The 2021 CFL season and 2021-22 NLL season both face delays. However, the delays should help the leagues succeed in 2021 after both leagues cancelled their previous season.
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While many sports are nearing a return to normalcy, not every league in North America is quite there yet. The Canadian Football League and National Lacrosse League both delayed the starts of their seasons – with the CFL pushing their season two months and the NLL aiming to commerce the 2021-22 season at the start of December.
Delaying the starts is a necessity for both leagues – and planning well in advance will help the sports have a successful and hopefully profitable return to action.
CFL Pushes Season to August 5
The Canadian Football League usually kickoffs off the regular season in June (with two weeks of preseason beforehand). However, after working with public health officials from different provinces, the league decided it was best to postpone the start of the regular season from June 10 to August 5, hoping that fans can start attending games by August. The 2021 regular season will only last 14 games instead of 18.
The CFL needs fans in attendance before they can commence operations again. At most, the league could survive a few weeks of games without fans (fans start returning in September, not August) – not half a season. The CFL does not have the financial stability and power of the National Football League. It makes a portion of its money from its partnership with TSN – but not enough to keep the league afloat without fans in attendance (even if it is limited capacity).
The CFL also needs to account for players travelling from the US and other regions. While the league itself takes place entirely in Canada – many players are US-born and reside in the States during the offseason. With quarantines still required for travellers, the CFL needs to plan everything in accordance.
First Grey Cup in December Since 1972
The delayed start of the CFL regular season will also delay the CFL playoffs and the Grey Cup. The postponement pushes the beginning of the CFL playoffs to November and the Grey Cup to December. Currently, the 108th Grey Cup is scheduled for December 12 in Hamilton, Ontario.
The change in date means the 2021 Grey Cup will be the first played in December since 1972. The change could make for some fun festivities and holiday colours – and a higher chance of snowfall during the game (something everyone loves to see during the game).
Full Scheduled to be Released Later
The August 5 start date is tentative. It could move a bit, depending on health regulations. They have not released the schedule as the CFL does not know what regions to start the season. Initially, the CFL stated it would begin with Eastern teams playing road games against Western clubs. However, that plan could already be out the door.
Once they figure out where it is safest and have permission to host crowds, they will release more details on the schedule.
We should note that only the BC Lions play in an indoor stadium. The other eight teams play outside (which could affect where the Lions play to start the season).
National Lacrosse League Returning in December
Like the CFL, the National Lacrosse League had it last season entirely cancelled due to the pandemic. However, the league has announced plans to return for an 18-game season starting in December 2021. The league – a mixture of Canadian and American teams – assumes that the border will finally reopen by the end of 2021.
One of the Longest Absences in North American Sport
The NLL ended postponed their 2019-20 season on March 12. Since that date, the NLL has not played a single game. That means between the end premature end to their 2019-2020 season and the start of the 2021-22 season, nearly 21 months have passed.
The league – like the CFL – is highly dependent on attendance at games for their revenue. Since arenas in most of North America were empty for a year, the NLL could not operate without risking the future of the sport. December is a long way off, but hopefully, by then, most regions in North American will have fully reopened, and the NLL can enjoy a prosperous season.
Adding a New Team
A few leagues have had difficulty adding new teams in due to the pandemic – including the NLL. The Panther City Lacrosse Club was supposed to join the league in 2020. They are not the only team in North American sports team whose launch was delayed by the pandemic.
The launch of Seattle’s NHL expansion team – the Seattle Kraken, was postponed from 2020 to the start of the 2021-22 season. The expansion of the CFL into the Maritimes is currently on hiatus – as the province focuses resources elsewhere.
With the addition of the Panthers, the NLL will start the 2021-22 season with 14 clubs. The current NLL format is three divisions with four, four, and five teams, respectively. The New England team will also relocate to Albany before the 2021-22 season. We could see some realignment happening or creating two conferences with seven teams instead of three unbalanced divisions.
Where to Bet on the CFL and NLL
Once the leagues release more details and finalize their schedule, many of the best Canadian sportsbooks will open betting on the CFL and NLL. To make sure you are ready for that day, we recommend checking out the online sportsbook below. They know Canadians love the CFL and NLL – and offer the best selection of odds and markets on the two leagues.