4. NFL football at BMO Field
It is not a stretch to say the Buffalo Bills‘ annual tenancy at Rogers Centre from 2008 to 2013 was an unmitigated failure. The players didn’t like the playing surface, the crowds were at times disengaged and there was no accommodation made for tailgating which, if you know Bills fans, is a big deal.
In recent years the NFL has seen more success with their international ventures, both in London and Mexico City. So, with a better venue that has serious tailgating potential, what’s to stop the NFL from making the trip up north again?
The Bills in Toronto event got off to a hot start, with the first four games all drawing more than 50,000 fans. Although the Bills went 1-3 in these contests, a 23-0 beatdown of the Washington Redskins in the 2011 installment must have given organizers reason to believe the series was on the upswing. It wasn’t.
The following year, only 40,770 passed through the turnstiles to see the Bills get demolished 50-17 by Russell Wilson‘s upstart Seahawks. The series would only last one more year.
Ironically, the event’s best game had the fewest witnesses, as a 34-31 OT thriller between the Bills and Falcons fell on deaf ears in the city. Only 38,969 turned up, and the NFL hasn’t played a regular season game in Canada since.
Just this season, however, the shield made its first trip back into Canada since the Bills-Falcons game. And I’ll be damned if Winnipeg didn’t set this whole process back by about a million years.
Ahead of a preseason tilt between the Green Bay Packers and Oakland Raiders, officials were notified that the holes at either end of Investors Group Field where the CFL goalposts are normally plugged into, were not properly patched. Given the serious risk of injury that planting a foot in one of these holes posed, the powers that be determined the game was to be played on a truncated 80-yard field.
So, the last two times the NFL came to Canada, it saw one of the lowest gates in recent history and a forced change of the rules of a 130-year-old sport. Let’s hope the NFL gives Toronto another chance.