Ranking the Best Supported NFL Teams in Canada

Best Supported NFL Teams in Canada

If you ask a football fan from the Canadian Prairies who their favourite team is, you’re probably going to get one of four answers, depending on where they’re from: the Edmonton Elks, the Calgary Stampeders, the Saskatchewan Roughriders, or the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. That’s how important these four Canadian Football League teams are to the nation’s breadbasket.


Everywhere else in Canada, your answer will probably be a team from the National Football League. American football has gradually taken over the hearts and minds of fans from Canada’s largest cities – and on the East Coast, which has never been home to a CFL team. Even fans in British Columbia are more likely to choose an NFL team than the BC Lions.

You could argue that the Super Bowl Shuffle was the tipping point for the NFL. The global popularity of the 1985 Chicago Bears, fuelled in part by the rise of cable television, VCRs and other video technology, made American football what it is today. At the same time, the CFL was falling apart; the Montreal Alouettes folded (again) in 1987, the Ottawa Rough Riders followed suit 10 years later, and the crumbling league would eventually become dependent on NFL loans to continue operating.

The CFL is in much better shape these days, but like every other sports league in North America, it has to take a back seat to the NFL, easily the most popular league among bettors here at Bodog Sportsbook. So which are the best supported NFL teams in Canada? It depends how you measure it; according to a recent sample of Google Trends data, the New England Patriots are still No. 1 north of the border, even after the departure of Tom Brady in 2020.

This doesn’t really tell us much about Canada’s taste for NFL football. This vast country contains multitudes; in general, the most popular NFL teams in each region are the ones closest to the border. Let’s work our way from West to East and take a closer look at the five best supported NFL teams in Canada.

Seattle Seahawks

Seattle is only a three-hour drive south from Vancouver, not including how long you might have to wait at customs, so there isn’t really that much difference between the two cities other than size and nationality. In fact, the entire Cascadian region has its own cultural thing going on, from Whitehorse all the way to San Francisco.

The Seattle Seahawks are perfectly positioned to take advantage. They’ve even got a name for their Canadian fans: 12 North, an extension of “The 12s” (formerly “12th Man”) branding that began in 1984 when the Seahawks retired Uniform No. 12 in honour of their fan base. Every year, the ‘Hawks sell roughly 3,500 season tickets and 13,500 game tickets to Canadians making the short trip to Lumen Field.

It’s a longer trip for some. Seattle has plenty of fans in both the Yukon and Alberta, although the Patriots remain slightly ahead in both regions. But once you get past the Rockies, interest in the Seahawks craters dramatically.

In the meantime, the Seahawks have built their Canadian fan base by being very, very good at football. This is one of the better run organizations in the NFL, one that had its first winning season in 1978 after just three years of existence, and claimed its first Super Bowl at the end of the 2013 campaign.

If the NFL is all about head coaches and quarterbacks, the Seahawks have been truly blessed over the years. First it was Jack Patera and Jim Zorn, then Chuck Knox and Dave Krieg. Things got a bit shaky before the Mike Holmgren-Matt Hasselbeck Era put them back on track, and Seattle finally tasted victory with Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson at the controls. Who’s next?

Minnesota Vikings

Once you leave the Pacific Time Zone, you’re back in CFL country – except for up North, where the Patriots still rule. We’ll talk about them more later, but there’s a special place in the Prairies for the entire NFC North, with two of their teams making our list.

We lead with the Minnesota Vikings because of their shared history with the Blue Bombers. It takes a bit longer to drive from Winnipeg to Minneapolis – about seven hours – but again, you’ll find many of the same folk on either side of the border. And the most important person in football on both sides is Bud Grant, the former Bombers quarterback who coached them to four Grey Cups wins (1958, 1959, 1961, 1962) before leading the Vikings to the 1969 NFL Championship.


There’s a link with the Vikings and the Stampeders, too: Joe Kapp. He debuted as Calgary’s quarterback in 1959 and brought them back to the playoffs in 1960 after a long drought. Although Kapp is better remembered in the CFL as the quarterback (and later GM) of the Lions, he was a household name in Canada when he agreed to join Grant and the Vikings in 1967.

These roots are enough to make the Vikings the “real” No. 1 NFL team in the Prairies (and in Nunavut), ahead of the Patriots, the Seahawks and the Dallas Cowboys. Minnesota also has plenty of fans in southwest Ontario, many of them in Thunder Bay, which is just across the border from the North Star State. When they chant “Skol!” at US Bank Stadium, you can bet the Scandinavian-Canadian Vikings fans are joining in.

Green Bay Packers

The Packers (b. 1919) had a head start on Minnesota (b. 1960) and just about everyone else in the NFL, becoming the gold standard in American football in the 1930s and again in the 1960s. That latter period was the best run any team has ever had, even the Patriots. With Vince Lombardi at the helm, Green Bay won five championships in seven years, including the first two Super Bowls.

That success made the Packers easy fan favourites up north. Green Bay itself is about five hours east of Minneapolis, so we’re getting a bit more into the Great Lakes region, where manufacturing has more cultural relevance than farming, but the Packers still have that small-town appeal that comes with being the only non-profit, community-owned team in the “Big Four” North American pro leagues.

It also helps that Green Bay and Edmonton wear the same colours. The original Acme Packers played in blue, but they started wearing the Green and Gold in the 1950s, and introduced their stylized “G” logo in 1959. Edmonton unveiled a similar “EE” logo in 1970, and brought it back for 2023 under their new Elks name after a brief hiatus. Fittingly enough, defensive tackle Earl Edwards is one of a handful of people who got to wear both uniforms, first with Edmonton in 1967-68, then with Green Bay in 1979.

Buffalo Bills

The NFL has played the occasional game on Canadian soil, dating back to 1926 when the New York Yankees beat the Los Angeles Wildcats 28-0 at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Stadium – the “Fleet Street Flats.” But only one team has ever chosen to play home games north of the 49th Parallel. The Buffalo Bills played one game at Rogers Centre every year from 2008 to 2013 inclusive, and were going to keep it up before owner Ralph Wilson passed away in March 2014. This has considerably boosted their popularity in the north and goes a long way to making them one of the best supported NFL teams in Canada.

So why did the Bills Canada Series happen in the first place? Because Buffalo is basically Toronto’s Seattle. Bills games have been shown on Canadian television for decades – not just in Toronto, but in Ottawa (via American TV stations in Rochester) and all across our side of the Great Lakes. Many young Canadian hearts were broken 1991 when Bills kicker Scott Norwood missed the potential game-winning field goal at Super Bowl XXV versus the New York Giants.

There was even some attempt by Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment to buy the Bills franchise upon Wilson’s death, and maybe move the team to Toronto. There wasn’t a lot of support for this in Buffalo, of course; when Kim and Terrence Pegula bought the team, they ended the Bills Canada Series, and Rogers Centre became officially “baseball-only” in 2021.

That hasn’t stopped Ontario football fans from hopping on the Bills bandwagon. Aside from the Patriots, who have fans everywhere from Kenora to Kapuskasing, Buffalo is by far the province’s No. 1 NFL team, with the Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers scrambling to keep up.

New England Patriots

And then you have the Patriots. It isn’t just because of Tom Brady, either, or the six Super Bowls he and head coach Bill Belichick won with the Pats. It’s more about geography; New England is inextricably linked with Quebec, the Maritimes and Newfoundland. Many of the settlers in this region share the same ancestry. Even the town names are the same – like Bedford, Nova Scotia and Bedford, Massachusetts.

The affinity for Boston-based sports teams in the Maritimes has deep roots. According to the Google Trends data, around 20-25% of football fans in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island are Patriots fans first and foremost. That support dips to a still-impressive 15% for Quebec and Newfoundland; teams like Dallas, Pittsburgh and Green Bay are struggling to reach 5% across the entire region.

You’ll also find plenty of Boston Red Sox fans in this part of the world. The Boston Bruins are another animal, given the special nature of hockey in this country – and the Nova Scotia Voyageurs (1971-1984), the former AHL farm team for the Montreal Canadiens in a time when AHL hockey still mattered to sports fans. However, in this day and age, it’s the Patriots who are top of the charts on Canada’s East Coast.

Maybe that will change if the CFL ever expands to the Maritimes. They keep saying it’s going to happen; the Atlantic Schooners were supposed to start playing in Halifax (Dartmouth, to be precise) in 1984, but they couldn’t even get financing for a stadium. Then the Schooners name was revived in 2017 for an expansion bid, but that effort was reported dead as of March 2023.

Other NFL Teams That Canadians Love

As you can see, each region of Canada has a kinship with the NFL teams in their backyard – but New England’s fan base extends across the nation. It wouldn’t be much of a surprise if we see Canadian NFL fandom continue to shake its regional roots, with the biggest name brands like the Patriots and the Cowboys taking over the national conversation.

In the meantime, there are pockets of NFL fans cheering for just about every team out there. But for whatever reason, the New Orleans Saints seem to have quite a few supporters in the Yukon and Northwest Territories. Kansas City has also picked up steam after winning two Super Bowls in four years, with two-time league MVP Patrick Mahomes as their quarterback and the new face of the league.

What would it take for one of the other NFL teams to make it big up north? Having some home-grown talent would help. For a while there, WR Chase Claypool (from Abbotsford, just outside of Vancouver) looked like he was going to become a star in Pittsburgh, but Claypool had a down year in 2022 and got traded to Chicago.

Maybe QB Nathan Rourke (from Victoria) can find some playing time down south after joining the Jacksonville Jaguars following his 2022 Most Outstanding Player performance with the BC Lions. Until then, it looks like Canada’s football fanatics will continue to cheer for the teams listed above.



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