Football Season is Over...in Canada
by Randy Snow
Originally posted on Yahoo! Voices, Monday, December 5, 2011
The end of the month of November also marked the end of football season in Canada this year. The college football season ended on November 25 with the playing of the Vanier Cup championship game and the Canadian Football League crowned a new Grey Cup champion two days later on November 27.
You may not even be aware of it, but Canada also has a college football season. There are 26 teams across the country and they are governed by Canadian Interuniversity Sport, Canada's equivalent of the NCAA. Since 1965, the Vanier Cup (pronounced van-YAE) has been awarded each year to the best college football team in Canada. It is named after General Georges P. Vanier, who was the Governor General of Canada in the 1960's.
The Canadian college football season consists of eight or nine regular season games and then playoffs. There are four conferences; Canada West, Ontario University Athletics (OUA), Atlantic University Sport (AUS) and RSEQ, the Network of Student Sport of Quebec. They play the same game on the same size field as that of the CFL; a 110-yard field with 20-yard end zones, 12 players on each side and only three downs to make a first down.
This year, the McMaster University Marauders from Hamilton, Ontario won their first ever Vanier Cup by beating the Laval Rouge et Or from Quebec City 41-38 in overtime. Laval was the defending CIS champion. (Rouge et Or is French for Black and Gold, the school's colors) The game was played at B.C. Place Stadium in Vancouver, home of the CFL British Columbia Lions, in front of 24,935 fans.
Two days after the Vanier Cup was played, the CFL held the Grey Cup game at the same venue, this time in front of 54,313 fans. It was the 99th Grey Cup game played since 1909.
The British Columbia Lions hosted the Winnipeg Blue Bomber this year and the Lions came out on top 34-23. It was just the fourth time in Grey Cup history that a team has won the title in its home stadium. The Grey Cup championship game is rotated between the eight CFL cites from year-to-year. This was actually the second time that BC has accomplished this rare feat. They also won a Grey Cup at home in 1994 when they defeated the Baltimore Stallions. The Stallions would become the first and only American based team to ever win a Grey Cup the very next year.
What made this Lions' season so special was the fact that the team started out the season 0-5. A few weeks later they went on an eight-game winning streak that vaulted them into the playoffs and eventually, the championship game.
For the past few years, the NFL Network has been broadcasting select CFL games to fans in the U.S. each week. Some games are aired live while others are tape delayed. The Grey Cup game was available in the U.S. this year on ESPN3 over the Internet.
In early May, the CFL will conduct a college player draft of Canadian football players. Each CFL team's roster is comprised of about half Canadian players, the rest are "imports" signed as free agents from the United States. The CFL regular season kicks off around the first of July.
There is one other Canadian college north of the border, Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. Since 2010, its football team has been playing as a member of the NCAA Division II Great Northwest Athletic Conference. The Clansmen went 0-8 in their first U.S. Division II season and posted a 2-6 record this past season.
Next year's centennial CFL Grey Cup game will be played at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, home of the CFL Toronto Argonauts.
So, while the NFL regular season is winding down and the College Bowl season is fast approaching, the good folks in Canada have already crowned their football champions. They are settling in for another long winter and turning their attention to their national sport, hockey!