The Buffalo Bills have built a winner and a potential AFC East Division powerhouse. In the coming years, the loyal fans in Toronto may get to see Josh Allen and teammates up close without even crossing the border.
No, the Bills aren’t leaving upstate New York to become the NFL’s first full-time Canadian team. But nearly a decade after the team last played in Canada; the Bills could play in the Rogers Centre once again.
The Buffalo Bills could play in Toronto while a new stadium is built
The Bills have played at Highmark Stadium (née Ralph Wilson Stadium) in Orchard Park, New York, since 1973. However, fifty years is a long time for any stadium, and the reigning AFC East Division champions could be on the move.
The Bills wouldn’t be going far, though. According to Rochester First, the Bills want to build a new, open-air stadium in Orchard Park. The new stadium would have partial coverage for fans.
As of June 2021, the Bills had not yet received government approval for locations and funding. If the team gets those approvals sooner rather than later, it is possible the Bills will play in a new stadium by 2027.
So, where does Toronto come into the mix? The Bills’ current lease at Highland Stadium expires in 2023, long before the stadium would open. According to Rochester First, the Bills are open to playing in Toronto or at Beaver Stadium, the Penn State Nittany Lions’ home, if they cannot secure an extension on their lease.
With that said, the Raiders’ recent stadium situation should encourage Bills fans about not needing to renew their passport. Fans should expect the Bills and the local government to work together and ensure the team doesn’t leave New York outside of when they’re the designated road team.
The Bills played in Toronto from 2008 through 2014
If the Bills do need to play games in Toronto, it could be a perfect scenario for the Canadian fans.
Remember, the Bills played multiple preseason and regular-season games in Toronto from 2008 through 2013. The aptly-named Bills Toronto Series saw the Bills play seven total games at the Rogers Centre, home of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Bills fans may have buried those memories after watching the team lose five of the six regular-season games. Over 40,000 fans attended each of the first five games, although capacity dipped from 51,579 in 2011 to 38,969 in 2013.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson likely has extremely favorable memories of his trip to Toronto as a rookie in 2012. The Pro Football Hall of Fame currently holds the uniform and shoes that Wilson, then a rookie, wore that day. On a cold Sunday in December, he became the first player in NFL history to record three rushing touchdowns and throw a touchdown pass in the first half of a game en route to the Seahawks’ 50-17 blowout victory.
As of publication, Canada last hosted an NFL game when the Raiders and Packers clashed on an 80-yard field in Winnipeg during the 2019 preseason. Don’t worry, Bills fans. All of the games at Rogers Centre took place with the standard NFL dimensions.
The Bills and Blue Jays would have an interesting trade of sorts
Blue Jays fans may feel a strange sense of deja vu if the Bills needed to play regular-season games in Toronto.
No, we’re not talking about the Bills Toronto Series. Blue Jays fans watched their team spend the 2020 season and part of the 2021 campaign playing home games in Buffalo because of the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on travel.
It’d be a fun reversal of sorts if the Bills called Toronto their interim home a few years after the Blue Jays did the same with Buffalo. However, something tells us that Allen, assuming he’s still the team’s starting quarterback, might not throw out the first pitch again.