The first neutral-site regular-season game is Sunday afternoon at the new stadium in Moncton, N.B., but smart money says the CFL will never venture that far east with an expansion franchise.
While there’s a Grey Cup atmosphere surrounding Touchdown Atlantic — the Eskimos-Argos clash that sold 20,000 tickets in less than two days — the city has neither the stadium nor the population base to support a CFL team.
It’s one thing to rally your support around a one-time event like the game, but a full-fledged Moncton or regional team would need season ticket holders from around the Maritimes to make it a success. That part of our country produces fine college players who supply Canadian content for the league and would provide a natural draw for local fans, but it’s not enough to make the venture a winning proposition while expansion teams in Ottawa and Quebec City will take precedence.
CFL lovers think the league’s quirky nature is one of its finest traits and in some ways that’s true. Where else could you have two teams with the same name, as was the case for many years with the Roughriders and Rough Riders, one point awarded for a failed field goal and, years ago, Ottawa even drafted a dead player.
That said, having David Braley owning two teams, even temporarily, isn’t as charming as some of the league’s other oddities. Case in point: Last week, defensive end Ricky Foley announced he would return to the CFL with either the B.C. Lions or Toronto Argonauts before eventually declaring he had agreed to terms with the Lions.
Then, less than 24 hours later, he changed his mind and opted to sign with the Argos. Braley, who owns both teams, insisted he was never involved with the negotiations, but the optics are simply brutal and provides additional fodder for CFL bashers.
You have to love the CFL’s crossover playoff rule, a unique twist introduced in 1996 that allows the fourth-place team from one division to cross over into the semifinals in the other division if it finishes with more points than the third-place team on the other side.
Winnipeg’s loss last weekend all but ended its chances of making the playoffs through the East Division, but the 3-8 Bombers, now six points back of both the Argos and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, can cast their eyes on third spot in the West. Calgary and Saskatchewan are bound to finish 1-2 in the West, and now third place will come down to a shootout between hapless B.C. (3-8) and Edmonton (2-9). It’s football’s version of the mulligan.