CFL fans got an early Christmas present from the league — the 2019 season schedule was released on Thursday.
The Grey Cup champion Calgary Stampeders officially begin their title defense at home on June 15 with a game against the Ottawa Redblacks in a Grey Cup rematch. That is the earliest season start in Stampeders history.
The Stampeders will have a new defensive coordinator to start the season — Brent Monson — after Devone Claybrooks signed on with the BC Lions as head coach. The Stampeders first see the Lions in the preseason in B.C. on June 7, and the Lions’ first visit to Calgary of the regular season is on June 29.
Questions remain surrounding 2018 Grey Cup MVP quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, who has worked out for 5 NFL teams and is expected to work out for up to 10 teams south of the border. Mitchell has yet to sign a contract with a CFL team for the 2019 season.
The Stampeders home opener is one of six Saturday games. Fans at McMahon will also be treated to a Thursday night game on July 18 with a halftime concert and a Friday night game on Oct. 11 against the Saskatchewan Roughriders — the Riders’ sole regular season visit to Calgary.
Provincial rival Edmonton Eskimos visit Calgary twice, including Aug. 3 and the Labour Day Classic on Sept. 2.
The final four games of the Stampeders’ regular season has them line up against division rivals including a home-and-home series with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Oct. 19 and Oct. 25.
The Roughriders open the Stamps’ preseason on May 31 at McMahon Stadium.
Weeks 2, 11 and 16 will be bye weeks for the Calgary Stampeders.
The Grey Cup will be played at McMahon Stadium on Nov. 24.
Every Calgary Stampeders game can be heard on 770 CHQR, with Mark Stephen making his return as play-by-play announcer for his 24th season.
The CFL also announced its return to Atlantic Canada with a game between the Toronto Argonauts and Montreal Alouettes on Aug. 25. in Moncton, New Brunswick.
–with files from Jock Wilson.