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
Rookie goalie Jaxson Stauber in form as Blackhawks dump Flames 5-1
By Darren Haynes in Calgary
Rookie goaltender Jaxson Stauber made it two wins in as many career starts by making 34 stops on Thursday to help the Chicago Blackhawks to a 5-1 victory over the Calgary Flames.
Taylor Raddysh, Boris Katchouk, Jason Dickinson, Sam Lafferty and Connor Murphy, into an empty net, scored for Chicago (15-28-4), which entered the game last in the NHL’s overall standings. Max Domi had an assist to extend his point streak to four games (one goal, three assists).
Jonathan Huberdeau scored for Calgary (23-17-9). The Flames sit outside of a playoff spot in the Western Conference after last season finishing atop the Pacific Division.
Markstrom had 24 stops for the Flames. Winless in his last four decisions (0-3-1), his record fell to 13-13-5. That’s 10 times this season Markstrom has received one or no goals for support.
With Alex Stalock (concussion) out, Stauber made his NHL debut on Saturday in a 5-3 win in St. Louis.
The undrafted 23-year-old is in his first pro season after signing as a free agent last March after playing the previous two years with Providence College. He began the season with AHL Rockford.
Tied 1-1 after 20 minutes, Chicago seized control in the second period with three unanswered goals.
At 9:39, Katchouk one-timed a pass from Luke Philp past Markstrom, who was screened.
Chicago made it a two-goal lead at 15:37 when both Flames defencemen Nikita Zadorov and MacKenzie Weeger went to Patrick Kane, leaving the middle of the ice open. Kane’s pass sent Dickenson in alone and he beat Markstrom over his shoulder.
Just 30 seconds later, another defensive miscue from the Flames resulted in a two-on-one rush with Colin Blackwell setting up Lafferty for his eighth goal of the season.
The Flames outshot the visitors 18-6 in the third period, but couldn’t beat Stauber. The scattered booing from disgruntled fans throughout the stanza was at its loudest at the final buzzer as Calgary players left the ice.
In a listless first period from the home side, Chicago scored first at 17:47 when Raddysh beat Markstrom under his arm.
The Flames would tie it in the final minute. Huberdeau took a pass from Kadri and made a slick move to tuck the puck behind Stauber.
TOEWS AND TANEV OUT
Both teams were without key players. Calgary defenceman Chris Tanev (upper body) was out. His spot was taken by Connor Mackey, a healthy scratch the last 16 games.
Chicago was without captain Jonathan Toews (non-COVID illness). Philp was inserted into the lineup and recorded his first NHL point.
MILESTONE FOR TOFFOLI
Tyler Toffoli played in the 700th game of his career. He has played 86 games for the Flames.
Toffoli has also played for Los Angeles (515), Vancouver (10) and Montreal (89).
Blackhawks: Wrap up a three-game road trip on Saturday in Edmonton.
Flames: Are back in action Friday night in Seattle.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2023.
Russia’s path to 2024 Olympics takes shape, Ukraine objects
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Russia’s path to sending a team to the Paris Olympics next year became clearer on Thursday amid fierce objections from Ukraine.
The International Olympic Committee indicated on Wednesday it favors officially neutral teams from Russia and its ally Belarus at the 2024 Olympics despite a plea from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to exclude them entirely.
A day later, Russia and Belarus were invited to compete at the Asian Games, a key Olympic qualifier.
Russia typically competes as part of Europe but has a tense relationship with many of the countries set to host qualifying events there. Russia and Belarus have been barred from almost all international competitions in Olympic sports following the invasion of Ukraine.
Zelenskyy has said he told French President Emmanuel Macron, whose country is hosting the Olympics, that Russia should have “no place” there. Ukraine is seeking to rally support against the IOC-brokered plan.
“IOC has been disregarding Russian war crimes, claiming that ‘No athlete should be prevented from competing just because of their passport’, while Ukrainian athletes continue to be killed by Russia because of their passports. I urge all sports figures to make their stance known,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter on Thursday.
Ukraine boycotted an Olympic qualifier in judo last year when Russians were allowed to compete as neutrals.
In Russia, there was praise from the IOC plan from Igor Levitin, an aide to President Vladimir Putin who holds influential government and sports posts.
“I think it is already a success. Olympic society understands that the Olympic Games cannot be staged without Russia,” said Levitin, who is the senior vice-president of the Russian Olympic Committee, in comments reported by state news agency Tass.
Some Russian officials expressed unhappiness at the IOC declaring it would not allow athletes found to be “actively supporting the war in Ukraine.” Russian Olympic Committee president Stanislav Pozdnyakov said on Wednesday he opposed “any restrictions, extra requirements or sanctions.”
The IOC statement on Wednesday referenced the civil war in the former Yugoslavia at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. The country was under United Nations sanctions so Yugoslav athletes were allowed to compete individually only as “Independent Olympic Participants.” They didn’t take part in team sports such as soccer and basketball.
That would be stricter than previous IOC measures against Russia in the years-long fallout from one of the largest doping cases in sports history. Russians competed under the name “Olympic Athlete from Russia” at the 2018 Winter Olympics and as ROC — short for Russian Olympic Committee — in 2021 and 2022, without their country’s anthem or flag but with national colors on uniforms.
The Asian Games will be in Hangzhou, China, in September and October, and function as Olympic qualifiers in several sports including archery and boxing. Some other sports host their own Asia-specific qualifying competitions.
“The OCA believes in the unifying power of sport and that all athletes, regardless of their nationality or the passport they hold, should be able to compete in sports competitions,” the OCA said in a statement.
The long-time director general of Kuwait-based OCA, Husain al-Musallam, is also the president of World Aquatics, which is overseeing the core Olympic sport of swimming in the IOC home city Lausanne.
“The OCA has offered to give eligible Russian and Belarusian athletes the opportunity to take part in competitions in Asia, including the Asian Games,” the organization said.
The OCA added it “remains on standby” until the IOC and the individual sports’ governing bodies finalize the conditions for Russia and Belarus to compete.
More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
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