Are you ready for some CFL football?
Well those die hard football fans who are watching reruns of last years NFL season will have plenty of LIVE football to watch starting today. ESPN2 will kickoff their Canadian Football League 2014 season at 3 pm ET as the Calgary Stampeders host the Montreal Alouettes, whose star wide receiver is Duron Carter, son of ESPN NFL analyst and Pro Football Hall of Famer Cris Carter.
Former NFL star Chad Johnson will make his CFL debut today playing for Montreal. He will have another former NFL player throwing him the ball.
Quarterback Troy Smith, the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner from Ohio State and backup in Baltimore will be running the Montreal offense. He too is one of many former NFL players now playing north of the boarder.
Today’s game marks the most extensive coverage ever of the CFL in United States history as ESPN and the league inked a brand new long term deal earlier this week. ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPNEWS will air at least 86 games this season with an option for 17 more beginning in the 2015 season.
The network will also air the CFL Championship, for those who don’t know it is called The Grey Cup and it is the oldest title in North American football dating back 102 years, predating the NFL.
Another 69 games will air on ESPN3, the network’s broadband channel and you can see them all (including the 86 games on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNEWS) on the WatchESPN app.
ESPN’s history with the CFL goes all the way back to the second year the network was on the air. In 1980, ESPN televised its first live football telecast ever – the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts vs. Montreal Alouettes – and continued televising CFL games from 1980-84, 1986-89, 1994-97 and in 2013. Additionally, ESPN3 has carried CFL games since 2008, including 54 games in 2013.
In a statement released early this week the network expressed it’s passion for having the league back on board for the long term. Meanwhile, the CFL could not be more pleased to have ESPN as a partner.
“Since the early days of ESPN, CFL games have been a valued part of our programming lineup,” said Burke Magnus, Senior Vice President, Programming Acquisitions. “I’m proud to see our relationship continue as we strive to serve football fans 365 days a year.”
“We are thrilled for our fans in the United States that the ESPN networks will be the exclusive home of our league there,” said Mark Cohon, Commissioner of the CFL. “This is a powerful showcase for our talented athletes, our exciting brand of football, and the CFL itself, a league with a proud history but, more importantly, a bright future.”
The CFL games will be produced and packaged for the network by their Canadian partner’s at TSN. The two network’s share programming and it is owned by CTV Specialty Television, a joint venture of Bell Media (80%) and ESPN Inc. (20%). It is Canada’s oldest and highest-rated English language sports television channel. TSN premiered in 1984, as part of the first group of Canadian specialty cable channels.