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This article was published 14/6/2018 (957 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Edmonton Eskimos and Winnipeg Blue Bombers played the earliest regular-season game in CFL history Thursday night and the league’s movers and shakers could be pondering an even earlier start in the future.

"It’s an ongoing conversation," CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie said during a media availability prior to Thursday’s game at Investors Group Field.

"I think it’s important for us to keep thinking about this."

The major push for an earlier start to the season and thereby an earlier date for the Grey Cup game is weather-related. Edmonton even hosted an exhibition game on May 27.

"Wouldn’t it be good if we could play more and more games in conditions like this?" Ambrosie asked, noting Thursday’s ideal pre-game conditions.

"And give our fans a chance to come out, sit in the stands, enjoy some good food, some good music, some great football and perhaps a malted beverage or two."

PLAYER SAFETY: Ambrosie also said players have responded favourably to new safety measures coming on line, including rules intended to make the game less dangerous.

"You look at some of the rules changes we’ve implemented that will go in effect — we’ll see them tonight," Ambrosie said.

"The elimination of the crack-back block. I think back to my day, there was a lot of guys who got hurt when you got crack-backed on. We’ve eliminated the blocking below the waist outside the tackle box — you know, keeping people out of people’s legs.

"The one thing our fans keep telling us is ‘Have your best players playing as best we can. Keep away from the silly injuries’ We’re going to take a real focus on watching for the hits with the crown of the helmet. That’s something we’ve asked the officials to be very tough on."

SALARY CAP: The commissioner defended the introduction of a salary cap for team’s football operations staff, which will cap out at $2.738 million and 28 employees for the 2019 season.

"This is an idea that simply relates to running a good business," Ambrosie said. "And I think it’s no less than our fans want us to do. It no less than the players want and I think everyone, all of our core constituents, expect us to run a good business and this is just one step in that."

HALIFAX TEAM: Ambrosie said there has been slow but steady progress on the bid to bring an expansion team to Halifax.

"It’s a process, so the conversations between ourselves and the Maritime Football group continue," Ambrosie said. "We’re doing work on their business plan, giving them feedback. We’ve actually had to meet with several of the teams to get a broad array of perspectives...

"It really is about once we advance this to the next stage, that they’ve got a plan that’s been fully vetted."

Crucial to the whole enterprise is the feasibility of building a suitable stadium in Halifax. There have been suggestions that Moncton, N.B., could host the team while a Halifax stadium is under construction.

Ambrosie would not admit to a timeline for getting a Halifax team on the field.

"I’ve avoided and I will continue to avoid putting an artificial time frame on it because I think that puts unnecessary pressure on the process," he said.

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky
Sports Reporter

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

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