The Canadian Football League can trace its roots back to a soccer
game in Rugby, England in 1823 when a player named William Webb Ellis suddenly picked up
the ball and started to run with it, only to be tackled by an opponent. Thus
was born the game of Rugby Football.
The game progressed from that point and was introduced to North America by the British
Army garrison in Montreal, which played a series of games with McGill University.
In 1874, McGill arranged to play a few games at Harvard, which liked the new
game so much that it became a feature of the Ivy League. Both the Canadian and
American games evolved from this point.
In Canada, the game developed through associations organized in each province and in 1884,
the Canadian Rugby Football Union was created as the sport's governing body. By 1890, the
game was being played in each province.
In 1909, the Governor-General of Canada, Lord Albert Henry Earl Grey, donated a trophy to
be awarded to the team winning the Senior Amateur Football Championship of Canada, better
known as the Grey Cup.
Grey Cup competition was originally open to university teams and other amateur
organizations and the inscriptions on the trophy include such teams as University of
Toronto, Queen's University and the RCAF Hurricanes. Teams from Western Canada
were not permitted to challenge until 1921 when Edmonton Eskimos made their first of 22
Grey Cup appearances. By 1955, the universities and other leagues had
withdrawn from Grey Cup competition which then was under the aegis of the Canadian Rugby
The name "Canadian Football
League" was officially adopted in 1958 and G. Sydney Halter of Winnipeg was appointed
the first Commissioner. The CFL withdrew from the CRU, which later changed its
name to the Canadian Amateur Football Association. In 1966, the CAFA formally transferred
the title to the Grey Cup trophy to the CFL.
In 1961, the CFL commenced a partial interlocking schedule in which each Eastern team
played at least one game against each Western team, alternating at home and away each
year. In 1967 the CFL set up a central office in Toronto, where it
the 1960s, a number of former CFL players tried their luck at the American version of
Professional Football offered by the American Football League. In the new league,
many became journeymen, and several were all-stars. Because of their influence
on the league that was to become the genesis of modern Professional
Football in the United
States, some of those players are acknowledged here.