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What Was The CFL US Expansion?

For many football fans out there, the CFL is an alternate football league that they can sink their teeth into. Many football fans can’t get enough, and that is why they watch as many leagues as they possibly can.

But for others, the CFL is all they watch and the league means more to them than all other leagues combined. It has a rich history, its teams even having been formed before the start of the league itself, which officially came about back in 1958.

Currently there are 9 teams in the CFL, all vying for the coveted Grey Cup. The league is in fact playing the respective division finals this weekend as of this writing…and yes, the West Division final between the Bombers and the Lions is about to start, and yes again, the beer is chilling and the wings have indeed been ordered.

But the league, which by the way stands for the Canadian Football League, actually had more teams in it over the years, and not only that, but American teams as well.

Join us today, as we take a look at this a tad closer, answering the question: What was the CFL US Expansion?

Just remember, what we have here is a general look back…although the expansion lasted only 3 seasons, you can fill a book on every intricate detail that went down during that time…something we can’t do here today.

But rest assured, as you read on, you’ll most certainly get the gist so to speak, and be able to impress your friends with some cool facts about the US CFL expansion of yore. Heck impress the younger crowd with these facts…. You know the ones I mean…the younger dudes that think they know everything there is to know about the CFL. Try this on for size, kiddo.

It works for hockey

The NHL, or rather the National Hockey League, has both American and Canadian teams vying for their cup, the Stanley Cup, so why not football.

Heck, even the NBA has a Canadian team in the mix, and although they haven’t been in the mix for all that long (1995), they did win the championship in 2019. Not bad, eh?

Well, as it turns out, the good people of the CFL organization thought that this would be a good idea as well at some point.

Early talk of an expansion

Before what was known as the CFL US Expansion came to be, the other time in which a possibility of American teams in the CFL came about, was when the USFL fell…the USFL saw to have some of its teams enter the league and this was entertained by the CFL at the time, but it did not come to fruition.

CFL Current Teams

Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Ottawa Redblacks

Montreal Alouettes

Toronto Argonauts

Calgary Stampeders

BC Lions

Saskatchewan Roughriders

Edmonton Elks

Winnipeg Blue Bombers

What was the CFL US Expansion?

Well, it was in 1993 and all the way to 1995 that the US Expansion, as it were was under way. The very first American team to join in with the league or rather be accepted into the ranks was The Sacramento Gold Miners. This of course was in 1993.

via Joe Blow /YouTube

In all there were 7 US teams to have been in the CFL during this expansion, and they were divided into a division all their own…what was known as the South Division, understandably.

CFL Former Teams During US Expansion

Sacramento Gold Miners

Las Vegas Posse

Baltimore stallions

Shreveport Pirates

San Antonio Texans

Birmingham Barracudas

Memphis Mad Dogs

Where are they now?

Interestingly enough, the Gold Miners and the Texans were one in the same…because of a change of location and ownership, one would become the other during this short-lived expansion.

The Posse sadly did very badly and they apparently hold the record for one of the worst CFL teams—ever. They only played a single season during the expansion—the 1994 season.

The Pirates were sadly also very unsuccessful, despite the fact that their fan base was strong and they did play more seasons than the aforementioned Posse…2 to be exact …1994 and 1995.

The Barracudas finished third in the South Division in 1995, the only season they were around for.

Interestingly enough, the Mad Dogs were founded by the founder of Fed Ex, but it looks like this was one package that didn’t get delivered!! Can I get a sting, please…? (A sting is a short drum sequence played by a drummer to punctuate a joke, especially an obvious one, as per Wikipedia).

No? Eh…was worth a shot. Anyways, they only played the 1995 season—finished fourth in that South Division.

Former American Champions

The only team I haven’t mentioned is of course Baltimore, and that’s for a very good reason. I figured they should have their own section. And why the special honor? Well, because they were the only American team during the expansion to actually win.

That’s right; they were the 1995 Grey Cup Champions.

via The Rod Pedersen Show /YouTube

Interestingly enough, after the abandonment of the US expansion into the CFL, it was attempted that the Stallions would be merged with what was at the time, the newly moved Cleveland Browns to become the Baltimore Ravens, but this did not go through…(there’s so much more to this story, but this is the gist…people often think that the Stallions became the Ravens and it’s incorrect); instead, the former Baltimore Stallions were in fact brought into Montreal and would eventually become the embodiment that is today the Montreal Alouettes…the team’s third reconstitution.

So in the end, the expansion was a wee bit of what can be considered a dud. It didn’t do well with the fans and it didn’t do well monetarily either. What we were left with was a ton of defunct teams and three seasons that hardcore CFL fans like or rather tend to ignore.

via Retro Sports /YouTube

In the end we can’t ignore history but we can certainly learn from it.

Just a little while ago, apparently Dwayne Johnson, owner of the XFL and Randy Ambrosie, commissioner of the CFL, talked about a merging of sorts of the CFL and the XFL…talks that were apparently pleasant according to Johnson himself, but both parties decided to part ways.

Johnson said of the meeting:

“We were all in alliance at that time (in 2021) for some sort of partnership between the XFL and the CFL in the spirit of growing the game because we all love the game of football…We got down the line and eventually those conversations started to stall. We all agreed: respectfully, let’s put the pencils down [and] wish each other the best of luck.”

via bnnbloomberg.ca

Ambrosie would most definitely concur:

“While we remain open to finding new ways to work together in the future, we and our XFL counterparts have jointly decided to not pursue any formal arrangements at this time.”

via bnnbloomberg.ca (link above)

We wonder only if advisers spoke to them of the horrors that were the CFL US Expansion. Better off having two distinct leagues I guess. In the end, there’s more football to watch and as far as I’m concerned, that’s a good thing, folks.

*For all of your 2022 CFL Season News and Info: CFL News Hub

NEXT: Complete List Of Teams In The CFL, Canadian Football League

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Domenic Marinelli is an author and freelance writer/journalist. His work has appeared in The Sportster, E-Wrestling News, Pro Wrestling News Hub, CFL News Hub, XFL News Hub, Ringside News, Daily DDT, USFL News Hub, Slam Wrestling, as well as other print and internet publications. He is the author of Generic V, Summer of the Great White Wolf, His Old Tapes (stories & poetry), Across a Dark River in Palermo and so many others. He lives in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. https://linktr.ee/AuthorDomenicMarinelli

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. David Tress

    November 14, 2022 at 10:59 am

    The problem with US expansion was that it was an all-or-nothing affair. There was a US based team or two that wanted to remain competitive in the CFL, but the way it went was, if they fold one, they’ll fold them all. Also, the American fans were looking for marquee players to cheer for. The salary cap as it is wont work because no-frills leagues in the States just spectate a sea of empty seats.

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