By Rob Ficiur
The 2014 CFL season was marred by quarterback injuries. Only the Ottawa Redblacks Henry Burris started all eighteen games for his team. The injuries seemed to get the season off to a slow start – but by last week’s Grey Cup there were many positives for CFL fans to remember.
1. West was way best – When I wrote my August 19 sports column the last place team in the West (Winnipeg) had more points than the first place team in the East. By season’s end the law of averages leveled off the standings. The fifth place team in the West (still Winnipeg) would have finished fourth in the East. The top three teams (Calgary, Edmonton and Saskatchewan) were in the West – but the next three had two from the East and one from the west with 18 points – only one behind Saskatchewan. The Tiger Cats got better had an impressive 7-2 second half of the season. West was still best – but not by as much.
2. Back In Ottawa
Ottawa Rough Riders – Renegades – sorry Red Blacks played their first season in their brand new TD Place Stadium. Their on field record was a dismal 2-16; but the team is in Ottawa to stay…right? This is the 42nd year I have followed the CFL, and for the first time since 2005 we have the “normal” allotment of nine CFL teams. In the past 42 years the league has varied in size. From 1993-1995 the American expansion of the league brought the number of teams to a record 14 teams. Other than that blip – the CFL has operated with eight teams for 19 years since the Montreal Alouettes folded in 1987. The nine team league seems normal to long-time fans – with a new stadium and ownership in Ottawa hopefully it can continue.
3. Tim Horton’s Stadium opened in Hamilton – where the Tiger Cats loved their home cooking so much they did not lose a game there this year. The Tiger Cats were homeless all of the 2013 season and part of the 2014 season. They played two games at McMaster University’s 6000 seat arena this year. I can’t remember a pro sports team being “homeless” a season like the Tiger Cats were. The New Orleans Saints played in Oklahoma after Hurricane Katrina – but that was a natural disaster not a construction issue.
4. New (Warmer) Ideas for the Future?
The CFL has to compete for the entertainment dollars with the NHL, NBA, MLB, NFL plus other minor sports leagues. Since it is a gate driven league, it was logical when some around the CFL began floating the idea of starting the season a few weeks earlier. Will it be easier to get fans to a football game in June (nice weather) or end of November (cold weather). The June games will not be competing with NFL or NHL games. Traditionalists like the idea of the Grey Cup the last week of November – but we have got used to hockey playoffs in June (used to end in May). The Western Final in Edmonton had thirty below weather. Moving it up two or three weeks it could be cold but not that cold.
5. New Generation of Quarterbacks – The 2014 Grey Cup pitted two of the new generation of CFL quarterbacks. Zach Collaros emerged as a great quarterback leading the Tiger Cats to a record of 19-5; (counting playoffs). The Cats were 1-5 when Collaros was injured. Stampeders quarterback Bo Levi Mitchel set an all-time CFL record by starting his career with18 wins and only two losses. Mitchel became the first quarterback in CFL history to win 12 of his first 13 starts. Those names unheard of a year ago will be CFL names for years to come.
6. Top Regular Season team won the Grey Cup – The Calgary Stampeders were on top of the CFL standings all year long and ended up with 30 points. In the 42 years I have followed the Canadian Football League, the top regular season team won the Grey Cup 23 times. In that same time of the eight teams that had 30 points, five won the Grey Cup. The top team in the league wins the Grey Cup about half of the time, and unlike last year the Stampeders are the Grey Cup champions.
Since 1992 the Stampeders have led the CFL standings ten times but won only four Grey Cups. Stampeders fans should enjoy their Grey Cup off season, it was earned by a season of hard work.