CFR 44: Canada’s Greatest Rodeo

2016 Canadian Finals Rodeo Champions. Photo courtesy CPRA/Mike Copeman

There have been a lot of changes since the first Canadian Finals Rodeo was held in the Edmonton Gardens back in 1974. But the one thing that hasn’t changed is that 43 years later, the best rodeo competitors — both two-legged and four-legged — will gather in Edmonton to vie for Canadian Championship titles.

How the competitors qualify for the CFR is a numbers game. Here are the numbers that are the most important: 12, 3, 3, 6, 5, 15, 18 and 1.

The top 12 competitors at the end of the Canadian Pro Rodeo Assoc., season in each of the major events (bareback, steer wrestling, team roping, saddle bronc, tie-down roping, barrel racing, and bull riding), the top three in novice bareback, the top three in novice saddle bronc, and the top six in boys steer riding are eligible to compete in the CFR.

In each of the major events, a maximum of five Non-Canadian Residents (most often, U.S. citizens) are included in the CPRA standings and if they’re in the top 12 of the CPRA standings, they are eligible to win a Canadian Championship.

CFR qualifiers must have competed at 15 regular season CPRA rodeos with the exception of the Ladies Barrel Racers — they must have competed in at least 18 regular season CPRA rodeos.

The competitors themselves play a big part in the overall rodeo production. The bullfighters, timers and pickup men are selected by the contestant’s votes. The timers are dead-on accurate and the fastest hands in the West with a stopwatch. The lifesavers of the rodeo — the bullfighters and the pickup men — are fearless, experienced, get competitors out of danger and keep the rodeo running smoothly.

Then there is the stock itself — the superstars of rodeo. Here you will see some of the best rope and bull dogging horses in the world. The bucking stock from 12 professional stock contractors is hand-picked by each event rep and it’s quite a list to choose from. They want the best stock to challenge the competitor’s to the knife-edge of victory. Each night, the contestants draw their stock for one more shot.

Then there is the final number on the list: one. After an entire rodeo season of long hours of travel, triumphs, disappointments, friendships, fanning the competitive spirit and the gruelling, six performances of the CFR, in each event just one will be named the Canadian Champion. Canada’s greatest rodeo runs Nov 8-12 in Edmonton at Northlands Coliseum.