Maritime Football League

























                                                     History of the Maritime Football League

Canadian Rules Tackle Football games were first played in the Maritimes in Halifax in 1941 during the Second World War by teams from the military.  Throughout the 1940's and early 1950's the Stadacona Sailors and the Shearwater Flyers were the influential Canadian Football teams in the region.

Leagues that operated included the Halifax City Canadian Football League (1947-1950), the Nova Scotia Canadian Football League (1951-1959), the Nova Scotia Junior Canadian Football League (1953-1959), the New Brunswick (Intermediate) Football League (circa 1949-1962), the Maritime (Junior) Intercollegiate Football League (1958-59) and the two-tiered Atlantic Football Conference (1960-1964). These leagues typically consisted of university, military and community teams playing at the intermediate and junior levels of football. 

In 1947 the Halifax City Canadian Football League included teams from Dalhousie, Saint Mary's, Shearwater and Stadacona.

The symbol of Canadian Football supremacy in Nova Scotia was the Purdy Cup. In 1951 Dalhousie became the first university team to win the trophy. Their victory acted as a catalyst for other university teams to take up the sport.

During the 1950's and early 1960's the Burchill Trophy was emblematic of football supremacy in New Brunswick. A Moncton team called variously the Trojans, Hubs and Royals, the Saint John Wanderers, Mount Allison University Mounties, University of New Brunswick Red Bombers, St. Thomas College Tommies of Chatham, St. Joseph's College of Memramcook  and Prince of Wales College of P.E.I.  all competed for this hardware.

In 1955 the Maritime Football Union was formed as the controlling body for the game in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

During the 1950's there was usually a game for the Maritime Championship. In 1952, playing in Halifax, the Shearwater Flyers beat St. Thomas College Tommies of Chatham 14-6 in the first Maritime championship game. The Tommies star player was Joey George. In 1953 UNB and Dalhouse played for the title. In 1956 the Greenwood Bombers beat Mount Allison 54-13 in the championship game. In 1957 the Shearwater Flyers pounded Mount A 40-18 in a game played in Moncton.

The peak for non-university teams probably was in 1957 when the Shearwater Flyers won the Canadian Intermediate championship. Their star player was Bob Hayes .

Subsequent to this the universities became the main growth area for the game.

The Atlantic Bowl game was inaugurated in 1956 to give the best team from the region a chance to compete against a top team from Central Canada. In 1956 the Hamilton Juniors defeated Greenwood Bombers 21-7. In 1957 the Shearwater Flyers got by the Brantford Tiger-Cats 12-7.  In 1958 the Fort William Redskins blanked the St. Francis Xavier University X-Men 10-0 in the last Atlantic Bowl to include a non-university team. 

In 1960 the two tiered Atlantic Football Conference was formed. The "A" section consisted of Dalhousie, Mount Allison, UNB, St. F.X., Shearwater and Stadacona. The "B" section included Acadia, Saint Mary's, St. Dunstan's (now UPEI), St. F.X. Junior Varsity, St. Thomas College of Chatham and an armed forces team.

By 1962 the "A" section included Dalhousie, Mount Allison, UNB, St. F.X., Acadia, St. Mary's, St. Dunstan's, Shearwater and Stadacona. The "B" section became a three team Junior Varsity league that included JV Squads from Saint Mary's and St. F.X. as well as Xavier Junior College (now Cape Breton University).

In 1965, the Bluenose Football Conference came into being with league membership restricted to the seven university varsity football teams located in the Maritime provinces which were members of the Maritime Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA), later called the Atlantic Universities Athletic Association and today known as Atlantic University Sport.

The non-university teams stayed together in the Atlantic Football Conference from 1965 until 1967. That league included the Halifax Buccaneers, Dartmouth Vikings, Saint John-Lancaster Ti-Cats and the Marcom Flyers. Marcom stood for Maritime Command. The team was an amalgamation of the Stadacona Sailors and Shearwater Flyers. The Flyers won the Purdy Cup each of those last three years. This league played four down Canadian Rules football.

Once the university teams formed their own leagues it was only a few years before the community and military teams were insufficient in numbers to continue on. They died out altogether in the late 1960's but not before producing some outstanding players and builders such as Don Loney, Frank Morris and  Wayne Smith and teams such as the Shearwater Flyers .
In 1996 the Nova Scotia Senior Football League was formed. The creation of this league revived community adult tackle football after an absence of almost 30 years. The N.S.S.F.L. operated mainly as a four team league until the end of 2001. Some of the team names that competed in the league were the Explosion, Moosehead, Buccaneers, Shockers, Stingers and Stadacona Sailors. This league played nine aside, three down football.

In 2001 Terry McIntyre, Mike Upward and Mark Crandall formed the New Brunswick Senior Football League. In its first year the N.B.S.F.L. consisted of the Saint John Wanderers, Capital Area Gladiators and Moncton Maroonz. All three teams met in the same location each weekend and played shortened games against one another. The Gladiators won the first championship 9-1 over the Wanderers and in so doing laid claim to the resurrected Burchill Trophy. This league played ten aside, four down Canadian Rules football. 

In 2002 the two remaining NSSFL teams, the Halifax Shockers and the Halifax Buccaneers, played an interlocking schedule with the three teams of the second year New Brunswick Senior Football League under a loose alliance called Maritime Senior Football. The Shockers defeated the Wanderers 21-19 in Maritime Bowl I and were awarded the McIntyre Cup donated by Terry McIntyre. Teams played ten aside, four down Canadian Rules football. 

By 2003 only the Shockers were operating in Nova Scotia. They played games against the four teams in the New Brunswick Senior Football League. The Saint John Wanderers won Maritime Bowl II with a 50-12 victory over the Shockers.

In 2004 the Dartmouth Knights and P.E.I. Privateers franchises were formed, bringing the number of teams outside New Brunswick to three. The name Maritime Football League was used for these three teams. The Moncton Marshals were victorious over the Shockers 30-3 in Maritime Bowl III.

In 2005 the Riverview Mustangs and Saint John Longhorns formed teams, bringing the total number of franchises in New Brunswick to six. A decision was made to bring all nine teams into one league and call it the Maritime Football League. The six New Brunswick teams were grouped in the New Brunswick Football Conference and the three Nova Scotia-P.E.I. teams were put in the Eastern Football Conference. The Saint John Wanderers defeated the Dartmouth Knights 28-18 in Maritime Bowl IV. Teams played ten aside, four down Canadian Rules football. 

In 2006 the Saint John Seadogs franchise received official club status at the University of New Brunswick Saint John campus. The team changed its name to the U.N.B.S.J. Wolves Tackle Football Club. The Saint John Wanderers defeated the Dartmouth Knights 52-26 in Maritime Bowl V.

In 2007 the league adopted a Proposal for Restructuring the MFL . This restructuring abolished the New Brunswick Football Conference and the Eastern Football Conference leaving a nine team league. The regular season was expanded from six to eight games. It also restructured the playoffs by having the top four teams play off to advance to the Maritime Bowl Game for the McIntyre Cup. The fifth through eighth place teams would now compete for the right to play in the newly created Mariner Bowl Game for the Mariner Cup. The Riverview Mustangs completed an undefeated season by besting the Halifax Shockers 23-0 in Maritime Bowl VI. The Dartmouth Knights were victorious 20-15 over the Saint John Longhorns in Mariner Bowl I.

In 2008 the league grew to a record ten teams with the addition of the Super City Mean Greens of Metropolitan Halifax-Dartmouth. The Riverview Mustangs edged out the Saint John Wanderers 21-13 in Maritime Bowl VII. The Capital Area Gladiators scored a come from behind 42-33 win over the Saint John Longhorns in Mariner Bowl II.
The league held its first All-Star Game in Halifax. The West team, composed of players from the six New Brunswick teams, scored a 34-21 win over the East team made up of players from the Nova Scotia and P.E.I. teams.    
In 2009 the league experienced its first ever contraction. The Super City Mean Greens folded just before the season started due to organizational problems and a lack of players. The U.N.B.S.J. Wolves also ceased operations due to a shortage of players. They moved to the new three team fall Atlantic Football League and became known as the U.N.B.S.J. Seawolves. The remaining 8 teams in the league league became divided into Eastern and Western Conferences. The East included the Riverview Mustangs and the three N.S.-P.E.I. teams. The other four N.B. teams made up the West. 
The league also decided to convert from 10 aside to 12 aside games when both teams had at least 25 players dressed. During the season 23 of 39 games (60% ) were played 12 aside.
The Riverview Mustangs won their third straight championship, Maritime Bowl VIII, with a hard fought 16-7 win over the Halifax Shockers. The Dartmouth Knights dropped the P.E.I. Privateers 41-14 in Mariner Bowl III.
The league held its second All-Star Game in Charlottetown. The East defeated the West 20-14.   

In 2010 the number of teams in the league dropped from eight to six. The Moncton Marshals informed the league at the AGM that they would not be operating in 2010.  The Saint John Longhorns were absorbed by the Saint John Wanderers just before the season started. While the contraction was perceived as painful, in reality the expansion of the fall Atlantic Football League to five teams meant that the amount of football being played at the post high school level remained at least as high as in the past. On the plus side the sport had segmented itself into two leagues catering to different markets. Also, taking into account population, a six team MFL is more realistic and more sustainable in the long run.
The Moncton Mustangs won their fourth straight championship, Maritime Bowl IX, by defeating the Dartmouth Knights 29-10. The league held its third All-Star Game in Moncton. The West defeated the East 35-0. The Mariner Bowl Game was discontinued.   

In 2011 the league started the season with six teams. By Week 7 the P.E.I. Privateers discontinued operations due to a lack of players. The Dartmouth Knights won Maritime Bowl X with a thrilling 14-13 victory over the Moncton Mustangs. However, the Dartmouth team failed to pay $1,800 of its league fees. Consequently no champion was recognized by the league for 2011. The All-Star Game was discontinued.

In 2012 four teams answered the bell for the start of the season. The Halifax Shockers won Maritime Bowl XI with a convincing 45-6 victory over the previously unbeaten Saint John Wanderers. With only one team outside New Brunswick in the league the EFC Cup was discontinued.

In 2013 the league returned to playing all of its games 10 aside. The P.E.I. Privateers  came back into the MFL after a two year absence and impressed everybody by finishing second during the regular season. The Saint John Wanderers won their first league championship since 2006 by beating the Halifax Shockers 49-20 in Maritime Bowl XII.

In 2014 the league took the unprecedented step of declaring the Halifax Shockers NOT IN GOOD STANDING. Continual problems collecting league fees, forfeited road games and discipline issues lead to the decision. A new group presented itself to the league with the intention of putting together something in Halifax for the 2015 season. The Saint John Wanderers won their second league championship in a row by beating the Capital Area Gladiators 48-7 in Maritime Bowl XIII.

In 2015 the league accepted the Nova Scotia Buccaneers from Halifax as a new franchise. In their first year of existence the Bucs made it all the way to the league final. The Saint John Wanderers won their third league championship in a row by beating the Buccaneers 36-29 in Maritime Bowl XIV.

In 2016 the league operated with five teams. The Saint John Wanderers won their fourth league championship in a row by beating the Moncton Mustangs 47-21 in Maritime Bowl XV.

The 2017 season began on a sad note. One of the original teams when the league began in 2001, the Capital Area Gladiators, ceased operations due to a shortage of players. On the positive side, the P.E.I. Privateers changed their management team and changed the team name to the Island Mariners. This resulted in a new sponsor, new game jerseys and an increased number of players on the roster. The season had its struggles. The Buccaneers forfeited two road games and the Islanders one. However both teams did meet their league obligations by fielding squads for road semi-final games. The Moncton Mustangs spoiled the Saint John Wanderers quest for a record fifth championship in a row with a convincing 43-23 victory in Maritime Bowl XVI.