It wouldn't be the CFL playoffs without some weather storylines, and there's one brewing in Edmonton ahead of Sunday's game between the hometown Eskimos and the Saskatchewan Roughriders. The media at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium Friday for the Eskimos' practice sent out a few interesting tweets and photos of how much snow is in the stands, and what the maintenance crews are doing about it:
It's interesting that they're going with the approach of sanding the stadium rather than shoveling all the snow out, but hey, shoveling snow out of the Edmonton stands hasn't always worked well before. Sanding it down should hopefully make it safe enough for fans, and at least snow on walkways isn't exactly abnormal for Edmonton in November, so it's not like people won't be used to it. Still, this game doesn't sound like it will be played in the friendliest of conditions, especially as Sunday's weather forecast is for a high of -7 degrees Celsius and a low of -14. That's slightly warmer than things were Friday (high of -11, low of -18), but it's still awfully cold. That might help explain why ticket sales have been reasonably slow for a playoff game, with only 24,000 sold earlier this week.
It's going to be notable to see not just how many people turn up to Commonwealth (capacity: 56,302) Sunday, but which team they're cheering for. The Roughriders have what's probably the league's highest road support in general, and that may be exarcerbated Sunday, given that Edmonton's only a seven-and-a-half hour drive away from Regina (and a five-hour drive from Saskatoon). There have been substantial Saskatchewan turnouts at Commonwealth before, prompting the Eskimos' dubious move to call Rider fans "horrible human beings" in a radio ad earlier this year. If we see a huge influx of Saskatchewan fans again Sunday, it may not be just the cold that makes things tough for the Eskimos.
Regardless of the fan balance in the stands, though, the weather could have an impact on both teams. Throwing and catching the ball is exceptionally difficult when it's below freezing, and that's not going to get easier with both teams expected to start backup quarterbacks. Edmonton's passing offence has been decent this year, while Saskatchewan's has been awful, so cold weather may prove a bit of an equalizer there. At least both teams have powerful run games, so offence hopefully won't be missing entirely. No matter how it plays out on the field, though, this could be an entertaining one, and the cold and weather might help make it even more interesting for the warm TV viewers at home (as we discussed about weather-affected games on the first 55-Yard Line Podcast), perhaps creating some crazy plays (as we saw in Snow Bowl III a few weeks back). It may not be pleasant for players, coaches and fans there in person, though.