If the CFL Went Back to America...

Steve ThompsonAnalyst IIIApril 28, 2009

TORONTO - NOVEMBER 25:  James Johnson #19 of the Saskatchewan Rough Riders jumps over a fallen Ryan Dinwiddie #4 after his interception to score a touchdown to tie the game 7-7 against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers during the second quarter of the 95th Grey Cup on November 25, 2007 at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  Johnson would be the MVP in a 23-19 Rough Rider win.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Reading today about Winnipeg building a new stadium reminded me about my first Bleacher article, my only CFL article, about CFL expansion in Canada. 

If only the good news from Winnipeg was continued in the cities of Quebec, London, Kitchener, Oshawa, Windsor, Halifax, and Victoria then the CFL could finally expand from the eight or nine team base it has had since the 1950's. 

But, because no other Canadian city has made an effort to find investors or build a proper CFL size stadium, maybe expansion has to come elsewhere...a return to America.

In fact, that has been the only rumble for expansion on the CFL front recently.  The ending of NFL Europe and the status of arena football has prompted some Americans to wish for the CFL's return.

I think the CFL should stick to expansion in Canada, but since no Canadian city outside the CFL seems active in getting an expansion team, for this fantasy article let's expand the CFL to the United States once more.

Before giving my choices, I've made some assumptions and rules.


1.  Ottawa is back in the CFL in the Eastern Conference.

2.  Winnipeg has been shifted back to the West.

3.  The ridiculous assumption that each American city has a proper CFL size stadium.

4.  The CFL will expand to 16 teams with three new American teams in the west and four new franchises in the east.

The CFL failed badly when it tried American expansion in the 1990's, so I'm setting some rules to correct some of the mistakes and hope for better fortune this time.


1.  No franchises in cities with NFL teams (with one exception).

2.  No cities too far from the Canadian border (with one exception) so that their fans  may have seen CFL games on Canadian TV and/or...

3.  Cities that have some ties to Canada in sports either currently or in the past.

The CFL should project itself as a big league with a game that has fan friendly prices that are cheaper than the NFL, NBA, MLB, and the NHL so...

4.  No arrogant price gouging like the current Buffalo Bills games in Toronto where only rich people can afford them and...

5.  Games shown locally on non cable/satellite channels. 

This sounds absurd considering that the CFL is now exclusively broadcast in Canada on TSN, but, if they want the game to grow in the United States, local fans have to be able to see games for free on regular television.


One of the cities that has been mentioned for expansion is Detroit, based on the assumption that the Lions are always going to be as inept as they currently are. 

This is one city I would NOT pick. 

Instead, I would tell any Detroit bidder to build a stadium across the river and call the franchise Windsor.  Then I would tell them to market the team on both sides of the Detroit river. 

So now for my choices. 

All of them are big risks, but this is only a fantasy anyway. 

I have to pick three for the west and four for the east.  In no particular order...


1.  Baltimore

This is the one exception I would make to my close to Canada, no-NFL city rules. 

Baltimore was the one franchise from the earlier expansion where everything went right for the CFL.  The league still has friends and fans there. 

They won't outdraw the Ravens or oust them as the number one football team, but cheaper tickets, a more fan friendly atmosphere, and the chance to host the Grey Cup should bring in enough fans to make the franchise profitable.

2.  Hartford

They were once members of the NHL, and the mayor has publicly wanted the Whalers back within five years as part of a revitalization project. 

It is unlikely that the NFL will put another team in New England to compete with the Patriots, so why not give the region's second largest city that had ties to the Canadian game of hockey a CFL team too.

3 & 4.   Syracuse and Rochester

These regions are next door to each other with Rochester having over one million people and Syracuse over 700,000. 

It is very curious that these regions never get mentioned when expansion or relocation are discussed by any of the "big four" sports leagues. 

The only top level sports team is lacrosse based in Rochester. 

Also, if the CFL wants to get revenge on Ralph Wilson for trying to muscle in on the Toronto market, they couldn't pick a more delicate spot to counter attack.


5.  Portland

This is a bit of a risk because they would have a good chance of getting an NFL franchise should the NFL want to schedule expansion meetings to get Los Angeles and another team into the league. 

But Portland would also face tough competition from Las Vegas, Toronto, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Birmingham, and Salt Lake City...so it would be no certain thing for them to get an NFL team. 

And Portland has ties to Canada because its junior hockey team competes in the CHL.

6.  Spokane

Like Portland, Spokane also fields a team in the CHL.  This city of approximately 600,000 is over 200 miles from Seattle, so it is virtually an isolated market in the state of Washington. 

7.  Boise

Boise has no ties to Canada sport wise except that it is close to the Canadian border. 

But, like Spokane, it has nearly 600,000 people and is not near any other major league sports city.

So there are my fantasy choices. 

Let's have some feedback. 

Canadians, would you like American teams back in the CFL? 

Americans from these cities, would you like to get a CFL franchise? 

And Americans from other regions, would you like a CFL team?


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