Expansion a ‘huge priority’ for CFL

Commissioner very enthusiastic about placing team in Atlantic Canada


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Randy Ambrosie was in town earlier this week to confirm what had become the city’s worst-kept secret, that Winnipeg would be hosting the 2025 Grey Cup.

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Randy Ambrosie was in town earlier this week to confirm what had become the city’s worst-kept secret, that Winnipeg would be hosting the 2025 Grey Cup.

The commissioner of the CFL revealed more than that during his visit, even if the message was more subtle.

It’s official: Blue Bombers to host 2025 Grey Cup

During his media conference, Ambrosie was asked when the championship game would be played in Winnipeg, to which he said the current date was set for Nov. 17. In his answer, though, he added an important caveat, noting the league remains committed to expanding to 10 teams, with the addition of a club in Atlantic Canada the obvious path to achieving that goal.

“The year 2025 is a ways out and we do have other things going on around the league that you’re all aware of, one of them being expansion, which is a huge priority for us,” Ambrosie said. “We know if we can land our expansion strategy, that could advance the Grey Cup by a couple of weeks. We have a date in mind, and we’ll target towards that date, but we also have the flexibility, if needed, that we can make a change.”

Expanding further east has long been a conversation in the CFL, well before Ambrosie came on the scene. Few have championed the idea more fiercely than the league’s current leader, to the point where its success or failure will almost certainly come to define Ambrosie’s legacy as commissioner.

While a mere mention might not seem all that telling, the timing matters. There was a lot of buzz around having a 10th team on the east coast before COVID-19 struck, the spread of the coronavirus ultimately derailing whatever momentum had been built. By talking about it Tuesday unprompted, Ambrosie is making a clear effort to bring it back to the forefront of conversation.

It’s been hard not to roll my eyes at some of the expansion talk in recent years, but in conversations I’ve had with people from across the league over the last 24 hours, I’m being told it might actually gain some traction this time around. The main driver behind the optimism is the CFL’s expansion strategy no longer hinges on building a stadium first, or at least not the kind we’re used to seeing.

As TSN’s Dave Naylor reported Wednesday, that renewed expansion push is expected to begin in earnest this spring and includes the use of a “temporary permanent” stadium model, which is a not-so-fancy way of saying a much cheaper facility that can help establish a team quicker and can be used until a permanent stadium is built.

I still have my doubts as to whether this will work or not, but consider this your warning that expansion talk is only going to ramp up in the coming months. Whether or not it’s just more of the same talk, only time will tell.

Now, let’s get into some of the other storylines from the weeks that were in the three-down loop in the latest edition of CFL Rundown.

1) Earlier this week I wrote about Winnipeg getting the Grey Cup and some of the things to expect from the event, while also touching on who might still be on the roster come 2025. I believe the Bombers wanted the 2024 game – which was awarded to B.C. instead – because it fit better into their championship window as far as their aging leadership group goes. That one extra year might end up being one year too late for some, or perhaps exactly the motivation needed to keep this group together for the next few years.

2) The Montreal Alouettes have found a new owner in local billionaire Pierre Karl Péladeau, who is the 61-year-old president and CEO of Quebecor Inc. It’s the second owner in just more than three years, after the team was handed back to the CFL by the previous regime in mid-February. The league is excited about Péladeau, given his deep pockets and seemingly genuine love for the Alouettes.

3) In talking to league sources, the sale was completed quickly, like over-the-weekend quick. It’s unclear how much Péladeau paid for the team, but his people were swift in acquiring the Alouettes, leaving anyone else who might have been interested in their dust. Like most people who have more money than they know what to do with, Péladeau decided he wanted it, so he got it.


4) I thought his press conference was positive. Péladeau seemed passionate about his new purchase, which he owns solely, and he appeared committed to doing whatever it takes to return the club to its former glory. Call me a skeptic, though, but I can’t help but think there’s something else at play here. Péladeau is the former leader of the Parti Québécois and Quebecor’s portfolio includes TVA Network – the province’s largest television broadcaster – which is in direct competition with TSN, the CFL’s lone TV broadcast partner. This feels more than simply a love affair with a team he grew up watching.

5) Some sad news over the weekend with the passing of football legend Bud Grant at the age of 95. Grant played in the NBA, NFL and CFL before coaching in the latter two leagues, where he would make a permanent mark as the head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (1957-66) and Minnesota Vikings (1967-83; 85). Grant achieved far more than what can be said in a couple sentences, and it’s worth your time, if you haven’t already, to check out the stories that were written following his death.

6) The Toronto Argonauts have officially handed over the quarterback keys to Chad Kelly. It’s an interesting move and one that was expedited after former No. 1 pivot McLeod Bethel-Thompson signed a deal in the USFL. The 28-year-old Kelly has talked a big game since arriving in Canada a year ago, now he gets the chance to back it up.

7) Speaking of the Argos, Andrew Harris has committed to one more season in Toronto, which he said will be the last in his stellar CFL career. The Winnipeg native also admitted that, at 36 years old, he won’t be the feature back most weeks and will continue to mentor fellow running back A.J. Ouellette. One has to think, given his last couple injury-plagued seasons, Harris will be lucky to dress for half a year. His leadership is undeniable and with a coaching job waiting for him next year with his former junior team on Vancouver Island, 2023 will be as much about observing as it will be playing.


8) Manitoba’s David Onyemata cashed in earlier this week, signing a free agent NFL contract with the Atlanta Falcons that will pay him US$35 million over the next three years, with $24.5 million guaranteed within the first two. Not bad for a kid that discovered football while attending the University of Manitoba, having never played a snap before suiting up for the Bisons.

9) It was much of the same for Canadian-American linebacker and former CFLer Alex Singleton, who inked a three-year, US$18-million contract with the Denver Broncos, including half of that money guaranteed. Before the new deal, Singleton had played three seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles and last year with the Broncos, making a combined total of around US$3 million.



Twitter: @jeffkhamilton

Jeff Hamilton

Jeff Hamilton
Multimedia producer

After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.

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