Fawcett Stadium before the start of the 2006 Pro Football Hall of Fame Game
|Recent and upcoming games|
The Pro Football Hall of Fame Game is an annual National Football League exhibition game that is held the weekend of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's induction ceremonies. The game is played at Fawcett Stadium, which is located next door to the Hall of Fame building in Canton, Ohio. It is traditionally the first game in the NFL's preseason, marking the end of the NFL's six-month offseason.
The two teams that play in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game are selected by the league well in advance of the rest of the schedule (usually about the same time as the new Hall of Fame members are announced and the Super Bowl of the year before). From 1971 to 2008, and again in 2010, the opponents were one AFC team vs. one NFC team. In 2009, as recognition of the 50th season of the charter members of the American Football League, the game paired two of the "original eight" franchises of that league, the Tennessee Titans (dressed as their previous incarnation, the Houston Oilers) and the Buffalo Bills, whose owner, Ralph Wilson, was inducted into the Hall that year. The two teams were chosen because Wilson and the Oilers'/Titans' owner, Bud Adams, were the last original AFL owners still alive and owning their teams.
Because this game and the Hall of Fame's induction ceremonies are scheduled on the weekend before the league's regular four-week exhibition season begins, both teams end up playing five exhibition games instead of the normal four, and unlike the Canadian Football League, the league does not remove an exhibition game from another week.
Since 1995, expansion teams usually played the Hall of Fame Game as their first ever NFL contest; the teams that have done so thus far are the Jacksonville Jaguars and Carolina Panthers matchup in 1995, and the Houston Texans in 2002. Furthermore, the Cleveland Browns (who were restocked with an expansion draft) were featured in the Hall of Fame Game upon their return to the league in 1999, despite the league's official stance that says the Baltimore Ravens (who did not play in the 1996 Hall of Fame Game, nor any Hall of Fame Game since) are the new team stemming from the Cleveland Browns relocation controversy. (The difference stems from the fact that although the Ravens began play as a new team in 1996, the league did not expand to 31 teams until 1999 when the Browns resumed operations; thus, the 1999 Browns, despite having existed from 1946 to 1996, were an expansion team that year, but not a new team.)
Prior to the AFL-NFL merger, the Hall of Fame Game was played in September, at the end of the preseason. In 1970, it was moved to the beginning of the preseason, and until the 2002 realignment (stemming from the admission of the Texans), it was not uncommon to see the game be played in July. Since the aforementioned expansion, the game has always been played in August.
The 2011 Hall of Fame Game was also originally scheduled to feature two teams from the same conference, contrary to established tradition: the St. Louis Rams and the Chicago Bears. Unlike 2009, no official explanation was given for the choice of teams. That game was never played; a labor dispute had disrupted almost all league activity during the 2011 offseason, and the Bears and Rams had set a deadline of July 22 to ratify a resolution to the dispute. The league and its players did not ratify the agreement until July 25, forcing the game to be canceled. It is the only time the game has been canceled because of labor problems, and only the second such preseason game (the 1974 Chicago College All-Star Game being the first).
During the years the game used the AFC-NFC format, the Hall of Fame Game was never rematched in that season's Super Bowl. However, the 1971, 1989, and 1996 matchups would be seen in later Super Bowls, and the 2003, 2004, and 2006 games were rematches of past Super Bowls.
The 2012 game again broke from tradition in featuring the New Orleans Saints, for which 2012 enshrinee and offensive tackle Willie Roaf played part of his career, facing the Arizona Cardinals in their first appearance in the game since moving to Arizona in 1988.
Television and radio
From 1999-2005, the game was held on Monday night, televised as part of ABC's Monday Night Football package. It had previously been held typically on Saturday afternoons, televised as part of ABC's Wide World of Sports package (still using the MNF crew). In 1998, the game was put in the MNF package, and played on a Saturday night, which served as a test run for the move to Monday night. Starting in 2006, it was moved to Sunday night, coinciding with the new NBC Sunday Night Football television package. The 2007 game was telecast on NFL Network as NBC was intending to televise the China Bowl game in Beijing, China (a game which was postponed to 2009 and later canceled). The 2012 game aired on NFL Network due to NBC's coverage of the Summer Olympics.
Dial Global owns national radio rights; it is the only exhibition game to air on a nationwide network. Each team's radio network is also allowed to broadcast the games (albeit usually with fewer affiliates since exhibition games are traditionally much lower priority to non-sports and non-flagship stations).
In 2007 and 2008 the game was broadcast live in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland by Sky Sports. It was not shown in 2009 because of a dispute between Sky Sports and the NFL over TV rights. ESPN America (formerly North American Sports Network) broadcasts the game in the rest of Europe.
From 1998-2005, the Global Television Network aired the game in Canada, simulcasting ABC; upon the move to Sunday night in 2006, the CTV Television Network aired the game until 2010. With CTV airing the 2012 Summer Olympics, TSN broadcast the Hall of Fame Game in 2012. Azteca 7 aired Spanish-language coverage of the Hall of Fame Game in Mexico from 1998-2005; the Game moved to Canal 5 in 2006 and aired on that station until 2010. Due to the cancellation of the 2011 Hall of Fame Game and Televisa's Summer Olympics coverage, the Hall of Fame Game moved to Televisa Deportes in 2012.
Fawcett Stadium is within 75 miles of numerous television markets in northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania (and is part of the Cleveland market); as such, the NBC affiliates were required to black out the game in the rare event the game did not sell out. Because Fawcett Stadium only holds 22,375 fans (less than half the NFL's minimum requirements for its stadiums) and the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies bring large numbers of outside fans to Canton, the game has, to date, always sold out (several NFL teams, as well as the Super Bowl, have similarly enjoyed long sellout streaks).
|Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders||3||0||0||1.000||2006|
|Kansas City Chiefs||2||1||0||.667||2003|
|New England Patriots||2||1||0||.667||2000|
|Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams||2||1||0||.667||2001|
|San Francisco 49ers||2||1||0||.667||2000|
|New York Giants||2||1||1||.625||2002|
|New York Jets||1||1||0||.500||1992|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||1||1||0||.500||1998|
|New Orleans Saints||2||3||0||.400||2012|
|St. Louis/Arizona Cardinals||1||2||1||.375||2012|
|Green Bay Packers||1||2||1||.375||2003|
|Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans||1||2||0||.333||2009|
|San Diego Chargers||0||1||1||.250||1994|
Most appearances- 5: Cleveland Browns (1963, 1967, 1981, 1990, and 1999), Pittsburgh Steelers (1963, 1964, 1983, 1998, and 2007), Washington Redskins (1965, 1975, 1989, 2004, and 2008), and New Orleans Saints (1970, 1983, 1996, 2007, and 2012). Had the 2011 game been played, the Chicago Bears would have joined this list.
Most wins- 5: Washington Redskins (1965, 1975, 1989, 2004, and 2008)
Longest active drought without Hall of Fame Game appearance- 21 seasons: Detroit Lions (last appearance - 1991); 20 seasons: New York Jets (last appearance - 1992); 17 seasons: Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars (last appearance - 1995)
Active teams to have never made a Hall of Fame Game appearance- Baltimore Ravens
The Lions are the NFC team with the longest current absence from the game. The New York Jets, who last appeared in 1992, are the AFC team with the longest current absence.
Notes and references
- "Individual Tickets & Festival Fan Packages". Profootballhof.com. http://www.profootballhof.com/enshrinement/2012/2/29/cardinals-vs-saints-in-2012-hall-of-fame-game/. Retrieved 2012-09-28.
- 2006 NFL Record and Fact Book. p. 401. ISBN 1-933405-32-5.
- "AFC-NFC Hall of Fame Game". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on 2006-09-04. http://web.archive.org/web/20060904031156/http://www.profootballhof.com/enshrinement/game.html. Retrieved 2006-09-08.
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