CFL – The Television Years

With the advent of television in Canada in November of 1952, televising football was a natural for the new medium. Football on television actually began on September 30, 1939 when the National Broadcasting Company’s experimental TV station W2XBS televised the Fordham vs Waynesburg college football game at Randall’s Island, New York. On October 22nd 1939, NBC became the first network in the U.S. to televise a professional football game when the Brooklyn Dodgers beat the Philadelphia Eagles 23-14. This telecast was seen over the experimental station W2XBS by an approximate number of 500 lucky owners of television sets as well as on monitors from the RCA pavilion at the New York’s Worlds Fair. Allen (Skip) Walz, working in a crew of eight, did the play-by-play.

In Canada, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) made plans to televise the Grey Cup game between the Edmonton Eskimos and the Toronto Argonauts on November 26, 1952 from Varsity Stadium in Toronto. The telecast would only be seen by those few with televisions who could access Toronto’s CBLT. For their first television revenue, the Canadian Rugby Union (CRU, predecessor to the Canadian Football League) received $7,500 for the Grey Cup TV rights.

In preparation for this inaugural telecast, technical testing as well as the audition of play-by-play men took place at the preceding playoff game between Sarnia Imperials of the Ontario Rugby Football Union (ORFU) and the Toronto Argonauts. A sportscaster from Hamilton’s CHML‘s radio station, Norm Marshall, was the winner in the test run. Marshall was joined by Montreal broadcaster Larry O’Brien for this historic first televised football game in Canada. Marshall and O’Brien were each paid $250 for their work in this game.

CBLT’s programming during weekdays started with a test pattern at 7pm and ended before midnight. Airtime was limited but the CBC placed ads in newspapers to advise viewers of the first Grey Cup related programs. On CBLT’s ‘Big Revue’ show, Argo coach Frank Clair presented his views on the upcoming game. On another program, football personality Annis Stukus diagrammed plays and discussed strategy for the game.

For those football fans without television sets there were other methods of viewing the game. Westinghouse in Hamilton installed over 20 sets so that their 8,000 employees and friends could watch the game. The Paddock and the El Mocambo Taverns in downtown Toronto each advertised that their ‘Giant TV Screen’ would be showing the game. Pubs with televisions in the Toronto area were filled to capacity and those with televisions at home had plenty of company on Grey Cup day.

Well-known Canadian sportsmen Harry ‘Red’ Foster’s advertising firm handled this first football telecast which was sponsored by the Northern Electric Company and Sweet Cap Cigarettes. The Grey Cup Cavalcade show hosted by Annis Stukus preceded the game itself at 12:30 pm. with the game starting 15 minutes later.

Newspaper reports declared that the first televised football game had been a success and had been the most watched program in the brief history of Canadian television. The television audience was estimated to be 700,000 viewers. Reviews indicated that the CBC “put a crisp, unclouded image on most screens within its 90 mile area and showed great skill in following the play.” There was one problem however. There was a technical breakdown that prevented most of the 3rd and part of the 4th quarter from being viewed. Football fans were subjected to their first ‘blackout’ until a CBC technician managed to climb the CBC’s steel tower to restore communication between Varsity Stadium and the TV tower. The microwave receiver at the 300 ft high tower had ceased functioning although the voice of the commentators continued to be picked up. The enthusiastic viewers quickly became dismayed as they missed Edmonton’s Normie Kwong’s second touchdown. The producer of the show, Sydney Newman, head of the CBLT mobile unit, later said that such a technical problem could have happened anytime but unfortunately it happened ‘at our most conspicuous moment’.

CBLT presented football fans with a ‘retelecast from films’ later that night. Kinescopes of the game were shown the next day over CBFT in Montreal. And movie theatres in the Toronto area provided film or ‘Grey Cup Pictures’ in addition to their regular programs starting 2 days later.

By all accounts the televised Grey Cup game in 1953 from Varsity Stadium aired without any problems. Sweet Cap cigarettes had brought the 1953 Grey Cup game to the now growing TV audience. Three television stations carried the Grey Cup game live, and the CRU was paid $20,500 for the rights. Football on television in Canada was expanding with a select number of playoff games from 1953 being shown. From 1954 on, the CBC began televising regular season contests from the Interprovincial Rugby Football Union (IRFU), also known as the East’s ‘Big Four’.

In order to ensure that television did not interfere with fans’ attendance at home games, a 50-mile radius ‘blackout’ rule was implemented. However, when a game at Toronto’s Varsity Stadium had a less than expected turnout, there was concern that the televising of the game by the local Hamilton station CHCH had had harmful effects on the attendance figures. In future television contracts, the ‘blackout’ rule would be amended to a 75-mile radius from the home city.

In 1954, the B.C. Lions joined the Western Interprovincial Football Union (WIFU), and in the IRFU, the ‘Big Four’ games were televised on the National Broadcasting Company. By the 1954 season, coverage of the Grey Cup was expanding. Viewers in the ‘Eastern Canada’ network and also the NBC coast-to-coast network in the U.S viewed the contest between the Montreal Alouettes and the Edmonton Eskimos from Varsity Stadium. Fans witnessed the unfortunate Montreal’s Chuck Hunsinger fumble and Edmonton’s Jackie Parker running the ball back for the winning touchdown. The Canadian Rugby Union had sold the rights to the 1954 Grey Cup game for $45,000 – $30,000 from the CBC and $15,000 from NBC.

The Grey Cup was played out west for the first time in 1955. Vancouver hosted the game between the Alouettes and the Eskimos with Steve Douglas and Bob Moir calling the action. Hal Walker and Annis Stukus were also part of the TV crew on the Chrysler Corporation sponsored telecast from Empire Stadium. A coast-to-coast microwave hookup across Canada was not available until 1957 and the question at the time was how to bring the game live to the eastern part of the country where most of the television sets were located. TV listings in Toronto show the Grey Cup game starting at 4:15 pm on CBLT in Toronto and CHCH in Hamilton, with the Perry Como show following. The listing added that “some very special arrangements result in eastern Canada being able to see the game live from Vancouver”. The feed from Vancouver was fed through the United States relay microwave system to Toronto and the Eastern Network. Other stations not on the CBC network had to await the kinescopes being flown to them.

In 1956, for the third year in a row, Montreal and Edmonton played for the Grey Cup. CBC commentators included Steve Douglas, Ted Reynolds, Doug Maxwell, Hal Walker and Larry O’Brien. The post game show had O’Brien conducting post game interviews with Canadian football luminaries such as Sam Etcheverry and Jackie Parker. This telecast aired across the country via the CBC’s interconnected network from Quebec City to Winnipeg and to Vancouver via the United States circuit. Television rights were sold for $101,000.

The 1957 Grey Cup telecast from Toronto between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Hamilton Tiger Cats was the first Grey Cup aired coast to coast on the new Canadian microwave system. There was a pre-game show conducted by Larry O’Brien who interviewed various football celebrities on the field. Steve Douglas again did the play-by-play, which was brought to the viewers by Shell and Goodyear. This Grey Cup game was particularly memorable for the crowd at Varsity Stadium as well as television viewers who incredibly saw a spectator on the sidelines trip Ti-Cat ‘Bibbles’ Bawel who was running along the sidelines. The CRU sold the TV rights for this game for $125,000.

In 1958, The Canadian Football Council (CFC) that was established in 1957 withdrew from the CRU and became the ‘Canadian Football League’. The 1958 Grey Cup game from Vancouver saw a rematch of the same two teams. In 1959, Hamilton and Winnipeg squared off yet again but this time at the new home of the Argonauts, CNE Stadium. The 1959 Grey Cup drew five million viewers; only the final game of the Stanley Cup playoffs had a larger audience in that year. Ottawa and Edmonton were the teams vying for the Grey Cup in Vancouver in 1960. The CBC paid $325,000 to the CFL for the broadcast rights to the 1960 season. That same year, the Interprovincial Rugby Football Union (Big Four) changed its name to the Eastern Football Conference.

In February 1961, before the CTV Network had been licensed, John Bassett, Chairman of CFTO-TV, the newly licensed private station in Toronto, outbid the CBC with $375,000 a season for two years for the Eastern Conference regular season and playoff television rights, and a first refusal for the Grey Cup. He planned to apply to the Board of Broadcast Governors for a temporary network licence, so that both the French and English private stations in Montreal and Ottawa could broadcast the games.

Meanwhile, Spence Caldwell, who had lost out to Bassett with his own application for the Toronto licence, was trying to persuade the new private stations to sign affiliation agreements with him so that he could form a network. Bassett initially refused, but several stations had already given Caldwell signed letters of intent to become affiliates, and when Bassett failed to get a temporary network licence from the BBG, he too signed such a letter. Thus armed, Caldwell went to the BBG and was granted his network licence, which in turn gave Bassett access to a network on which to broadcast the CFL games for which he had paid such a high price.

In order to fill any gaps in their sports schedule due to the loss of televised ‘Big Four’ games, the CBC and Carling Breweries Ltd. obtained rights to show National Football League contests. At times, these NFL games would air opposite the football games televised on CTV. The CBC continued to buy the TV rights for Western Football Conference games. The Western teams, having to split the TV revenue from a smaller CBC contract 5 ways, each received less money that the Eastern clubs. This created a source of animosity between the East and West. The CTV affiliates, led by Chairman John Bassett of CFTO, also made it known that they would seek TV rights for the Grey Cup as part of their broadcasting plan. However, the Board of Broadcast Governors stated that the CBC, having the most coverage across the nation, would be the primary carrier of the Grey Cup games.

CFL regulations at the time included a TV ‘blackout’ rule where no home game could be televised locally within a 75 mile radius. In the proposed 27 game package, sponsored by the British-American Oil Company, Hamilton and Toronto fans would only see 5 games involving their teams. To partially satisfy the southern Ontario football fans, CFTO‘s Tim Ryan hosted late night repeats of Hamilton and Toronto home games. Johnny Esaw, the original CTV football announcer and later Vice-President of CTV Sports, originally hailed from Saskatchewan. Esaw maintained that the blackout rule for Saskatchewan actually enabled the club to survive. If the province wide blackout were lifted, many fans would not have traveled across the province to attend games. However, with the arrival of cable television in the late 1960’s, taverns and homes with access to cable and out of town TV signals circumvented the blackout rules and allowed fans to stay home and watch the game for free.

In 1961, the Western Interprovincial Football Union (WICU) changed its name to the Western Football Conference. A partial interlocking schedule was then introduced between the Eastern and Western Conferences. The 1961 Grey Cup game was an exciting overtime thriller with Winnipeg quarterback Ken Ploen dashing into the Hamilton end zone for the Blue Bomber win. But it was in the 1962 Grey Cup game, again between the Ti-Cats and Blue Bombers, from CNE Stadium that was extraordinarily memorable. Due to heavy fog on the field, the Grey Cup game was stopped in the 4th quarter and the final 9 minutes and 29 seconds played the next day resulting in another Winnipeg victory. Steve Douglas, who had been calling play-by-play of Grey Cup games during the 1950’s, was now situated in a studio with injured Hamilton quarterback Bernie Faloney providing game analysis. Johnny Esaw of CTV called the action in the game in his first Grey Cup appearance.

The production of the telecasts would now alternate each year between CBC and CTV. For a fee of $24,000, the American Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) televised the game on tape delay later that day. The remainder of the game was shown on the network the following week. The developments were a disappointment for the CFL as the league was hopeful that the telecast into the States would act as a promotional vehicle in the hopes of landing a lucrative U.S. television contract. The league’s aim was also to display the CFL product to thousands of U.S. College football players to help in recruitment to Canada.

The 1963 Grey Cup game played in Vancouver between the hometown B.C. Lions and the Hamilton Ti-Cats was the first sponsored by Labatt’s. Don Whitman called the play including the late hit on star Lion running back Willie Fleming by Hamilton’s Angelo Mosca. The televised Grey Cup games of the early 60s now regularly included the official coin toss, ceremonial kickoffs, and on-field Grey Cup presentations by Commissioner Sydney Halter as well as post game interviews.

The same two teams contested the 1964 Grey Cup game from CNE Stadium, with Don Whitman calling the action of the Labatt’s sponsored telecast. The same locale was the site of the 1965 championship game, aptly named the ‘Wind Bowl’ due to strong winds that played havoc with the passing and kicking game. Johnny Esaw called the game, which for the first time featured instant replays. Fred Sgambati carried the action of the 1966 Grey Cup game from Vancouver between Ottawa and Saskatchewan with continued sponsorship by Labatt’s. The 1966 Grey Cup was notable for being the first football telecast in colour. While kinescopes of the 1952 and 1953 Grey Cup games are not available, all succeeding Grey Cup games from 1954 to 1970 have been preserved on the kinescope format, with the first Grey Cup game originally televised in colour also being saved on videotape.

Canada’s Centennial year of 1967 appropriately had the Grey Cup game played in the nation’s capital of Ottawa with Esaw calling the play-by-play for the Ti-Cats’ win over the western Riders, with the grandson of Lord Grey presenting the Grey Cup to Hamilton coach Ralph Sazio. For the 1968 season, Canadian Pacific became a primary sponsor along with Labatt’s. Johnny Esaw was in the booth calling the Grey Cup game that year between Calgary and Ottawa from Toronto. Montreal, for the first time since 1931, played host to the 1969 Grey Cup from the Autostade featuring Ottawa and Saskatchewan. This was the final game that Ottawa quarterback Russ Jackson would play in an illustrious career. Jackson not only was presented with the Grey Cup by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau but was also named the ‘Outstanding Player’.

In 1970, Montreal beat Calgary in the championship game played on a muddy CNE field in Toronto. CTV’s Pat Marsden was the television host of this game, his first of many appearances on Grey Cup games as a host or play-by-play man. For the past few seasons, both CBC and CTV football personalities had worked together on the telecasts. On a rainy day in Vancouver, the Calgary Stampeders defeated the Toronto Argonauts in the 1971 Grey Cup game. It was the Argos first Grey Cup appearance since the first televised Grey Cup in 1952. Argo fans remember this contest for Leon McQuay’s fumble late in the game that clinched the Calgary victory. TV rights for the game sold for $265,000.

In 1972, the CFL received $1.14 million from CTV for the TV rights. CTV then sold some regular and playoff games to the CBC. The following season CBC outbid CTV with a $1.2 million offer. In 1974, the CBC again won the rights for $1,400,300. CTV would not bid in 1975 because some of their affiliates were apparently not showing enough interest in the CFL games. The CFL then signed a 3-year deal with the CBC totaling $4,508.863 for the next three seasons.

The 1970’s Grey Cups continued to be co-produced by CBC and CTV staffers and by 1975, Don Chevrier of CBC and Pat Marsden of CTV would each call half of the Grey Cup game. Colour analysts during the regular season, playoff games and the Grey Cup were former CFL stars Russ Jackson, Dick Shatto, Mike Wadsworth and Frank Rigney. Hosts included Tom McKee, Ernie Afaganis, Bill Stephenson, John Wells and Don Whitman. Technical innovations on the telecasts included new camera placements and slo-motion, isolation cameras.

After accepting $2.1 million from the CBC for the 1980 rights, the CFL signed a record television contract with Carling-O’Keefe Breweries for $15.6 million to cover the three-year period from 1981 to 1983. A factor in the huge contract was Carling’s competitor Labatt’s Breweries sponsoring the popular Toronto Blue Jays telecasts. Carling sold the games off to CBC and CTV and by the 1983 season, all but three CFL games were televised. The Grey Cup game in 1981 attracted 6.2 viewers, 2 million more than Super Bowl. Only the Canadian premier of the movie ‘Superman’ drew a higher audience that year.

For the 1982 season, with the demise of the Alouettes, the CFL granted a new franchise in Montreal with the nickname ‘Concordes.’ The 1982 Grey Cup game attracted the largest television audience in the history of Canadian television. Edmonton won their record fifth consecutive Grey Cup before 7,862,000 viewers. The telecasts were becoming more sophisticated with the networks using 17 cameras in the Grey Cup, as opposed to 10 for a regular season game. In 1983, the CFL signed another lucrative television agreement with Carling O’Keefe Breweries for $33 million over a three-year period from 1984 to 1986. Television coverage on CBC, CTV and Radio-Canada of the 1983 Grey Cup attracted another record viewing audience as 8,118,000 people watched Toronto edge B.C. 18-17. Only the series finale for M.A.S.H topped the Grey Cup ratings. Viewing the Grey Cup game was a part of the Canadian identity made special by an East-West match up. But soon after, ratings for the Grey Cup games began to decline with 6,897,000 viewers in 1984 and down to 5,283,000 in 1985.

In September of 1984, The Sports Network (TSN) debuted and by 1986, with John Wells calling the play by play, the specialty network became a CFL broadcaster. The CFL became an eight-team league in the 1987 season as the Montreal franchise folded prior to the season. The 3-year deal with Carlings that ended in 1986 had guaranteed each CFL team more than $1 million in each of the three years. In 1986, the CFL rejected offers from Carlings, CBC and CTV because they included less money and demands for the lifting of some blackout restrictions.

The CFL then decided to produce its own games by creating the ‘Canadian Football Network’. A syndicate of Canadian television stations was formed to produce and televise CFL games airing games on Friday evenings and Sundays after Labour Day. Games were also sold to CBC for Saturday and Sunday telecasts and TSN bought games that were mostly played on Thursday evenings. During this time, the CFL experimented with the TV blackout policy as four games (two in Hamilton and two in Toronto) were televised in the Hamilton-Toronto market. Undoubtedly, the signing of the exciting Raghib ‘Rocket’ Ismail by new Toronto owners Bruce McNall, Wayne Gretzky and John Candy played a part in that change of policy.

CFN lasted from 1987 to 1990 but after the CFL deemed CFN too expensive to operate, the league tried and failed to find a major rights-holder for 1991. Eventually, for the 1991 season, the CBC obtained rights to telecast 25 regular season games with exclusivity for playoff games and the Grey Cup. The CFL also sold rights to TSN for 28 regular season games. Various financial deals between the clubs and the networks enabled some blackouts to be lifted. One such rule had blackouts lifted if 90% of the seats were sold 48 hours prior to the game. Winnipeg played host to the Grey Cup game for the first time in 1991 with Toronto defeating Calgary, and the 3,531,000 viewers made the game the highest rated Canadian TV show that year.

When the 1993 season began, telecasts of CFL games originated from the United States, as the Sacramento Gold Miners became the CFL’s ninth franchise. Sacramento was placed in the Western Division and the expansion team was the League’s first addition since the B.C. Lions in 1954. The great American expansion continued in the 1994 CFL season as the Las Vegas Posse, Shreveport Pirates and Baltimore Football Club were added. The unsuccessful Las Vegas Posse franchise ceased operations after the 1994 season but in 1995, two more U.S.-based teams joined the CFL. The Memphis Mad Dogs and the Birmingham Barracudas brought to five the number of teams in the newly created “South Division”, while the “North Division” was comprised of the eight Canadian-based teams. However, in February 1996, the CFL Board of Governors deemed the experimental expansion into the U.S. a failure, and the CFL reverted back to its original All-Canadian team format. The Baltimore Stallions relocated to Montreal to become the Alouettes after an absence of football of nine years from that city. The CFL was a 9-team league again for one season only as the Ottawa Rough Riders folded after the completion of the 1996 season.

In 1997, after a long absence, CTV became part of a bidding war for the CFL’s TV rights. The CTV network was actually bidding for its new cable sports channel, ‘Sportsnet’. The bidding heated up so much so that TSN offered the league a new 5-year, $35 million contract. The real motivation of TSN was to shut out the new competition. As in previous years, TSN as a cable network sold the playoffs and Grey Cup game to a conventional carrier, CBC. The 1998 Grey Cup game drew just over 3 million viewers, up 20.5% over the previous year.

In 1999, the CFL proudly announced increased attendance and higher television audiences. There was a 20 % increase in viewership for that season on TSN. Over two years the season ratings increased almost 50% on TSN and a large part of that was in the under age-18 age group. For the 2000 CFL season, television ratings rose considerably as TSN’s audience grew by a 17.9% increase over the ’98 season. A total of 8 million viewers tuned into the 2000 Grey Cup at some point – 1 in 3 Canadians. Ratings grew yet again in 2001, especially in the key 18-34 category where TSN saw a growth of 55%. In 2002, TSN reported a 27% increase in viewers over 50. The CBC drew a TV audience of more than 5.2 million viewers nationally for the 2002 Grey Cup game.

The controversial CFL ‘blackout’ rule made the news in 2002. The standard CFL blackout policy at the time was a 56 km radius from the stadium for cable television and 120 kms for conventional TV except in Saskatchewan where there were full provincial blackouts. The traditional Thanksgiving game in 2002 between bitter rivals Argonauts and Ti-Cats happened to be one of the most exciting CFL games of the season. However, over five million viewers in Southern Ontario were denied the opportunity to view a 29-28 thrilling overtime win by the Argos that had great playoff implications. Senior executives at CBC Sports and advertisers were also disappointed with the Hamilton owner’s decision not to lift the blackout. The CFL was looking for the added exposure that television brings and the league was losing opportunities to promote their game because of the blackout rule. In that Labour Day classic, Ti-Cat slotback Darren Flutie became the most prolific receiver in CFL history. The game was halted for a brief ceremony, but because of the blackout, many viewers were prevented from sharing in the moment. It was evident that besides a loss of TV revenues, blackouts were also causing public relations nightmares for broadcasters. Since then, there has rarely been a blackout of a game originating from Hamilton or Toronto.

In 2003, a new 5-year television deal with TSN and CBC was announced with seventy-seven games broadcast on the two networks, the most in CFL history.

That season, TSN achieved the second highest viewership average in CFL history. The 2003 Grey Cup television audience reached 4.4 million Canadian homes.

Through the years, the CFL schedule included holiday weekends and rivalry games. Fans enjoyed these specialty weekends – Canada Day Bash, Labour Day Classic and Gridiron Thanksgiving. While the Canada Day and Thanksgiving games featured various matchups, the traditional Labour Day Classic always had Toronto visiting the not so friendly Ivor Wynn Stadium in Hamilton and Calgary hosting the Edmonton Eskimos. The heated rivalries were usually even more intense the following weekend as the Argos hosted the Ti-Cats and the Stampeders invaded Commonwealth Stadium to play the Esks.

The success of the NFL’s ‘Monday Night Football’ encouraged the CFL to set aside a regular night for CFL telecasts. Under Keith Pelley, vice-president of Programming for TSN, who had worked on NFL telecasts for Fox, Friday Night Football, was introduced – later to be known as ‘Wendy’s Friday Night Football’. A studio panel concept that was introduced in 1996 on TSN was expanded to include all broadcasts. The number of cameras used by TSN in a game also expanded from six to nine. Doubleheaders were scheduled featuring a game in the east followed by a match from out west. A popular feature of the pre-game, half time and post game was the use of in-studio analysts who provided comprehensive game reporting.

Because of the steadily increasing ratings of CFL football over the previous few years, the CBC in 2003 decided to enhance their telecasts by announcing a weekly Saturday night game during the summer with Hockey Night in Canada taking over Saturday evenings in the fall. The CBC also decided to emulate the TSN’s panel show at halftime. Brian Williams, the Gemini award-winning broadcaster, was the first host of the CBC panel. The original panel included Darren Flutie, Sean Millington and Greg Frers who all had retired that off-season. Ratings on the CBC football shows increased to the level of their post Labour Day telecasts.

In 2004, the CFL embarked on a new international broadcast agreement with Trajectory Sports & Media Group, which delivered Canadian football to more than 50 million households across 176 countries. U.S. television coverage resulted in the largest international broadcast distribution of the 2004 Grey Cup from Ottawa, available to more than 55 million television households.

New broadcasting features that have delighted viewers over the past few seasons include the virtual first-down marker which debuted on TSN on September 3, 2004 and a feature called Mic’d UP that gave fans a chance to experience the intensity and excitement of the game from a player’s perspective. After an extensive testing program, the CFL Board of Governors approved the introduction of Instant Replay for the 2006 season where the officials would review plays in question.

TSN’s CFL broadcasts continue to grow in popularity. TSN’s most watched CFL game was the 2005 Toronto at Hamilton Labour Day Classic which had 791,000 viewers. In 2006, TSN’s average audience was 356,000 viewers, the second-most watched CFL season on TSN. In 2005, TSN attracted record-setting audiences with an average of 395,000 viewers.

For 2007, TSN’s CFL schedule featured 50 games, which were available for the first time ever on multiple distribution platforms – TSN, TSN HD and TSN Broadband. All 50 games were to air live on TSN and TSN Broadband, with a minimum of 35 broadcasts produced and televised in High Definition on TSN HD. The majority of HD telecasts aired Friday nights during the 11th season of the weekly staple ‘Wendy’s Friday Night Football’.

The host of TSN’s Friday night show was Dave Randorf, a TSN hire since 1995. Randolf had also worked as a host and play-by-play commentator on the network’s CFL shows. Chris Schultz, in his eighth year of CFL telecasts on TSN, had had 20 years of playing experience, including the CFL and NFL. Jock Climie, a 12-year CFL veteran and all-star slot back joined the CFL panel in 2002 after retiring the year before. Former star CFL quarterback Matt Dunigan returned to the TSN studio show after spending the 2004 season as the Calgary general manager and head coach. Dunigan’s in-depth knowledge, outgoing personality and passion for the game made him a fan favourite with viewers. Veteran sportscaster Chris Cuthbert joined TSN after leaving the CBC to become the primary voice of the CFL on TSN, paired with longtime colour commentator Glen Suitor. The secondary commentating team had Rod Black and Danny McManus. In a role similar to TSN’s hockey coverage, Danny McManus also worked from a sideline position on numerous occasions.

Elliotte Friedman hosted The CFL on CBC with a panel of former CFL stars running back Sean Millington, free safety Greg Frers, and quarterback Khari Jones. Mark Lee was the main play-by-play, along with colour commentator Chris Walby. The secondary broadcast team had Steve Armitage teamed up with Khari Jones. All-time great receiver Darren Flutie left CBC’s studio panel but Jones and David Benefield shared that chair. CBC also used Khari Jones as a sideline reporter as part of a three-man team.

TSN had been televising CFL games since 1986, and the all-sports network, now owned by CTV, who had had to sell off Sportsnet as a condition of being allowed to acquire TSN, announced a new five-year exclusive broadcast partnership with the CFL beginning in 2008. The agreement provided TSN with broadcast and digital rights for the CFL’s entire 77-game package annually, including regular season and playoff games and the Grey Cup. The 95th Grey Cup on November 25, 2007 from the Rogers Centre in Toronto would see the end of a 45-year run of Grey Cups to be televised by the CBC, the network that successfully produced the inaugural telecast from Varsity Stadium in Toronto on November 26, 1952.

Written by Paul Patskou – August, 2007