In aftermath of the Calgary Stampeders winning the 106th Grey Cup, the slippery field conditions at Commonwealth Stadium have been a rallying cry for those arguing in favour of moving the CFL season up even further.
Their case rests on the belief that if the season kicked off earlier, the skating rink that diminished the ability of both teams to perform and execute to the best of their abilities would have been avoided.
But here’s the thing, arguing that an earlier start would have prevented the icy field conditions exonerates the league and the Edmonton Eskimos organization for failing to maintain the field. Their guilt should not be overlooked, ignored or forgotten.
From the league’s side, how did they fail to consider the possibility of a slippery playing surface in Edmonton at the end of November? At bare minimum there should have been some kind of contingency plan to cover and heat the field.
If the NFL can throw an outdoor Super Bowl in New York in February without an issue, and if places like Green Bay, Chicago, Buffalo, New England and Pittsburgh can regularly host games in December and January without it looking like players are on roller skates, how can the CFL fail to do the same for their marquee matchup?
Surely the cost of a few tarps and heaters would be offset by the spectacle of the league’s two best teams putting on a show worthy of a national audience on the game’s brightest stage. Instead, fans across Canada and the US were treated to a comedy of errors as players repeatedly fell down and struggled to maintain their balance.
As for the Eskimos, only six days before they were scheduled to host the Grey Cup, Commonwealth Field was covered under a layer of snow.
The #Esks organization donated 50 Grey Cup tickets to various youth organizations today, including: Kids Up Front, Capital District Minor Football Association, Multicultural Health Brokers Co-operative, and Amiskwaciy Academy! pic.twitter.com/8LOnPb62Jp
— Edmonton Eskimos (@EdmontonEsks) November 19, 2018
That’s an inexplicable oversight. It certainly doesn’t seem like the Eskimos put much effort into maintaining the field following the conclusion of their regular season.
Let’s circle back to the argument that an earlier start to the season would have avoided the entire situation. In theory that sounds plausible. In reality, it’s bogus. If you go into October, there are still no guarantees the weather is better. Don’t forget that it regularly snows in Alberta in September.
Plus, if you do move the season up a month in hopes of avoiding inclement weather, you run into a slew of issues at the front end. You immediately have conflicts with the NHL Playoffs, NBA Playoffs, go up against the MLB season for a longer period of time and have more weekends where people could be up a cottage.
Not to mention, more significantly, the impact an earlier start would have on the CFL draft. It couldn’t be held before the NFL draft, especially not when more Canadians than ever are making the jump south. Also, rookies wouldn’t be able to report to training camps as they’d still be writing their final exams.
Furthermore, moving the season up kills any possibility of the Vanier Cup ever being paired with Grey Cup weekend again. The USports football season starts when classes start, the beginning of September. That’s not a flexible date.
The main point is that the date the game was played wasn’t the issue. After all, Grey Cups have taken place for decades in November without the field being a problem. The real issue is that the CFL and the Eskimo organization dropped the ball when they neglected to plan ahead and properly care for the field.