Ahead of the 108th Grey Cup, we look at how the CFL championship game compares to the Super Bowl.
After two long years, the Grey Cup is set to return on December 12 in Hamilton.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers – the defending champions – are the current favorites in the sports betting to win their 12th title against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
This will be the 108th edition of the CFL championship game, the 11th time in history that Hamilton has hosted the event, and the first at Tim Hortons Field.
It will also be the first Grey Cup to take place in December since 1972, and the latest that a Grey Cup game has ever been played in the calendar year.
Two months after the 108th Grey Cup concludes, Super Bowl LVI will kick off in Los Angeles on February 13.
Much like the latest edition of the CFL championship, the 56th Super Bowl is unique – it will be the first hosted at the new SoFi Stadium, and the first to be played in the second week of February.
But what other comparisons can we draw between the CFL and NFL championship games? How does the Grey Cup stack up to the Big Game?
Scoring is the same in the CFL and NFL, aside from the rouge in Canadian football – six points for a touchdown, one or two for a conversion, three for a field goal, two for a safety.
However, the CFL, with its wider field, extra receiver, and unlimited movement before the snap, has long marketed itself as a faster, higher-scoring alternative to the NFL.
That’s certainly true when it comes to the Grey Cup.
Over the last 25 editions of the CFL championship game, 1,312 points have been scored. In the same timeframe, 1,201 points were scored in the Super Bowl.
The Grey Cup sees more points scored than the Super Bowl – a win for Canada.
The next question, though, is how those points are scored. Fans want to see high-scoring games, but mostly want to see touchdowns.
Over the last 25 Grey Cup games, 130 touchdowns have been scored. Over the last 25 Super Bowls, meanwhile, there have been 142 touchdowns.
So, the CFL sees more points, but the NFL sees more touchdowns.
Both the Grey Cup and the Super Bowl are held in some of the biggest stadiums in the US and Canada.
Aside from the 2021 edition, the Super Bowl has drawn crowds of at least 60,000 people every year since it began in 1967.
On five occasions – 1976, 1979, 1982, 1986 and 2010 – a six-figure crowd has watched the Big Game.
Unsurprisingly, the Grey Cup struggles to keep up in this category.
Crowds for the CFL championship regularly exceed 50,000, but the simple fact is that stadiums in Canada are not as big as in the US.
The biggest stadium in the country is the Olympic Stadium in Montreal, which can be expanded to a capacity of around 66,000 for football.
Across the 107 Grey Cup games to date, attendance has exceeded 60,000 on just eight occasions.
Over the last 25 editions, a total of 1,238,196 have attended the Grey Cup, compared to a total of 1,771,947 that have been to the Super Bowl.
It would be silly to compare TV ratings for the Grey Cup and the Super Bowl worldwide, with the latter regularly being one of the most watched sporting events of the year.
But what about in Canada? Do more Canadians watch the Grey Cup or the Super Bowl?
Since 2010, an average of 4.48million people in Canada have tuned in to watch the CFL championship game.
Over the same period, 6.58million tuned into watch the NFL equivalent.
Peak viewership tells a similar story.
The highest ever TV audience for a Grey Cup came in 2012, when 13million unique Canadian viewers watched at least some of the game.
That is dwarfed by the 18.7million – more than half of Canada’s population – who tuned in to watch Super Bowl LIV in 2020.
This is one area in which the Grey Cup easily trumps the Super Bowl.
The NFL championship game is deliberately held in cities with a warmer climate, or at stadiums that are completely covered.
There have been occasions when weather has affected the Super Bowl, but they are rare.
The CFL, meanwhile, have little choice – there are only a few domed stadiums in Canada, and they can’t host the Grey Cup every year.
That means that cold, wind and rain are regularly a factor in the Grey Cup, making things more unpredictable and exciting.
The coldest Grey Cup on record came in 1991, when the temperature at kickoff was -16C (3.2F).
The coldest Super Bowl, meanwhile, came in 1972, with the temperature a comparatively warm 4C.
One of the reasons why the Super Bowl is such a big event is the halftime show, which attracts millions of viewers alone.
Some of the biggest names in the history of modern music have graced the stage at the Super Bowl, including Michael Jackson, the Rolling Stones, Phil Collins, Prince, Justin Timberlake, Beyonce, Paul McCartney, Madonna and Lady Gaga.
The 2021 performance will feature not just one but several of the biggest music stars in the world – Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige and Kendrick Lamar.
The Grey Cup halftime show is somewhat smaller in comparison, but has still had its fair share of stars throughout the years.
Celine Dion, Shania Twain, The Black Eyed Peas, Nelly Furtado, Lenny Kravitz, Nickelback, Imagine Dragons, Fall Out Boy, Carly Rae Jepsen and Justin Bieber have all performed at the Grey Cup.
Arkells will be the headliner for the 108th Grey Cup in 2021.
How does the Grey Cup stack up?
It’s almost impossible to compete with the Super Bowl as a one-off sporting event, but the Grey Cup holds its own in many ways.
Aside from more points and wilder weather, the Grey Cup is also almost twice as old as the Super Bowl.
That century and more of history has created a unique event that centers around the game itself – not the surrounding fanfare.
It may not be as glamorous as its American counterpart, but that doesn’t matter.
It is a celebration of sport and of Canada, and is always worth a watch.