As CFL fans from many of Canada’s largest cities are amping up for the 2016 CFL regular season, we can’t help but notice the major areas that are currently unrepresented. The case for CFL expansion is not a new one—it’s discussed regularly, with fans waiting for the big move from the league’s top brass.
Why is it such a hot topic? For one, fans crave balance, and a nine-team league isn’t cutting it for many. Adding another team to the East Division would bring about a more balanced schedule and a fairer, more logical post-season format.
LWOS conducted a poll this weekend that asked readers to choose the best of four possible expansion cities. The results are as follows:
Today’s #CFL question:
Which makes most sense for expansion?
— Last Word On CFL (@LastWordOnCFL) June 5, 2016
Halifax (or if not, Moncton or Fredericton) is mentioned often as a possible destination for a new CFL franchise. One comment in particular caught our attention, and we asked Eric Watkins to articulate his reasoning for choosing Halifax in the poll. Here is his reply:
First off, let me say that even though I’ve grown up in Florida, I’m proud to say I’ve been a CFL fan since 2003. I’ve seen the ill-fated Ottawa Redblacks come and go, the first Grey Cup to go to overtime since 1961, and the struggles and greatness of Anthony Calvillo as his career drew to a close.
However, in all the things I have seen, there’s one thing that I haven’t seen from the Canadian Football League, and I think it would be a perfect time to fix that: a team in the Maritimes.
Granted, the CFL has worked perfectly with eight teams for long stretches of time, and is doing even better now that football is back in the nation’s capital and there are nine. But, the league put itself in perfect position for a 10th. I’ve seen the possibilities thrown out for the coveted franchise, but none of the others like London (because that would ruin the Battle of Ontario) or Quebec City (because Montreal would have none of it) really work out. What would? Why not a place like Halifax?
One would argue about the facilities. To that, I say to look at the investments into BC Place (and the temporary field they built while BC Place was under construction—the CFL could easily start there and grow with existing infrastructure) and converting BMO Field for the Argos. The cost would be fairly minimal, and the improvements could even benefit Halifax for when they host their Gaelic games (more seats=bigger potential crowds), or even speed up a decision on what to do with the old Huskies Stadium whose grandstand was demolished—imagine how much St. Mary’s could benefit for their football games and track and field events.
One could argue the crowds. Well, look at attendance for Touchdown Atlantic games in the past. If a stadium can hold 20,000, folks have proven they will travel from places like PEI or New Brunswick to come to the game and create a sellout (a la 2010). Yes, Hamilton being the home team didn’t always lead to a sellout, and that will happen with any league. But, bring in the big market teams like Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa, and that’s money in the bank.
One could also argue the spirit. Well, for that, look at CIS football, specifically AUS. St. Mary’s reached the Loney Bowl four straight years from 2010-13, and were one win away from playing for the Vanier Cup every year from 2007-10. Does that not mean that there could be talent hidden throughout Halifax and the rest of the Maritimes? Also, imagine what having a team of their own could do with all of the local talent. One more team means more than 30 opportunities for someone from a school like St. Mary’s or Mount Allison to make a CFL roster (note, last year 12 Huskies alone suited up for a CFL team).
One could argue overall logistics. I get that it would take a lot to build a CFL stadium from scratch or close to it, despite the fact that it’s been done before several times over the past few years. But with the growth and good times of the league thanks to a fresh CBA and scheduling with games, it hasn’t been much of a problem at all. Could the province of Quebec really handle two teams without the Alouettes getting in the way of infringement? Would putting a team in a place like London strengthen the CFL in Ontario when currently a third of the league calls that province home? Why not put a team where there both isn’t one and hasn’t ever been one?
Nova Scotia and New Brunswick could easily jump on board (and I think for mutual interest, PEI could hop on the train as well), and could come to a tri-provincial meeting of the minds so more than 1.8 million people have easier access to a game they love even by watching on television. Think about that: 1.8 million. That’s more than you’d get from Quebec City (806,000 in the Metro) and London (475,000 Metro) combined. No legal fight from an existing team, as long as 5-10 years to get a stadium site together, no having to shift around divisions because the league sorted that out ahead of time, and a convenient name to start with: the Schooners.
I read about the history of the Atlantic Schooners and how they failed to get off the ground in the early ’80s, but the league as a whole was struggling, and it wouldn’t be terribly long after that the Ottawa Rough Riders would disappear. The league is stronger, there’s more eyes on it, and more talent coming in on an annual basis. So why not now, of all times, bring back the idea of the Atlantic or Maritime Schooners? Yes, Maritime, so all three provinces can unite in support. (If you want to keep it Atlantic and count Newfoundland and Labrador, that’s another argument altogether.)
They’re included in hockey, soccer, and pretty much any other sport that Canada has to offer without batting an eye, so why not bring a beautiful area of the country to more of a national sporting stage instead of leaving them behind?
#RememberTheMaritimes #EastCoast #BringBackTheSchooners
We thank Eric for participating in our poll, and more importantly for sharing his passionate views.