A New Era

Photo from Twitter: @randyambrosie

Think bigger“.

That’s the attitude Randy Ambrosie introduced to the CFL when he took over as Commissioner last June.

Even though he hasn’t been on the job for a full year yet, Ambrosie has already left his mark on the CFL – and in a decidedly good way.

Ambrosie has been highly visible over the past year, travelling across the country to promote the CFL and engage with fans – and not just during the season.

This year marked the inaugural Randy’s Road Trip, where Ambrosie visited each CFL city to hold a town hall with die hard fans.  In a quest to make the CFL a truly coast-to-coast league, Ambrosie even ventured out to Halifax, fanning hopes that the Atlantic Schooners – or some such team – might one day be a reality.

What Ambrosie has accomplished in a mere 10 months is rather stunning when compared to the tenures of previous commissioners.  (See: Orridge, Jeffrey.) He kept the CFL in the sports pages for most of the past off-season, by introducing new initiatives such as Randy’s Road Trip and holding CFL meetings in January in Banff.  The release of the 2018 schedule in December 2017 was a surprise Christmas gift to CFL fans, allowing them to dream of summer nights full of football even when it was -40 outside.  Of course, this does not mean that everything went smoothly.

While the NFL window disappeared with the last CBA, apparently some teams have made side deals with players to allow them to be released midway through their first CFL contract to pursue NFL opportunities.  Ambrosie issued a strong statement to reiterate that this practice is offside the CBA.  But then the league had to issue a mea culpa when it came to light that it registered a contract that allowed just that.  This will no doubt be an issue in the coming year since the current CBA expires in May 2019.

Then there was the Johnny Manziel circus.  (DEAR LORD, MAKE IT STOP.) After Ambrosie set down the rules for Manziel to even sign a contract for the 2018 season, CFL pundits engaged in what might be the most annoying game of “Will he or won’t he?” the CFL has ever seen.  The constant speculation even got on the nerves on CFL veterans:

AMEN, GREG.  A-FREAKING-MEN.

But if there is a CFL Commissioner who can handle the Manziel show, it is Ambrosie.  Upon Manziel’s signing with the Tiger-Cats earlier today, he released a statement making it clear that Manziel’s time in the CFL is conditional.  The conditions have not been made public, but I have faith that Ambrosie will have no qualms about putting Manziel in his place if need be.

With the plethora of player movement this past off season, the 2018 CFL season is setting up to be possibly one of the most competitive seasons in CFL history.  This, along with the stabilization of the league’s head office, has put the ball in Ambrosie’s hands.  It’s up to him to take the CFL to the next level.

 

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2015 CFL Preview – Part 1 of 4

One of my work colleagues said he was waiting with ‘bated breath’ (a turn of phrase that I did not believe he had in his vocabulary) for my first CFL note of the year.  And why was he so excited?

Because it’s…

june

Why yes it is – and it’s about time!

After what felt like an interminably looooooooooong off season, CFL training camps finally got underway this past weekend. And that means three four things:

1. The hockey season is almost done (THANK GOODNESS).

2. Summer is (supposedly) here.

3. Your email inbox will be filled with CFL-centric missives for the next 6 months if you subscribe to this here blog.

4. AND, I will spend an inordinate amount of time writing said CFL-centric missives and finding appropriate pictures to post with them.

Don’t you love this time of year??

As part of my four-part series (yes, four (4) part series) setting up the 2015 CFL season, this week we’ll look at the new rules being implemented by the CFL and highlight a few of the other important changes that occurred around the league during the off-season.

Rule Changes

Kim Murphy and all other CFL refereeing crews are going to be busy this year. (John Mahoney / THE GAZETTE)

The most obvious rule change is moving the convert after a touchdown back to the 32 yard line from the 12 yard line. ‎This is supposed to make single point converts less automatic and tempt coaches to go for a two-point convert more often. Helping make the choice to go for two even more tempting is the rule change bringing the scrimmage for a two-point conversion up to the three yard line, from the five yard line. Personally, I don’t have any major issues with these changes. The two-point convert option is underutilized and it’s a far more exciting play than lining up for a regular convert.

The other major rule change is prohibiting any contact between a receiver and a defender five yards past the line of scrimmage. To me, this change is a complete overreaction to the lack of offence last season. The lack of offence last year can be rather easily explained by the number of starting QBs that suffered major injuries and the number of rookie starting QBs.‎ People will be frustrated for the first half of the season as flags fly on every other play. Defenders will get used to the rule, but it will take some time – and fans will have to be patient. Get ready for some long games during the first few weeks of the season as everyone adjusts to the new rule and Jake ‘Methuselah’ Ireland (he’s gotta be 90 years old by now) and his crew in the CFL Command Centre figure out how to interpret it.

New Commissioner

commish
Quote from a colleague: “He’s done more with his law degree than I have.”

Jeffrey L. Orridge (who, like a true lawyer, still uses his middle initial – even in press releases) was appointed CFL Commissioner earlier this year.  As an American and Harvard law grad, he wasn’t on anybody’s list of top choices for the Commissioner job. A closer look at his resume, though, shows that he brings a wealth of corporate sports experience, including at the international level, and a unique set of skills to the top job. He’ll need those skills to fill the shoes of the affable Mark Cohon, who was a fan favourite.

Other notable league-wide events:

  • The Arblows finally found a home. After a protracted negotiation, MLSE bought Toronto’s least favourite team. The Arblows should fit in well with MLSE’s other commodity, the Leafs – Canada’s least favourite (and most grammatically incorrect) team. The Arblows’ eventual move to BMO Field will hopefully right their sinking ship like it did for Les Alouettes. Regardless, it’s nice to have all nine CFL teams owned by ‎nine different owners again and end the multi-year conflict of interest.
  • The CFL extended its broadcast deal with TSN through 2021. ‎ Unfortunately this probably won’t motivate TSN to get rid of Rod Black anytime soon.

Next time I’ll preview the East Division.