The good news for the CFL is that time is on its side.
It’s only mid-November, quite a way from when a regular season would normally kick off in June.
However, the CFL also had a time advantage earlier this year, unlike several pro sports leagues that were in the middle of their seasons, when the pandemic first hit. Still, they weren’t able to pull off a 2020 season. Players, as well as fans, are anxiously awaiting hard evidence to make them believe 2021 will be a different story.
For now, they’ll have to take the word of CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie, who said Monday he’s fully confident a 2021 season will be played. He didn’t provide much direction on how that will become a reality, other than pointing to some recent encouraging news about COVID-19 vaccines.
Ambrosie does have at least one person in his corner sharing the same sentiment, as Winnipeg Football Club president and CEO Wade Miller made it clear to the Free Press on Tuesday he anticipates a 2021 season will come to fruition and fans will be in the stands at IG Field next summer.
"I think first, obviously, in our country and our province right now, it’s a tough time (with) COVID. I think we’re gonna be on the other side of this, even prior to vaccinations, in June," Miller said in a phone interview.
"You know, outdoor, large-venue stadiums will be the first of those types of gatherings to come back, because they’re outdoors. I look forward to having fans back in the stands in 2021."
What makes Miller so sure? While his vision is plausible, many things would need to go right for it to happen.
"Well, first of all, I believe in Manitobans and I believe in Canadians. We’re going through a spike right now and we have to do all the right things. It’s a bigger issue than football right now and sports in general," Miller said.
"We’re gonna get through this as a country and as a province. It will take time, but you know, it’s November. We got a lot of time ahead of us till we play next year."
Regardless if the country’s COVID cases drop or not, it’s hard to picture the nine CFL stadiums operating near full capacity less than a year from now. For a gate-driven league, that’s far from an ideal situation. Miller wouldn’t dive into how many fans would be needed at games to generate enough funds for the CFL to operate, but he did say he fully supports the league’s decision to release a normal 18-game schedule. Ambrosie announced Monday the league will soon be unveiling a 2021 season schedule.
"The league has been through a lot of things in its history. The Winnipeg Football Club in its 90 years, which is 90 years this year, has been through a lot and this has been no different.We’ll get past this as a team and as a league," said Miller.
"It’s going to take us a couple of years to get through it, but we’re going to do that with all of our stakeholders and work hard to make that happen. We know the majority of our fans understand that and know we’re committed to making that happen. That’s a commitment that I can give to everyone, is nobody’s going to work harder to make sure we do that as a team and as a league."
Miller has been working with the league on preparing for different scenarios for next year, but what other notable names in the organization, such as head coach Mike O’Shea and general manager Kyle Walters, have been up to is unknown. Miller was asked what O’Shea and Walters have been tasked with doing in recent months.
"Do everything we can to win the Grey Cup in 2021. That’s their focus," Miller said, before being pressed for more details.
"Well, scouting never stops, and coming up with different drills or different plays and how we’re going to run our football business doesn’t stop. Obviously, it’s a kick to the gut for everybody to not play this year, including coaches, GMs and especially for our players."
These aren’t things Miller thought he would be discussing at this time of year. He’d be the first to tell you he believes the Blue Bombers would’ve been in Regina this week for the Grey Cup and defending their title. Tuesday will officially mark the one-year anniversary of the Blue and Gold trouncing the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 33-12 in the 2019 championship game in Calgary. But Miller said the date isn’t circled on his calendar; it’s time to move on and do it all over again.
"We won the Grey Cup in 2019 and now it’s time to win the Grey Cup in 2021. I enjoyed that, I celebrated that, and starting in the new year and after a couple weeks of that in 2019, it was time to focus on the next year," he said.
"Obviously 2020 was a little different, but now it’s time to focus on 2021 and getting our players back on the field and winning the Grey Cup in 2021."
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.