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Do Canadians care about the CFL?
November 28, 2005 8:52 AM   Subscribe

Do Canadians care about the CFL?
posted by xmutex to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (49 answers total)
 
I'm sure some do, though I don't know any. I know several NFL fans though. They watch NFL games and once in a while travel to see the Bills play. (Southern Ontario for reference)
posted by skinnydipp at 8:54 AM on November 28, 2005


I have a friend in Toronto who is an obsessive Indy Colts fan (NFL) and claims that no, most people couldn't care less. And that they'd much rather have a NFL expansion team in Toronto.
posted by selfnoise at 8:54 AM on November 28, 2005


Yes, but not the way Americans care about the NFL. Hockey's the big sport in Canada and it's just as much a part of the culture as football is in the U.S. In high school the big athletic scholarships were for hockey. In university the varsity hockey team was where the real jocks were and every school within the university had their own hockey team. Hell, individual floors within the dorms had their own teams.
posted by substrate at 8:57 AM on November 28, 2005


Outside of Ontario, I think maybe. Certainly like substrate says, it's hockey, hockey, hockey up here for the most part.

The CFL is a niche sport, like a bajillion other niche sports. Curling is big with some people, soccer (the other 'football') is popular among many communities - the last World Cup was probably a bigger deal in Toronto than the last Stanley Cup.
posted by GuyZero at 9:01 AM on November 28, 2005


I'd say yes. On Sportsfilter there is even a members' fantasy league.
posted by terrapin at 9:09 AM on November 28, 2005


In Saskatchewan? Hell yes. In Toronto? Not so much. I'm a Canadian currently living abroad, and if it wasn't for news.google.ca I wouldn't even know that the Grey cup was on this weekend.
posted by antifuse at 9:12 AM on November 28, 2005


Some do, some don't, we just have a 27 million person pool to work with instead of a worldwide one. The audience is smaller, but those who care do so rather strongly.

I'd compare it to something like pro soccer in America; it's dwarfed by other sports, but those who watch usually watch religiously.
posted by dflemingdotorg at 9:14 AM on November 28, 2005


So if hockey:Canada::American football:USA, is it at all reasonable to say that CFL:Canada::Hockey:most Americans (especially those of us more than 200 miles from the Canadian border)? Or significantly more or less?
posted by SuperNova at 9:14 AM on November 28, 2005


It is definitely a regional thing. Growing up in the Prairies, the CFL was huge, but we didn't have much else in the way of pro sports. Even today the most die-hard CFL fans I know are from Saskatchewan and Manitoba. I know some fans in the East, but nothing like in the Prairies.
posted by wallaby at 9:26 AM on November 28, 2005


I'd say Canadians care about CFL football more than Americans care about hockey.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:28 AM on November 28, 2005


And of course the hockey thing is regional, too. Hockey is much bigger in Maine than it is in Virginia.
posted by selfnoise at 9:33 AM on November 28, 2005


On Sportsfilter there is even a members' fantasy league.

It's really just a weekly pick 'em. While we have a small but fervent crowd that comes out for it, I don't think we'd be able to get enough people for a proper fantasy league.

That's actually a pretty good indication of how the CFL ranks on SportsFilter: it's appreciated by a decent enough number of regulars, but it's not exactly one of the hot topics every week.

But in Canada? Sure, people care. All teams are currently doing a pretty good job of filling up their stadiums. Heck, the Argonauts popped the 40,000 mark (sellout is just under 45,000) three times during hockey season. Hamilton has been selling out this year despite a lousy season. Ottawa's been doing decently considering how crappily the front office runs things. The Prairies—well, it's a way of life out there. Vancouver was in the doldrums a few years ago, but it looks like the ownership has done a great job of raising their profile and putting people in the seats again.

As was mentioned, the CFL is nowhere near as ubiquitous as hockey, but nothing in Canada (save Tim Horton's) is. In terms of national awareness, while it's certainly not a staple in every household, I think it's on a slightly higher plane than curling and lacrosse. The Grey Cup is, after all, the largest annual sporting event in the country.
posted by DrJohnEvans at 9:34 AM on November 28, 2005


And that they'd much rather have a NFL expansion team in Toronto.

Perish the thought. I'm a CFL fan not because of my birth certificate, but because of the style of play.

That said, I know quite a few people who'd be thrilled if Paul Godfrey's dream came true.
posted by DrJohnEvans at 9:39 AM on November 28, 2005


The Montreal Allouettes have been sold out here for at least three years. The only way I get to see games (and I'm not an avid football fan, it's just something nice to do on a warm evening) is to sneak in the side entrance around half time, or when they play the (three times larger) Olympic stadium.

CFL isn't something that's talked about much here, but there is definitely enough interest to sustain a national football league. I don't think any of the CFL teams are hurting too much. Having said that, I know of a few avid CFL fans, and grey cup parties are pretty fun, especially in places that have people from across the country (military messes come to mind).
posted by furtive at 9:42 AM on November 28, 2005


It's a Canadian Fact: Football. Contrary to popular belief, Canadian football actually has four downs, not three - but we always punt on the third down just to be safe...You're watching the CBC...on SCTV.
posted by gimonca at 9:45 AM on November 28, 2005


Perish the thought. I'm a CFL fan not because of my birth certificate, but because of the style of play.

What are the real differences? All I know is that there are only three downs and that you can have 12 men on the field. Would be interested to see a run-down.
posted by xmutex at 9:46 AM on November 28, 2005


Keep in mind too that thanks to the strong presence of the US media here, we get as much or more NFL than we do CFL, so a lot of "football fans" will be more into the Superbowl than the Grey Cup.

I'd say that CFL football tends to be treated like local sports, like minor-league baseball or whatever the hockey equivalent is, or maybe like NCAA sports -- a good set of fans based around a local team (and n some cases the locality might be the province, not the city), most people who aren't affected by a local team not being too interested, plus a few die-hards who have their favorite team that they're not geographically associated with but they still live to watch.
posted by mendel at 9:46 AM on November 28, 2005


See also Wikipedia's comparison of Canadian and American football.
posted by mendel at 9:47 AM on November 28, 2005


No. Canadians care about the Grey Cup.
posted by Quartermass at 9:48 AM on November 28, 2005


If your city's CFL team regularly does better than your city's NHL team, you care about it. If the closest CFL team to your community does better than the closest NHL team, you care about it.

Otherwise: hockey wins.
posted by Crosius at 10:06 AM on November 28, 2005


furtive: one amazing thing to remember about the Allouettes has been the resurgance of football in La Belle Province, both at the professional level and the amateur level. When I was attending Bishop's, the CIAU had 3 teams in Quebec: McGill, Concordia and Bishop's. Now there are 6 or 7 teams in the Conference. Bishop's used to do fairly well for the size of the school, but since Laval and Sherbrooke started programs the quality of the Gaiter's has tumbled.

The same is true of minor league football throughout Quebec. Interest has soared in the last decade. And the Allouettes where languishing in the Big Owe before they had the genius to move to Molson Stadium.

Finally, as a transplanted Saskatchewan resident, I cheer for the Rider's religiously. I have to admit that I didn't watch the game last night, but I understand that it was extremely exciting. Maybe not as great as the '89 game though ;)
posted by smcniven at 10:08 AM on November 28, 2005


The screaming Eskimos fans in my living room last night say "yes."

The screaming Oilers fans are still louder.
posted by S.C. at 10:09 AM on November 28, 2005


(SpoFi grum has a nice rundown.)

NFL rules tend to place a lot of importance on plays from scrimmage. CFL rules, on the other hand, show more of the game's rugby roots by keeping the ball in play as much as possible. There's no fair catch rule, so a kick will always have a return1. A team is penalized for taking a touchback (the kicking team gets a single point), so there's always incentive to return a punt or missed field goal out of the end zone.

Also, any player is allowed to drop-kick the ball at any time. Any onside player may recover it, although a drop-kick through the uprights is a field goal (maybe this is what Calvillo was trying to do last night).

There are a few other differences: more players allowed in motion before the snap, differences in the way the clock runs, but that's the basic rundown.

1. The safety issue: note that there is a penalty on the kicking team if a would-be tackler is within five yards of the receiver when the ball is caught.
posted by DrJohnEvans at 10:12 AM on November 28, 2005


So at any point during a play a guy can just boot the ball through the uprights for 3? I assume this ends the offensive drive if done?
posted by xmutex at 10:20 AM on November 28, 2005


The reason there's more NFL than CFL in the Canadian media might have something to do with the number of games. There are only 9 CFL teams and 95 games in a season (including playoffs), compared to 32 NFL teams and 300+ games. In any given week there's a lot more NFL football on TV than CFL football.

As others have said, it's a hugely regional thing. Canada is a large and diverse country.

Oh, and since I'm a prairie boy and Eskimo fan, I'll say this: WOOHOO! ESKS WIN THE GREY CUP!
posted by gwenzel at 10:20 AM on November 28, 2005


xmutex: Yes, that would end the offensive drive, and the scoring team would kickoff the ball. Drop kicks are extremely rare, however (there were only two attempted for the whole season this year, if you count Calvillo's attempt last night).
posted by gwenzel at 10:21 AM on November 28, 2005


Is there any affiliation between the NFL and CFL?
posted by xmutex at 10:24 AM on November 28, 2005


Very little CFL interest here in Atlantic Canada, but not having a team kinda has that effect. The Patriots are probably the most popular NA football team here, due to our "Boston States" connection (Red Sox and Bruins have similar followings).

Talk always pops up every few years about getting a team, but without a sizeable stadium that won't happen. And since there's no reason for us to have a stadium without a team, catch-22.

Much more interest in Canadian university football in this region, honestly. Pockets of CFL fans, but less than NFL overall.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 10:29 AM on November 28, 2005


xmutex: Just off the top of my head, the two leagues have an agreement involving player development, rights to free agents etc.. I think the agreement also (or did) include a loan guarantee for the CFL in the leaner years.
posted by smcniven at 10:32 AM on November 28, 2005


Is there any affiliation between the NFL and CFL?

Yeah, as smcniven mentioned, there's an agreement which coordinates certain points of overlap (extremely vague press release here). The big point agreed upon allows CFL players in an option year to sign with a NFL club, but the CFL club retains the rights to that option if/when the player leaves the NFL club (like Ricky Ray with the Jets last year). More detail here.

Also, there have been NFL-CFL preseason games, but those stopped when the CFL actually won a game (Tiger-Cats over Bills, 1961).
posted by DrJohnEvans at 10:49 AM on November 28, 2005


I can't speak for the whole country, but in Saskatchewan the CFL is very popular. Very popular. People make pilgrimages from all over the province to see their favorite team lose. Again. The Riders are a non-profit community-owned organization, and they hold an annual fundraising lottery - the kind that charitable organizations usually have - that sells out most years. Last night's game is invariably this morning's front page story. The Grey Cup is broadcast over the intercom in grocery stores etc, even when our team isn't in it. People care. A lot.

Put it this way: in a city of 190,00 people (in the middle of sparsely populated prairie - the whole province has only 1 million people) the average attendance at games is nearly 25,000. Toronto, a city of 2.5 million people (5 million in the GTA) can only muster 1000 more fans per game.

It's safe to say Saskatchewan cares about the CFL. Over 2% of our province's population makes it to each Rider game.
posted by raedyn at 11:03 AM on November 28, 2005


If Saskatchewan ever got an NHL team (which it won't) I imagine people would be even more rabidly behind that team than they are behind the Riders. We love our hockey here, too. But considering it's an 8 hour drive to the nearest NHL team, it's more difficult to be as dedicated.
posted by raedyn at 11:05 AM on November 28, 2005


Toronto ... can only muster 1000 more fans per game.

Toronto's average attendance was over 30,000 and is on the upswing. So 5,000 more fans a game.

But your point is valid. I look forward to the day when the Argos take those posters off the 500-level seats at the SkyDome and have a proper sellout.
posted by DrJohnEvans at 11:20 AM on November 28, 2005


(I was going by 2004 numbers that I found here)
posted by raedyn at 11:34 AM on November 28, 2005


Personally, I don't care about the CFL or the NHL, and I'm Canadian. However, several of my friends are quite fond of both and attend the games of both leagues regularly.
posted by juiceCake at 11:46 AM on November 28, 2005


raedyn, good thing you didn't pick the 2003 numbers. Ouch! :)
posted by DrJohnEvans at 11:54 AM on November 28, 2005


No.
posted by meerkatty at 11:55 AM on November 28, 2005


YES! We care, in Quebec and in the western parts of Canada the CFL IS a big deal, teams have been doing well lately, the quality of player has improved and the managment is generally doing a pretty good job.

As for differences, well the main difference is that the Canadian game is a whole lot less BORING!, full backfield motion before the snap, 20 secs rather than 45 to put the ball in play, a bigger field, linemen lined up a yard apart rather than nose-to-nose, 2 time outs rather than 6, 3 downs rather than 4, the rouge, no "fair-catch" (read: chickenshit) rule, and more hail-mary passes make the game (IMHO) much more exciting. Watching an NFL game is like watching a CFL game in slow motion.

Just remember that of the 7 QB's who have passed for more than 50,000yrds, 5 of them did it all or partially in the CFL, you wanna see guys with cannons for arms come up here.

I watch both and have never, ever, seen an NFL starting QB as exciting as Flutie in his prime with the Argo's was.

Also, lets not forget that ALL north american football is a Canadian invention, just like Hockey and that the Grey Cup has a whole lot more history than the Superbowl, it's a much older trophey.
posted by Cosine at 12:01 PM on November 28, 2005


sorry if I got carried away... kinda rabid CFl fan here...
posted by Cosine at 12:10 PM on November 28, 2005


Being from Hamilton, I'd say the fan support there has been on the upswing lately. I went to four games this year and every one was a sellout.
There are many so-called football fans in Southern Ontario who shun the CFL in favour of the NFL, but I would argue they're not really football fans...if they were they'd enjoy both games.
posted by rocket88 at 12:18 PM on November 28, 2005


rocket88 - I agree totally, sorry about your Ti-cats lately though... should be better next year with Maas.
posted by Cosine at 12:22 PM on November 28, 2005


Damn, Cosine and others have done a pretty good job selling the CFL. Even though this season's over, does anyone know if it's possible to catch CFL games in the States, like on ESPN2 or something? Seems I might have seen one (maybe the Grey Cup?) a few years ago, but I can't remember for sure.
posted by SuperNova at 12:39 PM on November 28, 2005


SuperNova - You can sometimes find games as downloads on bittorrent. Other than that it's pretty tough to catch them in the states, it was better when the CFL had American teams but now not so much... sorry
posted by Cosine at 12:46 PM on November 28, 2005


CFL's 2005 American Broadcast Schedule. It may be more available than you think, depending on your market and TV service. Of course, the next games won't be played 'til June 2006.

Hmm, apparently the CBC sells Grey Cup DVD sets, including complete game footage. Although the 2004 game was pretty good, I'd wait for the 2005 one to come out. Yesterday's game was ridiculously entertaining.
posted by DrJohnEvans at 12:57 PM on November 28, 2005


the what?
posted by paradroid at 2:52 PM on November 28, 2005


I'd say no...I'm from Vancouver (BC) and almost nobody I know watches the CFL (I know, I'm falling prey to the availability heuristic...). The ones I know who DO watch the CFL only do so on a semi-regular basis, if that. When there's nothing else on.

I certainly don't watch it.

I think most of the rabid CFL fans (if they actaully exist) live in the prairies.
posted by johnsmith415 at 4:38 PM on November 28, 2005


Just looked over some of the other posts...I stand corrected. Rabid CFL fans do exist.
posted by johnsmith415 at 4:39 PM on November 28, 2005


I moved to Hamilton recently, and people here are crazy for the CFL. The Ticats are the only professional-level team we've got, so we support them rabidly (no matter how badly they've been doing). It's the same in Regina and Winnipeg.
posted by Popular Ethics at 6:13 PM on November 28, 2005


For posterity: this is interesting:

Nineteen per cent of Canadians said they follow the CFL, compared to 13 per cent for the NFL. That's a surprising finding, considering the CFL has routinely found ways to shoot itself in the foot over the years while expanding television coverage has resulted in more NFL games being broadcast, thus making it easier for Canadian fans to tune in.

"I think we underestimate the extent which the CFL is imbedded in Canadian culture," Bibby said. "The thing that has really surprised me has been that one would simply expect the CFL to be overrun by the NFL.

"The fact that it has been able to hang in there I think goes back to having really underestimated the extent to which the CFL is much more than football. The interest was still there even when the league was floundering in the 1990s."

Increased interest in pro football has been due primarily a significant jump in the number of CFL fans in Quebec — from four per cent in 1990 when the city was minus a pro franchise — to 17 per cent presently. While the relocation of the Baltimore Stallions to Montreal in 1996 has helped boost football interest in Quebec, the province has also experienced a real boon at the grassroots level, meaning more youngsters are playing the sport and developing a love for it.

Bibby doesn't expect football will ever overtake hockey as the sport of preference among Canadians. But he said another reason for its popularity nationwide is accessibility. Fans have a much easier time getting tickets to CFL games than they do for NHL contests.

posted by DrJohnEvans at 7:37 PM on June 8, 2006


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