YORKTON - This is absolutely one of the best weekends in sports as the Canadian Football League kicks off a new season.
CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie was among those excited for the season opening game Thursday in Calgary with the B.C. Lions offering the opposition.
“We’ve been hard at work over the last months on so many different fronts,” he told Yorkton This Week, adding to have that work behind them and the season under way is fulfilling. “. . . It’s a special time for the CFL.”
A key element of the off season work was finding new owners for the Montreal Alouettes.
It was in March of this year the league announced the conclusion of a transaction with entrepreneur and businessman Pierre Karl Péladeau, who personally acquired the Als.
In Péladeau the league has an owner with deep pockets – a billionaire – at the helm of a key market team, which Ambrosie said can only be a positive for the CFL moving forward.
“It’s (Montreal) such a vibrant market, such a good football market,” he said adding, Péladeau and his partners have a vision and plan that is good for the Alouettes and the league. “He has a clear, long term vision that’s big, bold ambitious.”
Péladeau’s arrival to the CFL has had something of an impact down the road in Quebec City with recent talk of CFL expansion to that city.
Ambrosie said Quebec City has been on the CFL radar.
“We have said before Quebec City could be a CFL city . . . There are lots of reasons Quebec City could be a good fit,” he said citing the general growth of football in the province, the strength of the Rouge et Or program at Laval University, and the natural rivalry a team would have with Montreal.
The re-emergence of talk about Quebec City does not mean expansion to the Maritimes is off the table. Ambrosie said there remains interest in, and efforts toward a team in Halifax.
Either site would finally create a balanced CFL with 10 teams split with five in the west and five in the east – something of a dream for fans for years, if not decades.
“I share that dream,” said Ambrosie, adding “we have strong support from our governors . . . to make expansion a priority.”
With Péladeau in place in Montreal, Ambrosie said the league is in good hands in terms of ownership, pointing to the impact Amar Doman has had in B.C. since acquiring the Lions.
Strong existing ownership is foundational if the league is to expand, as is having a long term agreement with players allowing them to be partners in growth.
“The long term element with players means we can think about the future together,” said Ambrosie.
While there is excitement in thinking about CFL expansion, Ambrosie said the immediate good news is the start of a new campaign in a year where there is a buzz about the league – a buzz the commissioner said is the result of great reasons to watch and care about the league.
So why watch?
“It’s fun, fast and entertaining,” offered Ambrosie, adding he believes it’s best brand of football there is.
As for caring, that too is easy, it’s because of the impact teams have on their communities, something Ambrosie said fans in Saskatchewan are keenly aware of.
That is true in Calgary where Ambrosie awaited opening kick-off Thursday, a city where Stampeders are involved in the community visiting schools and hospitals and interacting with fans.
“We’ve got lots of reasons to watch, and lots of reasons to care,” he reiterated.
The season will culminate with the 110th Grey Cup, which will take place on Sunday, Nov. 19, at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton.