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Canadian government reviewing CFL’s request for modified quarantine for 2021 season

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The CFL has cleared two more hurdles in its quest to return to the field in 2021.

An official with the Public Health Agency of Canada told The Canadian Press the federal government has received the CFL’s request for a national interest exemption for modified quarantine for the upcoming season. The official added Ottawa is reviewing it in consultation with provincial health authorities.

The inclusion of negotiations with Ottawa, in addition to previous talks with provincial health authorities, is a big step in the right direction for the league as it attempts to return to the field for the first time since 2019.

Essentially, the CFL is asking Ottawa to provide it with the same exemptions it has for the NHL. The federal government waived its mandatory 14-day quarantine period for players acquired by Canadian NHL teams from American clubs “under national interest grounds” ahead of the league’s April 12 trade deadline.

Under those terms, CFL players would observe a seven-day quarantine upon arrival into Canada and be subject to daily testing for COVID-19. Players would be eligible to suit up for their teams while continuing to undergo daily testing the following week.

Another positive step is the ratification of an amended collective bargaining agreement between the CFL and CFL Players’ Association. Three sources told The Canadian Press the two sides have reached an agreement in principle on an amended deal — it has been ratified by the union — which would again pave the way for football to return in 2021.

The sources were granted anonymity because the deal has not publicly announced.

“We’ve done everything we can as a union and as players to lay the groundwork needed for us to play a safe 2021 season and now the CFL board of governors has an opportunity to do their part,” union president Solomon Elimimian said in a statement.

“We eagerly anticipate the CFL now making the right decision to get the season going while maintaining the highest player safety standards,” added executive director Brian Ramsay. “”The pandemic hasn’t been easy for anyone in the CFL — and I can tell you that it has been especially hard on the players and their families.

“This MOA (memorandum of agreement) represents another big step toward getting us all back to work so that we can safely get back on the field this season.”

The CFL board of governors will hold their vote on the amended deal Monday.

The CFL didn’t stage a 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The league shelved plans for an abbreviated campaign last August after failing to secure a $30-million, interest-free loan from the Canadian government.

Last November, the CFL unveiled plans for a full 18-game 2021 regular season. But in April, commissioner Randy Ambrosie announced the league was delaying the start of the ’21 season to Aug. 5 and reducing the number of games played to 14 per team.

The next big step for an Aug. 5 return is Monday’s board of governors meeting.

The board doesn’t require unanimous support to accept the Aug. 5 start but seven of nine teams would have to vote in favour as the CFL constitution requires over two-thirds majority. However, it’s unknown if the constitution could force teams to play and incur significant financial losses simply because a majority wants to go ahead with a season.

The fear is that could force a situation where a team voting against the Aug. 5 startup date would simply refuse to play if the remainder of the board votes in favour of beginning a season in early August. That scenario could result in very serious implications regarding league transfer moneys as well as the CFL’s broadcast agreement and league’s ’21 schedule.

Not playing in 2020 came at a significant cost to the CFL. A source has said the league lost between $60-and-$80 million last year by not staging games.

The source has been granted anonymity because the CFL has never revealed its 2020 financial figures.

Another factor, too, is the possibility of fans. The CFL wants to have a “significant” amount of fans in the stands. However, the Ontario government hasn’t signed off on that, and three of the league’s franchises are based in the province (Toronto, Hamilton and Ottawa).

But an Aug. 5 kickoff would see all four East Division teams opening the season with a series of road games in Western Canada. The hope would be that once they were slated to return home that some fans would be allowed in the Ontario stadiums.

A TSN report earlier this week said a committee representing seven of Ontario’s seven pro franchises (Argos, Ticats, Redblacks, Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors, Toronto FC and Toronto Blue Jays) submitted a report to the Ontario government. The report said the committee was looking for 35 per cent of stadium capacity for Ontario’s second stage re-opening and up to full capacity for the third stage.

“We will continue to work with our stakeholders as well as our public health experts at the provincial and local levels to determine when and if it is safe for measures to be lifted, including when other professional sports leagues may return to play,” Ontario’s Heritage, Sport and Tourism ministry said in a statement to The Canadian Press.

The first stage in Ontario’s re-opening is scheduled to start Friday. The province will remain at each step for at least 21 days to evaluate any impacts on key public health and health system indicators.

The earliest date for the second stage would be July 2, with July 23 the earliest for stage 3.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 10, 2021.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Draisaitl nets OT winner to lift Oilers past slumping Panthers for 4-3 victory

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By Shane Jones in Edmonton

Leon Draisaitl scored the overtime winner as the Edmonton Oilers came away with a 4-3 victory over the suddenly slumping Florida Panthers on Monday.

Draisaitl took a pass back from Connor McDavid just 22 seconds into overtime to score his 13th of the season. McDavid had a goal and two assists.

Tyson Barrie and Evan Bouchard also scored while Zach Hyman had three assists for the Oilers (12-10-0) who have won two games in a row. Stuart Skinner made 25 saves.

Matthew Tkachuk, Anton Lundell and Brandon Montour scored in response for the Panthers (10-8-4) who have lost five of their last six games. Spencer Knight stopped 36-of-40 shots.

The Panthers only needed 3:49 to open the scoring. Tkachuk took a pass that deflected off the skate of Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse and put it past Skinner after taking a couple of whacks at the puck for his 10th of the season.

Edmonton had a great chance a few minutes later when forward Mattias Janmark tipped a Barrie shot through Knight’s legs, but the puck ran out of steam before crossing the goal line and Knight was able to plop down on it.

The Oilers looked to have tied the score seven minutes into the second period as Hyman put his own rebound past Knight in tight, but the goal was waved off after officials determined he had kicked the puck into the net following a quick review.

Hyman helped make up for it shortly after on the power play, sending a pass more than half the length of the ice to spring McDavid on a breakaway. He beat Knight with a backhand shot following a deke for his 17th of the season.

Edmonton took the lead 5:18 into the third frame as Brett Kulak’s shot took a lucky bounce off Hyman right to the stick of a pinching Barrie, who netted his fourth.

Florida tied the game 10:58 into the third as Lundell finished off a nice three-way passing play by deflecting a Sam Reinhart pass home, pushing his goal streak to three games.

The Panthers regained the lead with 4:44 remaining after a mad scramble in front on the power play saw the puck come back to Montour, who fired the puck into the top corner. Edmonton challenged the play, saying Tkachuk knocked the puck down with a high stick on the play, but the goal counted.

With just five seconds remaining in regulation, Bouchard took a desperate shot from the slot and beat Knight stick side for his third of the season.

NOTES

The Oilers have allowed six goals in the first three minutes of a game this season, the most of any team in the NHL … Undrafted forward James Hamblin made his NHL debut for the Oilers after being called up from their AHL affiliate in Bakersfield … Out with injuries for the Oilers were forwards Kailer Yamamoto (undisclosed), Evander Kane (wrist surgery), Warren Foegele (undisclosed) and Ryan McLeod (undisclosed) … Missing for the Panthers were star forward Aleksander Barkov (illness) and Anthony Duclair (torn Achilles). Recent call-up Alexsi Heponiemi took Barkov’s roster spot.

UP NEXT

The Panthers are right back at it on Tuesday night as they play the second game of a five-game road trip against the Flames in Calgary. The Oilers begin a quick two-game trip in Chicago against the Blackhawks on Wednesday night.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 28, 2022.

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Bruce Dowbiggin

NFL Run/ Pass Maestros: Can’t Catch This

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There was a time when the CFL was the league of Air-Raid football. Mobile quarterbacks throwing off the run to receivers spread across the field. Think Warren Moon. Doug Flutie. Jeff Garcia. As we saw in the recent Grey Cup game, CFL teams still spread around the ball, producing last-minute dramatics.

The NFL, by contrast, was always  the league of pocket passers, riveted in place throwing rockets to receivers like Lynn Swann or Jerry Rice running proscribed routes. Think Terry Bradshaw. Ben Roethlisberger. Tom Brady. Running from the pocket was never a designed scheme but one of survival from defensive lineman with malicious intent.

NFL QBs have a running tradition going back to Fran Tarkenton in the 1960s, but their rambling was more of a survival instinct in a brutal time. Even when the NFL stuffed shirts allowed  Robert Griffin III, Cam Newton, Randall Cunningham, Daunte Culpepper, Vince Young  and Michael Vick to break from the pocket their careers were compromised by injuries.

The most notorious might be San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick, who did much to start the read-option craze in the league but ultimately was broken down by injuries in his fourth year as a starter— with three surgeries following the 2015 season. (Kaepernick left football to become the John The Baptist of BLM.)

Then, in act of mercy or perhaps to juice offence, the NFL took pity on the athletic QBs. “It feels like the NFL is in a moment when a defender can get called for roughing the passer or unnecessary roughness simply by breathing hard on the QB,” writes Joe Mahoney of SB Nation. “It’s a reason why the career longevity for running QBs like Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray, Jalen Hurts, Justin Fields, Josh Allen, and Taysom Hill should be much longer the career lengths of some of the previous elite dual-threat QBs.”

Today’s NFL is indeed a changed beast at the QB position. Call it the attack of the Run/ Pass Option. The League is now Brady’s Bunch versus Pat’s Ma-Homies. Traditional maestros of structured football like Tom Brady against the chaos artists led by Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen, Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts. They bob and weave and double back, improvising as they go, forcing defensive backs to cover receivers for as long as 10 seconds.

The Chiefs’ genius Mahomes is like a welterweight, rambling from sideline to sideline to keep himself from hard hits as he makes time till Travis Kelce or Marquez Valdes-Scantling get open. Buffalo’s Allen, by contrast, is a heavyweight bruiser like Mike Tyson who buys time and crushes opponents by running them over with his 6-3, 235 pound frame. Baltimore’s Jackson is a sly middleweight who uses the field the way Floyd Mayweather used the ring.

As the expression goes, “If it’s not one thing it’s another”. Paul Domowich 33rd Team has the numbers: “For the first time in the modern era of the NFL, there currently are seven quarterbacks among the league’s top 50 rushers – the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson (9th, 480 yards), the Eagles’ Jalen Hurts (17th, 432), the Bills’ Josh Allen (39th, 269), the Bears’ Justin Fields (43rd, 243), the Giants’ Daniel Jones (44th, 241), Washington’s Taylor Heinicke (45th, 232) and the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes (48th, 229). Last year, there were six in the top 50.

Six quarterbacks are on pace to have 80-plus rushing attempts this season, including four – Jackson, Hurts, Allen and the Cardinals’ Kyler Murray — who are on a 100-carry pace. And a record 11 quarterbacks are on pace to have 25 or more rushing first downs.”

Judging by current statistics The Mahomies are in the ascendance while the Brady Bunch is just holding on. Quarterback rushing yards accounted for 15.4 percent of all rushing yards in 2021 (9659 of 62,694 yards). While the percentage of rushing TDs from QBs came down from its record high in 2020, QBs still accounted for 19.4 percent of all rushing TDs in 2021.  Through the midway point of the 2022 NFL season quarterbacks have run for 3310 yards which is 14.7 percent of the 22474 rushing yards so far this season.”

Brady and the stick-in-the-pockets like Jared Goff, Kirk Cousins and Matthews Stafford are still viable threats, but it’s clear that to stay one step ahead of defensive coordinators a QB needs the option of rolling out, isolating a defender and making him choose between the run or pass.

And that requires the athleticism previously left to running backs and receivers. For a glimpse of the future look no further than Caleb Williams of USC, the favourite to win the Heisman Trophy in U.S. college football. Williams is a hybrid of Mahomes and Lamar Jackson who makes wine from Gatorade. His two-TD performance as USC crushed Notre Dame this weekend was his defining moment in capturing the Heisman.

According to CBS: “His 267 total yards are certainly good enough, but his impact clearly went beyond his yardage total. Williams was a force. Entering this game, Williams was already one of the frontrunners for the Heisman Trophy with 3,480 yards passing, 316 yards rushing and 40 total touchdowns. This showing against Notre Dame may have just sealed the deal.”

NFL teams will have to wait one more year for the sophomore Williams— who transferred from Oklahoma. But you can bet that— injuries aside—when his time comes he’ll go No. 1  in the 2024 draft. He won’t be alone, either. There is a posses of mobile QBs circling the airport. Because, as they’ve learned from this generation of NFL wizards: Catch Me If You Can.

Sign up today for Not The Public Broadcaster newsletters. Hot takes/ cool slants on sports and current affairs. Have the latest columns delivered to your mail box. Tell your friends to join, too. Always provocative, always independent. 

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster  A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History, his new book with his son Evan, was voted the seventh-best professional hockey book of all time by bookauthority.org . His 2004 book Money Players was voted sixth best on the same list, and is available via http://brucedowbigginbooks.ca/book-personalaccount.aspx

 

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