November 27, 2011; Vancouver, BC, Canada; BC Lions running back Andrew Harris (33) avoids a tackle from Winnipeg Blue Bombers cornerback Clinton Kent (41) in the Grey Cup at BC Place Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-US PRESSWIRE
This weekend a football championship that’s been going on more than twice as long as the Superbowl will be enjoying its 100th anniversary. Most likely few Americans have any clue what it is. The game being spoken of is the Grey Cup, the Canadian Football League’s championship game. This year’s matchup features the Calgary Stampeders and the Toronto Argonauts.
The CFL is an eight team league (soon to be nine teams with the addition of Ottawa) featuring teams from around Canada. These include the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Montreal Alouettes, Winnipeg Blue Bombers, BC Lions, Edmonton Eskimos, Saskatchewan Rough Riders, and the two previously mentioned teams playing in this year’s Grey Cup. The reason I am writing about this is not only because we are so close to Canada living in Buffalo, but because it isn’t crazy to think the CFL could be part of this city’s future.
The CFL has been very interested in Western New York for a while now, looking at both Buffalo and Rochester. There have been some talks, although the seriousness is uncertain, of a CFL team playing some games in Buffalo to garner some interest. If the Bills ever did move, it would be a very interesting option for both the city of Buffalo and the CFL.
It would not be the first time the CFL dipped their toes into America. In the 1990’s the league made an attempt to become a second tier league in the states, adding teams in Baltimore, Birmingham, Los Vegas, Memphis, Miami, Sacramento, San Antonio, and Shreveport. Of these teams, three of which never actually got off the ground. By 1995 only one of teams was remaining in the league, the Baltimore Stallions. To say the CFL’s first try in the United States was a failure would be an understatement.
Since the league has gotten much more stable in the current eight markets. Attendance ranges somewhere between 32,000 and 26,000, and a study proved that the CFL was the second most followed sports league in Canada (following the NHL). In the past few years many of the teams have decided to renovate their stadiums, add seating, or build brand new CFL exclusive stadiums. The league has been limited in its options for Canadian expansion due to the lack of large metropolitan centers, but cities like Quebec City, Halifax, London, Windsor and St. Johns have all been considered future expansion sites.
Where the team would play in Buffalo would be an interesting story. Both UB Stadium and Coca Cola Field (with some renovations) would have enough capacity to host a team. Ralph Wilson Stadium would have to go under some major renovations to change the size of the playing surface, which is currently too small for the CFL. A CFL field is much longer than an NFL field and the goal posts are placed in front of the endzone like formally done in the NFL.
Sure, the CFL is not the NFL. The rules are somewhat different and it gets a much smaller following here in the United States. However, if it comes to the point where the Bills leaving becomes a reality the CFL would be a very good option for this city. It is the second best professional football league in most people’s eyes, and it’s not like the University at Buffalo is suddenly going to become a huge football program here. There would not be many other options.
If you want to catch the Grey Cup you can watch it Sunday evening on ESPN 3. Also, one last fun fact: In 1960 the Hamilton Tiger-Cats were the only team to beat an American team in the CFL/AFL Crossovers defeating none other than the Buffalo Bills.