TORONTO — The long-awaited CFL season is finally here.
The 2021 campaign kicks off at IG Field when the reining Grey Cup champs, Winnipeg Blue Bombers host the Hamilton Tiger-Cats – a Grey Cup Rematch from 2019. Winnipeg will be unveiling their Championship banner before the game and Hamilton will look to spoil the celebration. Jeremiah Masoli will be the the starting pivot for the opening game that is slated to begin at 8:30 p.m. ET.
The first Friday Night Football game takes place at a sold-out Mosaic Stadium where the Roughriders will tangle with the BC Lions, beginning at 9:30 p.m. ET. Rick Campbell will coach his first game as a BC Lions coach and look to get his first victory in orange. 2019 Most Outstanding Player finalist, Cody Fajardo, and the Roughriders will look to win their third-straight home opening victory.
CFL’s Saturday Primetime slot will begin with a double-header in Week 1. First at 7 p.m. ET, new head coach Ryan Dinwiddie will lead the Toronto Argonauts to take on the Calgary Stampeders at McMahon Stadium. Several familiar faces will make their return to Calgary including Eric Rodgers, Cordarro Law and Nick Arbuckle, to name a few. On the other side, the Stampeders will aim to make it 13 consecutive wins over the Argonauts.
To complete Week 1, the Ottawa REDBLACKS visit the Edmonton Elks at 10 p.m. ET. The game features two coaching debuts with their new teams. Ottawa’s Paul LaPolice will take on Edmonton’s Jaime Elizondo. The first 35,000 fans will receive a t-shirt and fans will be able to see the new Elks helmets! Following the game there will be a fireworks show for fans.
- To begin the 2021 CFL Season, there are two new first-time head coaches, Edmonton’s Jaime Elizondo and Toronto’s Ryan Dinwiddie.
- This season, there will be five head coaches with one year or less experience. The coaches joining Elizondo and Dinwiddie are:
- Khari Jones, MTL
- Orlondo Steinauer, HAM
- Craig Dickenson, SSK
- Jones, Steinauer and Dickenson in their first seasons combined for a record of 38-16 and each made the playoffs.
- In addition to Dinwiddie and Elizondo, Rick Campbell will make his coaching debut with the BC Lions as well as Paul LaPolice with the Ottawa REDBLACKS.
- Head Coaches currently in the CFL have a combined record of 207-175-4
- Three have Grey Cup Victories (Dave Dickenson, Rick Campbell and Mike O’Shea)
- Mike O’Shea enters the season as the CFL’s most experience head coach and is the active leader in games (108) and wins (56). O’Shea is also one of five head coaches who were ex-CFL players (Dave Dickenson, Ryan Dinwiddie, Khari Jones and Orlondo Steinauer)
- Dave Dickenson owns the best winning percentage among active head coaches with 53-17-2 (.750).
- Kyle Walters and Marcel Desjardins are the CFL’s longest serving GMs each having started in 2014.
SEASON OPENING GAMES
Team records in season openers since 2008:
- Ottawa 4-1-1
- Calgary 7-4-1
- Saskatchewan 7-5
- Edmonton 7-5
- Montreal 6-6
- Toronto 6-6
- Winnipeg 6-6
- BC 4-8
- Hamilton 2-10
- The CFL Kickoff game between Hamilton and Winnipeg returns to starting the season between the two Grey Cup participants. This is the first-time since 2012 when BC faced Winnipeg.
- Since moving to IG Field, Winnipeg has a record of 2-5 in their home opening game – Winning their openers in 2019 and 2014. However, the Blue Bombers enter the game winning 11 of their last 12 home games – their best stretch since 1993-94.
- Hamilton enters the game with a three-game road winning streak and winning five of their last six on the road.
- Hamilton is coming off a record-setting 15-win season in 2019. The Tiger-Cats have won four of the last five regular season meetings over the Blue Bombers.
- Hamilton’s Jeremiah Masoli has a 3-3 record as a starter against Winnipeg.
- On Day 2 of the season, BC travels to Mosaic Stadium to take on the Roughriders in a rivalry of streaks. Saskatchewan have won the last six times they have faced the Lions, however BC won the previous seven meetings.
- Saskatchewan has won their last two home openers after losing the previous three.
- In their season opening games overall, Saskatchewan have only won one of their five.
- It will be Cody Fajardo’s first-ever Week 1 start. The 2019 MOP nominee was 12-4 in his 16 starts last season.
- Michael Reilly owns an 8-8 record in his career against Saskatchewan and is one victory away from reaching 60 as a starter.
- Familiar Faces Return: Toronto Argonauts have several former Stampeders making their return to McMahon Stadium including head coach Ryan Dinwiddie, defensive back coach Joshua Bell, quarterback Nick Arbuckle, WR Eric Rogers, WR Juwan Brescacin, DL Cordarro Law, DB Daniel Roberson to name a few.
- Former Argonaut, Sean McEwen will play in his first game not wearing double blue against the Argonauts. McEwen spent four seasons with Argonauts, appearing in 72 games and winning a Grey Cup.
- Bo Levi Mitchell enters the game with an overall record of 77-18-2 (.804). He has a record of 11-0 against the Argonauts. In 2019, Mitchell had only two rushing attempts all season. Mitchell needs 63 passing yards to reach 28,000 in his career.
- Calgary’s star receiver, Kamar Jordan will play in his first regular season game since September 3, 2018. He returned in 2019 for the Western Final.
- Toronto enters their meeting with Calgary on a 12-game losing streak against the Stampeders. Their last victory in Calgary came in 2013.
- Calgary is the CFL’s least experienced team entering Week 1 according to total starts, averaging 14.3 career starts per player. The Stampeders also have the youngest team (27.23 years old on average). At the same time, they have 28 returning veterans, which ranks fourth in the league.
- Paul LaPolice will begin his first season as the head coach for the Ottawa REDBLACKS and will do so with Matt Nichols who also make his REDBLACKS debut.
- Before being sidelined by injury, Nichols was one of the CFL’s most productive quarterbacks in 2019, leading the league with a 6.1 TD% and ranking second behind only Cody Fajardo with a 106.2 quarterback rating. His 14:4 touchdown to interception ratio ranked No. 1 in the CFL.
- As he makes his head coaching debut, Jaime Elizondo will be reunited with quarterback Trevor Harris and receiver Greg Ellingson after the trio were together in Ottawa from 2016 to 2018. Over those three seasons, Ottawa went 27-25-2, but appeared in two Grey Cups, including a Grey Cup Championship in 2016.
- During Elizondo’s three years as offensive coordinator, Ellingson led the CFL with 3,805 yards in 51 contests (74.6 yards per game). In the same span, Trevor Harris threw for 13,096 yards, 68 touchdowns, and 26 interceptions, completing 70.6 per cent of his passes and compiling a 104.7 quarterback rating.
2021 CFL GLOBAL PLAYERS
- Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, rosters were expanded to include one active global player and the ability to carry up to three global players on the practice roster (PR).
- To begin the season, there are 32 global players on active or PR rosters.
- 6 from Japan
- 5 from Australia, France and Mexico
- 3 from England
- 2 from Germany
- 1 from, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, New Zealand and South Africa
Below is the list of global players on rosters:
- Of the 476 players on Week 1 CFL rosters after cutdown, including a total of 146 players entering their first year, representing 30.7% of CFL rosters. In 2019 there were 504 players, including 96 in their first year for a percentage of 19.0%.
- Winnipeg’s Mike Miller needs five more special teams tackles to tie the all-time leader Jason Arakgi who has 190. Miller had 25 special teams tackles in 2019.
- Elks’ kicker Sean Whyte is 29 points away from 1,500 points, a total reached by only 14 players.
- Andrew Harris comes in as the 8th leading rusher of all-time (9,038) and has a chance to be the sixth player to reach 10,000 yards.
- Greg Ellingson comes in as the only active player in the top-75 receivers. He is 52nd all-time with 7,265 yards.
- Michael Reilly enters the season with 31,522 passing yards to put him 15th all-time. He needs 219 yards to pass Darian Durant for 14th on the list. If Reilly passes for 5,000 yards this season he can move up to 12th on the list. Reilly will also be looking for his 60th career win as a starter in Week 1.
- Winnipeg’s Adam Bighill starts the new season 675 defensive tackles in 132 games. He is 10th all-time. Simoni Lawrence is number 2 active tackler with 544.
- Ottawa’s Richie Leone is tied for the league’s all-time punting average at 48.3 yards per punt.
- Toronto’s Charleston Hughes ranks 8th on the CFL’s all-time sack list with 130 in 181 games.
- BC’s Chris Rainey ranks seventh on the all-time kick return yards with 10,475 yards.
- Brandon Banks has 13 kick-return touchdowns, only two players have more; Gizmo Williams and Bashir Levingston.