Frequently Asked Questions about Teams

See the historical team list page for a list of active and historical teams and their names.

BC Lions

The B.C. franchise adopted the Lions nickname after a fan contest to select the team's moniker before their inaugural 1954 season. The name Lions comes from the twin mountain peaks north of Vancouver who are said to be guarding Vancouver. The team was briefly called the BC Cubs1 in 1953 when for one season before joining the professional ranks the organization played exhibition games against any competition they could find: teams from Kamloops, Victoria, the Navy, UBC, and a U.S. Army team from Fort Lewis. This was an effort to get the Canadian players, which made up a large part of the squad, some experience and playing time before joining the WIFU the following year.

Calgary Stampeders

The Calgary Stampeders are named after the Calgary Stampede, the world's largest rodeo, held annually in Calgary. The team adopted the name in 1945. A stampeder is an animal participating in a sudden, panic-stricken rush of animals. Like the use of stampeder for a person participating in a gold rush at the turn of the last century, stampeder was also likely used to refer to one who attends/participates in the Stampede Rodeo.

Calgary has a long history of teams with the Stampeder name, in hockey, baseball and other sports. Prior to the formation for the Stampeder Football Club in 1945, Calgary hosted teams called the Bronks in the WIFU and Altomahs and Tigers among others in the Alberta and Calgary Rugby Unions.

Edmonton Eskimos

The Edmonton Eskimos are named for the Eskimo, or Inuit, of northern Canada. While not located in the far north land of the Inuit, the nickname Eskimos was likely adopted for the alliterative effect and as a reference to Edmonton's northern location. The original name was Esquimaux from 1897 to 1908, from the archaic French spelling. Edmonton has faced some pressure in the past couple decades to change their team name, most recently in 2011, 2014 and 2015.

Edmonton has a long history of teams with the Eskimo name, in hockey, baseball and other sports.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats originated when the Hamilton Tigers and Hamilton Wildcats merged in 1950, forming the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Tiger-Cats is correctly spelled with a hyphen and capital letter 'C'.

The Hamilton Football Club took the name Tigers in 1873 due to their yellow and black uniforms. The Wildcats were formed in 1941 to play in the ORFU when the Tigers suspended operations due to the Second World War. The Wildcats suspended operations for 1943-1944 but the Flying Wildcats continued the name during those years. They were called Flying Wildcats due to the presence of many RCAF members on the team, though they had no affiliation with a military base. They played two seasons in the ORFU before the Wildcats name returned. The Tigers returned to the IRFU in 1945, but after three seasons of financial and competitive problems, they swapped leagues with the Wildcats for two seasons before the teams merged in 1950 to play in the IRFU.

Montreal Alouettes

The Montreal Alouettes literally translated are the Montreal Larks. Alouette is the French term for a skylark, a type of bird. The term Alouette has a strong connection in Quebec from the folksong of the same name.

The refrain and first verse of Alouette

Alouette, gentille Alouette
Alouette, je te plumerai
Je te plumerai la tête
(Je te plumerai la tête)
Et la tête
(Et la tête)

The Alouettes were founded in 1946 by Lew Hayman, Eric Cradock and Leo Dandurand, who decided for the team to be successful in Montreal it needed a bilingual name. They selected the Alouettes name to meet this criteria, and won a Grey Cup for Montreal in 1949, 4 years after founding the team.

Montreal Concordes

Briefly in the 1980's the Montreal team was know as the Concordes after the franchise was revoked in 1982 and assigned to a new ownership group, but the intellectual property for the Alouettes name still remained with the original owner, Nelson Skalbania.

The Concorde name was chosen for its bilingualism. It originated from the latin motto of Montreal — Concordia Salus (well-being through harmony) — but also (perhaps unintentionally) played on the supersonic passenger jet Concorde, though the team logos reflected the latin motto origin.

The Alouette name was reacquired and the team renamed for its final full season before folding before the 1987 regular season.

Prior to the Alouettes founding in 1946, Montreal hosted a team in the IRFU that had a multitude of English names in the later years and an association with the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association going back to 1885.

Ottawa Rough Riders

The generally accepted origin for the Ottawa Football Club is they adopted the nickname Rough Riders and red and black colours on Sept. 9th, 18982, the colours and name from the Canadian Regiment3 of Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders during the Spanish-American war.

There are some issues with this explanation. First, there was no Canadian Regiment of the Rough Riders. A regiment, like the Rough Riders, would be 1,000 to 2,000 men in size. Nine Canadians are known to have served with Roosevelt's 1st US Volunteer Cavalry Regiment, nicknamed the Rough Riders, despite British neutrality laws that forbid Canadians from serving in either side's armed forces. Little is known about the Canadians that did serve. It is clear this origin has evolved incorrectly over the years which calls the whole statement into question without original documents to confirm this origin.

Also, the Rough Riders regiment colours were not red and black, but a red on white guidon and a blue and brown western uniform.

While a Sept. 9th adoption of the name would have been at the peak of popularity of the term, with the regiment returning home from Cuba Aug. 14th after the Spanish surrender, the regiment disbanded on Sept. 15th, six days after this naming tribute.

It has also been suggested the nickname originated from the title given to drivers who rode logs down the Ottawa River. It is likely that both the local and international origins such as “Buffalo Bill's Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World” provided the lexicon used to select the name. Roosevelt's Rough Riders, consisting of college athletes, cowboys and ranchers recruited from the southwest, brought to mind the performers in Buffalo Bill's show and hence were given the same nickname in the press.

None of the problems with the origins dispute that Ottawa was officially known as the Rough Riders over 25 years before the Western team adopted the name Roughriders. Unfortunately, the Rough Riders folded after the 1996 season.

Ottawa Renegades

A franchise returned to Ottawa from 2002-2005 as the Renegades, which was selected by the owners from fan submissions.

Ottawa RedBlacks

A new franchise, who began play in 2014, had the name RedBlacks announced June 8th, 2013, an homage to the traditional Ottawa colours and lumbermen of the region. While the CFL acquired the rights to the name Rough Riders, it could not be used. The logo maintains the R, though now updated and stylized, that served the Rough Riders for decades while adding a circular saw blade in homage to the lumber mill history of the area. Red and black plaid has also been adopted as a team pattern for merchandise and mascots.

Saskatchewan Roughriders

The nickname Roughriders adopted by Regina likely comes from the name given to horsemen, specifically those that broke broncos. NWMP members who played two rugby matches in Winnipeg in 1890 were referred to as "Roughriders" and Regina was home to the NWMP, who later became the RCMP. While the team was referred to casually as the Roughriders once in 1915 in the Regina Leader the team officially adopted the name in 19244. Prior to that they were known as the Regina Rugby Club. In 1946 the team switched to a provincial designation and became the Saskatchewan Roughriders, officially adopting that moniker in 1950.

Whoa! Just a minute, two Rough Riders?

Each team, the Rough Riders and Roughriders, developed their nicknames with completely different origins, meanings and spellings from each other. As they played in separate Rugby Unions the teams were not under the same organization until the Unions formed under the Canadian Football Council in 1956 (later the CFL in 1958). Partial interlocking play did not begin until 1961, at which time the two clubs would first face each other in regular season play. With the abolishing of the separate independent Western and Eastern conferences in 1981, the last vestiges of the old rugby unions were dismantled and all teams became direct members of the the CFL. Canadians were intelligent enough to distinguish the two teams and they co-existed for 40 years. The insecure and dimwitted struggled with the situation and the anti-nationalists used it to attack the CFL and anything Canadian as being second rate.

As mentioned, the Ottawa Rough Riders folded after the 1996 season and their former owner, Horn Chen, retained the rights to the team name and logos. The CFL has since reacquired those rights. Since this time, there has been just the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the CFL, who have made it certain that an Ottawa franchise named the Rough Riders will not return. Any ridicule should now be directed towards the SEC who as of 2012 has three teams which share the nickname Tigers (two in the same division with the third joining in 2012) and two that share the nickname Bulldogs. For shame, the SEC stooping below the level of the CFL is immensely embarrassing for them. The CIS has the Saint Mary's Huskies and the Saskatchewan Huskies with Saskatchewan just waiting to lay sole claim to the Husky name. The existence of the Rough Riders/Roughriders is an widely debated topic since the demise of the original Ottawa franchise and one side is presented in an article on CFLdb.

Toronto Argonauts

The Toronto Argonaut Football club was formed by the Toronto Argonaut Rowing Club in 1873. The rowing club naturally selected the maritime nickname Argonauts after the Greek band of heroes who accompanied Jason in his quest to find the Golden Fleece. That nickname followed to the football club who have retained it to become the oldest professional sports club with its original name. The Argos slogan “Pull Together” was used on their logo until the late 1960's and works in a football sense as well as the obvious rowing connotation.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Winnipeg was known as the Winnipeg Rugby Football Club, or "Winnipegs", whose colours were blue and gold starting in 19325. A comment by a reporter calling the team "the blue bombers of Western Football" in 1936 led the team to be called the Blue Bombers first unofficially, then officially soon after. The bomber reference was to heavyweight champion Joe Louis, popular at that time, whose nickname was the Brown Bomber.


1 — Bobby Ackles, The Water Boy (Mississauga: John Wiley & Sons Canada, 2008), 59.

2 — "Ottawa Rough Riders" Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 6 Sept. 2010. Web. 18 Sept. 2010. <>

3Facts, Figures and Records: 2008 Edition, (Toronto: Canadian Football League), 287.

4 — Robert Calder, Sasktachewan Roughriders — First 100 Years (Regina: Centax Books, 2009), 25.

5 — "Winnipeg Blue Bombers" Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 18 Sept. 2010. Web. 18 Sept. 2010. <>

As of 2014, there are nine teams in the CFL, aligned in a 4-team East Division and 5-team West Division. The cities represented are the original nine cities represented by franchises when the CFL formed in 1958: Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton, Winnipeg, Regina, Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver. A Razzle Dazzle CFL Primer has information on the CFL franchises and their locations.

For most of the league's history (since formation of the CFL in 1958) there have been nine teams in the league. The league had a nine-team membership from 1958 through 1986, eight teams from 1987 to 1992, nine teams in 1993, twelve teams in 1994, thirteen teams in 1995, nine teams in 1996, eight teams from 1997 through 2001, nine teams from 2002 to 2005 and eight teams from 2006 to 2013.

In the 1990's seven US cities were home to CFL franchises, Sacramento (relocated to San Antonio), Las Vegas, Memphis, Birmingham, Shreveport and Baltimore. The Baltimore franchise eventually relocated to Montreal to become the current Alouettes. Two US cities were granted franchises which never materialized, Orlando and San Antonio, while their were many cities named in relocation speculation of the Las Vegas and Shreveport franchises including Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, Jackson, Mississippi and Norfolk, Virginia.

The CFL's 1992 expansion plans1 outlined by new commissioner Larry Smith targeted Portland, Sacramento, and San Antonio as serious US expansion sites with Orlando, San Jose, St. Petersburg, Las Vegas, Birmingham and Hawaii as other candidates. Other cities mentioned by league executives and media in the 1990's included Detroit, Rochester and Fargo. Prior to the 1990's, numerous cities were mentioned by the league as locations for American offers to purchase a franchise, most commonly New York and Detroit.

In all, from the beginning of the Grey Cup history starting in 1907, 57 teams have participated in play in 32 cities. Thirteen of these teams are Word War II service teams that competed when most civilian teams suspended operation during the war. At least another ten teams were amateur or university clubs.

1 — Frank Cosentino, A Passing Game (Winnipeg: Bain & Cox, 1995), 335.

The CFL (and its precursors) has had three periods of expansion (see A History of Expansion section). In 1954, the addition of the BC Lions to the WIFU provided no expansion draft. The 1990's US expansion period provided no expansion draft since US franchises were not held to roster limits imposed by the CBA. In 2002, the addition of the Ottawa Renegades provided the CFL's first expansion draft. A list of players taken in CFL expansion drafts can be found via the CFLdb Statistics Draft page.

The expansion draft rules for the next teams to join the CFL (first used for the Ottawa RedBlacks joining in 2014) were agreed to and released in 2013. The Ottawa RedBlacks expansion draft was held on December 16th, 2013. The rules provided for:

  • three draft rounds, one import player round and two non-import player rounds with Ottawa receiving 8 imports (including 2 quarterbacks) and 16 non-imports
  • first import round member clubs will protect one quarterback and ten other import players. Ottawa will select one player from each member club in this round.
  • first non-import round member clubs will protect six non-import players. Ottawa will select one player from each member club in this round.
  • second non-import round member clubs will protect an additional six-non-import players. Ottawa will select one player from each member club in this round.
  • each team can protect one quarterback, Ottawa can select two quarterbacks during the draft
  • if a quarterback is selected from a member club, that club will be able to protect two additional non-import players in the first non-import round of the draft
  • if a kicker or punter is selected from a member club in the import draft, that member club will be able to protect one additional non-import player in the first non-import round of the draft.
  • non-import kicker or punter must be selected in the first non-import round of the draft. If such a player is selected, the member club losing such a player would be able to protect an additional two players in the second non-import round.
  • teams will not be able to lose both a quarterback and kicker/punter in the draft.

The protected lists of players teams submitted to the league and RedBlacks were not made public.

In addition Ottawa selected in the ninth position of each of the first four rounds of the 2013 draft where they could only select NCAA underclassmen. In 2014, Ottawa selected in the first position of each round of the draft as well as the last two picks. Ottawa also was provided a negotiation list (for unsigned players) of up to 25 players and 10 quarterbacks prior to returning to the league and adopting the standard 35 player negotiating list.

Ottawa inherited the contracts of players selected in the expansion draft. Ottawa was also able to start signing Free Agents (player not under contract to another team) on Monday, November 25, 2013.

The 2002 Expansion Draft allowed the Ottawa franchise to select:

  • 1 quarterback from each of the existing Club's roster or negotiation list (clubs could protect 3 quarterbacks, not more than 2 on their active roster).
  • 1 import player from each of the existing Club's roster.
  • 7 non-import players, of which no more than four may be offensive lineman and no more than one be a kicker
  • following the initial selection of non-imports, clubs submitted names of six non-imports to protect. Ottawa could then select one additional non-import player from each existing Club or the 2002 2nd Round Draft choice of the the existing Club.

Full 2002 Expansion Draft rules are linked to on the CBA page.

The CFL held an equalization draft in February or March of 1987, 1988 and 1989. The 1987 draft was to be held in secret by the league but the overall plan to reduce salaries was leaked to the press before the draft could be held. The 1987 draft was officially referred to as the Competitive Balance Plan by the league and results were announced the week of February 15th, 1987. Future equalization drafts had public rules defined before their execution. For a list of all CFL drafts, and the players taken in them, see the CFLdb Statistics Draft page.

The equalization draft was not arranged to balance talent or competitiveness between divisions, but to achieve cost control while improving the competitiveness across the league by improving the depth on teams with the poorer records the previous season.

From A Passing Game:

As part of the means of equalizing talent and lowering salary costs, an equalization draft was proposed. If such a draft did not work, clubs would have to make decisions whether "to renegotiate or terminate through the waiver process." In any event, "Kimball cautioned that this discussion should be treated in a confidential manner ... [there was] no reason for this information to become public ... [It was] strictly an internal matter of cost control." Further, he stated: "There could be damaging consequences in media reaction, fan perception, and player morale if the subject reaches the public forum."


When the equalization draft was discussed, there was a fear that too much knowledge by the players and public would harm the league. Doug Mitchell asked directly: "Can a draft of sorts now be held without it becoming public information that a certain player was available for the draft and another was not, and only this player and not this player?" The result was an indication of some of the methods of conveying misinformation. Paul Robson said, "It could be done discretely with subsequent announcements about being traded." Joe Faragelli's view was, "the head coach should be able to control his staff ... [There is] no reason why a player should know whether he was or was not made available for the draft." And Joe Galat thought that "the waiver process [should] be used by each club to expose the market those players whose costs now exceed their value."

Almost immediately, the report was leaked and the league was again putting out fires. Some blamed Leo Cahill for the information which "appeared in an Ottawa paper of January 9th which prompted adverse reactions from the Players' Association, the media and general public." At the Management Council meeting in Edmonton, January 21, 1987 "on a point of order" Cahill stated emphatically that he was not in any way responsible for a lapse in security following the meeting of January 7th.

The 1987 draft provided for the three teams in the league with the lowest records in the 1986 season to choose four players from the remaining six teams which qualified for the playoffs in 1986. Each team was able to protect 25 players and could not lose more than two players in the draft. The selecting teams were Montreal, Ottawa and Saskatchewan. The exact rules of the 1987 draft were not made public and before the leak, the league expected to explain the player movement through trades or waivers. Of the twelve players selected, five were non-imports and seven were imports. Montreal withdrew from the league after the 1987 pre-season and their players were distributed to other teams in a dispersal draft.

As the rules were formalized and made public for future years, the purpose of the draft became to redistribute non-import talent across the league. In 1988 the bottom team in each division in the previous season (Ottawa and Saskatchewan) selected three players from the remaining six teams. Non-participating teams were allowed to protect a specified number of non-import players; the remaining non-import players were made available to the draftees. Non-participating teams could lose a maximum of one player in the draft, once a player was selected from a team, further players were not allowed to be selected from that team. In 1989 Calgary and Ottawa participated as draftees.

The following table provides a list of players selected in the three equalization drafts. The order of players listed does not reflect the order the players were selected.

From To Comments
Mark Jackson – CB (I) Edm Mtl
Sean McKeown – DL (N) Cgy Mtl Selected by Ham in the Alouettes Dispersal Draft, June 1987
Dan Rashovich – LB (N) Tor Mtl Selected by Ssk in the Alouettes Dispersal Draft, June 1987
Bob Skemp – OL (N) BC Mtl Selected by Tor in the Alouettes Dispersal Draft, June 1987
Marv Allemang – DE (N) Ham Ott
Mike Gray – DT (I) BC Ott
Craig Schaffer – LB (I) Edm Ott
Anthony Woodson – LB (I) Cgy Ott
Walter Bender – RB (I) Ham Ssk
Donnohue Grant – DB (N) Tor Ssk Released prior to regular season
John Hufnagel – QB (I) Wpg Ssk
Tracy Mack – LB (I) Wpg Ssk Traded to Ott in Oct. 1987 for second round selection (9th overall) in 1988 CFL College Draft (wide receiver Ken Evraire)
Paul Nastasiuk – SB (N) BC Ott
Rob Pavan – LB (N) Wpg Ott
Kari Yli-Renko – OT (N) Cgy Ott
Greg McCormack – DE (N) Edm Ssk
Jeff Treftlin – DB (N) Ham Ssk
Brian Walling – RB (N) Tor Ssk
Doug Davies – OL (N) Ham Cgy Injured for 1989 season
Dan Ferrone – OG (N) Tor Cgy Signed with Toronto as free agent prior to 1990 season
Dan Wicklum – LB (N) Wpg Cgy
Alex Carter – DE (I) Edm Ott
David Conrad – FB (N) Ssk Ott
Dwayne Derban – LB (N) BC Ott


The Western Conference employed a similar talent distribution system for at least one season in the early 1960's I believe.


Frank Cosentino, A Passing Game (Winnipeg: Bain & Cox, 1995), 250-252.

Facts, Figures and Records: 1987-1990 Editions (Toronto: Canadian Football League) Player profiles.

Teams in the CFL use a multitude of travel methods depending on the team, the destination and their schedule. The primary method of travel is by air, either by charter or by commercial airline. Recently there has been a shift to more air travel and more charter air travel so most teams fly exclusively by air, with only the Ontario and Quebec teams using other methods regularly. Teams have found ways to help offset the cost of chartering flights for the best possible arrival and departure times. See also Paul LaPolice's CFL road team itinerary.

In 2017, Nolinor Aviation entered into a 3-year partnership with the Montreal Alouettes to provide chartered plane services to the team for all road games requiring travel by air. As part of the agreement, Nolinor will provide the same specially configured Boeing 737-300 for all Alouettes flights. In addition to the configuration of seats to accommodate the needs of a sports team, chartering allows the Alouettes to set their own arrival and departure times for road games.

Canadian North signed on in 2014 to be the official airline of the CFL. Part of the sponsorship included the reveal of a plane branded with the CFL and all 9 team logos.

Teams have used train or bus travel to reach their destination for shorter trips in the past. For example, Toronto and Hamilton have and will continue to travel to games with each other by bus due to their close proximity. This has also occurred for games between Calgary and Edmonton and Winnipeg and Saskatchewan as well, though this has been replaced by charter or commercial flights in the West in some instances. Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa and Montreal continue to travel to games among them by train, though not necessarily for every game.

Travel decisions such as charter or commercial flights are not always about the cost. Some other factors affecting travel arrangements are:

  • scheduling. Not all cities have direct commercial flights to destination cities so layover requirements and time of departure/arrival are factors.
  • available capacity. Teams will need at least 62-65 seats on any commercial flight, which may not be available on some regional short-haul carriers. On the other hand, a 70-seat regional charter aircraft is the perfect size for the team.
  • equipment load. The carrier must be able to accommodate the equipment the team needs to bring with them or arrangements must be made to ship it separately.

For these reasons, charter flights can be the better option in some cases. Commercial flights are more likely used when their are frequent flights to major destinations like Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. When commercial flights are used, coach class would be the norm except when upgraded by the airline. There are not enough first-class/business class seats on most domestic flights to accommodate a complete football team, nor do all flights have multiple seating classes.

At present no CFL team has a private jet (see Montreal situation above, second paragraph), which is par with about 98% of North American professional sports teams. To my recollection the only time a team has flown by private jet was the Toronto Argonauts in the early 1990's when majority owner Bruce McNall flew the team on the Los Angeles Kings' Boeing 727 (if I recall correctly) for a few games.

Travel costs for franchises will be in the $700,000+ range. This is based on the Edmonton Eskimos 2016 financial statements showing Away game costs of $753,995 (12 games, two to Calgary) in 2016 and $713,000 (11 games, including Grey Cup, two to Calgary) in 2015. It is assumed this includes flights and hotels and possibly also meals and player per diems.

The first team to fly to a game in the West Division (then the WIFU) was the Saskatchewan Roughriders for a Monday, October 6, 1947 game in Calgary.