The 2022 season puts the “C” back in the CFL
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Perhaps the most important takeaway from the four-week CFL season is that it’s happening at all. For a time, as the players and the league worked on a new collective bargaining agreement – at one point the parties even had a tentative deal that was never ratified – the 2022 campaign looked under threat.
Still, we’re on track for a full 18-game season with the Gray Cup back in its rightful November slot. For the most part, the focus is once again on football.
Here are two scenarios worth following:
The Canadian takeover is upon us.
As part of union negotiations, the CFL proposed eliminating the Canadian ratio, which historically required seven starters on each team to be citizens of the country, presumably in an effort to increase the talent pool by adding Americans. The union, made up of many Canadians (every team of 46 players must have at least 21 Canadians), was obviously opposed – some would lose their jobs entirely, while the “C” in the CFL would essentially lose its meaning beyond the rule three. The players ultimately won as the ratio was increased to eight starters, one of whom can be a naturalized American with five seasons in the league or three with the same team.
The only position that historically lacked Canadian representation is that of quarterback. In 2015, Brandon Bridge became the first Canadian QB to start a game in 19 years. Stampeders backup Andrew Buckley scored a rushing touchdown in the 2016 Gray Cup, becoming the first Canadian center to find the end zone in the championship game since Russ Jackson in 1969. has every other Canadian QB since Jackson has won the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s top athlete in 1969 after his second consecutive title and called it a career.
But in 2022, the Canadian QB is back in vogue with a pair emerging in the west. It makes sense – not only is the country churning out more and more NFL players, but athletes in all sports are starting to make their mark internationally, from men’s and women’s soccer teams to Andrew Wiggins in the finals of the NBA.
WATCH | Rourke leads undefeated Lions to latest win:
Back in the CFL, Nathan Rourke of Victoria is already roaming the field. His Lions are 3-0 with a league-leading 137 points – 27 more than the second-placed Roughriders, who have played one more game. Rourke played collegiate at Ohio University, earning Canada’s top honors in 2017. In his rookie season last year, he started just two games, throwing three touchdowns and five interceptions. But in three starts this season, he threw nine scores for just two picks, while adding 180 yards and three more rushing touchdowns. Rourke is also second in the league in passing yards with 1,071, just four behind Tiger-Cats point guard Dane Evans, who also had one more game. Rourke joined Jackson in Week 1 as the only Canadian QB to record five touchdowns in a game, and he set the national single-game passing yards record at 436 in Week 3. 24-year-old will face his biggest test yet on Saturday. when the two-time defending champion Blue Bombers and their miserly defense visit British Columbia
Tre Ford’s stats aren’t quite as stunning, but the Niagara Falls, Ont., native is just getting started after taking over behind center this week and leading the Edmonton Elks to their first win of the season. In the 29-25 decision over Hamilton, Ford threw for 159 yards with a touchdown and an interception while adding 61 yards on just six carries. The former Waterloo warrior ended his college career last season by becoming the first black QB to win the Hec Crighton Award as U Sports’ Most Outstanding Football Player. Ford will try to get a good start on the job against rival Calgary on Thursday.
The West is the best.
On paper, the Bombers’ 23-22 victory over the Argos last night, in which the Toronto kicker missed an equalizing convert, was a classic between two division leaders. But pull back the curtain and you’ll see two franchises that might not even be in the same hemisphere.
So you won’t be surprised to learn that the West is 11-1 against the East at the start. The Bombers lead the division at 4-0, followed by the Lions and Stampeders at 3-0 and the Roughriders at 3-1. Even the 1-3 Elks have hope in the form of Ford, and Edmonton’s three losses were in division. The Lions have the most exciting player in the league in Rourke, and the Bombers don’t seem to have missed a step even after losing running back Andrew Harris to Toronto in free agency.
It’s certainly too early to talk about the playoffs, but we could be heading for a divisional imbalance that even the crossover system can’t explain, where the last-place West team may have a better record than the West. one or both of the best-two teams in the East.