Stimulus To CFL Expansion #1: Become More Canadian

Steve ThompsonAnalyst IIISeptember 18, 2009

The CFL has been talking about expanding the league in Canada from its 8-9 team limit since before I was born.  This is the first in a series of articles about some possible actions it can take to make Canadian expansion a reality.

The main obstacles to CFL expansion in Canada are lack of stadiums and investors who believe in the league.

In past articles, I've also listed that the three best cities for immediate expansion, based on population alone, are Quebec, London, and Kitchener.

As been shown by this summer's Jim Balsillie-Hamilton episode, Canadians are excited about NHL Canadian expansion, not CFL expansion.  Why?

One of the reasons is that the CFL lacks enough Canadian "roots", like hockey.

In Canada, kids can start playing organized hockey when they are still in their single digits.  They can play every position and the most talented of them are nurtured as future stars for the NHL. They are treasured as valued commodities.

This is not true for the CFL. For this article I'm going to zoom in on the most glaring symbol of what the CFL lacks, that extinct CFL species, the Canadian quarterback which has been a distant memory along with Russ Jackson and the 1960's.

As all followers of the CFL know, each team is made up of import and non-import players.  But Canadians usually play the "non-glamorous" positions like offensive lineman, or are secondary pass receivers.

Jesse Lumsden is a rare commodity, a star Canadian running back. 

Even worse is the extinct Canadian quarterback.

Look at the difference between hockey and football.  In hockey, at the junior level, Canadians play every position and are drafted for future stardom at their positions by the NHL.

At the Canadian university level, any boy playing quarterback can forget about a career in the CFL at that position.  If he is drafted, he has to switch to a new position. All the training that has gone into developing quarterback skills is wasted. It is just assumed that a Canadian playing quarterback is inferior to an American one.

Now let's look at the expansion problem. As noted above, the three best Canadian cities for immediate expansion are Quebec, London, and Kitchener, and all three have some of the best university football programs in Canada, at Laval, Western, and Laurier respectively.

In all three cities, the usual two expansion problems are present; lack of interested investors, and no CFL-size stadium to play in.

But let's suppose that all three starting quarterbacks from Laval, Western, and Laurier get drafted and become star players at that position in the CFL.  Don't you think that interest in those cities and elsewhere is going to increase?  People will begin to talk CFL, not NHL.  Investors might take notice.

I wrote in a previous article that investors, Balsillie and Quebecor are interested in getting an NHL team, upgrading Copps Colosseum and building a new arena in Quebec.  They never consider the CFL which would welcome them with open arms if they chose to make a commitment to it.

So one way of increasing interest in the CFL is to open all positions in the league to Canadians.  The CFL has got to figure out a way of giving Canadian quarterbacks a chance to play at that position.

I'm not suggesting making a Canadian the starting quarterback for the sake of doing it.  They have to earn the position the same as anyone else.

But under the present conditions, they have no chance, and in light of some of the pitiful quarterbacking in the CFL this year (particularly in Winnipeg), surely a top Canadian quarterback at the Canadian university level deserves a chance to prove himself.

The CFL and its teams have to take off their blinkers.

There would be a delicious irony if a Canadian university quarterback, undrafted at that position by the CFL,was drafted by an NFL team and led them to the Superbowl.  It would serve the CFL right.