The fast-paced free agency period is over, and fans can now begin looking forward to training camp and the start of the season.
It has already been an offseason full of excitement and intrigue. In the east, the cellar dweller Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger Cats both improved their rosters through free agency. In the West, Calgary secured their own players while Edmonton, Saskatchewan, and BC shuffled their rosters.
The rapid transactions have created even more anticipation for the upcoming season. There are a few games fan should circle on their calendars for the upcoming season. These are five games that any die-hard fan of the CFL cannot afford to miss:
5. Toronto at Hamilton: Wednesday Jul. 1
While this game may have been a sleeper in past seasons, this year’s installment of the Hamilton-Toronto rivalry could hold some significance. This game, which happens to be the opening game of the season, will give fans a first look at the new look both teams present.
The Tiger Cats went out and strengthened their offensive and defensive lines and secured some of their young stars. Toronto went on a free agent frenzy by adding offensive lineman Rob Murphy and Dominique Picard, linebacker Zeke Moreno and re-signing lead tackler Willie Pile.
This game could be the start of the resurgence of one of these teams. Throw in the fact that Hamilton beat Toronto in three games out of four last year and this Eastern Rivalry will likely be a smashing way to open up the season.
4. Edmonton at Saskatchewan: Saturday Jul. 25
There will be story-lines galore going into Saskatchewan and Edmonton’s first meeting of the season. Always a bitter rivalry, the off-season transactions should make this an even more intense game.
Edmonton Eskimos head coach and Roughriders former defensive coordinator Ritchie Hall will look to make a statement against his former team. Hall won’t be the only former Rider making his return to Saskatchewan. Maurice Lloyd, Scott Gordon and Kitwana Jones were all Roughriders last season. Roughrider’s offensive linemen Joe Mcgrath will also face his former team for the first time.
It is always loud at Taylor Field when Edmonton comes in to town, and with some hard feelings felt at the former players, this Western Showdown should live up to its billing.
3. Calgary at BC: Fri Jul. 24
It always seems to an exciting affair when the Calgary Stampeders meet up with the BC Lions. This growing rivalry should provide another excellent game when the Stampeders travel into BC. Calgarydelivered a number of blows to the Lions last season. They swept the three game series against BC and defeated them in the Western Final. Their win over the Lions in the last game of the season took away home-field advantage from the team.
It will be interesting to see how the new look Lions will fare against the high-powered Stampeders offense. Henry Burris, Joffrey Reynolds, and Kenyon Rambo should provide a challenge for the Lions defense and Mike Labinjo and the improved Stampeders defense will look to shut down the BC offense.
BC may in fact be underdogs going into the game, as they will be without Defensive Player of the Year Cameron Wake, linebackers Jamall Johnson and Otis Floyd, running back Stefan Logan, and offensive lineman Rob Murphy. Yet it the history has told us anything, the underdog sometimes comes out on top.
2. Winnipeg at Saskatchewan: Sun Sep. 6
The Labour Day game between Winnipeg and Saskatchewanis always a classic. The game brings together two of the most loyal fan bases in the CFL for an intense atmosphere. Fans can expect a tough physical game, especially since Winnipeghas not likely forgotten their Grey Cup loss to the Riders in 2007.
The Bombers are definitely a new look team with new head coach Mike Kelley, quarterback Stefan Lefors, and a somewhat depleted offensive line. Saskatchewan is also a different team. Linebackers Anton Mackenzie and Maurice Lloyd have departed and the Rider will field a younger roster.
If you won’t be at the game, be sure to tune into another classic installment in the Saskatchewan-Winnipeg rivalry. The Labour Day game can give a team a push to the postseason, and this game could be the crucial.
1. Calgary at Montreal: Mon Oct. 12
It won’t be the first meeting between these two teams, but this game could prove to be one of the most exciting games of the year. In a Grey Cup rematch, Calgary will travel to the Montreal, the place where they beat Montreal to win the cup last season.
Anthony Calvillo has returned to the Alouttes, perhaps for one more Grey Cup run whereas as the Stamps will look to repeat. Both teams should be ripe with emotion, looking to make a statement. The game also comes near the end of the season, and playoff spots could be on the line. Winning this game could do a lot for both teams’ egos.
So if you are working, traveling abroad, or feeling like spending some time outside, cancel your plans. These upcoming games should prove to be exciting affairs and definitely worth your time.