East Division (CFL)

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.

East Division
LeagueCanadian Football League
SportCanadian football
FormerlyInterprovincial Rugby Football Union
Eastern Football Conference
No. of teams4
Most recent champion(s)Hamilton Tiger-Cats (19th title)
Most titlesToronto Argonauts (23 titles)

The four teams in the division are the Toronto Argonauts, Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Montreal Alouettes, and Ottawa Redblacks. Several now-defunct teams have also played in the East Division including two teams from the United States and a large number of teams that have played in Hamilton, Montreal, and Ottawa prior to the current teams from those cities. Additionally, current West Division team, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have, in the past, spent a number of seasons in the East over three separate stints.



The first organized football club in Canada was the Hamilton Foot Ball Club, a predecessor of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, in 1869. 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 (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 (also 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 World War I, 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 was 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

IRFU champions

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

Champions of the Eastern Football Conference

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

Champions of the East Division

1981Ottawa Rough RidersHamilton Tiger-Cats
1982Toronto ArgonautsOttawa Rough Riders
1983Toronto ArgonautsHamilton Tiger-Cats
1984Hamilton Tiger-CatsToronto Argonauts
1985Hamilton Tiger-CatsMontreal Concordes
1986Hamilton Tiger-CatsToronto Argonauts
1987Toronto ArgonautsWinnipeg Blue Bombers
1988Winnipeg Blue BombersToronto Argonauts
1989Hamilton Tiger-CatsWinnipeg Blue Bombers
1990Winnipeg Blue BombersToronto Argonauts
1991Toronto ArgonautsWinnipeg Blue Bombers
1992Winnipeg Blue BombersHamilton Tiger-Cats
1993Winnipeg Blue BombersHamilton Tiger-Cats
1994Baltimore CFLersWinnipeg Blue Bombers
1995Baltimore Stallions[lower-alpha 2]San Antonio Texans
1996Toronto ArgonautsMontreal Alouettes
1997Toronto ArgonautsMontreal Alouettes
1998Hamilton Tiger-CatsMontreal Alouettes
1999Hamilton Tiger-CatsMontreal Alouettes
2000Montreal AlouettesWinnipeg Blue Bombers
2001Winnipeg Blue BombersHamilton Tiger-Cats
2002Montreal AlouettesToronto Argonauts
2003Montreal AlouettesToronto Argonauts
2004Toronto ArgonautsMontreal Alouettes
2005Montreal AlouettesToronto Argonauts
2006Montreal AlouettesToronto Argonauts
2007Winnipeg Blue BombersToronto Argonauts
2008Montreal AlouettesEdmonton Eskimos
2009Montreal AlouettesBC Lions
2010Montreal AlouettesToronto Argonauts
2011Winnipeg Blue BombersHamilton Tiger-Cats
2012Toronto ArgonautsMontreal Alouettes
2013Hamilton Tiger-CatsToronto Argonauts
2014Hamilton Tiger-CatsMontreal Alouettes
2015Ottawa RedblacksHamilton Tiger-Cats
2016Ottawa RedblacksEdmonton Eskimos
2017Toronto ArgonautsSaskatchewan Roughriders
2018Ottawa RedblacksHamilton Tiger-Cats
2019Hamilton Tiger-CatsEdmonton Eskimos
2020No season: COVID-19 pandemic
2021Hamilton Tiger-CatsToronto Argonauts

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 Argonauts22542317
Hamilton Tiger-Cats1955208
Montreal Alouettes1548187
Ottawa Rough Riders194896
Hamilton Tigers[lower-alpha 3]1416146
Winnipeg Blue Bombers[lower-alpha 4]71472
Montreal AAA Winged Wheelers3221
Ottawa Redblacks3431
Montreal Football Club1111
Baltimore Football Club0100
Montreal Indians0000
Montreal Cubs0000
Montreal Royals0000
Hamilton Wildcats[lower-alpha 5]0000
Shreveport Pirates0000
Ottawa Renegades0000


  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


  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.
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