Ottawa’s CFL History; A Valentine’s Story

The beauty of R-Nation is that it perfectly encapsulates the 126 years of Ottawa’s pro football history. It includes fans who came into the CFL fold in the glory days of the Rough Riders, the wild Renegade era and more recently, the Redblacks.

As we reflect on Ottawa’s storied CFL history, it bears remembering that much like some people’s love lives, R-Nation’s relationship with the CFL is long, winding and full of ups and downs.

Here’s a special Valentine’s Day look back at the three teams who’ve captured imagination and heart of R-Nation.

The First Love: Ottawa Rough Riders: 1876-1996 (9 Grey Cup wins)

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They say you never forget your first love, and in this case, it’s certainly true. Though the Rough Riders have been dead and gone for two decades, R-Nation will always have a special spot in its heart for those iconic Rough Rider teams. The Rough Riders and Ottawa were together for two times longer than a Leafs Stanley Cup drought and made so many great memories, but down the stretch, it was as if both parties just kind of sensed things were weren’t working. As the on-field success dwindled, so did the fans in the stands, and really, after 15 years without winning a playoff game, who can blame either side? Lots of fights over little things eventually led to the relationship petering out at the end. Sometimes you just gotta move on. We’ll always have that Gabriel catch though.

The Rebound: Ottawa Renegades: 2002-2005 (0 Grey Cup wins)


After taking half a dozen years to move on, R-Nation rekindled its CFL romance, hooking up with a young, brash team. The PDAs were frequent, often and sometimes left an uncomfortable taste in the mouths of those watching. The neighbours around warned that this new partner would probably just break everyone’s heart again, especially when they started showing similar behaviours to how your first love acted at the end, but R-Nation didn’t listen. R-Nation didn’t care who was watching it, because hey, football was back and it felt good to be noticed. But as people began to look too close, the warts became apparent. As they say, love might be blind, but the neighbours are not. Much to nobody’s surprise, the Renegades got up and left in middle of the night. Thanks for nothing yet again Lonie.

The Keeper: Ottawa Redblacks: 2014-Present (0 Grey Cup wins…so far)

Kevin Malcolm

Getting your heart broken once is hard, but having it happen twice is downright miserable. That’s why nobody can fault R-Nation for taking so long to give the CFL one more chance. Luckily for everyone involved, in this case, the third time truly was the charm. This kind of relationship reminds you of all the great things you had with your first love, but comes without any of the mistakes you made with the rebound. In fact, this stable relationship is going to last, you can feel it in your bones. Though you’ll often want to compare what you currently have to your first relationship, in the end you know it’s simply not healthy. The past should be remembered, but the future embraced. This is the kind of fairy tale bond they write about in books, only now, you’re living it.

Happy Valentine’s Day R-Nation.

Santino Filoso is originally from Ottawa and has written about the Redblacks since 2013. He is the only CFL writer currently living in Brazil (as far as we know).