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The 2019 CFL season has come to an end. For the first time in three decades, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are the Grey Cup champions, ending the longest title drought in the league. That had thousands of Winnipeg natives braving the cold for a glimpse of the champions earlier in the week after their 33-12 thrashing of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in McMahon Stadium.

It was a dream start for Winnipeg. Hamilton quarterback Dane Evans turned the ball over on the Tiger-Cats’ first two possessions, so the Blue Bombers jumped out to a 7-0 lead. Defense continued to be the key for Winnipeg throughout the game too, as the Blue Bombers forced four turnovers to frustrate Hamilton’s offense in the victory.

Zach Collaros had a decent afternoon through the air. Collaros realized his promise after numerous injury plagued seasons by leading Winnipeg to the Grey Cup after only joining the team at the trade deadline. His insertion into the starting lineup over the turnover prone Chris Streveler was massive, but the key continued to be Andrew Harris and the run game.

Harris was the CFL’s leading rusher in 2019, and he had an outstanding performance in the Grey Cup. He ran the ball 18 times for 134 yards and a touchdown, consistently getting Winnipeg in Hamilton territory. Long time CFL veteran Justin Medlock converted from there, hitting six of seven field goal attempts to help lead Winnipeg to the win.

The Tiger-Cats now have the longest Grey Cup drought in the CFL. Hamilton’s last title came in 1999 when the Tiger-Cats bested Calgary 32-21 behind Danny McManus and Darren Flutie, and they are the only franchise yet to win a Grey Cup in the 21st Century. The reigning MOP Brandon Banks will look to take them to the promised land in 2020, and Hamilton stands to be one of the favorites.

CFL East Division Teams

Hamilton Tiger-Cats Orlondo Steinauer Tim Hortons Field
Montreal Alouettes Mike Sherman Percival Molson Memorial Stadium
Ottawa Redblacks Rick Campbell TD Place Stadium
Toronto Argonauts Corey Chamblin BMO Field

CFL West Division Teams

BC Lions DeVone Claybrooks BC Place
Calgary Stampeders Dave Dickenson McMahon Stadium
Edmonton Eskimos Jason Maas Commonwealth Stadium
Saskatchewan Roughriders Craig Dickenson Mosaic Stadium
Winnipeg Blue Bombers Michael O’Shea IG Field

Since the late 1950s, the CFL has typically had nine franchises. However, there has been some vacillation in that number over the years. The CFL had nine teams from 1958 to 1986, but then the Montreal Alouettes folded the day before the 1987 season was to start. The league had eight teams until the mid-1990s when the CFL nearly doubled in size because of the United States expansion. Seven American teams joined the league during that time, but Baltimore was the only city where the Canadian game was a success. In just three years, the American teams were all gone, making it a fully Canadian game once more.

The CFL lost its longest-tenured team, the Ottawa Rough Riders, after 120 years of football in 1996. Fortunately, the league was able to put a team back in Montreal that year to keep the league static at eight teams. A new team in Ottawa bumped the league back up to nine teams in 2002, but the number of CFL franchises dropped down to eight once more after Ottawa folded after just four seasons in the league. There were just eight teams until 2014 when the Ottawa Redblacks were founded, and the league has been stable at nine teams since that point.

Differences Between the NFL and CFL

There are a number of important differences between the NFL and CFL, but we’re only going to focus on a few. One of the first things you notice when watching a CFL game is the size of the field. CFL fields are 10 yards longer in the field of play and have end zones that are 20 yards deep. Fields up north are about 20 percent wider too, so CFL games are played with an extra player on both sides. Goalposts in the CFL are on the goal line and not at the back of the end zone like they are in the NFL.

Another major difference is the number of downs you have to achieve a first down. In the American game, you have four downs to pick up 10 yards, but in the Canadian game, it’s just three. That leads to far more passing (and punting) in the CFL than you see in the NFL.

Additionally, CFL’s similarity to rugby is seen in two major areas. First, there is a one-yard neutral zone between offensive lines and defensive lines in the CFL that cannot be crossed before the ball is snapped. Secondly, teams can score a single point by kicking the ball through the end zone in what’s called a single or a rouge.

Grey Cup Titles Among Active Teams

Toronto Argonauts 17
Edmonton Eskimos 14
Winnipeg Blue Bombers 10
Calgary Stampeders 8
Hamilton Tiger-Cats 8
Montreal Alouettes 7
BC Lions 6
Saskatchewan Roughriders 4
Ottawa Redblacks 1

The Toronto Argonauts have won more Grey Cups than any other team in the CFL. They won their first Grey Cup in 1914, defeating the University of Toronto Varsity Blues 14-2, and Toronto won its 10th title in 1952. The Argos overcame a three-decade title drought to win in 1983, and they have won six Grey Cups in the last three decades.

A handful of franchises have three-peated, but only the Edmonton Eskimos have won five straight Grey Cups. The Eskimos dominated the CFL in the late 1970s and early 1980s, as Warren Moon lit up the league. Moon led Edmonton to its last four Grey Cups, and it took five years for the Eskimos to win again after he left for the NFL.

The unluckiest team in the history of the Grey Cup is Saskatchewan. The Roughriders have made 19 appearances in the Grey Cup final, but they have just four championships to show for it. They have lost some heartbreakers over the years too, none more painful than losing the 2009 Grey Cup to Montreal after too many men on the field penalty with no time left.

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