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January 23, 2019

Breaking Down The 2019 Schedule

before the game against the XX at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, BC on Thursday, August 9, 2018. (Photo: Johany Jutras / CFL)

One week after the introduction of new head coach DeVone Claybrooks, fans of the BC Lions received another early Christmas present as the CFL released the 2019 regular season schedule. Once again, there is no shortage of intriguing dates to circle on your calendar. The Claybrooks era officially begins on Saturday, June 15th when the Winnipeg Blue Bombers visit BC Place. The Lions will open their season at home for the fourth consecutive season and will once again look to establish BC Place as the best home-field advantage in the CFL; they had a league-best 7-2 home record in 2018. Here is a more thorough break down of the 2019 BC Lions schedule.

Early Air Miles

The opener with Winnipeg is followed by three consecutive road games. After a June 21st visit to Edmonton, Claybrooks will make his highly-anticipated return to Calgary eight nights later. The odyssey wraps up on Saturday, July 6th when the Lions pay a visit to Toronto’s BMO Field. Although they were a force at home last season, a big talking point from day one of training camp will be the importance of improving on their 2-7 road record. The only other back-to-back road situation comes in mid-August and has a quick turnaround: the Lions will visit Hamilton on Saturday, August 10th and then travel to Winnipeg on Thursday, August 15th. As of now, the club is preparing to stay over in Hamilton for a couple of days of practice instead of flying all the way back home before taking on the Blue Bombers.

Thursday Night Showdown

When the Eskimos invade town on July 11th, 26 days will have passed since the Lions’ regular season opener at home. That should be one of the factors that bring a jacked up crowd to BC Place. This one can also be huge in terms of the standings: a chance to potentially claim the season series against a Western Division rival before the middle of July could be huge dividends down the road. Just like last season, the CFL is mandating each club play at least one Thursday night home game. It remains to be seen what type of theme will be built around each Thursday after they did the concert series in 2018. No matter what it is, a Thursday standalone game with a new head coach and potentially some new big pieces on the roster could give the Lions some nice exposure early in the season. It’s worth noting that six of the club’s first seven games are against Western Division opponents.

The Lions won two of three meetings with Edmonton in 2018, including a playoff-clinching result on October 19th at BC Place. Photo: David Friederich

Divisional Breakdown

The Lions will play Western rivals Saskatchewan ( 2 home, 1 away) and Edmonton ( 1 home, 2 away) three times each. This marks the first time since 2015 where they will make two trips to the Alberta capital and have the always- popular Roughriders visit twice. In fact, the first visit from Saskatchewan on July 27th is the second end of a home and home series. The Lions visit Mosaic Stadium exactly one week prior. The second trip to Edmonton comes on Saturday, October 12th. They will battle the Blue Bombers and Stampeders two times each.

About That Season Series With Calgary…..

The reigning Grey Cup champions will be at BC Place to close out the regular season on Saturday, November 2nd. It goes without saying that there could be very much at stake against Claybrooks’ former squad. This will mark the second straight year Calgary comes to town for the regular season finale.

New Lions head coach DeVone Claybrooks will face his former Stampeders friends in Calgary on June 29th and at home to close out the regular season on November 2nd. Photo: CFL.ca

Other Tidbits

Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting: Six of our nine home contests will take place on Saturdays, including both the regular season opener and finale. The two Friday home contests take place after Labour Day: September 13th against Ottawa and October 18th when Saskatchewan visits for the second time. As mentioned above, the lone Thursday home tilt is against Edmonton on July 11th.

Evenly-Placed Bye Weeks: It’s a bit of a different tune from 2018 when the Lions had two byes in the first five weeks and their final break on Labour Day weekend. This year, the byes take place in weeks eight, 12 and 20, the second one coming on Labour Day weekend and the last break set for one week prior to wrapping up the regular season. The rest could come in handy should there be plenty on the line against Calgary in the finale.

Eastern Promises? Just like 2018, the second half of the season involves a long stretch against Eastern opponents. Starting with a visit from Hamilton on August 24th, the Lions will play seven consecutive contests against the Eastern Division. Factoring in the Labour Day bye, they will go 47 days without facing a divisional foe. This run includes their only back-to-back home situation of 2019: Montreal visits on September 28th followed by a clash with the Toronto Argonauts on October 5th. The only back-to-back home situation in 2018 had a bye week sandwhiched in between. The Eastern stretch following Labour Day this season helped kickstart a stretch where they won six of seven games to get back into control of their playoff destiny.

All Roads Lead To the 107th Grey Cup In Calgary: The big game is in Cowtown for just the fifth time in history and first since 2009. The Lions prevailed 28-26 over Montreal in the 2000 Grey Cup at McMahon Stadium and an appearance there on November 24th could be a nice little storybook ending, especially with Claybrooks now at the helm.

Matt Baker: mbaker@bclions.com