It wasn't the first NFL exhibition game played in Canada, nor even the first played in what is now known as Rogers Centre (formerly SkyDome). But Buffalo's 24-21 exhibition win over the Pittsburgh Steelers was extraordinary in that it won't be so unique any more.
The Bills signed a deal with Rogers Centre to play 8 games over the next 5 years, 3 exhibition games and 5 regular season games.
The stadium, which also houses MLB's Blue Jays and CFL's Argonauts, easily adapted to the NFL requirements, since the NFL plays on a smaller field than the CFL. In fact, the Argonauts played the Montréal Alouettes the next night on the field.
So how did the NFL do? Well, being an exhibition game, there wasn't as much excitement as a regular-season game, but Buffalo and Pittsburgh each did score 2 touchdowns early with their first-string offense.
The true test will come on December 7 when the Bills "host" Miami at Rogers Centre.
One issue was the attendance of 48,434, not a sellout with a NFL capacity of 53,000. And there were reports that some tickets were given away for free or far less than face value to fill seats. But two things to consider: this was an exhibition game, and the ticket prices far exceeded even the NFL for the games. The Rogers people paid an exorbitant amount to get the games, and have to get their money back somehow.
As for whether Rogers or Toronto or Canada is trying steal the Bills, no one is saying that (officially). And this isn't even comparable to the Montréal Expos being forced to play games in San Juan, Puerto Rico (Buffalo fans can travel to Toronto, more like Green Bay Packers fans going to Milwaukee). As horrible as the Expos, Winnipeg Jets, Quebec Nordiques, and Vancouver Grizzlies leaving Canada for the U.S., Canadians aren't necessarily rooting for the Bills to leave. But some would like the NFL on a regular basis, and realistically, that place is Rogers Centre in Toronto.
Here is a list of previous NFL contests north of the border:
|August 12, 1950||Ottawa||NY Giants 20, Ottawa (CFL) 6|
|August 11, 1951||Ottawa||NY Giants 38, Ottawa (CFL) 6|
|August 5, 1959||Toronto||Chicago Cardinals 55, Toronto (CFL) 26|
|August 6, 1960||Toronto||Pittsburgh 43, Toronto (CFL) 16|
|August 15, 1960||Toronto||Chicago 16, NY Giants 7|
|August 2, 1961||Toronto||St. Louis 36, Toronto (CFL) 7|
|August 5, 1961||Montréal||Chicago 34, Montréal (CFL) 16|
|August 8, 1961||Hamilton||Hamilton (CFL) 38, Buffalo 21|
|August 11, 1969||Montréal||Pittsburgh 17, NY Giants 13|
|August 25, 1969||Montréal||Detroit 22, Boston (AFL) 9|
|August 18, 1988||Montréal||NY Jets 11, Cleveland 7|
|August 9, 1990||Montréal||Pittsburgh 30, New England 14|
|August 14, 1993||Toronto||Cleveland 12, New England 9|
|August 12, 1995||Toronto||Buffalo 9, Dallas 7|
|August 16, 1997||Toronto||Green Bay 35, Buffalo 3|
|August 15, 1998||Vancouver||San Francisco 24, Seattle 21|