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CFL faces very difficult future

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This is an unpleasant reality: The Canadian Football League faces an extremely difficult future.

In truth, it may not have a future at all.

In the few days since commissioner Randy Ambrosie finally confirmed the obvious that the 2020 season had been only a figment of many imaginations, there has been a rush of both critics and devout supporters to explain at least partially the many reasons for the CFL’s arrival on the edge of final, fatal league disappearance.

Most of the observers are content to point out that large markets such as Toronto and Vancouver lost their way after National Football League franchises were established in nearby Buffalo (the Bills) and Seattle (the Seahawks),creating a painful reduction of several million dollars in gate revenue each year.

If only that were true . . . but it is not.

Much more damage has been done through simple — but very thorough — disrespect of the game by the owners and presidents and general managers positioned to grow Canadian football rather than to destroy it.

At one point, the Canadian brand of football was vastly different from the U.S.-based game although both admittedly grew from the foundation of British rugby.

In the 1950s, after decades of evolution, the biggest obvious disparity remained the difference in on-field lineups: 12 in Canada, 11 in the United States. The extra players provided more blocking and, often, more of a ground attack. Although imports had been approved, there were still more Canadians — many more — on every roster.

At that time, the Americans allowed unlimited blocking on every play; in Canada, no legal interference was allowed more than 10 yards downfield. Blocking on pass plays was a non-no in this country for many years.

This space, and many more, have wallowed in the old truth that Canada once paid U.S. imports more than the NFL did. Witness,for example, all-time Edmonton Eskimo great Jackie Parker; he and other imports signed here because the Canadian dollar had more value on the market than the American buck did.

Former Calgary Stampeders stars Earl Lunsford and Don Luzzi — all-star fullback and two-way tackle — entered the CFL a few years later for similar reasons. They played when the single point had strategic importance. Now, it is considered both unique and insignificant.

Veteran punt returners like 5-foot-8 Gene Wlasiuk of Saskatrchewan boasted wryly that they entered the league as six-footers but shrank when swarmed by tacklers. No blocking on punt returns, back then.

During this general time frame, U.S.- trained coaches and general managers became a majority. Jim Finks in Calgary, himself once a starter at quarterback in the NFL, heard claims that the CFL players were “too small”: to be real football players. He countered by pointing out the NFL had finally followed the CFL in using elusive runners and receivers; he was right. By and large, Canadians didn’t notice.

Hugh Campbell created a dynasty in Edmonton by making sure Canadian players had some ability, and then using them in every situation.

Through it all, import limits grew from a handful to today’s situation where rosters are clogged with more unknown U.S. college kids and pro failures than ever before. Alleged experts present the obnoxious theory that the CFL should openly become a farm system for NFL teams.

Misguided commissioner Ambrosie saluted his entry to the new job by proposing that the CFL should be loaded, as quickly as possible, with citizens from Greece, Germany, Scotland, or any other nation with strong, well-conditioned athletes who might be better than the kids graduating year after year from Canadian universities.

History shows that the CFL has spent so much time emulating the NFL and seeking “gimmicks” to boost profits that the road to any future was lost entirely. The most devastating example of contempt for their own product came when Herb Capozzi, a former B.C. Lions player, wrote a nationally-syndicated weekend column in which he insisted “Canadians Play Lousy Football.”

Later, he operated the Lions franchise and ultimately the entire league.

No further questions needed.

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Alberta

Mounties get their unicorn; stolen statue of mythical beast found in Alberta field

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DELIA, Alta. — It’s not often police can report that a unicorn has been found, but it was the truth Saturday when RCMP said a stolen, stainless-steel statue of the mythical beast was found in a field not far from where it was taken.

According to Jane McMullin, co-owner of Hand Hills Crafts in Delia, Alta., “Morgan the Mystical Unicorn” had stood, embedded in the ground with spikes, outside the business for two years and had become a bit of a tourist attraction.

But McMullin says a neighbour phoned her Friday on morning and told her that her unicorn “had run away.”

RCMP issued a news release Saturday saying the statue was found about 15 kilometres from the village, damaged, with its bronze-coloured horn broken off.

The release says police are still looking for suspects, and have called in their forensics experts to help.

McMullin says “friendly people” have transported Morgan back to Delia, but she says he’s got scratches and dents that will need to be repaired along with the horn.

“It was heartbreaking to see the damage,” she said. “He’s going to be down and out for a while.”

Investigators say that between 1:00 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. on Friday, they believe a vehicle was driven to Delia where suspects loaded the statue in the box of a large utility truck.

The statue, which measures more than three-metres high and weighs more than 270 kilograms, is worth $10,000, police said.

McMullin said the unicorn statue was given to her and her partner as a gift and once stood in Iricana, Alta. Originally, she said, it came from Texas.

“He was a great landmark. People would say, ‘When you get to Delia, turn right at the unicorn,'” McMullin said.

“We’ve had hundreds of people stop to get pictures of him.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 17, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Unbeaten Brad Gushue into Champions Cup curling playoffs in Calgary

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CALGARY — Brad Gushue won a third game in a row Saturday to qualify for the playoffs in the Humpty’s Champions Cup Grand Slam curling event in Calgary.

Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., scored two points in the seventh end and stole one in the eighth for a 6-5 win over Switzerland’s Peter de Cruz, who won a bronze medal at the recent men’s world championship in the same arena.

Gushue tops the men’s Pool A at 3-0 in the five-day event at WinSport’s Markin MacPhail Centre.

Gushue was to face Scotland’s Bruce Mouat, the world championship silver medallist, later Saturday.

The Champions Cup is the first of two Grand Slams in Calgary featuring two dozen men’s and women’s domestic and international teams.

The Princess Auto Players’ Championship starts Tuesday. The combined prize purse of both bonspiels is $560,000. 

In other morning-draw games, Matt Dunstone edged Brad Jacobs 6-5 to put both teams at 1-2 in Pool A.

Russia’s Alina Kovaleva got to 2-1 in the women’s Pool A with a 9-7 victory over winless Briar Hurlimann of Switzerland.

Japan’s Satsuki Fujisawa downed Tabitha Peterson of the Unites States 5-2 to put both at 1-2.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 17, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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