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CFL History

Complete History Of CFL vs. NFL Games

The two most prominent professional football leagues in North America are the National Football League (NFL) and the Canadian Football League (CFL). The fans of the two leagues are pretty distinct groups of people since both leagues are located in two different countries. However, there are some hardcore football fans that follow both leagues.

These hardcore football fans have wished that the two leagues would matchup against one another for an exhibition game between representatives from each league. However, with the current bargaining agreements present in the NFL and an extra game being added on to the NFL schedule, it is very unlikely to see an NFL team play a CFL game.

Even though it is not likely to see the two leagues clash in the near future, they have clashed in the past. There have been ten total games that have been played with an NFL team playing against a CFL team. Here is the list of the games, and the results of those games:

  • August 26th, 1941: Winnipeg Blue Bombers 19, Columbus Bulls 12 (Osborne Stadium)
  • September 1st, 1941: Columbus Bulls 6, Winnipeg Blue Bombers 0 (Osborne Stadium)
  • September 10th, 1941: Columbus Bulls 31, Winnipeg Blue Bombers 1 (Osborne Stadium)
  • August 12th, 1950: New York Giants 27, Ottawa Rough Riders 6 (Lansdowne Park)
  • August 11th, 1951: New York Giants 41, Ottawa Rough Riders 18 (Lansdowne Park)
  • August 5th, 1959: Chicago Cardinals 55, Toronto Argonauts 26 (CNE Stadium)
  • August 3rd, 1960 Pittsburgh Steelers 43, Toronto Argonauts 16 (CNE Stadium)
  • August 2nd, 1961: St. Louis Cardinals 36, Toronto Argonauts 7 (CNE Stadium)
  • August 5th, 1961: Chicago Bears 34, Montreal Alouettes 16 (Molson Stadium)
  • August 8th, 1961: Hamilton Tiger-Cats 38, Buffalo Bills 21 (Civic Stadium)

First Ever Canadian vs. American Football Game

As shown by the list, the first ever game that was played between teams from the two different countries was on August 26th, 1941. The two teams that played were the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Columbus Bulls. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are still a team that competes in the CFL, and the Columbus Bulls were a team in the AFL that no longer exists.

The game was brought about by a three-game series between the two teams, which was won by the Columbus Bulls. The first game was taken by the Blue Bombers, and then the Bulls took the last two games to win the series.

Other Canadian vs. American Football Games

As shown by the list of games above, the American football teams dominated these games with the Canadian teams. The American teams won eight of the ten games. While most of these games were often one-sided affairs with the American teams winning, the Canadian fans always packed the stadiums and got a lot of joy out of the event.

Since the two leagues have different types of rules, the games were a bit tricky to figure out. This only added to the intrigue of the games by each side. After the first three game series between the Blue Bombers and the Bulls, the games were played with one set of rules being used in the first half, and the other set of rules being used in the second half. This only added to the intrigue. Both fan bases would be able to see the different set of rules adapted to their particular team.

Why the NFL and CFL Will Not Play Each Other Again

The last game played between teams from the two leagues was 60 years ago. Realistically it does not make much sense for either league to play an exhibition game against a foreign team. At the time the games were stop due to the scheduling issues. The American teams treated these games as a preseason game, while the CFL teams were playing these games during the middle of their regular season. At the time it really hurt the CFL teams chances of making the playoffs due to the potential injuries that occurred during the game.

While the timing of the games would most likely be an issue if the two leagues attempted to do this again, there are other major factors that would prevent the game from happening. The first reason would be due to the new schedule change that goes into effect this year in the NFL. This upcoming season will have 17 regular season games and only three preseason games. Since these games are traditionally preseason games, the NFL players would not want to sacrifice a preseason game to play against a team that has already been playing for a couple of months.

The second reason is because of the absolute monster that the NFL has become. Playing a game against the CFL would provide very little value to the NFL in terms of monetary value. To compare the two leagues yearly revenue numbers, the NFL in 2020 generated $12 billion, while the CFL generated between $200 million and $240 million. The NFL also lost $4 billion dollars from eliminating preseason games, so in a normal year they make around $16 billion dollars. The NFL would lose out on possible revenue from stadiums hosting games if the games were to be played in Canada, so there is no monetary incentive for the NFL to do so.

The third and final reason would be because the NFLPA, the players’ association, would not allow it to happen. The players would ask for monetary compensation for having to play a Canadian team prior to the regular season, and the NFL does not want to have to deal with any unnecessary stress from the NFLPA.

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Mark Perry Editor
Mark Perry is the founder and editor of CFL News Hub. A dedicated and experienced football analyst, he has been providing comprehensive coverage of the sport since 2018.


  1. David Tress

    June 8, 2021 at 12:51 pm

    The last time a CFL team played an NFL team the Hamilton Tiger-Cats defeated the Buffalo Bills. Before then the CFL had no luck. It would be worth while to have a game between the CFL and NFL three weeks after the Super Bowl between the Grey Cup champions and Super Bowl champions, playing CFL rules indoors.

    • OnTheBorderOfCanada

      April 8, 2023 at 8:36 am

      At the time, the Bills weren’t an NFL team. They were an AFL team. They wouldn’t be in the NFL until the 1970 merger.

  2. John spoulos

    August 8, 2021 at 10:55 am

    I agree with David Tress, there would be no obstacles in the way to play a championship between both leagues in Feb!

  3. Doug Phillips

    October 29, 2021 at 12:29 pm

    The TiCats beat the Bill in 1961 who were in the AFL, not the NFL. The CFL lost all 6 contests against NFL teams.

  4. Joel Stroup

    June 12, 2022 at 11:56 am

    Why not play at the beginning of preseason like the Hall of Fame Game and the NFL team gets an extra preseason game.

  5. Jay Mysterio

    October 10, 2022 at 3:54 pm

    It wouldn’t be competitive. Ask any CFL player if they’d rather be in the NFL…they would answer yes. I’d think if the CFL had tons of players that were of NFL caliber they would be recruited by NFL teams, but it only rarely happens that a former CFL player becomes an NFL player. I can only think of two that had success, Warren Moon and Joe Theismann.

    A better matchup would be the NCAA National Champion against the Grey Cup Champion.

    • Donald Smith

      September 26, 2023 at 9:09 am

      The NCAA Champion wouldn’t have a chance. Boys vs men. Pros vs amateurs. The step up to pro is significant. All that aside, very different rules and different types of athletes. US rules call for larger/stronger players and Canadian rules call for faster/endurance players. Can you imagine AHL players playing Major Junior players? Wouldn’t be close.

  6. Bob Paine

    September 24, 2023 at 4:27 pm

    What about one or more exhibition games CFL vs. NFL for the benefit of both leagues’ players welfare funds?

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