Mark Cohon is the commissioner of the Canadian Football League. Follow Mark on Twitter @CanadianCommish.
Welcome to the 2011 CFL season!
At this time of the year, I’m as excited as you are about having the chance to see the great game of CFL football once again.
I can't wait for the RONA Canada Day Kickoff to our season and I’m as curious as any fan to see how our teams do this year.
But while football is what matters most, there is lots to talk about off the field.
Here's my take on some of the things that both fans and media alike tend to ask me about the most:
The 99th Grey Cup this November
As Canadians, the Grey Cup is very special to us. Vancouver has proven to be such a great city, and BC Place will be an unbelievable venue. Everyone has been talking about its retractable roof – in fact the theme for this year’s Grey Cup is ‘Raise the Roof’.
It really will be a new stadium from top to bottom and I’m very excited for what should be an outstanding weekend. This year, BC Place will also play host to the Vanier Cup, adding to the exciting events of the weekend. With the 100th Grey Cup set for next season in Toronto, this is all exciting news.
The Grey Cup Trophy
There was a lot of buzz on social media when news emerged that a redesign of our cherished trophy is in the works.
It’s important for our fans to understand two things. Firstly, we would never mess with The Cup itself; it’s sacred. Secondly, an updated base is needed because following next year’s Grey Cup, there won’t be any room for any other teams!
We are currently looking for different options regarding The Cup, and as always, we welcome all ideas from you, our fans. Bottom line is the Cup is the Cup.
When I became the Commissioner, the league’s biggest challenge may have been the fact that several of our stadiums were very old. Our infrastructure was seemingly crumbling. Today, in addition to the revamp in Vancouver, there are various other stadium improvement projects being planned.
Seven of our eight cities are either already underway or have completed their respective projects, including Hamilton and Winnipeg, while Regina continues to remain a possibility. One of our main tasks is developing a stadium in Ottawa, where we’re on track to bring the CFL back to our Nation’s Capital in 2014.
These projects are all really key to building – no pun intended – a brighter future for our league.
The only condition on a franchise being awarded to a group of superb potential owners in Ottawa is building a suitable stadium. The city has approved an amazing stadium project, which just has to clear a few more legal and regulatory hurdles before construction can begin. We're looking for a team to kickoff there in 2014.
In September, we’re heading to Moncton for Scotiabank Touchdown Atlantic II. This year, the Stampeders and Tiger-Cats will face off in front of our fans in Atlantic Canada. With Ottawa set to rejoin us in 2014 – this time with excellent owners – and become our ninth team, we’re exploring the possibility of a team in Atlantic Canada to become our tenth.
And that’s only if our Board of Governors is ultimately certain that it’s right for our league.
Like so many fans, I'd love to see the next Russ Jackson excel in our league. It would be phenomenal. I believe it can and will happen someday. Who knows? Maybe Brad Sinopli in Calgary can be that player?
In the meantime, we are working with our teams to encourage them to give more Canadian quarterbacks an opportunity by bringing them to training camp. And that is starting to show results.
I don't believe it's something we should mandate or require, but we are encouraging and enabling our teams to give Canadian quarterbacks an opportunity when they earn it.
Given the complexity, speed and importance of our game, our officials have a very challenging job that they do very well. I wish every fan could know them as we do and see their dedication and love of our game up close.
But like any great team, they are constantly striving to improve. This year, our Director of Officiating Tom Higgins is going back to his past as a Grey Cup winning coach by introducing "position coaches" to our officiating structure. Every official on the field has a unique job to do, so it makes perfect sense to give each one a different coach who can guide and mentor them.
It’s important for us to have people who understand "the position they play.” The amazing thing is, to my knowledge, this has never been tried before. I like it when we show leadership like this.
CFL on TSN
We're excited that we're working with our partners at TSN to give you even more behind-the-scenes access to our game.
This year, there will be more sideline interviews, as well as cameras in the locker rooms that are instructed to capture coaches’ pre- and post-game speeches.
I’m also very interested in hearing your feedback regarding our new live mic’d feature that debuted in last week’s pre-season game between the Toronto Argonauts and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
We want to do all we can to bring you inside our game without jeopardizing, of course, the ability of our teams to compete at the highest level.
Our new drug policy, which was developed in partnership with our players and their association, is now in effect. The new policy targets steroids and other performance enhancing drugs. Random testing began in the off-season, and will continue all season long. We believe that drug testing is important to the health of our players and the integrity of our game. It’s also important to our fans and to me as Commissioner.
You, our fans
There is always a lot to talk about in the CFL, but the one thing I most want you to know is that we appreciate you. Players, coaches, even commissioners, come and go, but the devotion of our fans is really timeless. So I want to thank all of you. The best way to thank you is with a great season. And I'm confident that's what our teams and our league have in store for all of us. I hope you and your family enjoy it!
See you at the stadiums,