East Division (CFL)

Last updated
East Division
League Canadian Football League
Sport Canadian football
FormerlyInterprovincial Rugby Football Union
Eastern Football Conference
No. of teams4
Most recent champion(s) Hamilton Tiger-Cats (19th title)
Most titles Toronto Argonauts (23 titles)

The East Division is one of the two regional divisions of the Canadian Football League, its counterpart being the West Division. 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. [1] [2]

The first organized competitions were formed in 1883, when the Ontario Rugby Football Union (ORFU) and the Quebec Rugby Football Union (QRFU) 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 (CRU) in 1891, with Osgoode Hall winning the first CRU championship the following year.

The turn of the 20th 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 or "Big Four" (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 is more commonly known as the "Big Four". Montreal won the first championship that year, taking home the James Dixon Trophy. In 1909 Lord 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, was not 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 did not fully resume until 1920.

From 1925 until 1953, IRFU teams dominated 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 eventually declined as the National Football League gained prominence and the American Football League rose in popularity. During this time, the IRFU became increasingly professionalized. However, in order to keep up the pretense of amateurism, players were usually paid under the table.

By the mid-1950s, the IRFU had dropped all pretense of amateurism, and it was clear that it was a far higher calibre competition than the ORFU (the Quebec union had faded from the scene in the early part of the century), the only purely amateur union still competing for the Grey Cup. Moreover, the Western Interprovincial Football Union had been gaining strength over the last two decades, and its level of play was almost on par with that of the IRFU. The WIFU's champion had faced the Big Four's champion in the Grey Cup final every season since 1945, and it proved 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. Although it was another four years before the amateurs were formally locked out of Grey Cup play, 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 renamed itself the Canadian Football League. The new league assumed control of the Grey Cup, though it had been the de facto professional championship for four years before then.

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, much like Major League Baseball's two leagues operated during the 20th century. 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, rising player salaries had caused considerable financial losses for some teams. In an effort to bolster the league's stability, the CFL decided to proceed with a complete merger of the two regional conferences.

East Division (1981–1994, 1996–present)

In 1981, 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 to 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. They were refounded in time for the 1982 season as the Montreal Concordes. The new owners restored the Alouettes name in 1986, but this franchise folded shortly before the start of the 1987 regular season. Consequently, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, the easternmost team in the West Division, were transferred 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 expand further into the United States after admitting the Sacramento Gold Miners as the first U.S. team a year earlier. This led to the addition of the two American-based teams in the East, the 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, while the five American teams formed the South Division.

Prior to the 1996 season however, all of the American clubs disbanded. The owner of one, the Grey Cup champion Stallions, moved his organization to Montreal as the third and current incarnation of the Alouettes. However, while the Alouettes are now officially reckoned as having suspended operations from 1987 to 1995, they do not acknowledge their past as the Stallions. 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. With the East Division Ottawa Redblacks beginning play in 2014, the Blue Bombers moved back to the West Division again.

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. From 1954 to 2016, the East has won 27 Grey Cups and lost 35. This is not counting the 1995 season. 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 1986 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. From 1997 to 2016, the fourth place team in the West has taken advantage of the cross-over rule nine times, including four times when there were equal teams in the divisions. However, it was not until 2008 that a Western team (Edmonton) advanced to the Eastern Final, and only four other teams (the 2009 BC Lions, 2016 Eskimos, 2017 Saskatchewan Roughriders and 2019 Eskimos) have won a game since. Neither crossover team won more than one playoff game.

Since the implementation of the crossover rule, the closest an Eastern team has come to earning a cross-over berth in the Western playoffs has come in 2001 when fourth place Toronto finished one point behind third place BC.

Current teams

Former teams

List of Eastern champions

"Big Four" (IRFU) champions

1907 Montreal Football Club
1908 Hamilton Tigers
1909 Ottawa Rough Riders
1910 Hamilton Tigers
1911 Toronto Argonauts
1912 Toronto Argonauts
1913 Hamilton Tigers
1914 Toronto Argonauts
1915 Hamilton Tigers
1916No season: World War I
1919 Montreal AAA Winged Wheelers
1920 Toronto Argonauts
1921 Toronto Argonauts
1922 Toronto Argonauts
1923 Hamilton Tigers
1924 Hamilton Tigers
1925 Ottawa Senators
1926 Ottawa Senators
1927 Hamilton Tigers
1928 Hamilton Tigers
1929 Hamilton Tigers
1930 Hamilton Tigers
1931 Montreal AAA Winged Wheelers
1932 Hamilton Tigers
1933 Toronto ArgonautsMontreal AAA Winged Wheelers
1934 Hamilton Tigers
1935 Hamilton Tigers
1936 Ottawa Rough RidersToronto Argonauts
1937 Toronto ArgonautsOttawa Rough Riders
1938 Toronto ArgonautsOttawa Rough Riders
1939 Ottawa Rough RidersToronto Argonauts
1940 Ottawa Rough RidersToronto Argonauts
1941 Ottawa Rough Riders [lower-alpha 1] Toronto Argonauts
1942 No season: World War II
1945 Toronto ArgonautsOttawa Rough Riders
1946 Toronto ArgonautsMontreal Alouettes
1947 Toronto ArgonautsOttawa Rough Riders
1948 Ottawa Rough RidersMontreal Alouettes
1949 Montreal Alouettes Ottawa Rough Riders
1950 Toronto ArgonautsHamilton Tiger-Cats
1951 Ottawa Rough RidersHamilton Tiger-Cats
1952 Toronto ArgonautsHamilton Tiger-Cats
1953 Hamilton Tiger-Cats Toronto Argonauts
1954 Montreal AlouettesHamilton Tiger-Cats
1955 Montreal AlouettesToronto Argonauts
1956 Montreal AlouettesHamilton Tiger-Cats
1957 Hamilton Tiger-CatsMontreal Alouettes
1958 Hamilton Tiger-CatsOttawa Rough Riders
1959 Hamilton Tiger-CatsOttawa Rough Riders

Champions of the Eastern Football Conference

1960 Ottawa Rough RidersMontreal Alouettes
1961 Hamilton Tiger-CatsToronto Argonauts
1962 Hamilton Tiger-CatsMontreal Alouettes
1963 Hamilton Tiger-CatsOttawa Rough Riders
1964 Hamilton Tiger-CatsOttawa Rough Riders
1965 Hamilton Tiger-CatsOttawa Rough Riders
1966 Ottawa Rough RidersHamilton Tiger-Cats
1967 Hamilton Tiger-CatsOttawa Rough Riders
1968 Ottawa Rough RidersToronto Argonauts
1969 Ottawa Rough RidersToronto Argonauts
1970 Montreal AlouettesHamilton Tiger-Cats
1971 Toronto ArgonautsHamilton Tiger-Cats
1972 Hamilton Tiger-CatsOttawa Rough Riders
1973 Ottawa Rough RidersMontreal Alouettes
1974 Montreal AlouettesOttawa Rough Riders
1975 Montreal AlouettesOttawa Rough Riders
1976 Ottawa Rough RidersHamilton Tiger-Cats
1977 Montreal AlouettesOttawa Rough Riders
1978 Montreal AlouettesOttawa Rough Riders
1979 Montreal AlouettesOttawa Rough Riders
1980 Hamilton Tiger-CatsMontreal Alouettes

Champions of the East Division

1981 Ottawa Rough RidersHamilton Tiger-Cats
1982 Toronto ArgonautsOttawa Rough Riders
1983 Toronto ArgonautsHamilton Tiger-Cats
1984 Hamilton Tiger-CatsToronto Argonauts
1985 Hamilton Tiger-CatsMontreal Concordes
1986 Hamilton Tiger-CatsToronto Argonauts
1987 Toronto ArgonautsWinnipeg Blue Bombers
1988 Winnipeg Blue BombersToronto Argonauts
1989 Hamilton Tiger-CatsWinnipeg Blue Bombers
1990 Winnipeg Blue BombersToronto Argonauts
1991 Toronto ArgonautsWinnipeg Blue Bombers
1992 Winnipeg Blue BombersHamilton Tiger-Cats
1993 Winnipeg Blue BombersHamilton Tiger-Cats
1994 Baltimore CFLersWinnipeg Blue Bombers
1995 Baltimore Stallions [lower-alpha 2] San Antonio Texans
1996 Toronto ArgonautsMontreal Alouettes
1997 Toronto ArgonautsMontreal Alouettes
1998 Hamilton Tiger-CatsMontreal Alouettes
1999 Hamilton Tiger-CatsMontreal Alouettes
2000 Montreal AlouettesWinnipeg Blue Bombers
2001 Winnipeg Blue BombersHamilton Tiger-Cats
2002 Montreal AlouettesToronto Argonauts
2003 Montreal AlouettesToronto Argonauts
2004 Toronto ArgonautsMontreal Alouettes
2005 Montreal AlouettesToronto Argonauts
2006 Montreal AlouettesToronto Argonauts
2007 Winnipeg Blue BombersToronto Argonauts
2008 Montreal AlouettesEdmonton Eskimos
2009 Montreal AlouettesBC Lions
2010 Montreal AlouettesToronto Argonauts
2011 Winnipeg Blue BombersHamilton Tiger-Cats
2012 Toronto ArgonautsMontreal Alouettes
2013 Hamilton Tiger-CatsToronto Argonauts
2014 Hamilton Tiger-CatsMontreal Alouettes
2015 Ottawa RedblacksHamilton Tiger-Cats
2016 Ottawa RedblacksEdmonton Eskimos
2017 Toronto ArgonautsSaskatchewan Roughriders
2018 Ottawa RedblacksHamilton Tiger-Cats
2019 Hamilton Tiger-CatsEdmonton Eskimos

Total playoff berths while in the CFL East

This reflects Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Baltimore Football Club, and Shreveport Pirates results only while in the East Division.

East Division
Grey Cup/Dominion
Toronto Argonauts 22542317
Hamilton Tiger-Cats 1955208
Montreal Alouettes 1548187
Ottawa Rough Riders 194896
Hamilton Tigers [lower-alpha 3] 1416146
Winnipeg Blue Bombers [lower-alpha 4] 71472
Montreal AAA Winged Wheelers 3221
Ottawa Redblacks 3431
Montreal Football Club 1111
Baltimore Football Club 0100
Montreal Indians 0000
Montreal Cubs 0000
Montreal Royals 0000
Hamilton Wildcats [lower-alpha 5] 0000
Shreveport Pirates 0000
Ottawa Renegades 0000


  1. The Eastern Rugby Football Union was formed for one season in 1941 when the IRFU decided to suspend operations during World War II.
  2. In 1995, Canadian teams competed in the North Division and American teams in the South Division. The Baltimore Stallions won the South Division.
  3. Played in the IRFU from 1907 to 1947
  4. Played in the East Division 1987–1994, 1997–2001, 2006–2013
  5. Played in the IRFU from 1948 to 1949

Related Research Articles

Canadian Football League Professional Canadian football league

The Canadian Football League is a professional sports league in Canada. The CFL is the highest level of competition in Canadian football. The league consists of nine teams, each located in a city in Canada. They are divided into two divisions: four teams in the East Division and five teams in the West Division.

Grey Cup Championship game and trophy of the Canadian Football League

The Grey Cup is both the championship game of the Canadian Football League (CFL) and the trophy awarded to the victorious team playing in the namesake championship of professional Canadian football. The game is contested between the winners of the CFL's East and West Divisional playoffs and is one of Canadian television's largest annual sporting events. The Toronto Argonauts have the most Grey Cup wins (17) since its introduction in 1909, while the Edmonton Football Team have the most Grey Cup wins (11) since the creation of the CFL in 1958. The latest, the 107th Grey Cup, took place in Calgary, Alberta, on November 24, 2019, when the Winnipeg Blue Bombers defeated the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 33–12.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats Canadian Football League team from Hamilton, Ontario

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are a professional Canadian football team based in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. They are currently members of the East Division of the Canadian Football League (CFL). The Tiger-Cats play their home games at Tim Hortons Field. They were founded in 1869 as the Hamilton Football Club. In 1950, the Tigers merged with cross-town upstart Hamilton Wildcats and adopted the nickname "Tiger-Cats".

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

The Calgary Stampeders had an opportunity to defend their Grey Cup title in 1949, but the Montreal Alouettes returned the trophy to Quebec for just the third time in its history.

The Ontario Rugby Football Union (ORFU) was an early amateur Canadian football league. As its name implies, it comprised teams in the Canadian province of Ontario. The ORFU was founded on Saturday, January 6, 1883 and in 1903 became the first major competition to adopt the Burnside rules, from which the modern Canadian football code would evolve.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats defeated the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the annual Grey Cup in 1953.

The Edmonton Eskimos upset the Montreal Alouettes to send the Grey Cup trophy back west for the first time since 1948.

The Edmonton Eskimos defeat the Montreal Alouettes in the first Grey Cup held in the west.

The Edmonton Eskimos faced the Montreal Alouettes in the Grey Cup game for the third consecutive year. And for the third consecutive year, the Edmonton Eskimos were Grey Cup champions. It was the first time in a Grey Cup that a touchdown was worth six points instead of five.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats defeat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the Grey Cup.

The 1958 CFL season was the inaugural season of the Canadian Football League. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Winnipeg Blue Bombers met again for Canadian football supremacy. The Bombers turned the tables on the Tiger-Cats this time, winning their first Grey Cup since 1941.

The Hugo Ross Trophy was named after a Winnipeg real estate broker, Hugo Ross, who donated the championship trophy to the Western Canada Rugby Football Union (WCRFU). Hugo Ross died a year earlier in April 1912, as he was one of many who drowned in the sinking of RMS Titanic.

The Hamilton Tigers were a Canadian football team based in Hamilton, Ontario that played in the Ontario Rugby Football Union from 1883 to 1906 and 1948 to 1949 and in the Interprovincial Rugby Football Union from 1907 to 1947. The club was a founding member of both the ORFU in 1883 and the IRFU in 1907. Throughout their history, the Tigers won five Grey Cup Championships and two Dominion Championships, including the 1908 title, the year before the Grey Cup was first awarded. After struggling to compete on a sound financial level with the Hamilton Wildcats, who had joined the ORFU in 1941 and later the IRFU, the two clubs merged in 1950 to form the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

The Montreal Football Club was a Canadian football team based in Montreal, Quebec that played in the Quebec Rugby Football Union from 1883 to 1906 and in the Interprovincial Rugby Football Union from 1907 to 1915. The club was a founding member of the QRFU and played in the first football game in Quebec in 1872. The club was dominant in Quebec, winning 12 of the 24 QRFU titles in the years that they played in that league. Montreal also won the first Canadian Dominion Football Championship in 1884, a predecessor of the Grey Cup and again won the championship in their first season in the IRFU in 1907.

The 1909 Canadian football season was the 18th season of organized play since the Canadian Rugby Union (CRU) was founded in 1892 and the 26th season since the creation of the founding leagues, the Ontario Rugby Football Union (ORFU) and the Quebec Rugby Football Union (QRFU) in 1883. The season concluded with Toronto Varsity defeating Toronto Parkdale in the 1909 Dominion Championship game. This year was notable for being the first year that the champions were awarded the Grey Cup trophy, although it was not delivered to the University of Toronto until March 1910.

The 1907 Canadian football season was the 16th season of organized play since the Canadian Rugby Union (CRU) was founded in 1892 and the 25th season since the creation of the Ontario Rugby Football Union (ORFU) and the Quebec Rugby Football Union (QRFU) in 1883. This year also marked the first for the Interprovincial Rugby Football Union, which is a predecessor of the modern day's CFL East Division. The season concluded with the Montreal Football Club defeating Peterboro in the 1907 Dominion Championship game.

The 1905 Canadian football season was the 14th season of organized play since the Canadian Rugby Union (CRU) was founded in 1892 and the 23rd season since the creation of the Ontario Rugby Football Union (ORFU) and the Quebec Rugby Football Union (QRFU) in 1883. The season concluded with the Toronto University team defeating the Ottawa Rough Riders in the 1905 Dominion Championship game.

The 1905 Dominion Championship was a Canadian football game that was played on November 25, 1905 at Rosedale Field in Toronto, Ontario that determined the Senior Rugby Football champion of Canada for the 1905 season. The Canadian Intercollegiate Rugby Football Union (CIRFU) champion Toronto University team defeated the Quebec Rugby Football Union (QRFU) champion Ottawa Rough Riders in an 11–9 comeback victory to win their second Dominion Championship. This was the third appearance in the title game for Varsity and the fourth appearance for the Rough Riders while also being their first loss in the championship game.


  1. "CFL History 1860s". Archived from the original on 2012-10-18. Retrieved 2017-08-25.
  2. "CFL History 1870s". Archived from the original on 2014-12-13. Retrieved 2017-08-25.