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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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Peavey Mart Centrium

Canada beats Sweden 4-1 to claim gold in Hlinka Gretkzy Cup

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Red Deer – Canada scored early and often and also stayed out of the penalty box en route to a 4-1 victory over Sweden in the gold-medal final of the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.

Tanner Howe, Ethan Gauthier, Calum Ritchie and Brayden Yager scored for the Canadians, who held period leads of 2-1 and 3-1 at the Peavey Mart Centrium on Saturday. Riley Heidt also chipped in with two assists for the champions.

Hugo Pettersson scored for Sweden, who were outshot 36-26. Each team received eight minutes in penalties.

Canada had beaten Sweden 3-0 on Aug. 3.

“Three weeks ago, we put this roster together and I felt right away this was a tight group,” said head coach Stephane Julien. “It’s not easy when you have this much talent, but everyone accepted their role and I’m so happy for them.”

The win is Canada’s first gold medal since 2018, the last time this tournament was held in Canada.

“I’m so happy for this group,” added Julien. “They haven’t had it easy in their careers the last two years with the pandemic, but now they have this, a gold medal and something they are going to remember for the rest of their career.”

Canada advanced to the final with a 4-1 win over Finland, while Sweden defeated Czechia 6-2. Finland beat Czechia 3-1 in Saturday’s bronze-medal final.

The Hlinka Gretzky Cup will shift to Europe in 2023, returning to Breclav and Piestany, Czechia for the first time since 2021.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 6, 2022

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Peavey Mart Centrium

Canada’s men’s U18 team defeats Finland 4-1 to advance to Hlinka Gretzky Cup final

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RED DEER, Alta. — Canada’s men’s under-18 team defeated Finland 4-1 to advance to the Hlinka Gretzky Cup final Friday night.

Ethan Gauthier scored the opening goal in the first period, his tournament-leading fifth of the competition.

Calum Ritchie added another for his second in the past two games. Matthew Wood and Denver Barkey scored 19 seconds apart around the halfway mark of the final period to put the game out of reach.

Finland got on the board with only 18 seconds remaining, courtesy of Arttu Alasiurua.

Scott Ratzlaff made 23 saves, conceding his first goal of the tournament in three appearances for the undefeated Canadian team.

In the other semifinal, Sweden defeated Czechia 6-2 to set up another showdown against the Canadian squad. Sweden lost 3-0 to Canada in the final game of the preliminary round on Wednesday.

Canada will seek its first gold medal since 2018 when the two sides meet Saturday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 5, 2022

The Canadian Press

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