The 2019 Canadian Football League season comes to a conclusion on Sunday. That's when the Hamilton Tiger-Cats meet the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at 46,000-seat McMahon Stadium in Calgary in the 107th playing of North America's longest-running football championship game, the Grey Cup. For the Blue Bombers, the game will mark their record 25th appearance in the Canadian title game, after they defeated the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Western Division final last weekend.
Winnipeg has also won more Grey Cups than any other CFL team, with 10. But the Blue Bombers have not won a title since 1990, while the Ticats last took the Cup in 1999. According to the CBC, the two teams' combined 47 years without winning a Canadian championship will be the second-longest drought by any two teams to meet in the championship game, exceeded only by the 1983 Grey Cup.
In that game, the Toronto Argonauts defeated the B.C. Lions 18-17 — but the two teams had a combined 48-year drought coming into the game.
"It's not desperation to end the drought, we just want to be great and legendary," Hamilton's veteran wide receiver Luke Tasker told the CBC. "We want to be part of the Grey Cup glory forever."
Winnipeg comes in as only the 11th CFL team to advance to the Grey Cup after placing 3rd in their division. On the other hand, Hamilton wound up with a franchise-record 15 wins against just three losses to win the Eastern Division.
As a result, the Tiger-Cats enter the 107th Grey Cup as 3.5-point favorites, according to the sports-betting news site Covers.com.
Hamilton also enters the championship clash on a seven-game winning streak. Winnipeg has lost seven of their last 13, after starting the season at 5-0. But a stunning, Week 7 loss to Hamilton appeared to send their season into a downward spiral. Yet somehow, they regrouped in the playoffs to earn their spot in the Grey Cup.
"Whether we're underdogs or not, we're not really thinking about that," Winnipeg running back Andrew Harris told the CBC. "We're just thinking about what we need to do as a group to go out and win."
Harris was a big part of the Blue Bombers' winning just enough to get back to the Grey Cup, and earning a shot at their first title in 29 years. The 32-year-old Winnipeg native captured his third consecutive CFL rushing title with 1,380 yards on the ground.
The 107th Grey Cup will be televised in the United States by ESPN2. American fans unfamiliar with the Canadian brand of football will notice a few significant rules differences. CFL teams field 12 players per side, rather than 11 as in American football.
While 10 yards brings a first down, as in the American game, teams must cover that distance in three downs rather than four. In addition, the Canadian football field is 110 yards long, with end zones that are 20 yards deep — compared to the 100-yard field with 10-yard end zones in the American version of the game.