It’s no secret that many within the CFL (and outside as well) have been pushing for a league expansion, as there are currently an odd number of teams. While the connection between fans and overall entertainment value has been on the decline, adding another franchise could help grow both components again, and create opportunities for additional media attention.
Recently, CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie discussed the expansion topic in a conversation with Joey Alfieri, a content provider for the Montreal Alouettes. Ambrosie was very enthusiastic about it, claiming that on a scale from one to ten, the chances of the CFL growing in size were eleven. A large part of the expansion plans involve the Touchdown Atlantic series, which was recently brought back for the 2022 season.
Touchdown Atlantic first launched in 2005, and is designed to bring the football world to Canada’s Maritime provinces. However, only five total games have been played since its inception, four of which have been in Moncton, New Brunswick. This year, a matchup between the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Toronto Argonauts will take place at Raymond Field, located on the University of Acadia campus in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. The last time the province hosted a CFL game was over 15 years ago, which also happened to be the inaugural Touchdown Atlantic event. However, because that was during the preseason, July’s game will mark the first time the CFL has been in Nova Scotia for the regular season.
Besides Touchdown Atlantic making a return, there are other reasons why this expansion could become a reality. Prior to the 2018 Grey Cup, the CFL released plans for a tenth franchise known as the Atlantic Schooners. A team with the same name was founded in 1982, but failed to secure funding and disbanded just over a year later. With a new ownership group led by Bruce Bowser, Gary Drummond, and Anthony LeBlanc, the hope was that operations would be underway by 2022, but COVID-19 has delayed much of the development.
Ideally, the Schooners would be playing in Dartmouth, which is part of the Halifax Regional Municipality. However, until a stadium with sizable capacity is constructed there, collegiate venues in both Halifax and Moncton have been up for consideration as temporary homes. Quebec City was also in the discussion to host games at one point. While progress has again been slow, Ambrosie confirmed in 2021 that the Schooners were still active in their pursuits.
Reaching ten professional teams would be a huge milestone for Canadian football, and would give hope for even further expansion. Ambrosie was asked whether or not twelve teams could be on the table, to which he responded “you can’t get to twelve until you get to ten.” It seems as if Ambrosie is focused on short-term goals right now, which could still end up taking many years depending on what happens to the Schooners. Regardless of the timeframe, though, the thought of growth is being taken very seriously by the league.
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