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    What Is the NFL Hall of Fame Game, and When Did It Start?

    Each year, the NFL season kicks off with the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio. What is the history of the Hall of Fame Game, and when did this tradition start?

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    Last modified on July 3, 2024 | 12:22 PM EDT

    Published on July 3, 2024 | 11:55 AM EDT

    Every year, the NFL season kicks off with the Hall of Fame Game at Tom Benson Stadium in Canton, Ohio. When did this tradition start, and what is the history behind the game?

    What Is the NFL Hall of Fame Game?

    This exhibition contest serves as the NFL’s preseason opener, but it’s also part of the ceremonial festivities involving the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

    The Hall of Fame Game is held on the same weekend as the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s induction ceremony, and the inductees in that year’s class are honored before the contest.

    What Is the Hall of Fame Game’s History?

    The first Hall of Fame Game was played in 1962. The St. Louis Cardinals and New York Giants faced off, and the game ended in a 21-21 tie.

    In 1970, the contest was moved to August to help kick off the NFL season. From 1971 to 2010, it typically pitted an AFC team against an NFC squad.

    Starting in 2011, the NFL began selecting two franchises with a notable Hall of Fame inductee in that year’s class. Such is the case this year, as Houston Texans legend Andre Johnson and Chicago Bears great Devin Hester will be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

    Is the Hall of Fame Game Played Every Year?

    Since 1962, the Hall of Fame Game has only been canceled four times:

    • 1966: No contest due to the AFL and NFL merger.
    • 2011: The game was canceled due to the league’s lockout.
    • 2016: Subpar field conditions from a severe storm system wiped out the game, as Canton received torrential rainfall and wind gusts up to 70 miles per hour.
    • 2020: COVID-19 forced the league to cancel the game and the preseason as a whole.

    This year’s contest will be the 58th Hall of Fame Game in league history.

    Which Team Has Played in the Most Hall of Fame Games?

    The Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers have played in this contest seven times. Both teams were also supposed to be in the 2020 matchup before it was canned due to the pandemic.

    When the Bears take the field this year, it will also be their seventh appearance in the Hall of Fame Game.

    The Steelers are the only team that has played in the Hall of Fame Game in back-to-back seasons (1963 and 1964).

    Which Team Has Won the Most Hall of Fame Games?

    The Steelers, Bears, and Las Vegas Raiders have each won four Hall of Fame Games

    The Steelers won the contest in 1963, 1983, 2007, and 2021 (which was a make-up for the canceled 2020 contest against the Cowboys).

    The Bears’ four victories in the Canton contest came in 1968, 1977, 1990, and 2005. With a win over the Texans in this year’s Hall of Fame Game, Chicago will be able to pull ahead of the Steelers and Raiders.

    The Raiders’ four wins came in 1979, 1993, 2006 and 2022.

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