Someone once said it is better to give than to receive. I don’t know who first said it but it’s a sentiment I certainly agree with, especially at Christmastime.
Everyone likes getting presents but seeing the look on someone’s face when you give them the perfect gift is more satisfying than anything.
Sports teams are no different — they all want stuff, including things they can’t give themselves. So let me slide on down each CFL team’s chimney and find something in Santa’s bag to be that perfect gift this holiday season.
Montreal Alouettes: stability and calm
Once the model of consistency — if not the model of excellence — it has been a rough few years for the Montreal Alouettes. We have seen coaching turnover, front-office turmoil and ownership issues all spring up in recent years.
All of that was thought to have been stopped when Sid Spiegel and Gary Stern bought the team in 2020 but it all came roaring back this past season.
Oddly enough, the product on the field has not suffered all that much. The Alouettes have made the playoffs the last three seasons and their East Semi-Final victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats was the franchise’s first playoff win since 2014.
They accomplished that despite ending the season with a different quarterback and head coach than the ones they had to start the year.
What this franchise needs more than anything right now is a sense of stability and calmness. They’ve hired Jason Maas as their new head coach, now let’s wait and see if they can enjoy some continuity over the coming years.
Ottawa Redblacks: return to relevance (and a home win)
A rivalry is only as good as its worst team and a rivalry isn’t really a rivalry if one team beats the other every time they play. The Ottawa Redblacks have been poor rivals to the rest of the league recently, having fallen from perennial Grey Cup contenders to the free square on the bingo card the last three years.
The team has won just 10 games over the last three seasons and has lost 23 of their last 25 home games. With the hiring of Bob Dyce as the team’s head coach and his hiring of Khari Jones and Barron Miles as offensive and defensive coordinators, respectively, the Redblacks are building a team that is hard to cheer against.
Hopefully, 2023 can bring with it a resurgence in Redblacks football because when the team is playing well, there are few better football cities in this country than Ottawa.
Also, as a stocking stuffer, let’s give them a couple of home wins as well. Let’s let the fans go home happy for once.
Toronto Argonauts: fans, and lots of them
This is a simple one: following a Grey Cup win and the momentum that hopefully comes with it, the Argos need to see more butts in seats in 2023. The team doesn’t look like a one-and-done bunch as it has a good mix of young players, steady veterans and a talented coaching staff that can stay in the mix in the East Division for the next few years.
But all of it will mean little if the team cannot find a way to get more people out to games. It’s not an easy goal to accomplish but I truly hope the organization can build off their impressive ticket sales from the East Final and finally make BMO Field feel like a home stadium.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats: Bo Levi’s name on a contract (and the championship that comes with it)
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats really only need one thing and that is a Grey Cup championship. Next year will mark 24 years since the Ticats last hoisted the country’s biggest football prize and with the Grey Cup game taking place in Hamilton in 2023, few things would bring a smile to people’s faces more than seeing the Tabbies finally win the big one and doing so one home soil.
The one other thing the Ticats need is Bo Levi Mitchell’s signature on a contract for 2023 and beyond. The team traded for his rights in November and they simply cannot afford to fumble this acquisition. Bo in black and gold is probably the best path to winning a Grey Cup, so these two gifts go hand in hand, like when Santa brought me my first Nintendo system along with a copy John Madden Football. It was a good Christmas that year.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers: a better third uniform
You know that person on your list who’s impossible to buy something for because they always just buy whatever they want whenever they want? That’s the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Despite losing the Grey Cup this past season, the team still has everything it needs thanks to the back-to-back championships they won in 2019 and 2021.
They have been the league’s most dominant team for the past three years, already have a M.O.P. quarterback, an elite pass rusher, a stalwart middle linebacker, and a championship-winning head coach locked up for the foreseeable future. What more could they possibly need?
Just like when you get your dad a new shirt for Christmas, the Bombers could use one of those as well because their third jerseys are kind of awful. Winnipeg has a great colour scheme and their regular uniforms are beautiful but I just cannot get on board with a football jersey having a logo on the front of it. I just don’t like it. So, for the team that has everything else, take this new shirt.
Saskatchewan Roughriders: less drama
This was one of the easier gifts to give. The Riders need a lot of things — I’m sure a competent offensive line is on the team’s wish list — but ultimately I opted for them to just have less chaos in 2023.
Whether it was players acting foolishly, a brutal stomach bug, coaches making haphazard decisions or a team that just seemed to always do the wrong thing at the wrong time, having a year in Riderville where everything goes smoothly would be best for not just their fans but CFL fans as a whole.
Fans outside of Regina may have enjoyed watching the team implode following a 4-1 start to finish 6-12 but it got to the point where the comedic value of Saskatchewan’s struggles just got hard to watch. A year without that would not be the worst thing in the world.
Edmonton Elks: a home win
This gift might be even easier than Saskatchewan’s. It’s been over three calendar years since the Elks won a game at Commonwealth Stadium. Going winless at home over the course of one season was unfortunate enough, but doing it in two consecutive seasons is almost unimaginable.
The only possible gift to give, therefore, is the gift of a home victory. The fans in attendance when the Elks finally win a home game could bring Commonwealth crumbling down due to the emotional outburst that is sure to follow. It will be a cathartic experience for those there and something I think most CFL fans will be happy to see.
Calgary Stampeders: renewed vigour in the city
Attendance issues are plaguing a few CFL cities, but in no place stranger than Calgary.
The Stampeders have been great for over 30 years, winning double-digit games per season 25 times since 1991. Yet, when you watch Stamps on television, you see vast sections of empty seats. For a team this good and a franchise as successful as they’ve been, seeing that is bewildering.
Have Calgary fans grown tired of the team’s yearly success? Have they simply started taking the wins for granted?
Whatever the case may be, I hope next season with a new, young quarterback, and a chance to reclaim the division after the Bombers proved vulnerable for the first time in a long time, we will see the stands at McMahon Stadium packed once again.
B.C. Lions: maintaining the momentum
Few teams saw their fortunes change as quickly as the B.C. Lions did after Amar Doman took over as their new owner. Almost immediately a buzz returned to the left coast, with the team pulling out all the stops for their home opener last June.
Attendance tapered off at times but with the human highlight reel that was Nathan Rourke under centre, the Lions still had a special air about them in 2022. They capitalized on that with a massive crowd for the team’s West Semi-Final win over the Calgary Stampeders and now they need to maintain that momentum into next season, whether Rourke is back or off saving some NFL team’s season.
Expecting the Lions to average over 30,000 fans is a stretch right now but they could get there one day if they stay the course and keep doing everything right.