The Indoor War, North of the Border
Thanks to the CFL and the Arena Football League, the confusion may change within the near future.
As soon as February 2002, the CFL may launch the Canadian Arena Football League, closely based on the current Arena Football 2 league. The AF2 is the "minor league" version of the Arena Football League now being played in smaller arenas across the United States.
Many football fans may be wondering, why would a league with no history in Canada succeed? Au contraire, Arena Football does have history in Canada…
Before Kurt Warner, and the success that the league is now enjoying, the league staged an exhibition game in Hull, Ontario (Canada`s capital, Ottawa is across the river.) in 1992. The game pitted the Tampa Bay Storm versus the second year Albany Firebirds. Approximately 500 fans watched as the Storm dismantled Albany 66-25. Needless to say, this was not a great beginning for the AFL in Canada.
The AFL`s second coming was a much greater success. In 1997 the league played a regular season game between the Florida Bobcats and the New Jersey Red Dogs. All of the 7,100+ fans in attendance, at the Corel Centre in Ottawa, including myself, watched as the players were tackled into the boards, fought for footballs thrown into the stands and cheered their voices hoarse just as if one of the teams were their own. Sweeter yet, was that the "home" town Bobcats upset the favored Red Dogs 44-28.
It seemed that La Ligue de Football Interior might have a future in Canada after all.
The last time the AFL staged a game in Canada was during the 1997 offseason. New Jersey and Iowa traveled to Calgary. The teams might have lacked most of the teams` starters, but most of the fans loved the concept of the game.
The AFL`s history in Canada might be small, but it looks like the past will be a stepping stone to the C-AF2 future.
Perhaps the best way for the league to begin would be to have existing CFL franchises claim full or part ownership of C-AF2 teams. However, there is a possibility that some CFL owners may not want a franchise in the arena league until it has proven itself.
The league needs to start with at least 6 solid franchises. The CFL franchises that best fit the bill are Montreal, Edmonton, Calgary, Hamilton, British Columbia, and possibly Toronto. If some of the teams don`t want to make a commitment, then the future CFL franchises in Ottawa and Quebec City could be another option.
Montreal is the hottest ticket in town. If the team names the franchise the Alouettes, the fans will come out and support the Arena-Als. It is also a well known fact that Montrealers hate Torontonians, thus creating an instant rivalry that could match Blue Jays-Expos, Maple Leafs- Canadiens, and Alouettes-Argonauts.
Edmonton and Calgary are a natural rivalry (Stampeders-Eskimos, Flames-Oilers) and they too have a strong ticket base.
Hamilton and Toronto also is another strong football rivalry that is looking to bud in the Arena version. Hamilton fans are crazy about their football.
British Columbia football has been on the uprise lately. The team should have the success with fans like the NBA Grizzlies have had.
From there the C-AF2 could expand to cities that may be considered "too small" for CFL teams. Halifax, Nova Scotia; Windsor, Ontario; Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and Victoria, British Columbia are cities that might be in line for future C-AF2 teams.
The price structure for AF2 franchises is just right for Canada. But more than that, new rivalries will be created throughout all of Canada`s major and minor cities.
Yes, my Canadian football fan. The Arena Football League has a future in Canada. It will be coming soon to a hockey rink near you.
Tim Capper has been a staff member of ArenaFan since 2000 and been the host of AFL Tonight since its inception in 2001. Tim being an avid arena football fan since 1987, has attended games in 16 different cities, including 11 ArenaBowls. He currently lives in Montreal, Canada with his wife Karen. You can follow Tim on Twitter at @reppact