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The Rouge: Should the CFL season start earlier?

Paul Hoogkamp, TSN.ca

6/21/2010 12:44:53 PM

With the Grey Cup scheduled to be played in the league's most northern city at the end of November, CFL fans are already dressing in layers in anticipation of a chilly day at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton.

Does it have to be that way? Or do we like it that way? Would you like to see the season start earlier in hopes of having the Grey Cup played in better weather? 

This season, Week 1 gets under way on July 1, which is a great way to celebrate Canada's birthday. But if the season started on June 3, how would the 2010 schedule look?

Canada Day would fall on Week 4, meaning teams will have been already playing together for three weeks and the level of play should be higher.

The annual Labour Day Classics are considered the unofficial beginning to the playoff drives in the East and West Division. If the season started earlier, those games would be played in Week 14, which would accentuate their importance.

The Thanksgiving Day games, another great CFL tradition, would represent the final weekend of the regular season, which could cause some concern for the four teams that play on the holiday Monday. As Chris Schultz has said many times, football players are creatures of habit so not allowing teams a full week off before the playoffs may present a problem.

Finally, the Grey Cup would be played on Hallowe'en Day in Edmonton. The average temperature in Edmonton in October is 11 Celsius, a great deal warmer than the average November temperature of 0 Celsius. If the Grey Cup game is meant to showcase the talents of CFL players, would it not be best to play it when there is a better chance of good weather?

Before making a decision, let's take a look at some of the drawbacks to starting the season four weeks early. 

Attendance is paramount for a gate-driven league like the CFL and that could be an issue because night games would be played in June when elementary kids are still in school while the November games are played mostly during the day on weekends. And playing the Grey Cup game on Hallowe'en might not sit well with parents of those under the age of 12 but that wouldn't happen every year.

From the standpoint of competition for the entertainment dollar, CFL teams would have to compete with the Stanley Cup Final in June. On the flipside, they are currently competing with the NHL, NFL and NBA in November.

Speaking of entertainment, concerts and other outdoor events are held during the warm summer months so stadium availability could pose a problem for the schedule-maker.

From the perspective of player personnel, the season would be four weeks farther along before teams would have access to NFL cuts, perhaps leaving GMs more reluctant to add to their rosters at such a late juncture.

Finally, some of the most memorable Grey Cup games have been played in less-than-ideal conditions so scheduling for better weather could rob us of those classics. After all, isn't it part of the CFL charm to play games in inclement weather?

CFL fans take pride in the fact their title game does not take place in warm climates like the Super Bowl. It seems there is more negative feedback when the game is held indoors than outdoors.

"We'll all pray that it doesn't snow that day," said Arizona Cardinals president Michael Bidwill when the announcement was made that the 2014 Super Bowl will be held at the new Giants Stadium. No CFL fan has ever uttered those words ahead of any Grey Cup.

Remember the Ice Bowl in 1977 when the Montreal Alouettes used staples in their shoes to combat the icy conditions of Olympic Stadium?

What about the snowy Grey Cup of 1996 when Eskimos' receiver Eddie Brown made a miraculous touchdown catch in blizzard conditions at the friendly confines of Ivor Wynne Stadium?

So would you rather sit in the stands on a warm June night or a cold November afternoon? It sounds like a no-brainer... unless you're asking CFL fans. This year's Grey Cup in Edmonton sold out in record time so the possibility of frigid tempertaures doesn't seem to be deterring anyone.

Would players rather play on a warm June night or a cold November afternoon? You might be surprised by the answer of the players because football is played in the fall so they're used to the chilly temperatures.

Would you like to see the season start earlier in hopes of having the Grey Cup played in better weather?

Have your say with our Your Call feature below and vote in our poll.