On May 13, 1982, Maritime Professional Football Club Ltd. was granted a conditional expansion franchise by the Canadian Football League’s board of governors with unanimous approval. The team was to pay a $1.5 million expansion fee by May 1, 1983 and could begin play in 1984 if a suitable 30,000 seat stadium were built in time for the league opener that year. The ownership group was led by John Donoval, a Mississauga, Ontario truck executive, and J. I. Albrecht, former general manager of the Montreal Alouettes. Even before the franchise was officially awarded, Albrecht, who was working as a football consultant for Donoval, planned to hire Acadia Axemen head coach John Huard as the Schooners’ first head coach. As expected, Huard was named as head coach on the same day that the franchise was awarded. Nova Scotia industrialist, Robert Burns Cameron joined the ownership group on August 30, 1982 and was reported to have invested over 50% into the group.

On November 3, 1982, the team name Atlantic Schooners was officially announced by Albrecht at a press conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It was selected based on a study followed by a name-the-team contest in which “schooner” was the winning selection. Other names that were considered by Donoval were Atlantic Windjammers and Atlantic Storm. The goal was to have a team that would represent each of the four Atlantic provinces and become a regional team. The logo was a stylized “A” in the shape of a schooner that rode on four waves, each representing the four Atlantic provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland. The team colors were silver, maritime blue, nautical brass, and white