WINNIPEG—It seems that one of the CFL's most interesting sideline traditions won't be seen at this Grey Cup after all, as the Ottawa Redblacks' Algonquin Loggersports Team will reportedly not be allowed to perform on the sidelines.
The lumberjack team is typically present for Ottawa home games, sawing off a "cookie" of wood after home touchdowns, and the Redblacks and the CFL worked hard this week to get them set up on the Grey Cup sidelines. That was apparently nixed by the Edmonton Eskimos, though, as Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG, which owns the Redblacks) president of sports Jeff Hunt told CTV Ottawa Saturday the initial decision to allow the group had been overturned following an Edmonton protest:
The Canadian Football League’s decision to allow the Algonquin Loggersports Team to do the traditional cutting of the wood cookie was overturned on Saturday.
“Edmonton felt that it was a competitive disadvantage for them and their team and essentially protested and the league had to concede to neutral playing ground,” said Jeff Hunt, OSEG’s manager of sports.
It came as a shock to the chainsaw crew who received the news while waiting to board their flight to Winnipeg.
“If in fact it is the case, it would be very disappointing for our student athletes who are very excited to have this opportunity, but at the end of the day, they will be thrilled to be at the Grey Cup and hopefully something will work out,” said Jamie Bramburger, Manager, Student & Community Affairs, Pembroke Campus at Algonquin College.
The Loggersports team and their chainsaws have been set up at every home game for the past two years. When the Redblacks score a touchdown, they slice the cedar, sending the wood chips flying in the air.
“I think the Grey Cup is about a lot of things and I know it’s a competitive game but it’s also fun and really that’s what that’s all about is it’s a fun tradition we have that we would have like to take to the Grey Cup but unfortunately it’s not meant to be,” said Hunt.
While "neutral ground" sounds fine in theory, it isn't usually applied in practice in the Grey Cup. Many teams' sideline traditions have been allowed in the past, including the Stampeders' touchdown horse in 2012 (although it could only stand in the corner, as there wasn't deemed to be enough room on the sidelines for the typical post-touchdown gallop). That's probably why the league was okay with this in the first place; team traditions only add to the overall atmosphere of the Grey Cup. The Redblacks' sideline logging fits with their overall embrace of the region's logging history, which is present in most of what they do (and usually in plaid), and it's a cool celebration that fans like to see. The Eskimos' protest seems rather mean-spirited; how, exactly, is a group of plaid-claid lumberjacks going to hurt Edmonton's on-field play? Plenty on Twitter, including TSN's Chris Cuthbert, weren't thrilled with this decision:
CFL should have allowed the Ottawa loggers on the sidelines. They provide no competitive advantage but enhance game atmosphere. #GC103.— Chris Cuthbert (@CCtsn) November 28, 2015
CFL allows Calgary Horse when Stamps are in Grey Cup but wont allow Ottawa Loggers after Edmonton complains!!!— Dean Brown (@PxPOttawa) November 28, 2015
CFL has chopped the RedBlacks Loggers!!!! wont allow them to saw logs after Ottawa TDs because Eskimos complained its supposed to be neutral— Dean Brown (@PxPOttawa) November 28, 2015
Maybe the problem is that Edmonton doesn't have their own wacky sideline tradition to counter with, instead employing an anthropomorphic football and a polar bear (both of which will be there, though). If only they'd gotten on with developing one instead of protesting here? You never know, though; initial blockades have been overturned before after public backlash, so perhaps the lumberjacks are the new Marty the Horse. They just need a good social media campaign. Perhaps #LetThemSaw?