July 1, 2010: Dedicated fans of football - the U.S. version, not the World Cup version - no longer have to wait until the 2010 NFL season begins in September. The NFL Network said it has worked out a deal with the Canadian Football League for broadcast 14 CFL games in the U.S. this year. Financial terms were not disclosed.
The first game will be the CFL season opener on July 1 between the Montreal Alouettes and Saskatchewan Roughriders, the two teams that played in last season's Grey Cup championship game, won by the Alouettes, 28-27.
The games will be produced by TSN, the leading sports broadcaster in Canada. NFL Network subscribers in Canada will get alternative programming due to TSN’s exclusivity. Advertising and marketing support were not revealed.
The 14-game CFL schedule on NFL Network in high definition features three games on Saturday nights in July following the Thursday night debut on Canada Day. Due to NFL Network’s commitment to air every NFL preseason game in August, CFL action resumes on Friday nights in September, October and November. CFL games are also available in the U.S. via ESPN3.com (with a subscription). The broadcasts will end as the CFL goes into its playoffs, culminating with the 98th Grey Cup on Nov. 28, this season being played in Edmonton.
"This is great news for CFL fans living in the United States, a group that includes some of our most passionate and dedicated fans,” Rob Assimakopoulos, the CFL’s svp-marketing and commercial assets, said in a statement. “And it promises to expose our brand of football to a broad, new audience.”
An attempt to build CFL teams in the U.S. in the early-to-mid-1990s was short-lived, with teams located in such cities as Sacramento, Memphis, Shreveport, San Antonio and Birmingham. However, in 1995, the Baltimore Stallions, owned by businessman and former NFL assistant coach Jim Speros, became the only U.S.-based CFL team to ever win the Grey Cup. Speros moved the franchise to Montreal in 199 where they became the Alouettes. (Speros is now owner of the Norfolk franchise slatted for 2011 expansion in the United Football League.)
Home to eight teams, all in Canadian cities, the CFL features three downs instead of four, 12 men aside instead of 11, unlimited motion before the snap of the ball, and a playing field that 65 yards wide and 110 yards long, with end zones 20 yards deep. Some of its most recognizable alumni include former NFL quarterbacks Warren Moon, Doug Flutie, Joe Theismann and Joe Kapp and coach Bud Grant. Moon and Grant are members of both the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
NFL Network’s programming also includes live NFL regular season Thursday Night Football games, Arena Football Friday AFL games, college and high school all-star games.
“We continue to acquire more games for our fans and look forward to CFL action kicking off on Thursday with a rematch of the Grey Cup,” Charles Coplin, vp-programming, NFL Network, said in a statement. “With the addition of the CFL, we now have live games from every level to deliver to our viewers who want football 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.” (Full scheduled here and below.)