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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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Canadian swimmer says she was drugged at world championships

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Canadian swimmer Mary-Sophie Harvey says she was drugged on the final day of the world aquatics championships and suffered a rib sprain and a concussion.

Harvey said in an Instagram post that there is a four-to-six hour window where she has no recollection of what happened, and that she remembers waking up with the Canadian team manager and doctor by her bedside.

She also posted photos of bruises on her body.

Montreal’s Harvey competed in the women’s 200-metre individual medley at the world championships in Budapest, Hungary, finishing eighth. She also earned a bronze medal in the women 4×200-metre freestyle relay after swimming in the preliminaries.

“We are aware there was an incident the night before departure from Budapest,” Swimming Canada spokesman Nathan White said in an email to The Canadian Press. “As soon as team staff became aware, Mary received excellent medical treatment from our team physician on site, and was cleared to travel home.

“Staff have been in contact with Mary since her return and we are offering her support. We continue to gather information on the situation, and the file has been forwarded to our independent Safe Sport officer.”

Harvey said she debated on whether to write her post, but said “these situations sadly happen too many times for me to stay silent.”

“I’m still scared to think about the unknowns of that night,” she wrote. “I’m still in a way, ashamed of what happened, and I think I always will be. … But I won’t let this event define me.”

The 22-year-old Harvey competed for Canada in last year’s Tokyo Olympics. She’s scheduled to swim in this summer’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England.

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

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Montreal Alouettes fire head coach Khari Jones, defensive co-ordinator Barron Miles

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MONTREAL — Danny Maciocia is returning to the CFL sidelines.

The Montreal Alouettes GM assumed interim head-coaching duties with the CFL club Wednesday after the club fired head coach Khari Jones and defensive co-ordinator Barron Miles.

Noel Thorpe returns to the franchise as defensive co-ordinator and defensive backs coach.

Maciocia made the move with Montreal (1-3) on a bye week. The Alouettes return to action July 14 hosting the Edmonton Elks.

In a statement, the Alouettes said Maciocia will serve as head coach until the end of the ’22 season.

“This kind of decision is always difficult to make, but we felt that we needed to make it early in the season while there is still time,” Maciocia said. “We want to thank Khari Jones and Barron Miles for their work, and wish them the best in the future.”

Maciocia’s decision to let Jones go wasn’t entirely a surprise. It was former Alouettes GM Kavis Reed who promoted Jones to head coach from offensive co-ordinator when the club abruptly announced just before the ’19 season that Mike Sherman was longer the head man.

The amiable 51-year-old Jones posted an 18-18 regular-season record over two-plus seasons with the Alouettes, who’d reached the playoffs during Jones’ first two years but were eliminated in the East semifinal.

Montreal finished third in the East Division last season with a 7-7 record before losing to Hamilton 23-12 in the opening round of the conference playoffs.

The Alouettes were 10-8 in 2019. It was the franchise’s first winning campaign since 2012 and first playoff appearance since 2014 and secured Jones a three-year extension.

Maciocia was named Alouettes GM in 2020 but before that had served as the head coach of the Montreal Carabins from 2011-19, winning a Vanier Cup in 2014. Over nine seasons with the Carabins, Maciocia compiled a 57-16-0 record.

Maciocia also has CFL experience as a head coach with Edmonton (2005-08), winning a Grey Cup in ’05. He also served as an assistant with Montreal (1997-2001) and Edmonton (2002-04).

Thorpe returns with the Alouettes for a third time. He began his CFL coaching career with Montreal in 2002, winning a Grey Cup with the Alouettes after spending six seasons with the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser.

Thorpe won a Vanier Cup with UBC in 1997.

Thorpe coached special teams and defensive backs with Montreal from 2002-07. He returned in 2013 as the club’s defensive co-ordinator and assistant head coach, positions he held through 2017.

He also served as a defensive backs coach, special-teams co-ordinator and assistant head coach with Edmonton (2008-10) and also worked as a defensive co-ordinator with the Ottawa Redblacks (2018-19).

Thorpe has a history with Maciocia. The two worked together in Edmonton in 2010 as well as the Carabins in 2011-12 when he served as the university team’s special-teams co-ordinator.

Thorpe also spent the ’21 season as Edmonton’s defensive co-ordinator. But after the team hired Chris Jones as head coach/GM, the franchise announced Thorpe would not be retained.

Thorpe, a Vancouver native, rejoins the Alouettes after helping the Birmingham Stallions win the USFL championship.

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

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