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TORONTO — Football fans received an early holiday gift on Monday, as the Canadian Football League revealed its 2020 schedule. That means it’s time to start circling dates on the calendar and planning for tailgates, road trips and more next season.
“We’re proud and excited to officially launch the countdown to a new season of great football, featuring top flight athletes from Canada, the U.S. and around the world,” said Commissioner Randy Ambrosie.
“We can‘t wait for June and the start of our clubs’ quests to capture the 108th Grey Cup in Saskatchewan. And we couldn’t think of a better holiday gift for our fans than the opportunity to savour everything to come on the other side of another Canadian winter.”
The new schedule continues the league’s emphasis on working to provide teams with more rest and recovery time between games. In 2017, teams played with less than seven days rest 54 times. That has now been reduced to 44 – a 19 per cent decrease. There have been no four-day turnarounds in the CFL since 2016.
Mark’s Labour Day Weekend, Thanksgiving in Montreal and a spooky Halloween double-header highlight some of this year’s best, finishing with the 108th Grey Cup on Nov. 22 in Regina. Here are some of the top dates to circle in 2020.
Thursday, June 11 (Week 1)
CFL Kickoff weekend arrives
The Lions and Eskimos kick off the new season in a matchup featuring two newly-appointed head coaches: Scott Milanovich in Edmonton and Rick Campbell in BC. Mike Reilly returns to his former home of Commonwealth Stadium, hoping to lead the Lions back to the post-season following a five-win campaign. The Eskimos, meanwhile, lean on the coach and quarterback duo of Milanovich and Trevor Harris, who spent several seasons together in Toronto.
Saturday, June 13 (Week 1)
Grey Cup rematch in Hamilton
Following a Friday night double header, Week 1 concludes with the annual Grey Cup rematch between Hamilton and Winnipeg. The Bombers flipped the script as underdogs in the 107th Grey Cup presented by Shaw, winning 33-12 on the strength of two Andrew Harris touchdowns. The Ticats were the best team in the regular season in 2019 and return to Tim Hortons Field, where they were a perfect 10-0 including the Eastern Final.
Friday, June 26 (Week 3)
Bombers celebrate historic championship
The wait is sure to pay off for Bombers fans, who can celebrate the team’s 107th Grey Cup Championship during the home opener on June 26, featuring a rematch of the Western Semi-Final vs. Calgary. Winnipeg’s first home game also coincides with the Manitoba 150 celebrations sweeping the province all summer. The next evening, a free outdoor concert, Unite 150, will take place on the grounds of the Manitoba Legislature.
Saturday, July 25 (Week 7)
Argos, Riders neutral site game
For the second year in a row the Argos will play in a neutral site game, location to be determined. Last season Toronto and Montreal traveled to Moncton for Touchdown Atlantic, featuring a reverse flea-flicker and a game that came down to the very last play. Late July could inspire another classic, as new coach and QB tandem Jason Maas and Cody Fajardo take on rookie head coach Ryan Dinwiddie and what are sure to be the new-look Argos.
Saturday, Aug. 15 (Week 10)
Annual Hall of Fame Game
This year’s Canadian Football Hall of Fame class will be revealed at Tim Hortons Field on Aug. 14, followed by the annual Hall of Fame game featuring the Ticats and REDBLACKS one night later. The mid-August all-East matchup features the reigning division champs and the hopeful REDBLACKS, who shuffled their coaching staff with the addition of new head coach Paul LaPolice, former offensive coordinator of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Thursday, Aug. 27 (Week 12)
LaPo returns to Winnipeg
The off-season coaching carousel led to four head coaching changes, but no reunion will match Paul LaPolice’s return to Winnipeg. The offensive guru behind the Bombers’ Grey Cup-winning offence last November gets a second opportunity as a CFL head coach. Beloved by the Bombers’ fans base, LaPolice went 16-28 in his first stint as bench boss, leading Winnipeg to a Grey Cup appearance in 2011. Now he’ll try to help Ottawa recover from a 3-15 season.
Mark’s Labour Day Weekend (Week 13)
CFL’s biggest rivalries return
Three highly-contested rivalries return for Mark’s Labour Day Weekend, starting Sunday, Sept. 6 as the Riders and Bombers meet for the first time since the Western Final. Monday features a time-tested tradition as the Argos visit the Ticats and the Eskimos battle the Stampeders in a Labour Day double-header. As playoff and divisional races begin to take shape, this weekend marks the beginning of a defining stretch on the CFL schedule.
Saturday, Sept. 12 (Week 14)
Triple-header + Labour Day rematches
An annual fan favourite, the Banjo Bowl pits the Bombers against the Riders for a second straight week on Saturday, Sept. 12. There’s no lack of animosity between the two rivals, who’ve met in the playoffs two years running. That’s just the start, though — Saturday features a rare triple-header. Calgary and Edmonton renew hostilities of their own, while the Argos travel to the coast to take on the Lions in a full day of football.
Monday, Oct. 12 (Week 18)
Als host Argos on Thanksgiving
This year fans can enjoy an extra serving on Thanksgiving, as the Alouettes host the Argos for what could be a holiday Monday classic. Toronto and Montreal played each other close in 2019, with both games coming down to the final play, including a stunning finish in Moncton for Touchdown Atlantic. While Vernon Adams leads the upstart Als, the Argos will feature a new-look offence led by first-time head coach Ryan Dinwiddie.
Saturday, Oct. 31 (Week 21)
It’ll be trick or treat for four teams on Oct. 31, as Toronto and Montreal host a rare Halloween double-header. The Esks travel to BMO Field for a 1 p.m. ET kickoff, where former Argos coach Scott Milanovich returns to Toronto for the first time since 2016. Then, the Bombers visit the Als for the 2020 regular season finale; the two teams produced one of the best games of 2019, a 24-point comeback win by the Alouettes.
Sunday, Nov. 8 (Division Semi-Finals)
Grey Cup Playoffs begin
The playoffs arrive earlier than ever this November, as the division semi-finals kick off at 1 p.m. ET. Last year produced a couple of classics, including a record-breaking performance from Trevor Harris, a 99-yard kickoff return touchdown by Mario Alford, and a stifling performance by the Bombers’ defence against the defending Grey Cup Champs. The division finals commence a week later, on Nov. 15, as two teams will book their trip to Regina.
Sunday, Nov. 22 (Grey Cup)
108th Grey Cup in Regina
Saskatchewan is ready to party as the Grey Cup returns to Regina for the first time since 2013. The first Grey Cup at new Mosaic Stadium promises to be special, though last year will be difficult to top as four-time Grammy winner Keith Urban rocked out at halftime while the Blue Bombers ended a 28-year championship drought. Who will play for the 108th Grey Cup?