Many McGill students I’ve talked to don’t respect the CFL. They see it as a game filled with unskilled players—a joke living in the shadow of the NFL.
Just go to one game and you’ll see that this couldn’t be farther from the truth. I headed to Molson Stadium on Sunday to see the Montreal Alouettes take on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The atmosphere was electric. Every big play was followed by cheers from the crowd of 23,262 vociferous, loudmouthed Quebecers in attendance. A 95-yard kick return by Montreal’s Stefan Logan—the game’s MVP—brought the crowd to a fever pitch. The energy was transcendent throughout the stadium as time wound down. The final score read 35-14 in favour of the Alouettes.
The CFL is a very distinct game in comparison to its American counterpart. It embraces a much faster pace, which leads to more highlight reel plays. With only three downs, a shorter 20-second play clock, and a larger field, offensive coordinators favour throwing the ball over running it. This leads to more long passes—something any football fan will appreciate.
Jesse Briggs, a former Redmen football player and current Winnipeg Blue Bomber, explained what drew him to the CFL.
“[It’s] something that is ours,” he said. “It’s truly Canadian, something that we own.”
There is a certain Canadian blue collar quality to the CFL. The average salary, according to Global News, is around $50,000 a year—a far cry from the NFL. CFL players have even been known to work as police officers in the off-season.
As a result there is less media coverage surrounding the CFL. It’s easier to focus on the on-field action without the distracting WWE-style narratives around deflategate and concussions.
The knock on the CFL is that the players are worse than NFL players. There’s no denying this—NFL players are faster, stronger and more skilled. The Canadian game, however, makes up for this by being more unpredictable and hence exciting. There’s an anything-can-happen mentality that leads to crazy games and Sports Centre moments.
In Sunday’s game, with Bombers’ quarterback Drew Willy injured, back-up Matt Nichols got the start for Winnipeg. It was immediately apparent that he was overmatched as he threw a pick that would have shamed a Pop Warner quarterback.
Injuries hurt a team far more in the CFL than in the NFL, because teams have less depth. This creates absurd and unexpected mismatches week to week. With less certainty comes more excitement and parity. Another wrinkle in the CFL is that after the three-minute warning, the clock stops on every play—20-point leads vanish in the last quarter of games as teams chuck the ball up on every possession.
These quirks make the average CFL game a perfect way to spend your Sunday. So grab some friends, drink a couple cold beers, and embrace some of Montreal’s very own culture—it’s right at your doorstep. Find out for yourself whether or not this game is for you.
Be proud that we can call this game ours: Truly Canadian.
Alouettes games are played just around the corner from the upper residences at Percival-Molson Stadium. Student tickets are anywhere between $24-34.