Go North NFL?

COVID-19 may be claiming yet another alternative football league. The Canadian Football League (CFL) is requesting up 150 million dollars. Per The Canadian Press: “The proposal included $30 million immediately, additional funds if there’s a pro-rated campaign and the potential of $120 million more if the league was forced to cancel the entire 2020 season.”   

So, let’s assume that the Canadian Government doesn’t give the CFL the funding they request and this tragically leads to the downfall of the CFL, what comes next? I think international teams for the National Football League (NFL) would make sense. Let’s say the NFL adds two Canadian divisions (one for the AFC, one for the NFC).

For the first expansion, city let’s choose Toronto and place them in a brand new venue. The Argonauts have been around since 1873 (that is four years younger than American Football itself). What about the NFL in Toronto? There have been three CFL-NFL interleague games, six preseason and six regular-season games (including the Buffalo Bills Toronto Series) played in the city. The Toronto Rifles played in the Continental Football League from 1965-1967 and was going to host the World Football League’s Toronto Northmen in 1974 (the proposed Canadian Football Act forced the team to move out of the country) but that never came to fruition due to legal reasons. Add in the Argonauts history that dates back to 1873 and the city of Toronto would be a shoo-in for an NFL team.

The Continental Football League had another Canada-based team in the Montreal Beavers who played in 1966 and 1967. Montreal was given an inaugural team in the World League of American Football with the Machine, but that team only lasted from 1991 to 1992. The city has Montreal Stadium to hold the team until a more suitable could be built. Add in the rich history of the Alouettes and you have a safe and smart choice for NFL expansion.

 I think Quebec City, Quebec would be a good host city for a team. The city hosted the insanely popular Nordiques who played from 1972-1995 (1972-1979 they played in the World Hockey Association and 1979-1995 in the National Hockey League or NHL). Though the city hasn’t had a pro sports team since the Nordiques relocation, the city has shown it is readiness for pro sports as the Quebec province paid $185,000,000 to help build the Videotron Centre (which is looking to try to help get an NHL team back in the area). There is no venue that would be worthy of being called a “temporary NFL stadium,” in Quebec, so the expansion team will need to have a new venue built from scratch. 

Calgary is yet another city that could be home a CFL team (this was my producer, Harry Bob’s suggestion so thanks). The city has hosted the CFL’s Stampeders since 1945 as the team has brought home eight Grey Cups. Calgary has also hosted the NHL’s Flames since they relocated from Atlanta before the 1983 season. The city currently has an interesting stadium situation. The Stampeders currently play in 35,400 sitting McMahon Stadium alongside the Calgary Colts of the Canadian Junior Football League (CJFL) and the Calgary Dinos of U Sports (which is Canada’s equivalent of the NCAA). McMahon Stadium is currently owned by the University of Calgary. Even if the NFL can convince the stadium owners to allow the team to play there, how will the field be converted from CFL to NFL dimensions? If that’s not possible maybe the NFL could pitch to front the money for a new area to replace the ageing Saddledome and exchange for the public footing half the bill of a part of the new NFL stadium. This city will be a bit of work but it would definitely be worth it.

Another major Canadian city that currently has a CFL and could host an NFL team is Vancouver. The city has been home to the BC Lions since 1954 and would create a natural rivalry with the nearby Seattle Seahawks. Imagine an opening day where Vancouver hosts Seattle and the interest that would drum up. With the well-sized BC Place as a possible starter venue, the team would have one less hurdle to worry about while getting off the ground. Even though the team would be branded as Vancouver it still would pull in fans from all over British Columbia

Winnipeg is yet another city that I think can easily support an NFL team. The city already is home to the Jets of the NHL and have hosted the Blue Bombers since 1930. Winnipeg currently plays at IG field which seats 30,000 strong. This would make for a great temporary venue until a new one is built of the NFL can convert the field from Canadian Football proportions to those of the NFL due to the Winnipeg Rifles of CJFL and Manitoba Bisons of U sports still playing there. IG field is also inhabited by the Canadian Premier League’s Valour FC so converting the field may be a bit of a hassle. Unlike in Calgary, the stadium is not owned by a college but rather Triple B Stadium Inc. If the NFL throws enough money at the venue owners it shouldn’t be an issue considering how persuasive the almighty dollar can be. If the NFL can then build a new stadium I don’t see why the NFL would fail in Winnipeg. 

Regina, Saskatchewan is another great location for an NFL team. Regina has hosted the Roughriders since 1910. Like Winnipeg, the current home of the Roughriders would be a good temporary venue until a new one is built as Mosaic Stadium only seats up to 40,000. The venue is home to a CJFL, U Sports, Western Women’s Canadian Football League and various high school teams. It might be better for the NFL to just ignore Mosaic Stadium altogether and build a new one from scratch. The Roughriders are immensely popular (the third most popular sports team in the nation per a 2009 ESPN article) so there is no excuse to not have a team in the city.

If you want to establish dominance in a new market (or country in this case) you need to go for the capitol, so Ottawa is a clear choice for a Canadian NFL team location. The Redblacks have played in town since 2014 (a previous franchise played in Ottawa from 1908 to 1996 as the Rough Riders and a team called the Renegades played from 2002-2005). The NFL team will need a new venue from day one, as the 112-year-old TD Place Stadium is too old and only holds 24,000 people. With the rich history of Canadian football in the city, the NFL would be foolish not to put a team there.