Buffalo Bills in Toronto (regular season)
|December 7, 2008||Miami 16||Buffalo 3||52,134|
|December 3, 2009||New York Jets 19||Buffalo 13||51,567|
|November 7, 2010||Chicago 22||Buffalo 19||50,746|
|October 30, 2011||Buffalo 23||Washington 0||51,579|
|December 16, 2012||Seattle 50||Buffalo 17||40,770|
|December 1, 2013||Atlanta 34||Buffalo 31 (OT)||38,969|
So the rumours were true: the Buffalo Bills will not play in Canada in 2014.
The speculation had been building up since the last game at Rogers Centre, December 1 against Atlanta. Since the Bills delayed sending out information for season tickets, the speculation of dropping Toronto fired up even hotter. And now we have today's announcement.
"The Buffalo Bills and Rogers are committed to delivering a first-class NFL experience to Canadians. As such, we have postponed for one year the scheduled 2014 regular season game at Rogers Centre in Toronto, and that game will return to Ralph Wilson Stadium. We will use this time to collectively evaluate opportunities and build on the foundation to enhance future games.
"We are committed to continuing our partnership and have secured a robust sponsorship agreement for the 2014 season that will bring Canadian NFL fans visibility and access to the Bills. The sponsorship includes ticketing, merchandising, media exposure, and a newly created Canada House, near Ralph Wilson Stadium, that will serve as the official pre-game Canadian tailgate zone for all Bills home games.
"The NFL remains very popular in Canada and we are dedicated to enriching the experience for the fans."
The lone bright spot from that release is that Canadian fans who travel to Buffalo will get an enhanced experience with a Canada House. Hopefully that Canada House will also be stocked with a beer fridge that can only be opened by a Canadian passport.
Even with the months of speculation, we don't have a specific reason why the Bills are pulling out. Rogers hasn't handled the series terribly well, but other factors are in the mix.
The games are late in the season for practical purposes. They have featured NFC opponents. Tailgating is difficult in downtown Toronto (you would think Rob Ford would work on that aspect). And the Bills have been one of the worst NFL teams, and 1-5 in Toronto.
The two sides just agreed on a 5-year extension that started last season. A 2015 pre-season game is supposed to be in the mix. The original 3 preseason games turned into 2 in the original 5-year deal.
Rogers Centre switching over to grass in 2018 could be a contributing factor, though if the series had run its 5-year course, the Bills Toronto series would have ended in 2017.
Following the recent pattern, if the game had been kept, we would have been looking at December 7 against Minnesota or Green Bay. They would have been slightly better opponents than Seattle or Atlanta. Unlike the previous Bills Toronto games on Rogers Sportsnet and Rogers-owned City TV, this year's game would have aired on sports rival TSN.
Toronto wasn't getting the best of the NFL, but also hadn't met the challenge. And Bills fans south of the border have been furious with having a home game in Toronto.
We could see more Bills preseason games to ride out the contract, though that would make the Argonauts schedule that much more bizarre until they can get out (BMO Field?).
Rogers would likely be willing to trade better NFL games earlier in the season to get out of the Bills contract. October is usually a good time, except when the Blue Jays are in the playoffs. Like we said, October is a good time.
If Rogers gets its cut, we could contemplate Olympic Stadium in Montréal or B.C. Place in Vancouver. Both places should be able to sell out easier and easier to schedule conflict-wise.
The Bills Toronto contract calls for 4 regular season games and a preseason game before the end of the 2017 season. The NFL and Roger Goodell need to step up and give Toronto a good chance to show the NFL has some promise north of the border.