Get Ready for Another Great Season of Canadian Football

Getty Images: Tom Szczerbowski / Stringer

Get Ready for Another Great Season of Canadian Football

On Monday May 20, the Canadian Football League will begin their 2024 season with the Saskatchewan Roughriders hosting the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in an exhibition game in Regina. On Thursday June 6, the regular season begins featuring a Grey Cup rematch! The defending champion Montreal Alouettes will visit the Blue Bombers to kick off the new season in style. The Alouettes were surprise 28 to 24 winners in the 110th Grey Cup on November 19, 2023 and they look to prove that the victory was no fluke! After winning back- to-back Grey Cups in 2019 and 2021 (there was no season in 2020 due to the covid pandemic), the Blue Bombers have lost the past 2 Grey Cups in agonizing fashion in the final minute. Last year, Montreal scored a touchdown with 13 seconds left in the game (and the year before Winnipeg had a possible game-winning field goal blocked on the last play of the game by Toronto Argo/former Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawk Robbie Smith). Thus, you can be sure they’ll be looking for revenge!

The first Grey Cup was in 1909. The University of Toronto Varsity Blues beat the Toronto Parkdale Canoe Club 26 to 6 at Rosedale Field in Toronto in front of 3800 fans. However, 1909 can’t be considered the genesis of football in Canada. Its true origins extend 36 years earlier. The first attempt to establish a proper governing body and adopt a valid set of rugby rules was the Canadian Football Association organized on March 24, 1873, followed by the Canadian Rugby Football Union (CRFU) founded on June 12, 1880, which included teams from Ontario and Quebec. In Canada, football is played at several levels. The highest level is the nine-team professional league known as the Canadian Football League (CFL). The teams in the league are the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, the Saskatchewan Roughriders, the Calgary Stampeders, the Edmonton Elks, the British Columbia Lions, the Toronto Argonauts, the Montreal Alouettes, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and the Ottawa Redblacks. For a number of years, there has been talk of adding a tenth team in the Maritimes, most notably in Halifax. The CFL regular season begins in June of each year. Teams play 18 regular season games and 6 teams qualify for the playoffs. The Grey Cup always occurs near the end of November. At the university level, 27 schools in Canada compete to win the Yates Cup, a trophy that is even older than the Grey Cup.

The Toronto Argonauts have won the most Grey Cups. In fact, they have an amazing record once advancing to the championship game. They are 18-6 in Grey Cup matches. Their most recent win was in 2022. Ranking 2nd in terms of Grey Cup victories is the Edmonton Elks. In the past couple of years, they haven’t won too many games, although last year they did improve once Canadian QB Tre Ford got to start some games. The Elks, formerly known as the Eskimos, have 14 Grey Cup victories in their 23 appearances in the championship match. The team with the fewest Grey Cup victories is the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Although they have played in 19 Grey Cups (which is more than Ottawa, Calgary, and BC), their record is only 4-15. Their last Grey Cup victory was in 2013.

Considered by many to be an inferior product to American football, I believe that it is still quite an exciting game. Maybe it’s because of my involvement with university football (I do scouting and recruiting for Wilfrid Laurier University), I really enjoy watching CFL games. On game day, teams dress 45 players including 3 quarterbacks, one global player, 21 Canadians, and 20 Americans. 8 of a team’s 24 starters must be Canadians. That means 16 Americans will likely be starting for most teams. I think the game would actually be improved if the roster compositions were changed favouring having MORE Canadian players on each roster. I know the reason that I attend games is to see outstanding Canadian players that I am familiar with from watching play at schools such as Laurier, Western, Laval, or some other Canadian university. I would much rather see a player I know that some less known guy from Middle Tennessee State or Idaho. If you haven’t watched a CFL game lately, I encourage you to do so, there is some amazing talent in the league.

On Tuesday, April 30, the CFL will hold their annual draft. The draft lasts 7 rounds and features Canadian-born players. Some of the players played their university ball in Canada, while others played in the USA. This year, the highest ranked player in the draft is a quarterback from Oakville named Kurtis Rourke who played at Ohio University. He starred there just like his older brother Nathan did before him. Nathan then went on to have one outstanding season with the BC Lions before signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He’s now with the New England Patriots. I watched both the Rourkes play high school football and I can attest that they are exceptional players. Another player in the top 5 is former WLU offensive linemen Isaiah Adams. His career started with the Golden Hawks, but after the covid pandemic disrupted his career in Canada, he ended up at the University of Illinois where he had quite an impressive career. A 3rd player that I think will end up having a great pro career is a running back out of Hamilton named Michael-Chris Ike. He went to Delaware State University. Playing high school football for St. Thomas More in Hamilton, I saw him rush for over 2000 yards in four playoff games in his senior year of high school. Yes, that’s right, over 2000 yards in only 4 games (against very good teams).

Dave Morrissey

Dave is an accomplished economics instructor with over two decades of experience in the prestigious International Baccalaureate program. His students have consistently ranked in the top 10% annually, and one year they achieved the highest overall class average in the world. This outstanding achievement led a UK publisher to request that he write a textbook, an offer he declined in favor of creating sports quizzes, which he found more engaging.

In addition to his teaching career, Dave is also a former high school football coach, having won a couple of local championships. While he wishes he had won more, he continues to be deeply involved in football as a scout, recruiter, and social media creator for a university football team.

Dave's passions extend beyond the classroom and football field. He is an avid fan of live music and international travel, often combining these interests. He has traveled to Spain, England, Iceland, and Chile to see bands perform. His greatest pride and joy is his daughter, who has recently excelled in powerlifting. In just a few years, she has become the Canadian record holder for the bench press in her weight class and finished second overall in the combined national event (bench, deadlift, and squat) in Moose Jaw in March 2024. She will be representing Canada at the World Bench Competition in Austin, Texas, in May 2024.

A die-hard fan of the Las Vegas Raiders, Dave has experienced his share of sports heartache, having seen them play in seven NFL cities with six losses. His all-time favorite athlete is Don Mattingly, reflecting his deep love for sports that spans many arenas.