Hello all – after almost six months away, the CFL Beat makes its glorious return this week! I’m looking forward to another year of covering the ridiculous sport of Canadian football for all of you; the season kicks off earlier than ever this year, with Week 1 games starting on Thursday, June 13th. Without further ado, let’s get you all prepped and up to speed on what to expect from north of the 49th parallel this year in the world of football.
WELCOME (BACK) TO THE CFL!
The first-ever CFL Beat, from 2016, provides more specifics than what I will be listing below, but if you’re unfamiliar with the sport or are looking for a quick refresher, here are some of the most important things to know:
- The league was founded in 1958, though teams have competed for the Grey Cup, Canadian football’s top prize, since 1909.
- There are nine teams organized into two divisions, each playing an 18-game regular season. The division winners each get a bye into the second round of the playoffs.
- Among the most important rule differences between the NFL and CFL: only 3 downs, field is 110 yards long by 65 yards wide, each team plays 12 players a side instead of 11, defense starts 1 yard back from the line of scrimmage, kicks/punt returners get 5 yards of buffer zone to make a catch, missed field goals that leave the end zone are called rouges and are worth one point – they are hilarious when they occur. (You can check out the full list of rule differences in 2016’s welcoming article, or here on Wikipedia if you’re curious.)
Next week, I’ll be giving the preview for all of the East Division teams, followed by the West Division teams the week after. Week 1 of the regular season kicks off on Thursday, June 13th, with the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Hamilton Tiger-Cats leading the way.
The 2019 Grey Cup is being hosted in Calgary this year; while the balance of power has somewhat shifted away from the Stampeders, at least on paper, they have a real shot to make it back once again and play in their fourth straight championship game – and to become the first team to win the Grey Cup on home turf since the Toronto Argonauts managed the feat in 2012, defeating those same Stampeders when they hosted the 100th edition at Rogers Centre. After winning last year’s Grey Cup in convincing fashion over the Ottawa REDBLACKS by a 27-16 score, the Stamps come into the season with a fair amount of roster turnover. The 2018 victory was redemption for Calgary, who also made the championship game in 2016 and 2017 as heavy favourites, coming up short both times. Despite some personnel changes, they did manage to hang on to their star QB Bo Levi Mitchell, last year’s Most Outstanding Player, who had many enticing offers in free agency to jump ship.
As for everyone else? Well, just hang on for the team previews coming out over the next two weeks! Hopefully you’ll be all up to speed very soon.
2019 POINTS OF INTEREST
- The name of the game in this most recent offseason was labour strife. The current collective bargaining agreement expired on May 18th, the day before training camps opened, and unlike in previous iterations, there was actually a very real chance that players were willing to strike this year – a report said that the players’ association received a 97% mandate for strike action if no new agreement was negotiated. It almost happened – the league and PA had a tentative agreement last week before the league reneged on a few details on Saturday, May 18th. Fortunately, the league and the PA managed to come to an agreement over the weekend, officially signing off on May 22nd. The new CBA had a few small concessions for the players’ side, including an increase to the minimum salary for players ($65,000 CAD, a jump from the $53,000 CAD last season); some revenue-sharing from broadcast rights both domestic and international (20% of the total share going to the players); but most importantly, an increase in medical and rehab care costs covered by teams after on-field injuries. In previous years, a team was only required to provide 12 months of costs towards an injured player’s medical care and expenses, but this will jump to 24 months this year and 36 months beginning in 2020. The current CBA expires after the 2021 season. Three years of labour peace is short, especially when compared to other pro sports leagues, but considering that the CFL’s current domestic broadcasting rights deal with TSN expires at the same time, it makes sense moving forward that the two need to be in lock-step… the CFL’s TV deal is largely the reason that the league has managed to stabilize its finances over the last decade.
- Speaking of international matters: CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie kickstarted the CFL 2.0 campaign midway through the 2018 season, and the fruits of his efforts are beginning to take shape. With football predominantly a North American sport, and with the NFL being the world’s most dominant football league, it still remains largely inaccessible to those not living in the United States or Canada. As a result of this, the CFL is trying to make inroads into international markets, most notably in Mexico and in Europe, in order to fill that football void. It’s a very bold stance; there are plans for international games to be played, TV deals are in the works in both these markets – possibly for this season, but likely more for 2020 – but notably, the league has held international combines and drafts for the top players from the Mexican league and from European leagues. Hopefully, these agreements to sign international players aren’t coming at the expense of any Canadian talent or top American players – the need for Canadian players to have opportunities to play pro football is an essential part of the success of the league, moving forward. Rosters, instead, will hopefully expand to allow two additional slots for “global” players (in addition to the “national” and “international” [i.e. American] players currently on rosters.)
- One of the largest pressing questions, domestically, for the league is its presence in Atlantic Canada; after an expansion bid from a group of investors out of Halifax emerged last season, things are gradually moving forward on creating a 10th CFL team based out of the Maritimes. The team name was officially announced as the Atlantic Schooners, and a logo’s also been revealed; the team is also taking season ticket deposits, and apparently things are slowly, ploddingly, moving forward on a stadium development in the Shannon Park neighbourhood of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, on the eastern side of Halifax Harbour. The issue, really, is a question of taxpayer funding – like with so, so many other stadium financing deals, ownership wanted to see the city, province, and federal government all contribute to the construction costs. The initial plan was for a 20,000 seat stadium – a little small for the CFL, but probably overall more viable – but with taxpayer dollars unlikely to come, it appears as though the group is more in line with building a stadium with 12,000 permanent seats on one side of the field, the other with 12,000 temporary seats that could be disassembled over the offseason. The entire stadium would also be covered with an inflatable dome during winter months so that it could be used by community groups on a year-round basis. At any rate, review is slow on the proposal – don’t expect a decision soon. If the city can come to an agreement, it’s possible that the team could kick off the 2021 season based out of Moncton, New Brunswick, which has a stadium that can be expanded from its initial capacity of 10,000 up to about 21,000. The Shannon Park stadium, if approved, likely wouldn’t be ready for usage until 2022. Will it happen? Who knows. Remember – Halifax had this exact same bid for the Atlantic Schooners back in the 80s… team name, logo, ticket sales, and all… and that bid was derailed by… the lack of a stadium. So it would be absolutely awesome… but I’m also not going to sit here holding my breath. In the meantime, Moncton will host the 2019 Touchdown Atlantic – the first CFL game played in the Maritimes since 2013, where the Toronto Argonauts will face off against the Montreal Alouettes on Sunday, August 25th.
2018 STANDINGS AND STATS
East Division Standings
|Team||Games||Wins||Losses||Points For||Points Against|
West Division Standings
|Team||Games||Wins||Losses||Points For||Points Against|
- Reilly, EDM – 5562
- Masoli, HAM – 5209
- Mitchell, CGY – 5124
- Mitchell, CGY – 35
- Reilly, EDM – 30
- Masoli, HAM – 28
- Harris, WPG – 1390
- Powell, OTT – 1362
- Gable, EDM – 1063
- Williams, EDM – 1579
- Banks, HAM – 1423
- Sinopoli, OTT – 1376
- Hughes, SSK – 15
- Johnson, CGY – 14
- Willis, BC – 11
- Orange, BC – 5
- Murray, OTT – 5
- Rose, OTT – 5
- Lauther, SSK – 54
- Ward, OTT – 51
- Hajrullahu, HAM – 46
2018 PICK POOL
I will be running a pick pool again this season – it’s open to readers from anywhere in the world! If you’re interested in playing, just register here through the link below:
PoolTracker has also launched a web app for the 2019 football season; you can install it your phone’s home screen or computer desktop via a shortcut. Check out the link here for further instructions on how to install it.
We ended up having a very tight race last year – Beerguyrob led the pool wire-to-wire in 2018, but a few folks clawed their way back to make it a very close one as the season went on. The standings from last year’s pool are below. Even if you don’t know a thing about CFL football, fret not and put your picks in all the same! Internet bragging rights ain’t nothin’ to sneeze at, folks.
2018 Pool Results
|Rank||Total Points||Weekly Score||Win Percentage|
|Game Time Decision||55||3-1||67.90%|
And with that, tune in next week to check out previews of the East Division teams – Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Hamilton. Maestro out!