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CFL - Canadian Football League

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With a unique set of rules, the Canadian Football League (CFL) has given North American gridiron fans an entertaining alternative to the style of football that has been played in the United States. Since being established in the late fifties, the league has been able to maintain a solid foundation in the country.

Early history

The origins of Canadian Football trace back to the middle of the 19th century. Rugby football was played in Canada as far back as 1861. These early games would eventually lead to the style of football that the country is associated with today. Over the next twenty years, the sport gradually developed in Canada. In 1882, the Canadian Rugby Football Union was formed and became a forerunner to the CFL.

Over the first half of the 20th century, several amateur and professional football leagues were established. This would eventually lead to the formation of the Canadian Football League. The league began play in 1958. To begin, the CFL had nine franchises. While professional sports leagues in the United States have been marked by relocations and expansions, the CFL has been relatively stable over the years.

A different kind of football

For fans that are used to watching the NFL and college football, the CFL is quite a different game. A Canadian field is bigger than an American field. A CFL field is 110 yards long and 65 yards wide. Also, each end zone is twice as long as those used in the United States. There are other differences that will be quite apparent to American fans. Instead of 11 players on each side of the ball during game action, the CFL features 12 players. In Canadian football, an offensive team has only three downs to convert a first down. Due to this, there isn't as much rushing in the CFL as there is in American football.

While many scoring elements are similar to American football, there are a couple of differences. In the CFL, a touchdown is worth six points. The extra point rules are basically the same although the line of scrimmage is back at the five-yard line in the CFL. The NFL and CFL rules for field goals and safeties are basically the same. A unique scoring method in the CFL involves plays (other than conversion attempts) that are worth a single point. A "single" in the CFL occurs when the ball becomes dead in the possession of a team in its own goal area after having been kicked from the field of play into the goal area by the scoring team.

Top teams and players

The current CFL consists of two divisions with four teams apiece. The East Division has the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Montreal Alouettes, Toronto Argonauts and Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Over in the West, the British Columbia Lions, Calgary Stampeders, Edmonton Eskimos and Saskatchewan Roughriders compete. All eight of these franchises were originally in the CFL when it was launched in 1958. In 2008, the CFL awarded a ninth franchise to Ottawa. This team is on track to join the league in time for the 2014 season.

The CFL's version of the Super Bowl is the Grey Cup championship game. The Grey Cup actually precedes the CFL. The first title game was played back in 1909. Various college and pro teams competed for the prized trophy before it became tied to the CFL. Since the CFL begins its regular season in July, the Grey Cup is played in November. In the early years of the CFL, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers emerged as the first dominant club with four Grey Cup titles from 1958-62. In the mid-sixties, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats emerged to win three CFL championships.

Before he became a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame for his exploits in the NFL, quarterback Warren Moon made a name for himself in the CFL. In the greatest dynasty in the history of the league, the Edmonton Eskimos won five consecutive Grey Cups from 1978-82. As the quarterback of the Eskimos during the run, Moon won a pair of Grey Cup offensive MVP awards. In the last two Grey Cups, Montreal has defeated Saskatchewan. Another notable American quarterback enjoyed a fine run in the CFL. Former Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie won three Grey Cup MVP trophies in the nineties. He led Calgary to a championship in 1992 before going on to capture consecutive titles with Toronto in 1996-97.

Over the years, some famous coaches have served in the CFL. Before guiding the Minnesota Vikings to four Super Bowl appearances, Bud Grant was the head coach in Winnipeg from 1957-66. Like Grant, Marv Levy is known for reaching the Super Bowl four times without posting a single victory. In the mid-seventies, Levy was the head coach in Montreal.