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Canadian Football 101

by Doug McLean

Football is football (unless it’s soccer, of course), right? Though North American football evolved from the same rugby roots introduced on this continent in the late 1800s, there are actually significant differences between how it’s played in Canada and the United States. Both games are exciting but here are a few key pieces that make our Canadian version unique.

Bigger field

Canada is known for its open spaces and our football fields are no different. They’re 110 yards long, 65 yards wide and have end zones 20 yards deep. This compares to the 100 yards x 53 yards and 10 yard end zones south of the border. Lots of room for our stars to run!

We have a rouge

The two countries share six point touchdowns, three point field goals and two point safety touches but we crazy Canadians added in another wrinkle, the rouge. This one point is scored when a kick of any kind sails through the end zone, other than on a made field goal. On a kick that stays in the end zone, a player receiving the ball can choose to kneel and concede the point for the benefit of getting to start their next play on the 35 yard line. It might sound confusing but it can provide some entertaining and unique scoring situations not seen south of the border.

One more player

In Canada, we like everyone to play so we let one more player per team on to the field at 12 rather than the National Football League’s 11. American quarterbacks who come up to play in Canada often say the biggest change for them is getting used to this additional body trying to defend them.

I could go on with the differences in the play clock, kicking game, player movement before each play starts, among others but those big three will give any Canadian football rookie a sense of our game.

It’s fast-paced and nothing is better on a beautiful Edmonton night than sitting under the sun at Commonwealth Stadium watching our beloved 2015 Grey Cup champion Eskimos battle all-comers. See the game for yourself at an Edmonton Eskimos home game and watch the stadium come alive.

The CFL season runs from late June to late November culminating in the Grey Cup Championship which has been presented since 1909. Catch one of Edmonton's home games:

  • Saturday, June 18: Edmonton Eskimos vs. Saskatchewan Roughriders
  • Saturday, June 25: Edmonton Eskimos vs. Ottawa Redblacks
  • Friday, July 8: Edmonton Eskimos vs. Saskatchewan Roughriders
  • Saturday, July 23: Edmonton Eskimos vs. Hamilton Tiger-Cats
  • Thursday, July 28: Edmonton Eskimos vs. Winnipeg Blue Bombers
  • Thursday, August 11: Edmonton Eskimos vs. Montreal Alouettes
  • Friday, August 26: Edmonton Eskimos vs. Saskatchewan Roughriders
  • Saturday, September 10: Edmonton Eskimos vs. Calgary Stampeders
  • Friday, September 23: Edmonton Eskimos vs. BC Lions
  • Saturday, November 5: Edmonton Eskimos vs. Toronto Argonauts