Canadian Football and American Football have their origins in the same place. Basically, they are derived from rugby, which was played by British regiments stationed in Montreal in the mid-19th century. The rules evolved, varying from one association, club or location to another.
Eventually, both footballs took directions that reflected their respective countries. American Football quickly became so distinctive that it was unrecognizable.
The Canadian version remained closer to the British version and then moved closer to the American version. It managed to keep its distinction, even if its gigantic neighbour’s version overshadowed it.
🍁 Football in Canada
After the NFL, the Canadian Football League is the second largest professional league in the world.
Canada is best known as the home of ice hockey. But it also has a rich history of American Football, or rather Canadian Football as it is known there, because of the differences with the sport played in the United States.
A Brief History of Canadian Football
The origin of Canadian Football goes back to the 19th century, around 1870, when students from McGill University played against the British military personnel stationed at the Montreal garrison. They played a form of hybrid rugby (rugby-football, a term that is engraved on the Grey Cup), which quickly spread.
Various leagues were then formed in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia. And in 1909, the Grey Cup was created. This is the trophy that is still awarded today to the winning team of the championship.
The adoption of the forward pass in 1931 marked the final break with rugby. From then on, Canadian Football definitively accepted the influence of its neighbour, towards which it had already evolved for a long time. However, it did not abandon its particularities.
The main effect of all these changes was the tacit establishment of two teams within the team: the attacking players and the defending players, who were on the field according to the phase of the game.
Today, nine franchises, divided into two divisions, East and West, compete for the Grey Cup, which has been organized by the Canadian Football League since 1966.
The Canadian Football League (CFL) was created in 1958 when it was decided to unite all professional teams in one league. Approximately four million viewers in Canada watched the 2019 championship final.
Attempting to expand
In the early 1990s, the CFL, then in financial difficulties, opened up to American teams. Several franchises were created, but the desire to expand into the United States did not take. After only three years of experience (1993 to 1995), the league reverted to being exclusively Canadian. During this short period, the Baltimore Stallions won the championship trophy before moving to Montreal for the rebirth of the Alouettes in 1996.
Football in Ontario
Ontario is one of the most eventful regions in the world of American Football. So you could say Toronto is one of the tournament capitals of the world in this sport. The NFL has their tournaments in this city on a regular basis. Since the mid-20th century, the American and Canadian leagues compete in Toronto, and there are even intentions to create an NFL franchise in Toronto.
Speaking of purely local Otnatrio leagues, the following can be mentioned:
- National Capital Amateur Football Association
- Ontario Fall Football League
- Ontario Summer Football League
- Ontario Community Flag Football League
- Central Canadian Women’s Football League
Leagues and Associations
Canada is a huge country, but it has very few large cities and, as a result, not many Football teams. Currently, there are nine teams, divided into two conferences. The Toronto Argonauts are the pioneers in this league, founded in 1873. Conversely, the Ottawa Redblacks only came into existence in 2014.
The other seven franchises are the Montreal Alouettes, the British Columbia Lions (based in Vancouver), the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Edmonton Elks. The latter were long called Edmonton Eskimos but changed their name last year due to the controversy surrounding the word “Eskimo,” now considered racist towards Inuit.
American Football in Canada is a sport with a variety of leagues of different levels and classes. Here are the most famous.
Professional Football League:
🏈 Canadian Football League (CFL) is a major tournament held in Canada.
Semi-professional leagues include the following:
🏈 Northern Football Conference – A summer league with 8 teams. The tournament is based in Ontario.
🏈 Alberta Football League – Amateur semi-professional league, also held in summer.
🏈 Maritime Football League – a league that is based in the Maritime Provinces of Canada and runs for 3 months during the summer.
Collegiate and amateur leagues:
🏈 U Sports is the governing body that includes most universities in the country and is responsible for university sports.
🏈 Canada Quebec Junior Football League: A competition between junior players. It is held in Quebec.
🏈 Canada Canadian Junior Football League is a major junior tournament held in six provinces. There are 18 teams that take part in these tournaments.
🏈 Atlantic Football League: A four-team amateur competition.
🏈 Women’s Football Alliance is a professional and one of the largest women’s Football leagues.
Minor outdoor leagues:
🏈 American Football Conference, United Football League, North Pacific Football League, Continental Football League, and World League of American Football are minor outdoor leagues in which Canada participates.
Rules of the Game
A Canadian Football game is played between two teams. The goal of the attacking team is to get the ball into the end zone (the goal). The defending team’s goal is to stop the attacking team from carrying the ball into the end zone, and if possible, to intercept it. Each team should score the most points to win.
What you need to know in brief:
- Each team has 11 players on the field.
- The average player is 1.87 m tall and weighs 246 pounds!
- There are approximately 5-7 referees on the field.
- There are several coaches on the same team.
- Each team is divided into two teams: offence and defence.
- The offence consists of the following players: a quarterback, ball carriers, wideouts, tight ends and five offensive linemen.
- The defence consists of the following players: defensive linemen, linebackers and defensive backs.
- Touchdowns are the highest-scoring play, worth 6 points.
- The attacking team is allowed four attempts to cover 9.1 metres. If they succeed, they get three more attempts to cover that distance again. The goal is to get to the end zone.
Differences from the NFL
A few details distinguish the CFL from the NFL. In Canada, the field is 110 yards (100.5 meters) long, compared to 100 yards in the NFL. It is also wider. The goalposts are located at the entrance to the end zone (as in rugby), whereas in the U.S., they are at the very end of the field.
A squad, offensive or defensive, consists of 12 players, one more than in the NFL. There are no tight ends in the CFL, but two players called slotbacks. These are two extra receivers who are positioned behind the offensive line before each play. On defence, there are not four defensive backs, as in the NFL, but five. While in the USA, an attacking team is allowed four attempts to gain 10 yards, they only have three in Canada. In a regular season, each CFL team plays 18 games.
Finally, there is a point system that the NFL does not have: a Canadian team can score a point on an action that involves a punt. If a field goal is missed, but the ball enters the end zone, the team scores. If again the ball lands in the end zone on a punt, or if the receiving team does not get out of the end zone, a point goes to the kicking team.