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NFL, CFL used to meet in the preseason

Tiger-Cats' Cobourne runs with the ball against Alouettes' Williams during their CFL football game in Hamilton

Hamilton Tiger-Cats running back Avon Cobourne runs with the ball against Montreal Alouettes defensive back Seth Williams (L) during the first half of their CFL football game in Hamilton September 5, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Cassese (CANADA - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)


As the Canadian Football League approaches its annual Canada Day launch to its regular season, let’s fill some space on a slow (relatively speaking) Saturday and look back in time at a series of preseason games once played between teams from the NFL and CFL.

While recently perusing the Official 2011 NFL Record & Fact Book (the 2012 version should be coming out soon, and like a total dork I actually look forward to getting it), I noticed at page 531 a full list of the league’s International Games.

From August 1950 through August 1961, teams from the NFL and CFL played six times during the NFL preseason, in Canada. (For the Canadian teams, the games were exhibitions played during the CFL regular season.)

It started in 1950, when the Giants beat the Rough Riders in Ottawa, 27-6. The following year, the Giants thumped the same team in the same town, 41-18.

The series resumed eight years later, when the Chicago Cardinals clobbered the Argonauts, 55-26, in Toronto. In 1960, the Steelers slammed the Argonauts in Toronto, 43-16.

The exercise ended the following year, with a pair of contests played three days apart. On August 2 in Toronto, the Cardinals (which had since moved to St. Louis) cold-cocked the Argonauts, 36-7. On August 5, the Bears bested the Alouettes in Montreal, 34-16.

But the Canadians saved a little face three days after that. In the one and only AFL-CFL game, the Tiger-Cats took apart the Buffalo Bills in Hamilton, 38-21.

In the past 51 years, no NFL team (or AFL, during the league’s remaining years of existence) has ever again played a CFL team, in Canada or elsewhere. It’s unlikely that it will ever happen again. Still, every time you hear the name “Tiger-Cats” remember that they own the bragging rights over the Bills and, in turn, the league that absorbed the Buffalo franchise in 1970.