Zurkowsky: Sad day for CFL, but Als co-owner Gary Stern has eyes on 2021

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For Cecchini and Maciocia, both hired a week after the ownership announcement, it’s business as usual.

Maciocia has a team to run. Players will still become free agents in February. There will be a Canadian college draft next April, although universities in Ontario, western and Atlantic Canada have already cancelled their seasons. And there are 32 NFL teams at training camps who expect to play this season. Players will be released, some of whom might find their way to Canada.

Cecchini’s mandate is equally as challenging, if not greater. Cecchini, whose background is in broadcasting, knows he must keep the Als visible and relevant, an onerous task considering the momentum the team gained in 2019, when it made the playoffs following four years of futility, might have been lost.

There are tickets to sell and sponsorship deals that must be signed. Remember, this is a team, in the final stages of ownership under the father and son tandem of Robert and Andrew Wetenhall, that lost at least $9 million annually when it did play. While Cecchini said Telus, one of the Als’ major sponsors, has already confirmed its intention to return in 2021, work remains.

“I think we’ll be in a strange situation,” he admitted. “It won’t make it easier but, at the same time, we were in such a good vibe people may just be looking forward to us coming back. Sometimes if you miss something a little, you appreciate it more afterward. We’ll work damn hard to pick up where we left it.”

This, of course, assumes the health crisis will be over in the coming months and the Als will be able to play at Molson Stadium, in front of thousands of fans. Stern believes that will be the case, while admitting COVID-19 exposed many warts in the CFL’s business model.

“If the virus doesn’t go away, we’re all going to have much bigger worries than just the CFL, aren’t we?” Stern said.



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