September 25, 2010
After CFL commissioner Mark Cohon's comments that the league wants to turn this week's Touchdown Atlantic festival into a "multi-year commitment", the speculation has already begun over who will be involved in the game next year. Terry Jones writes in today's Toronto Sun that two high-ranking anonymous CFL sources have told him the league is targeting Hamilton and Calgary (pictured above playing each other in a July 10 game) and the Tiger-Cats will be asked to give up a home date. Jones goes on to include some snippets from an interview with Cohon, who doesn't exactly shoot down the idea that Hamilton and Calgary might be targeted:
He wouldn't deny that Hamilton would likely be his first call to be the home team for the next one, the league buying out a Tiger-Cat home game to make it possible.
"We would be in conversation with several different teams but they would be in the running," was how he chose to phrase it.
The idea of bringing the Saskatchewan Roughriders here, he suggested, is difficult.
"If the Riders were here it would be all green."
It's believed the very visible presence of Calgary's Grey Cup group to be part of this party without having the Stampeders in the game would result in the Stampeders getting the first option to be the "visiting team" in the game.
"We'd definitely like to keep the East-West format," he said.
Confirmation of this likely won't happen for a while, as Cohon mentions in the same piece that even the existence of a Touchdown Atlantic game next year won't be officially announced until after the New Brunswick election Monday. The game is expected to be confirmed within 60 days, but it's unclear if the teams will be announced at that time as well. That may depend on how receptive the different franchises (and particularly the Tiger-Cats) are to the idea of a Calgary-Hamilton game.
Calgary - Hamilton might be a reasonably logical move, though. It probably makes more sense for Hamilton to give up a home game than anyone else. Cohon wants to keep the East-West clash, so the host should be an East Division team. Montreal usually sells out their games, so they wouldn't see a revenue bump (Dave Naylor reported in The Globe and Mail yesterday that the Argos are likely to see more gate revenue from this game than any of their true home dates). Winnipeg hasn't sold out every game this year, but their typical home attendance seems to be announced as 26,000-plus, while most Hamilton home games this year have been listed as 24,000 or less. Hamilton's also closer to Moncton, making travel and adjustment easier for the team.
For a western team, Calgary seems reasonably logical. As Cohon points out in Jones' piece, there isn't much point in putting Saskatchewan in this game, at least not yet; you'd really be giving the Riders an extra home game the way their fans travel, and you'd probably wind up with a lot of locals on the outside of the game looking in. Calgary will have some travelling support, but probably not enough to overwhelm locals or Hamilton fans. They're also a terrific team this year and look likely to be solid again next year, which adds to the appeal.
However, the B.C. Lions might be an even better choice. Mario Annicchiarico of the Edmonton Journal's piece yesterday on the Moncton party noted that many Eskimos fans had made the trip out East. Season-ticket holder Stuart Lee told Annicchiarico that large numbers of the Eskimos' travelling contingent are those who usually make the trip to the Grey Cup; Edmonton's hosting that party this year, so this way they still get to have their traditional road trip as well. B.C. is hosting the 2011 Grey Cup, so it might make sense to have the Lions as opposition; that could give their fans the same chance to travel.
Regardless of which teams are chosen, the almost-confirmation of a second Touchdown Atlantic event tells you a lot about how well this week's events have gone so far. As I wrote Friday, the locals seem to really be embracing the CFL. The relationship with high-school and university football has undoubtedly helped with that, and it's worth noting that those on-field offerings have been strong, too; underdogs Mount Allison hung on for a thrilling 23-21 win over Saint Mary's today in the CIS game in Moncton. There's much more to be done before talk of full expansion to Moncton becomes more than idle speculation, but the indications so far certainly bode well for the state of Canadian football in the Maritimes. We'll see how the big game goes tomorrow, but the week's events have already been very successful, and discussion of potential teams for Touchdown Atlantic II before the first game even kicks off definitely reflects that.