The Bills Toronto Series is a five-year deal consisting of a series of National Football League games featuring the Buffalo Bills played at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The series began in the 2008 NFL season and will end during the 2012 NFL season. The Bills are to play eight home games over those five seasons which include one regular-season game each of the 5 years and one pre-season game on the 1st, 3rd and 5th years of the series. This includes the first regular-season NFL game played in Canada which the Bills lost to the Miami Dolphins. The series was conceived by a group that includes Bills owner Ralph Wilson, the late Ted Rogers of Rogers Communications and Larry Tanenbaum of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment.
Although NFL exhibition games have been played in Canada since 1950, it was not until the Bills Toronto Series that a regular-season NFL game was played north of the border, on December 7, 2008. NFL games have been played outside the United States regularly since 2005 with Fútbol Americano (a one-off regular season game in Mexico City) and the 2007 debut of the NFL International Series, which has promoted regular-season games in London. Both of those events were separate from the Toronto Series, in that the Toronto Series was orchestrated by an individual team while the other regular season games were orchestrated by the league.
Toronto is about 60 miles by air from Buffalo and 86 miles by car via the Queen Elizabeth Way. Much of southern Ontario is within the Bills' marketing territory as defined by the NFL. About 10-15,000 attendees (15-20% of the total) at the Bills' home games at Ralph Wilson Stadium come from southern Ontario.
Rogers Centre's capacity (54,000 seats) currently is slightly lower than the number of seats for a stadium to be a viable venue for a permanent Toronto team as all other NFL stadiums have at least 60,000 seats as of 2011. It is typically configured at 49,500 seats for Blue Jays baseball, though more were added for the 2008 Bills games for a total of 54,000.
Toronto Series games are the only NFL games not subject to the league's blackout restrictions. For instance, the 2010 Toronto Series preseason game had nearly 15,000 available seats but was still seen on television within the stadium's blackout zone.
In September 2006, Tanenbaum and Rogers held a news conference, where the two men discussed bringing an NFL franchise to Toronto. Neither specified whether a potential Toronto team would be a new franchise or a team moved from another city. Tanenbaum was quoted as saying, “I’m highly interested in an NFL team and Ted is, too. We hope to pursue it more rigorously as soon as the NFL gives us the word.”
In October 2007, Bills owner Ralph Wilson petitioned NFL owners to allow his team to play one “home” game per year (over five years) in Canada. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell approved the plan, which also allowed the Bills to also play a pre-season “home” game at Roger Centre every other year of the Series (2008, 2010, 2012) for a total of eight games in Toronto. In February 2008, Wilson avoided questions about a possible permanent move for the Bills to Toronto while discussing “high rates” for Series ticket prices. The deal Wilson struck with the Toronto group allows them to bid on and relocate other available NFL franchises up for sale.
Rogers Communications reported a Series payment of CA$78 million to the Buffalo Bills in their Q1 2008 financial report, which, according to Forbes, is more than the team earned (in operating income) in 2006. The series set the record for the largest gate revenue for a single event in the history of the Rogers Centre, at C$8 million, although this was later surpassed by UFC 129.
The Bills played two games (one pre-season) in 2008 at Rogers Centre. The pre-season opponent was the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Bills defeated the Steelers 24-21 on August 14, 2008. In the regular season, the Bills played (and lost to) the Miami Dolphins 16-3 on December 7 in front of 52,134 in attendance. The Rogers Centre’s roof was closed for the game, which meant the region's normally cold and windy December conditions wouldn’t influence the game. Ticket prices for the Series were announced in May, and averaged C$183 per seat. In Buffalo, Bills tickets averaged C$51 per seat.
The Bills lost to the New York Jets, 19-13, in front of 51,567 under the roof at Rogers Centre on December 3. There was no pre-season game at Rogers Centre in 2009. In 2009, the Bills Toronto Series also announced a ticket price reduction plan, cutting prices by an average of 17 percent and offering more than 11,000 tickets for less than C$99. Rogers Communications offered partial refunds to ticketholders who had purchased seats in 2008 and who were affected by the price reduction.
For the first time, the 2010 regular-season Toronto game took place during the 2010 CFL season and not after it; it was played on November 7, the last week of the CFL's regular season, with a 1:00 p.m. start (the Toronto Argonauts played the Montreal Alouettes in Montreal on the same day, but with a 4:00 p.m. start). The Bills faced the Chicago Bears, marking the first time a team from the NFC appeared in the series. As part of the NFL Television Contract the game was broadcasted by Fox for the first time and not CBS. The Bills relinquished a five-point mid-fourth-quarter lead, falling 22–19 to the Bears.
The Bills played host to the Washington Redskins for the 2011 Toronto Series on Sunday, October 30, at 4:05 p.m. The Bills, in their first regular-season win in the series, defeated the Redskins 23–0, the first time Redskins coach Mike Shanahan had been shut out in his career. The game marked the peak of the Bills' fortunes that season, with the Bills reaching 5–2; a series of key injuries led to the team collapsing over the next several games to fall out of playoff contention for the twelfth straight year.
|August 14, 2008||Pittsburgh Steelers||21||Buffalo Bills||24||Rogers Centre||48,434|
|August 19, 2010||Indianapolis Colts||21||Buffalo Bills||34||Rogers Centre||39,583|
Regular season gamesEdit
|December 7, 2008||Miami Dolphins||16||Buffalo Bills||3||Rogers Centre||52,134|
|December 3, 2009||New York Jets||19||Buffalo Bills||13||Rogers Centre||51,567|
|November 7, 2010||Chicago Bears||22||Buffalo Bills||19||Rogers Centre||50,746|
|October 30, 2011||Washington Redskins||0||Buffalo Bills||23||Rogers Centre||51,579|
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 "Buffalo loses to Miami in Canada's first NFL game". CTV.ca News. 2008-12-07. http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20081207/nfl_game_081207/20081207?hub=TopStories.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Bills owner won't commit to team's future in Buffalo". USA Today (Associated Press). 2008-02-06. http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/bills/2008-02-06-toronto_N.htm?loc=interstitialskip.
- ↑ Brady, Erik. "As Bills head for Toronto, can Canada work as an NFL home?" USA Today, 4 December 2008.
- ↑ Warner, Gene. "Bills-Jets still tough to sell in Toronto" The Buffalo News, 3 December 2009.
- ↑ Gaughan, Mark (2011-03-30). Toronto deal paying off for Bills. The Buffalo News. Retrieved 2011-03-30.
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 Care, Tony (2006-10-09). "Is Toronto ready for some NFL football?". CBC News. http://www.cbc.ca/sports/indepth/analysis-nfltoronto.html.
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 Ralph, Dan (2008-08-14). "McKelvin's Kickoff Return TD Helps Bills Down Steelers 24-21 In Rogers Centre Exhibition". http://www.citynews.ca/news/news_25810.aspx.
- ↑ "NFL franchise in Toronto? CFL commish would appreciate partnership". Associated Press. 2007-11-23. http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=3124329.
- ↑ "Bills to be paid C$78 million to play eight games in Toronto". CBSSports.com. 2008-04-28. http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/story/10805172.
- ↑ "UFC 129 sellout means more Toronto shows". Yahoo!. 2011-02-15. http://sports.yahoo.com/mma/news?slug=dm-toronto021511.
- ↑ Harrington, Mike (2008-12-08). "The Miami Dolphins feel right at home in Toronto". http://www.buffalonews.com/cityregion/buffaloerie/story/516742.html.
- ↑ "Cross-border flop for Bills". The Canadian Press. 2008-12-07. http://www.sportsnet.ca/football/nfl/2008/12/07/dolphins_bills_toronto/.
- ↑ "Bills tickets for games in Toronto average $183". Associated Press. 2008-05-07. http://sports.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080507.wsptbills7/GSStory/GlobeSportsFootball/home?cid=al_gam_mostview.
- ↑ 14.0 14.1 "Toronto ticket prices reduced for Bills". Business First of Buffalo. 2009-04-13. http://buffalo.bizjournals.com/buffalo/stories/2009/04/13/daily8.html.
- ↑ "Bills defeat Colts at Rogers Centre". CBC News. 2010-08-20. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/story/2010/08/19/sp-bills-colts-toronto.html. Retrieved 2011-03-09.
- ↑ Brown, Chris (2010-11-07). "Bills let fourth quarter lead slip in loss to Bears". buffalobills.com. http://www.buffalobills.com/news/article-2/Bills-let-fourth-quarter-lead-slip-in-loss-to-Bears/f922e34d-8c37-4202-9c09-0ac076350a1f. Retrieved 2011-03-09.
- ↑ "Buffalo Bills 2011 Schedule".
- ↑ "PRESEASON WEEK 3, 2008 - Pittsburgh Steelers @ Buffalo Bills". http://www.nfl.com/liveupdate/gamecenter/29801/BUF_Gamebook.pdf. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
- ↑ "PRESEASON WEEK 2, 2010 - Indianapolis Colts @ Buffalo Bills". http://www.nfl.com/liveupdate/gamecenter/55091/BUF_Gamebook.pdf. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
- ↑ "WEEK 14, 2008 - Miami Dolphins @ Buffalo Bills". http://www.nfl.com/liveupdate/gamecenter/29729/BUF_Gamebook.pdf. Retrieved 2011-04-22.
- ↑ "WEEK 13, 2009 - New York Jets @ Buffalo Bills". http://www.nfl.com/liveupdate/gamecenter/54643/BUF_Gamebook.pdf. Retrieved 2011-04-22.
- ↑ "WEEK 9, 2010 - Chicago Bears @ Buffalo Bills". http://www.nfl.com/liveupdate/gamecenter/54842/BUF_Gamebook.pdf. Retrieved 2011-04-22.
- ↑ "NFL: Bills trounce Redskins in Toronto". http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/football/nfl-bills-trounce-redskins-in-toronto/article2219280/. Retrieved 2011-10-30.
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