Canadian Football League (CFL) History

Founded in 1958, the Canadian Football League is Canada’s top level of American Football. While hockey is the dominant sport of Canada, the Canadian Football League has thrived as the nation’s number two professional sports league. The CFL (or LCF in French Canada) is the second most successful football league in the world, behind only the NFL. It has developed a strong reputation over the years and maintained a high level of stability. The CFL has produced a number of great football players throughout its history, including Warren Moon, Jackie Prater, George Reed, and Doug Flutie. The Toronto Argonauts have the most all-time titles with fifteen. The Edmonton Eskimos have won the most championships in the modern era with thirteen.

CFL Teams

The Canadian Football League is comprised of eight franchises competing in two divisions. The CFL’s East Division includes the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Montreal Alouettes, Toronto Argonauts, and Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The West Division includes the BC Lions, Calgary Stampeders, Edmonton Eskimos, and Saskatchewan Roughriders. While the CFL wasn’t founded until 1958, all eight of its current franchises were founded prior to the league’s establishment. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are Canada’s oldest team; having been founded in 1869, Hamilton predates all current NFL franchises as well.

CFL Season

The Canadian Football League begins in mid-June with a two game preseason. The CFL’s regular season lasts nineteen weeks, with each team playing eighteen games. Six of the CFL’s eight teams advance to the playoffs based on regular season record. The top three teams from each division qualify, unless a division’s fourth placed team has a better record than the other division’s third placed team. The CFL playoffs last three weeks, including the Grey Cup, with each division’s top ranked team receiving a bye in the semi-finals. The winner of the West and East playoff brackets face off in the CFL’s Grey Cup.

CFL Grey Cup

The winners of the West Division and East Division advance to the Canadian Football League’s most esteemed game, the Grey Cup. Named after former Governor General of Canada Albert Grey, the Grey Cup has been awarded since 1909. Originally played between the top college teams in Canada, the game has since been adopted by the CFL. The Grey Cup takes place near the end of November and is the most anticipated event on the CFL schedule.

Canadian and American Football Rule Differences

The CFL plays football, but uses its own brand of intricacies and rules that distinguish it from traditional American Football. The CFL field is longer (110 yards) and wider (65 yards) than an American Football field, with endzones twenty yards deep and goalposts positioned on the goal line. Canadian Football also uses twelve players on the field for each team, leading to varying positions and formations from those seen in American Football. Canadian Football has three downs, one less than American Football, leading to a greater emphasis on the kicking game. This is somewhat offset by the yard of separation required between the line of scrimmage and CFL defenders, which makes short yardage third down plays a safer risk. The CFL also allows for greater freedom motioning players in the offense’s backfield. Timing, kicking, defensive contact, PATs, and other more minor aspects of the Canadian sport also differ in certain regards to its American counterpart. These rule differences make for a slightly different game to watch and include variations of strategy from an NFL game.


The CFL has become a more than respectable professional sports league in its own right, but has not been able to match the NFL’s success. Past expansion attempts in the US have failed due to the dominant popularity of the NFL, and the CFL has been a strictly Canadian league since 1996. Top talent, including most Canadian athletes, aspires to the NFL, reducing the talent pool for CFL teams. Despite the poaching of much of the league’s standout players, the CFL does have a number of high quality players. Many players join the league after underwhelming NFL stints or go to the CFL after being overlooked initially. Many CFL players have jumped to the NFL and experienced great careers, while some choose to stay in Canada. There is a major disparity between the payroll of NFL and CFL teams, though the talent levels are much closer than the money would sugest.

CFL Betting

Betting on the Canadian Football League (Ligue canadienne de football, LCF, as called in the French area of Canada, Quebec) is available through online sportsbooks. The CFL is less popularly bet than NFL and NCAA football, but can present the highest rate of success for many bettors, with much more excitement and way faster in-game plays and betting due to the shorter yards, downs, and different rules within other reasons. Due to the fact that the CFL is not as closely watched or analyzed by the media, football bettors can often handicap CFL games more easily. With a long season and exciting playoff tournament that includes the Grey Cup, the CFL has no shortage of profitable bets available.