CFL ‘looking closely’ at the NHL plan for return to play in 2020

The Canadian Football League is watching and learning from the National Hockey League.

CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie has been paying close attention to the NHL leadership as Gary Bettman and the players’ association have finalized a 24-team playoff format.

“We’ve been in conversations and watching all of the leagues, trying to glean from them some of the insights that they may have. There would be no good reason, from my view, to ignore the work that’s being done by the other leagues,” Ambrosie told 630 CHED’s Morley Scott.”

“Obviously the NHL have a tremendous organization and if we can learn a lesson or two from what they’re attempting to do we will. The answer is we’re looking closely at what they’ve done and we do hope to take a lesson or two out of what they’ve put out at this point.”

The NHL paused its season on March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but are working towards a Phase 2 return in early June. Deputy commissioner Bill Daly released a 22-page memo on May 24 which included detailed protocols for potentially getting back on the ice. It sets forth the framework that will govern players and teams in the transition period following self-quarantine.

Meanwhile,  Ambrosie cancelled the national CFL combine as the coronavirus crisis hit full force. COVID-19 has put the league on pause and the earliest the CFL might return to play – for a shortened but meaningful season – is September due to COVID-19. The CFL has given the green light for teams across the league to reopen their facility doors.

“The size and scope of our rosters is a challenge. In dealing with a virus that is a contact virus and we play the ultimate contact sport, it presents some unique challenges. Not that those might not be able to be overcome, but all of those leagues are working in the big U.S. market with gigantic TV revenue deals that we simply don’t have,” Ambrosie said.

“One day we’d like to have – our 2.0 strategy is set to open the doors to longer term, bigger broadcast revenue streams. But for now the biggest challenge we face that’s unique is that our economics make it very difficult to think about playing without fans in the stands.”

The NHL is considering 10 cities as hubs and will ultimately choose two destinations who will host 12 teams each and likely one for the conference finals and Stanley Cup Final. The CFL is researching the hub city concept as well.

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