The CFL recently released its schedule for the upcoming season, providing fans with ample time to plan camping trips, weddings, weekends at the cottage, and road trips around the games they’d like to attend.
For fans in the nation’s capital, 2023 provides a fresh opportunity to (finally) flip the script and return to the standard of annual playoff appearances established in the early years of the franchise.
Here’s what stands out to me about the Redblacks’ 2023 schedule:
The Battle of 417 Highway will be intense
Not only does Ottawa play their closest geographical rival four times this season — with the usual playoff ramifications, of course — but those games will carry extra meaning for two new members of their coaching staff.
Offensive coordinator Khari Jones and defensive coordinator Barron Miles were both unceremoniously fired by Montreal following a 1-3 start to the season in 2022. Now the pair finds themselves with four separate opportunities to make strong statements to the team that cut them loose.
You better believe they’ll spend some extra time game-planning during those Montreal weeks.
Unlike previous seasons when Ottawa’s byes haven’t been well spaced out, Bob Dyce’s squad will be given weeks of rest at fairly ideal times in 2023.
The Redblacks first — although unofficial — bye lands during the opening week of the preseason. That’s a blessing in disguise given that it’ll be an extra week for both Jones and Miles to install their new playbooks. As has been the case in recent years, the team will likely conduct a full team scrimmage, simulating game conditions during their week off.
In the regular season, Ottawa has byes in Week 3, Week 13 and Week 20. The last one might be the most crucial as it could allow for banged up players to get healthy just in time for a potential playoff run without getting rusty, as the club still has one regular season game remaining.
What player safety?
CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie loves to talk about the efforts the league has made to enhance player safety, but it’s hard to take that seriously the Redblacks will play two games in the span of six days on three separate occasions next year.
Ottawa plays in Montreal on June 10th and host Calgary on June 15th. On July 23rd, the team visits Calgary and on July 28th, they’re back at home against Hamilton. On Oct. 9th, the Redblacks play in Montreal and on Oct. 14th, they play in Toronto.
No schedule will ever be perfect in a nine-team league, but having one team play two games in a six-day span three times just seems like a huge fail. R-Nation will be crossing their fingers that the injury bug doesn’t bite.
Five of Ottawa’s first eight games come against West Division opponents, but that’s offset by the team finishing the season with seven of their final ten games against East Division rivals, including a pair of home-and-home series with Montreal and Toronto to close out the regular season. Even if the Redblacks get off to a less-than-ideal start, they’ll control their playoff fate down the stretch.
Quirky things that irk me
In a relatively small league, it shouldn’t be hard to schedule every team to play every other team at home and on the road. Ottawa plays B.C. once (in Vancouver) and Winnipeg once (in Ottawa). It’s a small thing to nitpick, but shouldn’t season ticket holders have an opportunity to see all of the league’s stars in-person?
Instead, Ottawa plays Montreal four times — with three of those games occurring at TD Place — and Toronto and Hamilton three times each. Why not balance things out to ensure that every star player plays in each stadium at least once over the course of the season?
Weekends at Lansdowne
Only one of the Redblacks’ home games — their home opener — takes place on a Thursday. Every other contest at TD Place this season falls on a Friday or Saturday night.
There will be four games on each of those days, with all but two starting at 7 or 7:30 p.m. local time. That set-up will be warmly welcomed by the large contingent of R-Nation that tailgates at Brewer Park and/or descends upon the many restaurants and bars at Lansdowne to pregame.
Road conditions = ideal
For those members of R-Nation interested in repping the team on the road, there’s Saturday games in Montreal, Hamilton, and Toronto and a Thanksgiving Monday tilt with the Alouettes. Since pro football returned to the nation’s capital in 2014, Ottawa fans have proven themselves to be strong travellers. Look for that trend to continue in 2023.
Ottawa Redblacks’ full 2023 schedule
Friday, May 26th, Montreal @ Ottawa, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, June 1st, Ottawa @ Toronto, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, June 10th, Ottawa @ Montreal, 7 p.m.
Thursday, June 15th, Calgary @ Ottawa, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, June 30th, Edmonton @ Ottawa, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, July 8th, Ottawa @ Hamilton, 7 p.m.
Saturday, July 15th, Winnipeg @ Ottawa, 4 p.m.
Sunday, July 23rd, Ottawa @ Calgary, 7 p.m.
Friday, July 28th, Hamilton @ Ottawa, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, August 6th, Ottawa @ Saskatchewan, 7 p.m.
Sunday, August 13th, Ottawa @ Toronto, 7 p.m.
Saturday, August 19th, Montreal @ Ottawa, 7p.m.
Sunday, August 27th, Ottawa @ Edmonton, 7 p.m.
Friday, September 8th, Hamilton @ Ottawa, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, September 16th, Ottawa @ BC, 7 p.m.
Friday, September 22nd, Saskatchewan @ Ottawa, 7 p.m.
Saturday, September 30th, Montreal @ Ottawa, 4 p.m.
Monday, October 9th, Ottawa @ Montreal, 1 p.m.
Saturday, October 14th, Ottawa @ Toronto, 7 p.m.
Saturday, October 28th, Toronto @ Ottawa, 7 p.m.
East Semi-Final — Saturday, November 4th, 3 p.m.
East Final — Saturday, November 11th, 3 p.m.
Grey Cup — Sunday, November 19th, 6 p.m.