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The Canadian Olympic Committee’s landmark decision to pull our athletes from the Tokyo Olympic Games is having international ramifications, with Australia and, eventually, one would think, the International Olympic Committee following suit.
But what about within our own borders?
If Canadian athletes won’t be going for gold in the summer, what might the COVID-19 situation mean to fans of the Canadian Football League who are looking forward to the kickoff of training camps in the spring?
The Edmonton Eskimos aren’t speaking publicly.
“Unfortunately, we are still on a standstill,” was the reply from their communications department when asked if they would be taking interviews this week.
They weren’t last week, when they directed a similar request on to the league, itself. Postmedia Edmonton is still waiting to hear back on that one, while further correspondence sent to the CFL communications department Monday afternoon was again met with no reply.
To be fair, things have been moving rather rapidly over the past week. For everyone.
Perhaps the reason for the ongoing standstill is the league and its member clubs simply don’t have much to offer in the way of answers. And it’s quite likely they have even more questions of their own that need to be figured out first.
As it stands, training camps are scheduled to open across the league May 17, with the regular season kicking off June 11, when the B.C. Lions are set to visit Commonwealth Stadium.
But that was before the COC’s decision adjusted the timeline of their Canadian athletes to beyond the summer, with their push to have these Olympics postponed until 2021. Now it’s at a point where the question isn’t if the 2020 CFL season will be able to go ahead as scheduled, but if it will even go at all.
“Looking at other sports right now, as a league, the CFL, we’re kind of in a wait-and-see,” said Spruce Grove’s Mark Korte, who was drafted off the University of Alberta Golden Bears offensive line by the Ottawa Redblacks with the fourth-overall draft pick in 2018. “You look at the pro sports in the U.S. and you look at the Canadian Olympic team taking a leadership role in that, and it’s good to see them doing it. It’s good to see them taking things seriously and putting the health of the athletes first.
“In terms of the impact on spring training camp, it’s hard to say what’s going to happen, but it certainly isn’t a beacon of hope to see the MLB pushing their season back and the Canadian Olympic team saying they’re not going, and that’s at the end of July. You follow the news and every day, things change.”
Except, it seems, for the National Football League. With its regular season not getting underway until September, it’s been the last bastion of normalcy for national sports networks looking to report on the day-to-day happenings.
“And that’s really good,” Korte said. “It’s good to see the NFL still rolling forward with free agency and you see guys signing contracts. It’s business as usual for them.
“And I don’t know what it will be for their OTAs (organized team activities), that’s probably still a ways away for them, and all their mini-camps and stuff.”
The northern league hasn’t been as fortunate with its off-season, as its regional combines in Toronto, Montreal and Edmonton this month, as well as the CFL combine they funneled into scheduled for this weekend in Toronto, were cancelled.
Last week, the same happened to Golden Bears offensive lineman Carter O’Donnell’s pro day inside the Foote Field dome, which had representatives from eight NFL clubs and all nine CFL teams lined up.
“It’s tough to see pro days getting cancelled and CFL combines getting cancelled,” said Korte, who held the U of A’s first NFL pro day in 2018 with the Washington Redskins and Eskimos in attendance. “It’s tough for all those guys that are going into the drafts. I feel bad for them because you only get one year in your life that you get to do it. Next year, there’s going to be all new guys, so it’s kind of just a loss, honestly. It’s too bad.”
Everyone in this year’s draft class can attest.
“That’s kind of your one shot to show yourself off and it sucks because, through no fault of your own, you kind of get the rug pulled out from under you and it’s just a harsh reality,” Korte said. “On the plus side, and Carter and I spoke about it too, you’re not really falling behind anybody if you’re missing the combine because everybody’s in the same boat.
“But it’s really tough to work for it for months and years and kind of have that shot not there. As unfortunate as it is, ultimately, teams are still going to need players and guys will still get chances in training camp, and stuff. It’s just tough to have a pro day or a combine taken away.
“I can’t imagine going through it. I’m thankful it’s not me, in all honesty.”
On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge
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