No dates set for CFL labour talks

In the spirit of International Women’s Day, I’d like to take the opportunity to open this column by acknowledging a few people I’ve been fortunate enough to cross paths with covering the CFL.

My first shoutout goes to TSN sideline reporter Sara Orlesky, who is as professional as it gets in this industry. And if you can believe it, is as nice a person off-camera as she is a pro when the lights are brightest.

There are few people I have more time for than Canadian Press reporter Judy Owen. Owen is among the several trailblazers out there who have helped diversify locker rooms and make them a more inclusive place. She also supplies the chocolate for the press box during the Bomber game closest to Halloween.

There’s not a lot of people who bring the kind of energy day in and day out that TSN’s Claire Hanna does. Hanna, who has jumped from covering the Roughriders in Saskatchewan to becoming the newest reporter in the Nation’s capital, will no doubt continue to carve out her space following the Redblacks. Speaking of Ottawa, Kim Vallière also does a bang-up job on the CFL beat.

Finally, I’d be remiss not to acknowledge the hard work from several women in the Blue Bombers organization. A group that includes Carol Barrott, whose list of duties for the Blue and Gold surpass this column’s word count, as well as Rhéanne Marcoux, who handles all things content related for the Bombers and Valour Football Club.

Without further ado, let’s get into the latest edition of CFL Rundown, where I take a look back at the week that was in the three-down loop, with news, notes and analysis from across the CFL.

1) Let’s start off with the state of negotiations between the CFL and the CFL Player’s Association on a collective bargaining agreement for the 2022 season and beyond. I wasn’t surprised to hear Postmedia’s Danny Austin report last week there are no formal dates, as of yet, to meet. While the current CBA is set to expire on May 14, giving each side just more than two months to hash out their differences, there’s still plenty of time to get down to business.

2) And if history suggests anything, the longer the CFL and CFLPA spend at the bargaining table, the more likely things are to get messy. We saw this ahead of the 2019 season, with the CFL essentially picking up its ball and walking away early on, only for weeks to go by before they met again. Simply put: the more time there is to negotiate, the more time there is to play hardball.

3) Another reason for the delay in formalizing dates to start negotiating is the CFLPA had just wrapped up their annual general meeting in Vegas. It was during these meetings players voted on the CFLPA’s board of directors for the next two years. On that note, Solomon Elimimian returns as CFLPA president, with Ryan King (first vice-president), Henoc Muamba (second vice-president) and Adam Bighill (third vice-president) now in the mix. Peter Dyakowski (treasurer) and Brian Ramsay (executive director) are also back in for another term.

4) While I expect the season to start on time, meaning negotiations won’t be a reason to delay the season, I do think this is going to be a contentious negotiation. Both sides feel they have sacrificed plenty over the last couple years and so each side is motivated to “win” back what they feel they’ve lost. There will be plenty more to say on the topic in the coming weeks, but let’s hope things can get figured out sooner than later.

5) I’ve written in this column before I believe the CFL will push to have mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for all its players and team staff. This shouldn’t be too much of an issue, as nearly everyone in the league was fully vaccinated last year, and a majority of those who weren’t have since received the jab(s). But I wonder if the NFL and NFLPA announcing last week that they have agreed to suspend all aspects of the joint COVID-19 protocols will have any effect on these talks.

6) A greedy Saskatchewan hotel was forced to reverse their decision to cancel several room bookings after facing severe backlash from CFL fans who thought they had locked in their 2022 Grey Cup accommodations. The Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton Regina East Gate became the centre of controversy last week when they began cancelling reservations over Grey Cup week in Regina because they felt the rates weren’t high enough. And they did so without notifying the people who had booked the rooms.

7) Well, thanks to public pressure, including some from the local media, the hotel has since reversed its decision and guests are now able to rebook at the original rates. I can’t imagine the mess the hotel would have been in had this not come to light until much later, after the rooms had already been re-sold at a higher rate.

8) Jim Barker is back for a third stint with the Toronto Argonauts, this time as the team’s senior advisor, working alongside general manager Michael “Pinball” Clemons. This will be Barker’s third stint with the Double Blue, after serving previously as an assistant coach, head coach and GM. Barker was most recently a talking head on the CFL on TSN panel.

9) My confusion in all this is the timing. Why wouldn’t Barker come on prior to CFL free agency, and what does he make of the moves made by Clemons? Something tells me Barker is shaking his head at the contracts given to RB Andrew Harris, WR Brandon Banks and even DE Ja’Gared Davis, all of whom cashed in big following heart-to-heart conversations with the GM, despite being in the late stages of their careers.

10) Speaking of Harris, Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea broke his silence for the first time since the very public break up with the future Hall-of-Fame running back. As expected, O’Shea was scarce on the details, limiting his chat with CJOB 680 to calling Harris a “once-in-a-lifetime player” and that his absence this season will be a challenge for his team to overcome.

11) With COVID-19 cancelling the 2020 season and delaying the 2021 campaign, the Canadian Football Hall of Fame will be honouring the two classes together on June 17, in Hamilton. The 13 newest members will be honoured the day before the official start to the 2022 season, which begins with a date between the Tiger-Cats and Calgary Stampeders at Tim Hortons Field.

12) Offensive linemen Clyde Brock and Freddie Childress and quarterbacks Henry Burris and Greg Vavra make up the 2020 class of players. Calgary president/GM John Hufnagel, and former Saint Mary’s University coach/AD Larry Uteck (posthumously) will represent the builders. The ‘21 class members include defensive linemen Will Johnson and Mike Walker, receiver Nik Lewis and defensive backs Orlondo Steinauer and Don Wilson as players. Marv Levy, a former head coach in Montreal, and former CFL commissioner Doug Mitchell will be inducted as builders.

13) I had the chance to take in the Hall of Fame festivities when O’Shea was inducted in 2017, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Hamilton puts on a great show and the acceptance speeches often have the power to make you laugh and cry, making it well worth the price of admission.

14) Kudos to the Edmonton Elks for bringing back the EE on the helmets, after transitioning to the antlers design in 2021. Both are slick looks, but the EE maintains some of the team’s history, something that is very important to a committed and outspoken fanbase.

15) Victor Cui, the new team president in Edmonton, has done a great job recapturing some of the buzz lost around the Elks following a disastrous 2021 season. But I do have one beef. The club ran a 72-hour season ticket drive, selling off seats for as low as $99. Then a report comes out, backed by the Elks, that the team hit a franchise record for season tickets sold in a single day. Only they refused to release the numbers. Really?

16) Staying with Edmonton, GM/HC Chris Jones has added another big-name receiver, signing former NFLer Martavis Bryant. Bryant was with the Argonauts last year but never saw the inside of the locker room owing to “passport issues.” The Elks now have Bryant, Kenny Lawler, Derel Walker, Adarius Bowman and Manny Arceneaux all under contract, making for a very intriguing group of receivers.

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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