Thanksgiving is one of the best times of the year. It’s not Christmas levels of great, but it is still pretty darn good in its own right.
The autumnal weather, the changing of the leaves and the meal that comes along with it.
Oh, and football. There is also football.
The yearly tradition that is Canadian football on Thanksgiving Monday is one of the most anticipated days on the CFL calendar. I could go into why I think the CFL needs to do more to promote Thanksgiving in the same way they do Labour Day but that is another piece for another time.
Last year, we were treated to two turkey day matchups but this year we will only be getting one serving, as the Montreal Alouettes host the Ottawa Redblacks on Monday afternoon from Percival Molson Stadium on the campus of McGill University.
Thanksgiving also means it is time to give thanks for the things we have and CFL teams are no different. All of them (sort of) have something for which to be thankful for.
B.C. Lions: Nathan Rourke
There were few things more enjoyable this CFL season than watching Nathan Rourke burst onto the scene back in the summer. The Lisfranc injury he suffered in August in a game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders was probably the most debilitating to the league’s overall entertainment value since Zach Collaros’ ACL injury ended his season back in 2015.
Rourke’s scintillating play in his first season as a starting quarterback made Lions’ games must-watch, even for people like myself who live in the eastern timezone and therefore had to stay up into the wee hours of the morning just to watch him do his thing.
Rourke dazzled on a weekly basis and while his injury was a bummer by any measure, we can still be thankful that we were able to witness his individual brilliance and hope that he can find his way back onto the field before the 2022 season comes to a close.
Calgary Stampeders: 30 years of quarterbacking excellence
Since 1992, with a small blip in the early 2000s, the Calgary Stampeders have unquestionably had the best quarterback situation in the Canadian Football League. The line goes from Doug Flutie to Jeff Garcia to Dave Dickenson to Marcus Crandall — he won a Grey Cup MVP, don’t forget — to Henry Burris to Kevin Glenn to Bo Levi Mitchell and now to Jake Maier.
For three decades, the Stamps have been one of the best-run teams in North American sport and you can trace that almost entirely to their unprecedented run of excellence at the quarterback position. If you don’t think that is something for which to be thankful, just ask all the other teams who have been lucky to have half that amount of talent at the quarterback position over that same time frame.
Edmonton Elks: road games existing
It has been a rough few seasons for the Edmonton Elks. Their long home losing streak is approaching three years — October 12, 2019 was the last time the Elks emerged victorious in a game played at Commonwealth Stadium — and the team is barrelling towards a second-straight season at the bottom of the West Division.
Things could be worse, however, because while the Elks are an unfathomable 0-14 at home over the last two seasons, they have a 7-9 record on the road over that same time span. After giving thanks that travel exists, perhaps they should also get a head start on drafting their Christmas list for this year and put “play every game on the road” at the top of their wish list.
Saskatchewan Roughriders: nothing
I took this assignment over a week ago mostly because I love putting silly things like this together and over that time, I racked my brain trying to come up with something for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. I simply could not.
My first inclination was to say the team should be thankful they no longer employ Garrett Marino but I felt as if the piece already had the required amount of snark you come to expect from yours truly.
Honestly, from the Marino fiasco to the Duke Williams nonsense to Craig Dickenson constantly putting his foot in his mouth to the team likely to miss out on playing a Grey Cup in their new-ish home, I just don’t think there is anything for the Riders to be thankful for this season.
I guess you could say that the season is almost over but even that felt just a little too mean. Sorry Riders fans, I tried, I really genuinely tried, and I could not come up with anything.
Enjoy your holiday… I guess?
Winnipeg Blue Bombers: everything
The inverse of the Riders is the Bombers. Is there anything for them not to be thankful about the last few years?
Ever since they kicked the Ticats’ teeth in at the 2019 Grey Cup, everything has been coming up Winnipeg. They have won back-to-back championships and look well on their way to winning a third straight this year, which would make them the first three-peat champion in 40 years. They are the best team by any statistical or eye-test metric you want to use. They have the chance to tie the 1989 Edmonton football team for the best regular season record in CFL history at 16-2.
If you are a Bombers fan, player or member of the organization in any capacity, you have absolutely everything for which to be thankful right now.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats: home games exist
In contrast to the Elks, the Ticats are winless on the road in 2022 and have just four road wins (including playoffs) since the start of the 2021 season. Two of those wins have come in Ottawa and Edmonton — those two teams are a combined 1-27 at home over the last two CFL regular seasons.
After an undefeated home record in 2019, the Ticats are 11-5 (including playoffs) when playing at the friendly confines of Tim Hortons Field since the beginning of the 2021 season. There are not a lot of things to be thankful for when it comes to the 2022 Tiger-Cats, but being able to play half their schedule in the Hammer is definitely one of them.
Toronto Argonauts: Ticats’ struggles
This one might seem a little odd at first but hear me out. The Argos have won two Grey Cups in the last 10 years, in 2012 and 2017. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats have missed the playoffs just twice in the last 10 years, also in 2012 and 2017. The Argos have made the playoffs three other times during the last decade, in 2013, 2015 and 2021. In all those years the Argos were eliminated by… the Ticats.
Toronto is the top seed in the East Division right now, has probably been the most consistent team — which is not saying much — in the division this season and looks poised to make their first trip to the Grey Cup in half a decade. The only thing seemingly standing in their way would be a playoff matchup with the black and gold.
If the Ticats fail to make the playoffs or get bounced before meeting the Argos, double blue supporters should be thankful that Hamilton is having a down season and should think about their divisional rival when they inevitably raise another banner at BMO Field next summer.
Ottawa Redblacks: Lorenzo Mauldin’s individual brilliance
I was going to put the recent firing of Paul LaPolice here but I thought that felt mean and, as with the Riders’ entry, I felt this piece already met the snark quota thanks to other entries. Instead, I went with perhaps the biggest surprise of the 2022 season and that is defensive lineman Lorenzo Mauldin IV currently leading the CFL in sacks.
Mauldin was a rotational player at best with the Ticats the last two seasons but, given a chance at an expanded role in Ottawa, has shown that the Tabbies missed the boat on a player who is more than likely going to be an all-star in 2022.
Mauldin’s weekly assault of opposing quarterbacks has been one of the few bright spots in another dismal campaign from the team from the nation’s capital. If he can hold off his closest competitors, he could become the first Redblack player to ever lead the league in sacks.
It may not be much but seeing something that has never been done before would certainly be something for which I would be thankful.
Montreal Alouettes: William Stanback’s return
The Alouettes have had a fine season, one that will end with them making a third consecutive trip to the playoffs after missing out on the post-season party from 2015 to 2018.
Despite all the turmoil — the team has a different starting quarterback and head coach than the one with which they began the season — one of the biggest unexpected blows was suffered when running back William Stanback was injured during Montreal’s Week 1 matchup with the Stampeders.
Last year’s only 1,000-yard rusher has not played since that fateful day in June but the league’s premier ball carrier will be back for the stretch run after the Als activated Stanback off the six-game injured list last week.
Montreal’s offence gets immensely more productive when Stanback is on the field and in a weak East Division, his return could be what helps get the Als their first playoff win since 2014 and possibly make a run at the franchise’s first Grey Cup since 2010. Sure sounds like something I would be thankful for.