2015 Schedule: Looking For a Place to Happen

Published on March 1, 2015 5:46 PM by dbo.

The CFL released the 2015 schedule Feb. 13th. Inline with recent schedule release dates, this schedule appeared to be released early and incomplete for the sake of getting it released to meet expectations. Two weeks later there is still one pre-season game whose location and date/time are unknown. Still, the 2015 schedule continues the tradition of bringing the CFL to new venues.

Schedule Summary

  • The pre-season begins Monday, June 8th and concludes Friday, June 19th (we think, with one game date unknown at time of writing), played over “3” weeks to accommodate the nine game schedule. The one game Week A is actually 1 day before Week B starts, so the league could have (should have) consolidated the pre-season schedule under two weeks, a 5-game week and a 4-game week. The effect is the same, with Ottawa the odd-man out, playing two pre-season games five days apart in Week A.
  • Four pre-season games are to be played in secondary stadiums: Toronto hosting Winnipeg at Varsity Stadium in Toronto, Ottawa playing their pre-season home game in Quebec City at Laval’s PEPS Stade TELUS Stadium, Edmonton’s home pre-season game against Saskatchewan taking place in Ft. McMurray’s SMS Equipment Stadium at Shell Place and the Edmonton at BC game unknown, likely at either UBC Thunderbird Stadium or SMS Equipment Stadium.
  • Pre-season features all in-division match-ups, except Winnipeg who plays at Toronto and Hamilton at home and so won’t have a pre-season tuneup against a divisional opponent.
  • The regular season opens Thursday, June 25th with Ottawa visiting Montreal.
  • As last year, two bye weeks are provided to each team, with one team receiving the bye each week, except Week 16, in which there is no bye and Toronto plays twice. Toronto receives an extra bye for this, in Week 15.
  • The CFL heads to Ft. McMurray for Northern Kickoff, a Saskatchewan/Edmonton pre-season game that has been in the works for a year. The 15,000 temporary seat stadium will also host a Week 1 regular season game for Edmonton @ Toronto.
  • Labour Day weekend features the traditional matches with BC visiting Montreal on Thursday, leaving no game on Friday night and Ottawa with the bye Labour Day weekend.
  • Thanksgiving features a single game with Toronto at Montreal on October 12th.
  • The Hall of Fame Weekend is Aug. 21-23 in Saskatoon with the Hall of Fame Game Calgary at Saskatchewan on the 22nd in Regina. The CFL Pink weeks to bring awareness and support for the battle against women’s cancer have not been specified.
  • There are 16 double-headers (4 Fridays, 10 Saturdays, 1 Sunday, 1 Holiday Monday), down by nine from 2014.
  • The television schedule is not released as of yet, and while TSN will carry all regular season games, whether any pre-season games will be carried on TSN or TSN2 is uncertain, though TSN does show all pre-season games as televised Update May 3rd: TSN is now showing only 3 pre-season games being televised, and on TSN2. I feel slightly vindicated for having doubts and not taking the initial schedule at face value since this is now a pattern of behaviour.


Reviews of the 2015 schedule were positive.

  • The Province reported on the eve of the schedule’s release the Lions first week bye and other positive attributes of the schedule. They also reported the Lions are considering UBC Thunderbird Stadium and Ft. McMurray’s SMS Equipment Stadium at Shell Place as options for their home pre-season game.
  • Saskatchewan says the schedule suits them, even a pre-season trip to Ft. McMurray.
  • Calgary likes their schedule, and introduces a Monday night game after the conclusion of Stampede week.
  • Edmonton is satisfied with their schedule, accepting a little displacement due to the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
  • Winnipeg’s only concern is 3 instances of 4 days between games. It is actually worse than that. Winnipeg has 5 instances of less than 6 days between games (ranging from 5 days and 30 minutes to 5 days and 21.5 hours) which the team must classify as 4 days between games.
  • Ottawa is happy with their sophomore schedule. Their pre-season game should be held at Laval once some details are confirmed (it does not appear on their home schedule for ticket holders) (Update: confirmed).
  • Toronto makes the best of a bad situation and heads to Ft. McMurray.
  • Reporters still sing the “joke”, “bizarre”, “wacky” tune, but anonymous executives toe the party line; “When the Argos get a new place to play next year, everyone’s schedule will get a lot better immediately — not just theirs.” Much better than the past when hiding behind anonymity, executives would fly off the handle and blame all their problems on whatever was out of the league’s control.

You can never guess which games will be gems, or when history will be made, but TSN singled out 10 games to watch and the CFL highlighted a dozen game story lines.

The Release

The league used social media to announce the schedule this year, promising to unlock the schedule with the tweeting of 100,000 responses of who will win the 2015 Grey Cup. They reached the goal in a few hours and the schedule was released on CFL.ca.

Whatever criticism placed on this method, it was successful in getting young people engaged in and excited about something as mundane as a schedule release. The preparation, however, for a schedule launch was not evident. Following the links provided announcing the schedule release, I was presented with this, a schedule image, on a web page. Besides the inflexibility of using an image, it has missing information (no location/stadium information for non-home stadium games) and errors (lists Week 10 as Labour Day weekend rather than Week 11). The date of 1 pre-season game and the start time of 2 games was not known. Even the location of pre-season games was uncertain.

So why release the schedule? There is certainly demand and pressure from fans to release the schedule sooner, so they can plan their summer and road trips following their team. I understand this. If working out the pre-season schedule to certainty will take too long to delay the release of the schedule, why not leave out the pre-season? Give the regular season schedule, and dates for the span of the pre-season (in the announcement), but leave the pre-season specifics for whenever you can announce the full and absolute exhibition schedule with all dates, start times and locations. This is not unprecedented in other leagues, where pre-season schedules are released separate from regular season schedules closer to the start of the pre-season. In my opinion, releasing something that is complete has better optics than partial information.

The release process needs to be planned and practiced better as well. Too many addresses for the schedule. There should be two, one for the press release announcement and one for the schedule page. Twitter and Facebook have built in link shorteners, your own are redundant, especially when they don’t redirect to a full URL, but present another address. The schedule should not be presented in a unprintable static image. It should be validated by numerous people, with complete and accurate information on Labour Day Weekend, Hall of Fame Game, Pink weeks, sponsors and more. The idea is to highlight as much of the schedule as possible, instead of publishing it later in the season when the eyeballs on the schedule have diminished. The modernization of the schedule is there, with it available in iCal format and sent to smart phones with a tweet, there just needs to be more polish put on the presentation and focus on making it findable. The CFL should also think about pre-releasing the schedule under embargo to selected media and sites to allow them time to prepare for the schedule release.

The Stadium Deal

The schedule release re-opened the opportunity for the Toronto media to bring up the lack of a BMO lease deal. Talk to people on the fringe, unnamed, and call it reporting when it is pure opinion piece. The urgency of the Argos situation has been written about for years, yet the actual critical day predicted has failed to come.

Schedule Analysis

The schedule features 14 home and home games back to back for clubs in eight different series. Ottawa leads with three, Edmonton, Hamilton, Saskatchewan and Winnipeg with two, Calgary with one and Montreal with none. BC and Montreal also have two, though each has one interrupted by a bye week, so it is not back to back games for their opposition, thus eight series instead of seven.

The CFL expressed that they are trying to make Thursday night games a “special property” for games to go along with Friday Night Football, with Thursday being a directed towards younger fans who want a fun social experience. Whether the increase in Thursday night games is by design or an attempt to do something with the cards dealt them is unknown, however, it results only in a 6% shift in games from Fridays to Thursdays, with Montreal picking up most of those and the rest of the league sharing the rest of the increase along with a decrease of Thursday night games in Winnipeg.

Table 1: CFL 2015 Regular Season Home Games by Team and Day of the Week
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Stat*
BC 2 3 3 1
Calgary 1 2 5 1
Edmonton 1 3 4 1
Hamilton 1 2 2 2 2
Montreal 4 1 3 1
Ottawa 1 4 3 1
Saskatchewan 1 4 4
Toronto 1 4 3 1
Winnipeg 2 3 4
Total 1 1 11 23 28 13 4
2014 +/- +1 +5 -5 -2 +1

* – Four games occur on Stat Holiday Mondays (August Stat, Labour Day and Thanksgiving)

Montreal leads the way in providing a standard start time for its games, with only two different times. Winnipeg and Saskatchewan trail the pack with six different start times for their nine games.

Table 2: CFL 2015 Regular Season Game Unique Start Times by Team
Unique Times Mode (Local) Freq Count
Montreal 2 7:30 PM 5
BC 3 7:00 PM 6
Edmonton 4 7:00 PM 4
Ottawa 4 7:00 PM, 7:30 PM 3
Toronto 4 7:00 PM, 7:30 3
Calgary 5 5:00 PM, 7:00 PM 3
Hamilton 5 7:30 PM 3
Saskatchewan 6 5:00 PM 3
Winnipeg 6 7:30 PM 3

Examining game start times league wide from a TV perspective, almost 41% of games start in the 7:00 PM to 7:30 PM time range (almost 92% of all Eastern Division games, though some of these could be earlier starts in the West).

Table 2: CFL 2015 Regular Season Unique Start Times (ET)
Time Freq Count
7:00 PM 19
7:30 PM 14
4:00 PM 12
9:00 PM 8
10:00 PM 8
1:00 PM 6
8:30 PM 3
5:00 PM 2
6:00 PM 2
8:00 PM 2
3:00 PM 1
3:30 PM 1
4:30 PM 1
6:30 PM 1
9:30 PM 1

The average number of days between games remains fair and consistent for all teams. The league strives to make the schedule as fair as possible, and the days between games is the key metric for this. The minimum number of days in the four and five day range will be a concern for players, however, this comes with the schedule’s limitations. A 10th team and consistent days of the week for games would help this regard, neither likely to come soon.

Table 3: CFL 2015 Regular Season Days Between Games by Team
Min Avg Max
BC 5 days 03:00 7 days 10:00 13 days 21:30
Calgary 4 days 22:00 7 days 21:07 14 days 03:00
Edmonton 5 days 05:00 7 days 11:17 12 days 04:00
Hamilton 4 days 06:30 7 days 20:56 13 days 23:00
Montreal 4 days 03:30 7 days 23:40 16 days 17:30
Ottawa 5 days 00:00 7 days 22:26 14 days 00:30
Saskatchewan 5 days 02:00 7 days 20:49 14 days 23:30
Toronto 4 days 06:30 7 days 18:33 14 days 23:30
Winnipeg 5 days 00:30 7 days 18:22 14 days 22:00

Examining the bye week spacing for teams shows some wide ranges for teams as would be expected. It is uncertain what bye week timing would be the most beneficial, and would likely vary per team based on their individual circumstances during the season.

Table 4: CFL 2014 Regular Season Bye Weeks by Team
Weeks to 1st Bye (From Start of Season) Weeks to 2nd Bye Weeks to Last Bye (From End of Season) Distance Between Byes Total
BC 0 9 10 19
Calgary 7 2 10 19
Edmonton 1 0 17 18
Hamilton 2 6 10 18
Montreal 4 8 6 18
Ottawa 5 9 4 18
Saskatchewan 7 3 8 18
Toronto 3 8 5 4.5 (Avg) 20.5
Winnipeg 8 1 9 18

Looking For a Place to Happen

The CFL faced additional difficulty this year finding a place to play. The 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup tournament affected dates and availability of many CFL stadiums. The 2015 Pan-Am Games did the same in Southern Ontario. Luckily, besides pre-season, the only team affected was the Toronto Argonauts. The establishment of the Northern Kickoff site in Ft. McMurray for the Eskimos pre-season game seems like tremendous foresight as it became the only option for a displaced Argos team.

The Argos appear to be on their own in Northern Alberta though. As a Toronto home game, they are apparently responsible for marketing and ticket sales. I could find not a mention of the game on the Eskimos site, while the pre-season Northern Kickoff receives plenty of attention. It would seem with the Eskimos having access to the fan base they should have a large role in marketing this game. The same seemed to happen last year with Ottawa’s pre-season game in Regina; besides offering the game to season ticket holders, there was little effort to market a non-home game and a smaller crowd resulted. The pre-season game, with awareness built up starting a year ago, may with its inflated ticket prices due to the reduced capacity and increased costs have received all the CFL goodwill from the region. A late added regular season game may not have enough pull for people to shell out for an additional game. I hope not, but as was seen in Moncton, a small market can be saturated quickly with high prices and no local stake. I am curious if other options such as PEPS Stade TELUS Stadium or Moncton were considered, and excluded due to the costs of erecting additional seating at those locations when SMS Equipment Stadium was already sitting ready.

Much has been discussed about the Argos home opener taking place three provinces away and not appearing at Rogers Centre until August. There is hope that this year, with the combination of the Pan-Am Games and being second-class tenants at Rogers Centre, will be the last difficult scheduling year for the Argos. And once there is no longer one team with long road swings and home stands, the schedule can be more uniform for all teams across the league, and fans can expect some cadence in their team’s schedule and home dates. Despite stadium improvements and certainty in every other CFL city, the Argos situation has impacts not only to their fans, but the other teams and the league’s overall strategy for game placement and growth on television. Only when the external factors are eliminated can the league focus on continued growth in attendance and television viewership.

Next year, I hope the CFL is no longer looking for a place to happen, but has many full, happening places across the country.


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2015 Schedule: Looking For a Place to Happen was published on March 1, 2015 5:46 PM by dbo.

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This article is categorized under Game and tagged with schedules.

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