Let’s pretend that the history of Canadian amateur football remains intact, as well as all other Canadian sports history, but for some reason, nobody thought to create a professional Canadian rules football league until today. How different would that league look?
Let’s pretend a group of interested investors from across the country get together and decide to start up a professional Canadian rules football league. They decide that each franchise is entitled to a 120 km radius exclusive home territory. They also decide that each franchise’s home territory must not overlap with another franchise’s territory, and a minimum population of 850,000 must reside within a prospective franchise’s 120 km radius home territory. They also determine that a bare minimum stadium capacity of 20,000 should be adequate, preferably more like 25,000 or more, especially in host cities with higher populations.
Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg get franchises. Victoria, Nanaimo, and Port Alberni on the island are well within Vancouver’s territory, so they can’t have a team. Saskatoon, being the larger and more central city in Saskatchewan, is briefly considered, thanks in large part to the Hilltops junior team being a national powerhouse, but it falls well short of the population requirement, and is deemed to not be a viable market for a pro team. Regina, with an even smaller population than Saskatoon, is not even considered.
Toronto is the priority market for a franchise in the East, since it is the commerce and media unofficial capital of Canada, and of course its population. Cities such as Peterborough, Barrie, Orillia, Oshawa, Brampton, Guelph, Kitchener, Burlington, St. Catharine’s, Brantford, and Niagara Falls are all Toronto’s territory. Even Hamilton, despite its proud amateur history with the Tigers and Wildcats, doesn’t get a pro team due to its’ far too close proximity to Toronto. Hamilton is part of Toronto’s territory.
Montreal is the next priority city, as the largest city in Quebec. Its territory extends up from the US border to Sherbrooke and Trois Rivieres, then over to Mont-Tremblant, and down to Thurso before catching the furthest Eastern edge of Ontario, passing through Casselman and down to Ingleside and Cornwall, to the US border near there.
Quebec City, Kingston, and Chatham, Ontario, centrally located between Windsor, Sarnia, and London, where all three would be within Chatham’s exclusive zone, are considered as possible locations for franchises, but none of these centres have a stadium that fits the nascent league’s capacity requirements. Ottawa is outside of Montreal’s exclusive zone, but too close to have a team since its exclusive marketing area would overlap with Montreal’s. Halifax, with a population of 615,000 within a 120 km radius, is too small for now, but is deemed to have great expansion potential, if an adequately sized stadium is ever built there, and the population grows to at least the agreed upon minimum.
So, if the CFL never existed before, and was to be started up today, it would probably only have six teams- Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary in the West, and Winnipeg, Toronto, and Montreal in the East. Those would be the only cities with the right population, locationand infrastructure already in place to be able to support their teams.