A different kind of derby – The CFL’s Labour Day Classic

I’m Calgarian, born and raised. And for those of you not familiar with my hometown, this makes me a bit of a novelty.

You see, our local economy has long been dominated by the oil and gas sector – and as such, we have always been the type of place where you come to make your fortune at a high-paying resource industry job. Then you go home with your money and where the cost of living is almost certainly cheaper.

I also feel like an outlier when it comes to the sports I follow. You’ll guess [and you’d be right] that Manchester United is my main passion. And while football [as you know it] is growing in popularity here, the landscape is still dominated by North American sports such as hockey, gridiron football, basketball, and baseball.

Harrison

As summer turns to autumn, my hometown team – the Calgary Stampeders – are about two-thirds of the way into the season.

The CFL – or Canadian Football League – is the cousin of the NFL, and it is smart enough to start it’s season in the summer. This IS Canada after all, and winter will be here before we know it.

So by Labour Day  – the last long weekend of our summer – we take time for some grudge matches against geographic rivals.

In Calgary, that means back-to-back matches against our neighbours 300 km to the north – the Edmonton Eskimos. We always play in Calgary on holiday Monday and have a rematch in Edmonton the following Friday night.

The good news is, we won today – defeating the green and gold 45-24. Woot!

Messam

With the Manchester derby looming, I thought you’d be interested to see what our local rivalry is like. We’re in an international break anyway, so you may as well learn something new, right?

  • The Stampeders [or Stamps] colours are red, white and black. Handy for me that I have a propensity for this colour scheme already!
  • We’ve won the Grey Cup, or CFL Championship seven times. This is comfortably mid-table in a league that generally has no more than 8-10 teams at any given time. There’s no promotion or relegation, as in most North American sports – but we did once have an unfortunate attempt at expansion to the USA. Sadly, Edmonton has won it on 14 occasions – but we are working hard to knock them right off their perch…
  • If you’ve watched NFL football, you’ll notice we play with an extra player, a larger field, a slightly larger football [yes, the game has been marketed using the slogan “Our Balls Are Bigger”] and only three downs.
  • Your average CFL player does not make big bucks. In fact, teams have a salary cap of just over $5m to spend on up to 56 players. We also place a premium on homegrown players, limiting the amount of American players to about half a match-day roster.
  • The CFL game is often the butt of jokes by NFL fans who haven’t watched it or who don’t get that this league is not trying to be like its big brother. It’s simply a chance to root for your hometown team and for some communities it is literally the only game in town.
  • Finally, I guarantee you have heard of at least one sportsman with a Stamps connection. It’s Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, who was on our practice roster as a linebacker after he left the University of Miami. He turned out OK…

Johnson

all photos courtesy Calgary Stampeders

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