It’s not really a surprise that the Canadian Football League, which operates on a virtual shoestring, was one of the few professional sports leagues in North America to not operate in 2020 due to COVID-19.
But while some fans worried the one-year hiatus may have marked the beginning of a spiral downward to non-existence, CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie has confirmed the league plans full operation in 2021. In fact, a schedule has been released.
In most of the nine Canadian cities, the CFL is an important aspect of the sports fabric. It’s a huge deal in Regina, a close second to NHL teams in Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Ottawa, a distant second to the Canucks in Vancouver, a pretty big deal in Hamilton, gaining fans in Montreal and not very important at all in Toronto, where the Leafs, the Blue Jays, the Raptors and FC Toronto rank ahead of the Argonauts in terms of fan affection.
So the blackest mark of all — no season — will be in the past and the CFL is scheduled to carry on as normal in 2021. Training camps will hopefully be held in May, the Bombers and Ti-Cats will meet June 10 in the season opener (a replay of the most recent Grey Cup game) and TSN can have a weekly basket of games to provide to fans across the country instead of a steady diet of ‘classics’ from the past that fans were fed during the past year.
The league may look different when it resumes, though. Some players, some of the better ones, may have moved on, since reports of bare-bones salaries seems to carry weight. The league’s current collective bargaining agreement runs until the spring of 2022, and it includes a team salary cap of $5.35 million.
League officials have indicated, however, that the salary cap ‘floor’ — $4.75 million per team — will be the goal of most teams. The nine CFL teams, of course, operated for a full season with barely a trickle of revenue, and still paid salaries to a handful of personnel, but no players. Many teams operate in red figures as it is. It’s been reported that collectively, the nine CFL teams lose between $10 million and $20 million per season.
One big change fans will notice when the league resumes in 2021 is the name of the Edmonton franchise. ‘Eskimos’ has been tossed into the garbage bin, and team officials have been asking the public for suggestions on a new moniker. It has to start with ‘E’, they say, to allow the continued use of the team’s ‘EE’ logo. ‘Excited’ doesn’t work for a team name, but it certainly describes the feeling CFL fans have about the planned resumption of play.
- Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “What an apt surname for an NFL defender: Jets linebacker Tarell Basham.”
- Patriots QB Cam Newton, to reporters, on his dietary habits: “Just because I’m vegan doesn’t mean I just go outside and pick up grass and, you know, put ranch on it. … I still love good food.”
- Charles Barkley, on trying hypnotism to help correct his funky, hitchy golf swing: “All I got was a good nap. I woke up with the same crappy swing.”
- Bob Molinaro of pilotonline.com (Hampton, Va.): “When people said at the beginning of the season that the Ravens would lead the AFC North, who could have imagined it would be in positive COVID tests.”
- Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg, re: the Roy Jones (age 51) vs. Mike Tyson (54) exhibition bout: “This fight is tricky. Whoever wins could face charges of elder abuse.”
- RJ Currie of sportsdeke.com: “Don Cherry once told the Toronto Sun the material he buys for his suits is probably curtain fabric. Instead of Grapes, should we be calling him Drapes?”
- fark.com: “With Joe Burrow out for the season and no other viable quarterback available, if Colin Kaepernick’s phone doesn’t ring now, it never will. Spoiler alert: It never will.”
- fark.com again: “Toronto Star investigates why Jeopardy contestants fumbled easy sports questions so often, with exasperated hockey fan Alex Trebek looking on, unable to say what he really thought.”
- Dwight Perry again: “Veteran NBA forward Trevor Ariza got traded from Portland to Houston to Detroit to Oklahoma City in three separate deals in barely two days after this year’s draft. The Thunder is listing Ariza as day-to-day with severe jet lag.”
- Vancouver’s Torben Rolfsen, on Twitter, musing about Tom Brady’s occasional struggles in Tampa Bay: “Who holds the CFL rights to Tom Brady?”
- Actor George Takei, on Twitter: “Breaking: Professional sports fall into disarray as concerns mount over whether losing teams will concede to winning ones despite what the scoreboard says.”
- Sign in front of a church in Winnipeg: “Wear a mask. It’s not like we’re asking you to wear a Riders’ jersey.”
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