The Atlantic Schooners is Long Overdue for CFL Expansion

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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:

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.

16 COMMENTS

  1. I think putting a team in Truro, NS would make the most sense. It would appeal to both Moncton and Halifax. People from Moncton would travel less than 2 hours and people from Halifax roughly an hour. Based on that, there would be limitations on weekend home game dates only as having a Friday night game at 7:30pm wouldnt work for some fans who need to commute 2 hours. Both cities collectively have over 500,00 people right now. Halifax will have 470,000 people in 2021 and Moncton I assume will have around 180,000 people in 2021. That is 650,000 people not including other pockets of towns that make it an overall market of 700,000 people that are within a 2 hour drive of a stadium in Truro in 2021.

  2. I think the OSEG in Ottawa has demonstrated the economic potential of a public private partnership that can develop strong business infrastructure together with a stadium. This business model should be used as an example for other cities like Halifax, Quebec City and even London. It was exciting to watch the Ottawa RedBlacks success story! There’s so much room for the CFL to grow, so hopefully Commissioner Orridge is committed to selling and expanding the League.

  3. Maybe the Atlantic Region could have a team between different cities. Think about it, the CFL plays 9 home games what if 3 were in Halifax, 3 in Moncton and 3 in Charlottetown (or somewhere else)? Or they could do 4 in Moncton, 5 in Halifax or vice versa. The only impediment to CFL expansion is that Halifax lacks the stadium and to fix that, like Moncton, the city will need to host a big event (Moncton’s stadium was built for an IIAF Track and Field championship) so that they can get federal government funding. No matter, I think a team split between Halifax and Moncton makes the most sense as it seems a more sustainable model as a CFL culture really needs to develop here in the Maritimes.

    • We are on the South Shore of NS and can only think that Truro is as neutral as any location.
      We can easily get hung up on on which city may claim the team but we must think in in better terms and land it in neutral territory.
      Mary and I are in Ottawa this Nov. and would love to join the Schooner support group.
      One team ,one stadium.
      How do the “Green Riders” make a regional team work so well?

  4. Hamilton not being a big market team? Maybe you should look at fan support in the CFL see Hamilton is much higher then Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa. Blame the marketing not the teams representing. Would more fans have traveled from Ottawa and Montreal to watch? Maybe but that’s geographical nothing to do with fan support. The steel city is one of the greatest franchises in the CFL. Blame the marketing or the lack of interest not a CFL team for their lack of support.

  5. The CFL never looks at Saskatoon, North Dakota, Montana and Idaho or Spokan. Five teams all at once, look at the jerks in Toronto and Vancouver, they don’t even support the teams.

  6. Canadian Football League (CFL)

    East Division
    Atlantic Schooners – Halifax
    Moncton Blue Angels
    Montreal Alouettes
    Quebec City Nordiques or Citadelles

    Central Division
    Hamilton Tiger-Cats
    London Lords
    Ottawa Redblacks
    Toronto Argonauts
    Windsor Royals Winnipeg Blue Bombers

    West Division
    British Columbia Lions
    Calgary Stampeders
    Edmonton Eskimos
    Saskatchewan Roughriders
    Saskatoon Huskies
    Victoria Cougars

    Expansion: Charlottetown and St. John’s.

  7. 16 team cfl your funny buddy . At 51 years old and fat I could probably get a job in that league, probable I’d make less than my factory job

  8. Quebec City Paladins and Atlantic(Halifax) Celtics has a good ring to it! These are the top two teams for expansion. As a maybe I’d say London Crusaders and Kelowna (BC)Grizzlies.

  9. A few things:

    The CFL was NOT in a lull in the early 80’s. That was the tail end of what is arguably the CFL golden years, which is why so much of the CFL fan base is in their golden years now, it was the 1990’s that saw record low attendance, southern expansion and TV blackouts.

    1.8 million people sure, but it isn’t as though Charlottetown is a 30 minute drive to Halifax. Quebec City and even London are WAY more centralized.

    You didn’t consider travel costs. How many hundreds of thousands of dollars extra would it cost to fly all the way out there? I could see B.C or the Alberta teams complaining just because of that.

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