CFL Year In Review: Brawls, Sports Betting, And A Historic Grey Cup

Written By Jose Colorado on January 6, 2022

Flashy usually isn’t a word associated with anything pushing 65 years old.

But the Canadian Football League may have just earned that title following the 108th edition of the Grey Cup final. Canada’s premier professional football league concluded its first season in two years.

And while there was football – which included a thrilling 33-25 Grey Cup victory for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

The real story for the league rests in the off-the-field movement.

CFL struggles financially during year hiatus, bounces back

With CFL action cancelled in 2020, the league lost a reported $80 million in revenue.

So getting the product off and running again in 2021 is a win in itself.

Consider even the Canadian government denied the league’s request for a $30million loan during the pandemic.

There wasn’t much backlash from the Canadian public either. Critics have long loathed the historically old league’s unwillingness to adjust to the times.

They argue its Achilles heel comes in the form of its lack of connection – or willingness to connect – with the younger demographic.

CFL adjusts comeback, steps into the betting world

But commissioner Randy Ambrosie is trying to change that. 

The first significant step came in 2021 when Canada allowed single-event betting on August 27.

The aftermath has been an exploding multi-million-dollar market.

Multiple major sports associations have gotten in on the act, including the PGA Championship of Canada.

In August, the CFL did the same.

That’s when the sports league inked a multi-year partnership with online sportsbooks and casino, BetRegal. The online provider will be the league’s official sports gaming partner moving forward.

They will also aid in the CFL’s marketing strategies making for a refreshed perspective on attracting fans.

Playoffs, 108th Grey Cup, provides thrills, drama and publicity

In the playoffs, the CFL upped its edginess. 

Consider the grandiose Grey Cup presentation before the big game. Two Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) CH-146 Griffon helicopters helped fly in the league’s prized possession for its pregame presser.

The league was in the spotlight again before finals when a player-fan incident went viral.

The video circulated widely on social media. It may not have been the ideal publicity the league wanted. But it was publicity nonetheless.

But Ambrosie couldn’t have asked for a better match when it came to the final.

In a wild come-from-behind overtime thriller, the Blue Bombers repeated as CFL champions.

Before the pandemic, Winnipeg and Hamilton met in the last Grey Cup. The added rivalry and storyline gave some extra significance to the season finale.

Upcoming CFL season could be historic 

The league can now focus on the future with all of the drama and excitement in the rear-view

And that means storylines must develop to increase viewership and fan engagement.

Luckily the league won’t have much difficulty heading into the 2022 CFL season.

The Blue Bombers are on the verge of accomplishing something only seen once before in league history. The club can achieve the first three-peat in more than 40 years by winning back-to-back titles.

The Edmonton Elks (then Eskimos) were the last team to achieve the feat. They rattled off five straight Grey Cups between 1978 – 1982. No team has come close ever since. 

It remains to be seen what the odds will be for the Bombers heading into the 2022 season.

Regardless, the drama should make for some great press as the CFL continues to try and reinvent itself moving forward.

Photo by Shutterstock/JHVEPhoto
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Jose Colorado

Jose Colorado is a British Columbia-based writer. He lives in Burnaby and loves sports, anime, writing, business, and the occasional walk on the beach.

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