If you haven’t yet already, the release of the 2023 CFL schedule allows us to officially close the book on the 2022 season and start to shift into the new/coming year.
We can now look ahead and see that the coming year holds a lot of promise with some very interesting matchups for us. Before we take a look at some of the specific dates to circle on the calendar, let’s look at some of the positive change that sits in this new slate of games.
This is one of the most consistent schedules the league has produced. There are a total of 21 Saturday games that kickoff at 7 p.m. ET. There are 11 Sunday summer games that all kickoff at 7 p.m. ET.
There are fewer instances of teams having multiple games against the same opponent in a short period of time, with half as many back-to-back games in this year’s schedule and there are only four instances of teams playing home games on consecutive weeks.
Free agency will of course impact matchup dynamics over the coming months, but there are still a lot of games worth noting as we get set to flip the calendar to 2023. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
BC at Calgary, June 23, 9 p.m. ET
The season kicks off in Calgary, where Jake Maier and the Stampeders will host the team that ended their 2022 season, as they face the BC Lions in a rematch of the Western Semi-Final.
Both teams had a complete cast of characters playing quarterback for them each time they faced one another last season and it didn’t seem to matter, as every meeting was a game of the year candidate. With a full slate of games in front of us at the start of summer, this is a great way to start the season.
Hamilton at Toronto, June 18, 7 p.m. ET
The Argos will raise their latest Grey Cup banner at BMO Field under the resentful gaze of their fiercest rivals. Amidst a sea of off-season questions that surround all teams at this time of year, you can count on the animosity between Argo and Ticat fans to be present in this Week 2 game. You can also count on those fans, plenty of them in Black and Gold, to be making the trip up the QEW to try to pack BMO Field and out-roar the fans in Double Blue.
Labour Day Weekend, Sept. 1 through Sept. 4
You may have heard all of the sentiments around Labour Day already; that doesn’t mean they aren’t true. Teams could be winless going into the September long weekend and all that their fans will care about is getting that Labour Day Weekend win. If there’s one regular season game you’re going to go to, we all know that it’s a game on this weekend. If you, as a longtime CFL fan, are trying to show the game to a newcomer, there’s no better crash course introduction to the history and culture around CFL games and their most storied rivalries.
We don’t have playoff games in September, but this is as close to a playoff atmosphere that you’ll find when it’s still shorts and t-shirt weather outside. Take advantage of that and plan to be in Winnipeg or Edmonton the following Saturday for the rematch games.
Oh, and if you need a little extra juice on the Battle of Alberta this year: the Elks and Stamps only two meetings of the season take place on Labour Day Monday and in that rematch Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium.
Toronto at Winnipeg, Sept. 29, 8 p.m. ET
Sure, you might want to see last year’s Grey Cup participants meet in Week 1 to get a new season going, but there’s an advantage to these two teams meeting later in the season. Both clubs will be further along in terms of implementing their schemes and building familiarity with the new bodies around them on the field. You’ll have to wait for it, but the quality of game at this time of year should be higher than it would be in Week 1. Playing at IG Field, knowing what was at stake and what was lost the last time they met the Argos, the Bombers should be dialed in and ready. That they only face each other once in the regular season gives this Grey Cup rematch a little extra weight, too.
Calgary at Hamilton, Sept. 30, 7 p.m. ET
We’ll file this under the what-if category for now, but it’s worth mentioning. The Tiger-Cats have the rights to Bo Levi Mitchell‘s expiring contract. If the two can come to terms and Mitchell suits up in Hamilton, his lone game on the schedule against his former team will be an absolute must-watch. That the game will take place at Tim Hortons Field may work in Mitchell’s favour, as he’d have the support of a home crowd and would be spared what could be an emotionally difficult return to McMahon Stadium; the only home stadium he’s known in his time in the CFL. We won’t go into too many roster hypotheticals at this point, but Mitchell playing his former team tops the list of can’t-miss games, so it’s worth a mention here.
Thanksgiving Monday, Oct. 9, Ottawa at Montreal, 1 p.m. ET
This rivalry in the making gets the perfect stage for tension and hostilities to grow, with a matinee kickoff on Thanksgiving Monday. While the heat may not be all the way there yet with this matchup, consider this: have you ever been in Montreal around Thanksgiving? Of all of the CFL stops, Montreal in October is spectacular, especially if like me, you grew up in a prairie province where cold weather and snow are possibilities at this time of year.
Rivals collide, Sept. 23
The Argos and Ticats don’t have their Labour Day rematch game this year, but they do meet again on Sept. 23 at BMO Field. Their final regular season meeting could carry a lot of weight, with their season series potentially on the line.
Playoff football on Saturdays, Nov. 5 and Nov. 12
There’s no crystal ball here (that’s more a Jamie Nye special) and we won’t attempt to tell you who could be playing in these games when the playoffs get here, but their date change makes them very notable. As CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie told fans during the Fan State of the League in Regina during Grey Cup week, the first two rounds of the playoffs will be played on Saturdays instead of Sundays.
For coaches, it’s a double-edged sword. True, you lose a day of prep from the end of the regular-season, but in most instances, the playoff picture is at least almost fully sorted by the time the final week of the regular season is played (remember that in 2022, the final week of the regular season had no playoff implications for the first time in 26 years).
If the lost day of prep is a con, it becomes a pro for the teams that win the Eastern and Western Finals. Those coaching staffs will get the day back and will have eight days to scheme for the 110th Grey Cup.
Which brings us to…
The 110th Grey Cup, Nov 19, 6 p.m. ET
The city of Hamilton and the Tiger-Cats just may be working their way into the ideal way for a city and team to host a successful Grey Cup. All parties involved can look at what worked for them when they hosted in 2021 — an event limited by pandemic restrictions and another wave of it looming — and what didn’t and improve on them for their turn hosting in 2023.
This was touched on in the leadup to the 2021 Grey Cup, but Hamilton’s moderate climate could work in fans’ favour next year. The city’s average temperature on Nov. 19 is plus-7 C, based on data from The Weather Network compiled between 1980-2010. There are no guarantees here, but that’s an optimistic forecast that we can hold onto for the next year.