos, and BC Lions all compete in the Western Division. Hamilton Tiger Cats, Montreal Alouettes, Toronto Argonauts, and Ottawa Redblacks comprise the Eastern Division.
The CFL can trace its origins way back to 1909, when teams first competed for the Grey Cup. The trophy was donated by Canada’s Governor General, Earl Grey, although it was originally intended as an ice hockey trophy. Like the neighbouring NFL, the league did not take its current title for many years, with the NFL forming in 1922, and the CFL as late as 1958.
How does the CFL work?
This year, the 63rd official regular CFL season will kick off on June 11th, with the playoffs (in the form of divisional semi-finals) starting November 8th.
Each team plays 18 regular season games, both home and away. The regular season may only host eighteen games per team, but it takes place over twenty-one weeks to allow for rest and recovery. The top three in each league then qualify for the playoffs.
The top placed team in each division is given a bye to the divisional championship game, with the second and third placed team playing a further semi-final game to decide their opponents. The winner of the divisional game is crowned Divisional Champions, and goes forward to play the champions from the other division for the Grey Cup.
The 2020 Grey Cup final, the 108th to be held, is scheduled for Sunday November 22nd and will take place at the new Mosaic Stadium in Regina, Saskatchewan.
As well as a Grey Cup MVP award, similar to the Super Bowl MVP, the CFL also awards the Dick Suderman Trophy to the most valuable Canadian player.
To illustrate how much the game has been infiltrated by players from the United States, Andrew Harris, of Winnipeg Blue Bombers, is the only player to win both awards in the same season. He achieved this in 2019, while helping the Blue Bombers to their first Grey Cup in 29 years.
Who to watch out for
Unlike the NFL, the CFL is a much more even contest between the different sides. Of the nine teams taking part, each one has won the Grey Cup at least once in the last twenty years, with all but one team winning in the last decade. The Hamilton Tiger Cats are long overdue a victory, as they are the only team not to win the Grey Cup since 1999. As 2019’s Eastern Division Champions and Grey Cup runners up, they are well worth watching as they look to end that lengthy trophy drought.