The Encyclopedia of CFL History

Teams in the CFL

The links at the right will take you to short ream histories as they are completed.  You can also jump to the all-time rosters for the teams.

For most of the modern era, there have been nine teams in the CFL. There is no clear definition of the "modern era" but many consider it to have started after World War II in 1946.  The Montreal Alouettes were formed that season, and in 1950 the Hamilton Tiger-Cats were created by the merger of the Hamilton Tigers and the Hamilton Wildcats. The ninth and final "classic" team was the BC (then Vancouver) Lions added in 1954.  1954 also marked the final year in which amateur teams such as those in the ORFU (Ontario Ruby Football Union) were allowed to challenge for the Grey Cup.  University teams had stopped participating in the Grey Cup playoffs back in 1935. 

The other event that helped cement the modern era of the CFL took place in 1948 when the Calgary fans went east with their horses to Toronto and transformed the Grey Cup into a national party and event.  From 1954 through 1986, the CFL remained stable with those nine "classic" teams. The Montreal Alouettes folded just prior to the start of the 1987 season, leaving the CFL with only eight teams.

The next change occurred with the American expansion era from 1993-1995.  The Sacramento Goldminers were the first American based team in 1993.  Sacramento was joined by the Shreveport Pirates, Baltimore and the Los Vegas Posse in 1994.  In 1995, the Posse folded and Sacramento moved to San Antonio to become the Texans while the Birmingham Barracudas and the Memphis Mad Dogs were added.  1995 became the only year in CFL history where the East and West divisions did not exist, as the league realigned itself into North and South divisions.  The American based teams all folded after the 1995 season in which Baltimore became the first and so far only non Canadian based team to win the Grey Cup.  While the other teams were dispersed in a draft, Baltimore was moved to Montreal and the Alouettes were reborn and 1996 had the classic nine team CFL line-up again.

Unfortunately, that lasted for only one season as Ottawa folded after the 1996 season and the CFL continued on as an eight team league. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers who normally played in the West division were moved to the East division to balance the teams, the same procedure which had happened when Montreal had folded in 1987.  Ottawa rejoined the CFL in 2002, shifting Winnipeg back to the West division, and the CFL once more had the classic nine teams from 2002 to 2005.  Ottawa folded for a second time after the 2005 season and again Winnipeg was shifted to the East.  Plans are underway to have Ottawa rejoin the CFL and the hope is that there could be future expansion of the league into other markets.

A Naming Oddity
It is very unusual (and somewhat confusing) for two teams in the same league to have the same nickname. That, however, has been the case for much of CFL history with the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Ottawa Rough Riders.  Actually, their nickname is not the same - notice the space in the Ottawa name!  How this happened is that the East and West divisions of the CFL were once separate leagues and initially didn't even meet for a championship game.  The Western Roughriders or Green Riders were took their name from the inspiration of cowboys riding bucking broncos while the Eastern Rough Riders took their name from lumberjacks riding the logs on the river.  Both names were so well established, that there was no thought given to changing one or the other when the two leagues merged to form the CFL.  After Ottawa folded, following the 1996 season, and came back in 2002, they did come back with a new nickname in the Renegades.

ORFU and Others
The Ontario Rugby Football Union or ORFU was the first football league (union) formed in Canada.  The ORFU was nearly wiped out in 1907 when the IRFU or Big Four was formed and the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tigers jumped to it along with the Ottawa Rough Riders and Montreal Winged Wheelers of the Quebec Rugby Football Union (QRFU).  The ORFU did survive and would flourish through the 1930s.  The second world war prolonged the ORFU which was starting to decline as the IRFU suspended play during the war and the ORFU kept going with mainly military teams.  With the war over, the ORFU continued to decline, becoming mainly a minor league feeder league for the teams that would form the modern CFL. After 1954, the ORFU was not allowed to challenge for the Grey Cup, and the league finally died after the 1960 season.

Also on the list of teams are some university teams.  University teams challenged for and won the Grey Cup many times in the early years of football in Canada.  1935 was the last year that university teams challenged for the Grey Cup.


The Classic Nine
BC Lions - roster
Calgary Stampeders - roster
Edmonton Eskimos - roster
Hamilton Tiger-Cats - roster
Montreal Alouttes - roster
Ottawa Rough Riders/Renegades - roster
Saskatchewan Rough Riders - roster
Toronto Argonauts - roster
Winnipeg Blue Bombers - roster

American Teams
Baltimore Stallions - roster
Birmingham Barracudas - roster
Los Vegas Posse - roster
Memphis Mad Dogs - roster
Sacremento Goldminers- roster
San Antonio Texans - roster
Shreveport Pirates - roster

Brandon Football Club - roster
Brantford Redskins - roster
Calgary 50th Battaliion - roster
Calgary Altomahs - roster
Calgary Bronks - roster
Camb Borden - roster
Detroit / Port Huron Raiders - roster
Gimli Hurricanes - roster
Hagersville RCAF Flying Tigers - roster
Hamilton Alerts - roster
Hamilton Panthers - roster
Hamilton Rowing Club - roster
Hamilton Tigers - roster
Hamilton Tiger Cubs - roster
Hamilton Wildcats - roster
HCMS Donnacona-St. Hyacinth  - roster
Kitchener Panthers - roster
Kitchener-Waterloo Dutchmen - roster
Lachine Airmen - roster
Lethbridge Bulldogs - roster
London Lords - roster
MacDonald Mustangs - roster
McGill University - roster
Montreal Bulldogs - roster
Montreal Cubs - roster
Montreal Hornets - roster
Montreal Indians - roster
Montreal Nationals - roster
Montreal Royals - roster
Montreal Westmounts - roster
Montreal Winged Wheeler - roster
Osgood Hall - roster
Ottawa College - roster
Ottawa Combines - roster
Ottawa RCAF Uplands - roster
Ottawa Trojans - roster
Peterbrough Pets - roster
Queen's University - roster
Regina All-Service All-Stars - roster
Regina Boat Club - roster
Regina Navy - rostger
Rivers Pathfinders - roster
Rochester Rockets - roster
Royal Military College - roster
Sarnia Imperials / Golden Bears - roster
Saskatoon Quakers - roster
St. Brigid's Saints - roster
St. John's College - roster
St. Michael's College - roster
St. Thomas Hornets - roster
Toronto R.A.A (Torontos) - roster
Toronto Balmy Beach - roster
Toronto Indians - roster
Toronto Navy Bulldogs - roster
Toronto Parkdale - roster
Toronto RCAF Hurricanes - roster
University of Alberta - roster
University of Manitoba - roster
University of Toronto - roster
Vancouver Grizzlies - roster
Vancouver K of C - roster
Verdun Grads - roster
Western Ontario - roster
Winnipeg Tammany Tigers - roster
Windsor Rockets / Ambassadors - roster
Winnipeg Army Grenades - roster
Winnipeg Tammany Tigers - roster
Winnipeg United Services - roster
Winnipeg Victorias - roster
Winnipeg Wireless School - roster