Dozens of snow-shovelers work the grandstands at Calgary's McMahon Stadium, site of this year's Grey Cup, before a playoff game in 2010. No matter what the weather, the rite of passage known as Canadian November Football begins Sunday. (John Spittal/CBC)

It’s time for November Football, a Canadian rite of passage

It’s November–time to partake in a long-standing Canadian rite of passage: ugly professional football.

The Canadian Football League conference semifinals take place Sunday–the first hurdle for any team looking to win the 2019 Grey Cup in two weeks time.

Montreal hosts Edmonton and Calgary hosts Winnipeg. 

Relentless snow in the first half and a cameo from the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made for a truly Canadian championship Grey Cup game in 2017. (Canadian Press/ Getty Images)

Winners advance.

The thing about November Football in Canada is that it tends to be about way more than wins and losses, unless, of course, your team is involved.

Most Canadians, I would wager, can tell you about November Football games they remember, even when their team was not involved.

Winnipeg quarterback Matt Nichols unleashes a pass against Calgary in the West playoffs last year. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

Most will likely not remember the score, but they’ll very likely remember the setting.

November Football, you see, is about coming to grips with the reality that Old Man Winter is not about to turn tail and head off in another direction,

It’s about realizing those mean, bleak conditions you see on the tube or witness live are going to be with us for another five months or so.

Prepping the field in 2017 before the Toronto Argonauts stunned the Calgary Stampeders 27-24 to win the 105th Grey Cup in Ottawa. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

November Football is, in fact, a not-so-sneaky preview of what’s about to happen.

True, the mud-caked uniforms and grime-stained faces of the players that we used to carry in our memories are no longer a part of the spectacle, thanks to the invention of artificial turf.


Rites of passage are allowed to evolve.

Bruce Dowbiggin. (cbc. ca)

A man who has spent more than his share of time partaking in all this is my pal Bruce Dowbiggin, author, sportswriter, broadcaster and host of the Not the Public Broadcaster website.

I spoke with him at his home in Calgary on Friday.

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