Vancouver, BC (Betting Express) - Football talk has been rampant lately north of the border, but it's not just Peyton Manning speculation that has fans buzzing.
In fact, the biggest football news in Canada may not have anything to do with the NFL or even the Canadian Football League.
Most of the football focus over the past couple of months has to do with the incoming Lingerie Football League, which is expected to launch in full force in Canada in August with a six-team league featuring five expansion teams alongside the Toronto Triumph, who participated last year in the U.S. circuit.
The controversial league, which prides itself as being the fastest-growing women's professional sports league in the United States, isn't exactly being welcomed with open arms with most of the criticism toward it aimed at the way the so-called sport seems to objectify and demean its female players by forcing them to play a full-contact game wearing revealing attire and in significantly less protective gear compared to their male counterparts.
But the league isn't just a glorified form of adult entertainment, says Donna Paul, a 31-year-old teacher, wife and step-mother from Aurora, Ontario, who was the quarterback for the Triumph in their inaugural season last year.
Paul, who is a long-time football and hockey player and has competed against women who played hockey at the national level, counts herself as one of the skeptics when the league first arrived in Toronto, but it didn't take long for her to realize that competition is first and foremost - at least for those participating in the game.
"We (she and her husband) definitely had reservations about it, but, I mean, you've got to put yourself out there in those situations when you want to try things and do things in life," Paul said. "In Toronto, there was a fair bit of questioning about it, but for the most part we were received with open arms, to our faces anyway."
If there is any doubting the level of dedication it takes to be a player in the league, Paul points out that not only are the players not financially compensated for competing - they actually pay a fee to play, although the league covers travel and other costs - but that they often spend hours per week on top of their normal routine doing the same prep work their male counterparts do for pay.
"During the season, it's a pretty intense schedule where you're practicing about three or so times a week and it's probably going to be at least a two- hour practice," said Paul, who notes there are also film sessions, playbook studying and their own training on top of their normal practices. "We're all regular women. We're just everyday women wanting to play football."
Paul acknowledges that the league's not-so-subtle marketing ploy is about selling the idea of women in skimpy outfits, but it's something she feels shouldn't take away from the players' competitiveness.
"It is a bunch of girls in not much clothing hitting each other, but it's an intense, incredible athletic display that occurs on the field," Paul said. "To really understand it and appreciate it, I think you have to take the time to see it.
"We're not wearing a lot; however, it's kind of like rugby. It's similar in the sense in that it's a controlled chaos. You're getting hit pretty hard, but it's not 11-on-11, it's 7-on-7 and the field is smaller. If you're getting good blocking in, no one should be getting hit too badly."
As for the fans who come out to LFL games, it's no surprise most come for the sole purpose of ogling half-naked women, but, at least according to Paul, many are staying for the sport of it.
"I've heard from a lot of men that they're going to see this marketing ploy of having us in a limited amount of clothing and within a couple of minutes they're just watching it for the football skill," Paul said.
"I think someday that the LFL could be something really huge not just as an entertainment factor but, in all reality, I think it can be a really big spectator sport with a ton of talent on the field."
To date, the LFL has confirmed expansion teams based in Abbotsford, Saskatoon and Regina to join Toronto in the six-team Canadian league set to kick off in August. Other cities rumored as part of the Canadian expansion this year include Montreal, Quebec City, Calgary and Edmonton.