American Football Database

CFL East Division Logo

The East Division is one of the two regional divisions of the Canadian Football League. Although the CFL was not founded until 1958, the East Division and its clubs are descended from earlier leagues.



The first organized football club in Canada was the Hamilton Foot Ball Club, a predecessor of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, in 1868. This was followed by the formation of the Montreal Foot Ball Club in 1872, the Toronto Argonaut Football Club in 1873 and the Ottawa Football Club (the future Ottawa Rough Riders) in 1876.

The first organized competitions were formed in 1883, when the Ontario Rugby Football Union and the Quebec Rugby Football Union were founded. At the time the sport was generally called rugby union or rugby football because its rules were similar to rugby union's, although this would change drastically in the coming decades. The following year, the two provincial unions would form the Canadian Rugby Football Union, with Montreal winning the first national championship later that year. The CRFU collapsed before the decade was out, but was re-organized as the Canadian Rugby Union in 1891, with Osgoode Hall winning the first CRU championship the following year.

The turn of the century was marked by fundamental changes in the rules of the game. The ORFU was the first competition to adopt the Burnside Rules, which were to revolutionize the Canadian game. The QRFU and CRU initially resisted the changes, but by 1906 the Burnside Rules were in force throughout Ontario and Quebec. Although substantial changes (such as forward passing) were still to come, modern Canadian football would ultimately evolve from John Thrift Meldrum Burnside's code.

Interprovincial Rugby Football Union (1907–1959)

In 1907, the Hamilton Tigers and Toronto Argonauts of the ORFU joined with the QRFU's Montreal Foot Ball Club and Ottawa Rough Riders (Ottawa had been moving back and forth between the two unions over the past few years) to form an elite competition, the Interprovincial Rugby Football Union. The new competition was soon dubbed the Big Four. Montreal won the first championship. In 1909 Lord Earl Grey, the Governor General of Canada, donated a trophy to be awarded to the CRU champion. The trophy, which became known as the Grey Cup, would not be won by an IRFU club until the Hamilton Tigers captured the trophy in 1913. Following the 1915 season, the competition was suspended because of the First World War, and would not fully resume until 1920.

From 1925 until 1953, IRFU teams would dominate Canadian football, winning 18 of the 26 Grey Cups its clubs contested in that timespan (the IRFU suspended operations from 1942 through 1944 because of World War II). During this period, the calibre of play in the IRFU was recognized as being on par with any league in North America. The Big Four attracted considerable interest in the United States and even had its games televised by the National Broadcasting Company for a time during the 1950s (in fact, these games were more widely available than their NFL counterparts). This interest would eventually decline as the National Football League gained prominence and the American Football League rose in popularity.

By the mid-1950s, it was clear that the IRFU was a far higher calibre competition than the ORFU (the Quebec union had faded from the scene in the early part of the century). Moreover, the Western Interprovincial Football Union had been gaining strength and would prove capable of winning the Grey Cup on a regular basis during this decade. Following the 1954 season, the ORFU finally stopped challenging for the Grey Cup, thus making the game a contest between the champions of the IRFU in the East and the WIFU in the West. This marks the start of the modern era of Canadian football.

In 1956, the IRFU and WIFU agreed to form the Canadian Football Council. In 1958, the CFC withdrew from the CRU and re-named itself the Canadian Football League.

IRFU Champions

Eastern Football Conference (1960-1980)

The IRFU changed its name to the Eastern Football Conference in 1960. In 1961, the EFC agreed to a partial interlocking schedule with what was known by then as the Western Football Conference. Although the EFC was part of the CFL, its merger with the WFC was only a partial merger for the next two decades. During this time, the conferences maintained considerable autonomy - for example, the East had a different playoff format until 1973 and a shorter schedule until 1974. During this time, attendances increased substantially for most clubs and television revenue gained prominence and importance. By the 1980s, however, some EFC clubs were teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, and the CFL decided to proceed with a complete merger of the two regional conferences.

East Division (1980-1994, 1996-present)

In 1980, the CFL's two conferences agreed to a full merger and a full interlocking schedule. Although the EFC has carried on since that time as the CFL's East Division, full authority is now vested within the CFL. The decision to create a full interlocking schedule meant that the teams were playing fewer divisional games, consequently the league decided add two extra divisional games per team, thus extending the schedule to 18 games per team starting in 1986.

The East Division has undergone major changes since the dissolution of the EFC. Following the 1981 season the Montreal Alouettes folded. An expansion franchise called the Montreal Concordes commenced play in 1982 and eventually became the "new" Alouettes, but this franchise folded in 1987. Consequently, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers were transferred from the West Division to the East Division to keep the divisions equal in size. This led to the first "all-Western" Grey Cup in 1988 when the Blue Bombers won the East Division championship for the first time.

In 1994, the CFL decided to add more teams in the United States. This led to the addition of the two American-based teams in the East, Shreveport Pirates and a team in Baltimore that would eventually be called the Stallions after the NFL successfully prevented the team from using the name "Colts". Baltimore would go on to win the East Division championship in 1994. For the 1995 season, all eight Canadian teams competed in the North Division.

Prior to the 1996 season however, all of the American clubs disbanded, with one (the Baltimore Stallions) returning to Montreal. The pre-1987 divisional alignment was restored, only to see Winnipeg return to the East after one season when the Ottawa Rough Riders folded. The Blue Bombers returned to the West in 2002 after the Ottawa Renegades commenced play in the nation's capital. With the suspension of the Renegades in 2006, the Blue Bombers again were transferred to the East Division.

Grey Cup record

Prior to 1954, Eastern clubs dominated the Grey Cup games. Since 1954 however, the West has generally been on an equal footing and in recent decades has often dominated the East in the regular season. Since 1954 the East has won 25 Grey Cups and lost 31. This is not counting the 1995 season. It should also be noted that two of the East's Grey Cup wins were by the Blue Bombers, who have played in the West for most of their history.

Playoff format

Since 1955, three teams have competed in the Eastern playoffs in most seasons. Only the top two teams qualified for the post-season in 1985 when an earlier form of the cross-over rule was in force, while four teams qualified in 1994 when there were six teams. In 1997, the present cross-over rule was implemented, allowing the fourth place team from one division to take the play-off place of the third place team in the other division, should the fourth place team earn a better record. Since 1997, the fourth place team in the West has taken advantage of the cross-over rule five times, but not until 2008 did a Western team (Edmonton) advance to the Eastern Final. As of 2010, no team from the East has crossed over into the Western playoffs.

Current teams

  • Toronto Argonauts (formed 1873, joined 1907);
  • Hamilton Tiger-Cats (Hamilton Tigers formed in 1869, joined in 1907, left for ORFU in 1947; Hamilton Wildcats joined from ORFU 1947; both clubs merged together in 1950 as Tiger-Cats);
  • Montreal Alouettes (Montreal Football Club formed in 1872, joined in 1907; reformed as Alouettes in 1946; replaced by Montreal Concordes in 1982, disbanded in 1987; rejoined from Baltimore Stallions in 1996);
  • Winnipeg Blue Bombers (formed in 1930 in the Western Canada Rugby Union; joined in 1987 to replace Alouettes until 1994; rejoined in 1997 to replace Rough Riders until 2002; rejoined to replace Renegades in 2006)

Former teams

  • Ottawa Rough Riders (formed in 1873, joined in 1907, disbanded in 1996)
  • Baltimore Stallions (formed in 1994, played in South Division in 1995; relocated to Montreal in 1996)
  • Shreveport Pirates (formed in 1994, played in South Division in 1995; disbanded)
  • Ottawa Renegades (formed in 2002; presently suspended as of 2006; temporarily scheduled to return in 2013 at the earliest)

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