Five takeaways from Commissioner Randy Ambrosie’s Q&A

Wearing an amazing homemade CFL sweater, commissioner Randy Ambrosie sat down and chatted with CFL.ca’s Brodie Lawson on Friday.

“Like so many Canadians, I’m tucked away with my family right now trying to do the best we can to practice good social distancing. We’re washing our hands like crazy…trying to do our part,” Ambrosie said, while isolating with his wife and one of their three daughters.

“What is top of our mind is the health and safety of all Canadians. We want to get this virus under control and get back to a normal life again.”

Through an almost 20-minute conversation that survived one technical difficulty, the commish hit on a number of topics, ranging from what the league is facing from COVID-19 through to possible rule changes and a team that will be getting a new uniform in 2020.

Fans submitted questions through this week and during the live broadcast for Ambrosie to answer. Here are the main takeaways from that exchange.

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EXPLORING ALL OPTIONS WITH THE 2020 SCHEDULE

It’s a topic that’s on everyone’s minds right now and Ambrosie basically addressed off the top where the league is at as COVID-19 has forced the suspension or cancellation of sports leagues’ seasons around the world.

“What I want CFL fans to know is that the entire league: The governors, the team presidents, the league office staff are all working together and doing a whole range of scenario planning,” Ambrosie said.

“Obviously, our best hope would be to play a full season but with the current crisis, we’re having to explore all kinds of possibilities. We haven’t set at an absolute date for when we would have to make decisions.

“We (also) want to be what you might call practically optimistic, where we’re obviously talking to the medical community and paying attention to what’s happening around the world. Really what we want to do is keep our options open and play football as soon as we can but only when it is safe for our players and safe to bring our fans back into our stadiums.”

Last year’s first overall pick, Shane Richards, celebrating the moment he was chosen by the Argos (CFL.ca)

DRAFT DATE INTACT

One thing that hasn’t changed for the league is its plan to go ahead with its draft on April 30.

The draft itself is one that’s always conducted remotely, in that the teams have been stationed in their individual offices and joined a conference call with the league, where each team makes its selections through the night. Most of the time, players aren’t on site when a team announces its pick.

Things will still be different this year, though, with team staffers all working in self-isolation. The nuts and bolts of the draft, however, will remain the same.

“Right now our plan is to go on April 30, as we had originally planned,” Ambrosie said.

“I would say to all of our viewers and CFL fans across the country that of course there are so many things that are changing right in front of us and we will be prepared to adjust if necessary.

“These young amazing athletes who have worked a lifetime to earn themselves a place to be considered for the CFL draft have been waiting. We’d like if at all possible to have the draft on the 30th and and let them (have that) experience.

“I want those athletes and their families to know that we are thinking about them every day. We’re looking forward to the time that I can announce their name and have them join us in this amazing league.”

The global draft was re-scheduled this past week. Global players will report three days prior to rookie camps opening and there will be a global draft held at the conclusion of those three days.

RULE CHANGES TO BE DISCUSSED SHORTLY

One fan wrote in to ask Ambrosie about a rule change on officiating. Pointing out that an official was placed on the field to watch the quarterback, they wanted to know if other vulnerable players like long snappers and kickers could get similar attention in the future.

“The rules committee is going to be meeting…digitally in the days ahead,” Ambrosie said. That group includes the CFL’s associate VP of officiating, Darren Hackwood, coaches, GMs and members of the CFL Players Association.

“I know that one of the things that is on their mind this year is to look at our special teams safety protocols and how to keep our great special teams players safe and performing. I know that’s top of mind for them as they go into this year’s round of rules committee deliberations.”

Football fans in the maritimes got a taste for the CFL with last summer’s Touchdown Atlantic game in Moncton, N.B. (Johany Jutras/CFL.ca)

OPTIMISM FOR HALIFAX BUT COVID THE TOP PRIORITY RIGHT NOW

It’s been a long process in Nova Scotia, but Ambrosie says that it’s the right one and that he’s encouraged by where the Atlantic Schooners Sports group is right now in their quest to make Halifax the 10th stop in the CFL circuit.

“It’s been a real positive process right from the very beginning and going back to just shortly after Grey Cup, Halifax Regional Council did approve a funding model,” Ambrosie said.

“They’ve asked Schooner Sports and Entertainment to investigate other potential stadium sites and that work is being done.

“The group, Schooner Sports and Entertainment: Gary Drummond, Anthony LeBlanc and Bruce Bowser had been remarkable to work with. We’ve gotten great support from Mayor (Michael) Savage and the regional council in Halifax, Premier (Stephen) McNeil and the province have been really supportive. There’s lots of room for optimism for us right now, but in the midst of this crisis we’re not making as much progress on that on that project as we’d like. But we’ll get back to it once the crisis passes.”

NEW LOOK STAMPS?

Ambrosie said that the Calgary Stampeders could be a team that will have a new look this year.

“Calgary is going to have the first new jersey design that’s going to come up for the 2020 season,” Ambrosie said.

“Once we get Calgary’s out this year, we’re going to be looking at new jersey designs across the league.”

New Era didn’t make any drastic changes in its first year as the CFL’s outfitter in 2019. With a full season under its figurative belt now, the company is getting more comfortable with the look of the league.

“New Era has been a remarkable partner. We’re relatively new with this relationship, but we couldn’t ask for anything more than what they’ve been doing. They’re fully engaged and they’ve got some exciting ideas,” Ambrosie said.

“We’ll see some new jersey designs in Calgary this year and then rolled out across the league in 2021.”