CFL commisioner Ambrosie: We need that 10th team
Over the past two years, the Canadian Football League has faced trials and tribulations unlike anything it has seen over its 64 years.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the CFL to cancel the 2020 season and shorten the 2021 season from 18 to 14 games.
Prior to the start of the 2022 season, the CFL and the CFL Players’ Association went through a contentious collective bargaining negotiation that could have threatened another season.
With all those challenges now in the rear-view mirror and a full season currently underway, the league is looking towards to future to see how it can grow and continue to stabilize for generations to come.
At the top of the list is expansion to become a 10-team league.
“[A] 10th team for this league has been the long dreamt promised land,” CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie told TSN1050 on Friday. “We really believe we need to get that 10th team.”
Earlier this season, the Toronto Argonauts and the Saskatchewan Roughriders took part in the Touchdown Atlantic Series at Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S., which was the first time the league has put on a game on the East Coast in three seasons.
Tickets for that game sold out in an hour according to the CFL and has led to more interest in bringing a team to Atlantic Canada.
“We came out of this year’s Touchdown Atlantic game with so much momentum and it was a huge blockbuster-type success,” said Ambrosie. “Lots of people in Atlantic Canada are talking to us now and we’re having great conversations on how we go about expansion there.”
This isn’t the first time the CFL has tried to sell the idea of having a team on the East Coast. In 2018, the league put out a plan that would have seen the league expand to Halifax by 2021.
But that was before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Another way to grow the game is the ability to focus on Canadian-grown talent and the emergence of B.C. Lions quarterback Nathan Rourke has allowed the CFL to do just that.
The 24-year-old Victoria native leads the league in passing yards (3,281) and passing touchdowns (25), changing the narrative of what a Canadian quarterback can be in the CFL.
Unfortunately for the Lions and Canadian football fans, Rourke sustained at Lisfranc sprain in his foot that will sideline him for most of the remainder of the season.
“Virtually every CFL fan [was] heartbroken for him,” said Ambrosie. “You’re just devastated when you see a teammate go down, especially someone who is performing at such a high level.”
“I don’t think we’ve heard the last of Nathan Rourke, He’s going to be a great story for the CFL for many years to come.”
This season has not come without setbacks, one of them being the loss of minority Montreal Alouettes owner Gary Stern from the franchise’s day-to-day operations.
Stern has been an outspoken and passionate member of the Alouettes organization who engaged fans through social media, bringing the spotlight towards his team and the league.
Despite Stern taking a backseat, Ambrosie is reassuring fans that the Montreal organization is stable and committed to winning and creating an entertaining product.
“The messaging we got from the representatives of the majority shareholders this week was very encouraging,” said Ambrosie. “Their priorities were very clear that they want to win football games and entertain their fans."
“From an operational point of view it's steady as she goes.”