The 104th Grey Cup will be played in a brand new stadium in Toronto, the city that has hosted the most Grey Cups in history. But long before we get to that Sunday in late November, there’s four months of football in front of us. And nothing says summer in Canada better than sitting in the stands in Ottawa, or Winnipeg, or Regina, and taking in the high octane game of Canadian football.
A month into the 2016 season, we’ve already witnessed a number of highly entertaining contests, and watch as the Grey Cup Finalists from last November once again find themselves at the top of the standing in the East Division.
You’d be excused for thinking it was Russ Jackson, or Tom Clements, running the offense in the nation’s capital, just like in the glory days of the old Ottawa Rough Riders. This is only the third season the Red Blacks have been in the league, but last year they won 8 of their final 10 games, then stormed through the East en route to the Grey Cup Game in Winnipeg. The third CFL team to call Ottawa home came up short 26-20 to the Edmonton Eskimos, but they served notice that football is alive and well in Bytown.
A month into this season, there sit the Red Blacks in top spot in the East, with 3 wins and 1 tie. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who currently sit second, are expected to challenge for top spot as the season progresses. The Toronto Argonauts, finally out of the vast emptiness of the old Skydome, haven’t so far found their new digs to their liking, with both their wins coming on the road. Their immediate problem is a recurring conundrum in Canada’s largest city; how to get fans into the stadium. The television numbers are quite good in the GTA, though that interest is yet to translate into turnstile action. As for Montreal, well, slotback Nik Lewis put it best when he took his team to task for their lack of compete in a recent game. The Alouettes are 1-and-2, and are last in the East.
Over in the West, CFL coaching legend Wally Buono is once again walking the sidelines, and his B.C. Lions are perched atop the Division standings with a 3-and-1 record. The CFL Hall of Famer is the winningest coach in league history, and is looking to add a sixth Grey Cup title to his impressive coaching resume. The Western Cats have lost starting halfback TJ Lee for the season due to an Achilles rupture, and that is a major setback for Buono and crew.
The injury occurred in a 40-27 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders. The season is 18 games long, not 4 games, and that’s what diehard fans of Riders keep telling themselves. The Men in Green are winless after 3 games, and lost starting quarterback Darian Durant last week with a left leg injury in that loss against the Lions. Initial reports suggest the injury is not a serious one. Can they win with Mitchell Gale as their pivot? Well, they haven’t won with Durant yet.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers aren’t off to much of a better start, sporting an underwhelming 1-and-3 record after a 20-16 loss to the Eskimos, a game the Bombers could have, should have won. Nonetheless, the feeling in the Manitoba capital is that the team is close to getting things together, and longtime CFL observers are quick to point out that the real litmus test for where a team stands is Labour Day.
With a bye week in a 9-team league, not every club has played the same number of games. Yet a quick glance at the CFL standings reveal, not surprisingly, that Saskatchewan have allowed the most points against. The Red Blacks are lighting up the league, with 129 points scored in 4 games. The Calgary Stampeders have surrendered the least amount of points, giving up only 68 in 3 games. The Lions are on an even stingier pace, having allowed only 73 points against in 4 games.
Who will be representing their respective conferences come November 27th at BMO Field in Toronto? The early favourites would pit the Lions against the Red Blacks, but there’s a lot of football to play before that.
Visit our CFL Schedule to see what games are coming up next!