The Canadian Airlift Gets Mark Davis’s Raiders For A Day

It’s about loonies.

The National Football League’s global push for fans and people to buy hats and t-shirts brings the league to Winnipeg, Manitoba on August 22. The soon-to-be Las Vegas Raiders will take on the Green Bay Packers in the Canadian Football League city in a pre-season match up. The game will give Winnipeg Blue Bombers scouts a really good opportunity to scout players who will be looking for jobs by September 1st after they are released by the Raiders and Packers. There is an old joke about how cut NFL players became part of the Canadian airlift after Labor Day to play in the final two months of the CFL season and help some club to the CFL Grey Cup Playoffs. Winnipeg is not on any NFL expansion radar screen or would ever be considered as a relocation site for an NFL owner looking for greener pastures. Winnipeg and Manitoba get NFL games on TV and know the NFL product. It appears Raiders owner Mark Davis needed a place for a Raiders home pre-season game as Oakland might not have had a date available for a game and Winnipeg was available.

In the 1950s, the NFL and CFL fought for players. The NFL was little more than a semi-pro league that operated just seven months a year. The CFL decided to offer some college and NFL players what was considered good money. The CFL signed the 1952 Heisman Trophy Winner Billy Vessels, along with Eddie LeBaron and Gene Brito. In 1955 LeBaron, Birto, Norb Heckler, Alex Webster and Tom Dublinski left the CFL for NFL teams after representatives from the two competing leagues failed to work out a no raiding treaty. The CFL gave up on competing with the NFL by 1956 and is not considered a threat. The CFL is helping the NFL for one day in August.