Cancelled CFL season leaves Alberta football fans with nothing to cheer for on Labour Day

The cancellation of the CFL season is hitting Edmonton football fans a little harder on Labour Day, as many plan their long weekend around the annual matchup.

Calgary Stampeders traditionally host Edmonton for the annual classic

Calgary Stampeders quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, right, and former Edmonton Football Team quarterback Mike Reilly embrace following the CFL West Division final in Edmonton on Nov. 22, 2015. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

For many Alberta football fans, the first weekend of September is when the real season starts, kicking off with the Labour Day Classic between the Edmonton Football Team and the Calgary Stampeders.

Many Edmonton fans would be in Calgary Monday to watch the arch rivals play at McMahon Stadium, if the CFL had not cancelled the season on Aug. 17.

The league had asked the federal government for $30-million loan to restart the season, but the two couldn't strike a deal.

So fans like Andrew Hoskins are tasked with finding something different to do on Labour Day. Asked on Edmonton AM what he would be doing today, he replied, "not a whole lot."

"I think there'll be a lot of connecting on Twitter and things to kind of meetup with our friends from all over the province, but I think a lot of us may be popping in an old game just so it feels like Labour Day Monday," said Hoskins, who co-hosts The Turf District podcast.

The traditional match up between the two Alberta teams originated in 1948, with Calgary hosting Edmonton every Labour Day since 1982, according to the team's website.

"The very first game Edmonton ever played since joining the league was against Calgary on Labour Day. You've got two natural rivals and you know every year on the calendar that's the day we're playing," said Mike Smith-Knutsen, co-host of the podcast. 

"It just means a lot because we know we're going to be seeing these guys and hoping we're going to beat them."

The Stampeders beat Edmonton 25-9 in the 2019 version of the Labour Day Classic in front of 32,350 fans. Calgary leads the annual competition with a 28-25-1 record.

The game is close to the halfway point in the CFL season, and gives the winner an advantage over its Western Conference rival, with fans taking full bragging rights.

"It's a big deal because the winner of that game usually plays a big role in the standings. I think that's part of why we look forward to it," Smith-Knutsen said.

It's not just fans who are lost without the annual rivalry. CFL veteran Calvin McCarty played 13 seasons with Edmonton.

He posted a clip of one of his first, along with a request for CBC to open it's football vault of Labour Day classics.

Edmonton was scheduled to host the Stampeders next Saturday for the annual rematch.


Travis McEwan

Video journalist

Travis McEwan is a video journalist who covers stories ranging from human interest and sports to municipal and provincial issues. Originally from Churchill, Man., Travis has spent the last decade working at CBC Edmonton reporting for web, radio and television. Email story ideas to travis.mcewan@cbc.ca.


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