The Canadian Football League, or CFL, really lives up to its name. It's the only major professional sports league that has exclusively Canadian teams. In fact, in the case of Regina, Saskatchewan, and Hamilton, Ontario, the CFL squad is the only major sports team in town, period. This means that the Grey Cup—a.k.a. the CFL's Super Bowl—is a pretty big deal up here. So when it happens this Sunday in Toronto, you can bet that there will be a lot of people watching.
What makes it worth your time if you're new to this whole Canadian football thing? Well, this year's contest between the Calgary Stampeders and the Ottawa Redblacks is a battle full of excitement and intrigue. How so? Glad you asked! Let's break it down.
One of the best seasons ever
On the one hand, Calgary is the big favourite to win it all. Having one of the best seasons in CFL history (that's 15 wins, 2 losses, and 1 tie) will do that. The Stampeders were pretty much unstoppable all season long. Their quarterback, Bo Levi Mitchell, was just named the league's Most Outstanding Player. In fact, the Stampeders also have the CFL's Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman (Derek Dennis), Most Outstanding Rookie (DaVaris Daniels), Most Outstanding Canadian (Jerome Messam), and the Coach of the Year (Dave Dickenson).
In other words, they're really, really, really good.
On the other hand, the Ottawa Redblacks are a huge underdog (meaning most experts do not believe they will win). They actually had a losing record this year, going 8 wins, 9 losses, and 1 tie. When Ottawa last played Calgary, they got hammered 48–23. So, the Redblacks have no chance, right? Not so fast...
Closer than you might think...
For starters, that one tie that both Calgary and Ottawa have on their record? That was from back in July when the two teams tied each other 26–26. So Ottawa knows that they can go toe-to-toe with the Stamps. And while Calgary completely steamrolled over their last opponent, B.C. in the Western final, Ottawa looked nearly as strong defeating Edmonton in the Eastern final. Plus, this is the second straight year that Ottawa has gone to the Grey Cup.
They lost a close championship game last season. That sort of experience really stings for a pro athlete. You can bet that the whole team will be extra focused on not missing their chance this year.
Two superstar quarterbacks
And speaking of experience, that is one area where the Redblacks might have a big advantage. Why? Not only were they just at the Grey Cup last year, but their quarterback, Henry Burris, has already won the Grey Cup twice (in 1998 and 2008). Can you guess what team he played for when he won them? Yep, the Calgary Stampeders!
To recap, Calgary is the best team in the league and Bo Levi Mitchell has won an amazing 14 straight games. But Mitchell is also a young quarterback playing in his first Grey Cup. Meanwhile, Burris has seen it all (and he himself won the league's Most Outstanding Player award only last year).
So... will Mitchell suddenly get nervous? Will the Stampeders be overconfident? Will the Redblacks make up for the last season's disappointment and use their experience to win Ottawa's first Grey Cup since 1976?
It all happens Sunday!