Ottawa Redblacks’ CFL Players’ Association player representative Antoine Pruneau wants the three-down league to be more like the NHL.
Commissioner Gary Bettman has regularly communicated with NHL Players’ Association executive director Donald Fehr and the union. Pruneau wants more communication from Randy Ambrosie and the CFL to be flexible and adaptable with its return to play plan.
“When you look at the NHL, they always seem to present different plans. So why can’t the CFL be like: ‘We know it’ll be a struggle to play this year, so here are some of the options we thought about?'” Pruneau told Postmedia reporter Tim Baines.
“That’s something I don’t always hear from the CFL: ‘What’s the plan if we can’t have anybody in our stadiums?’ It would be easier for guys to accept less money to play if they knew there were plans in place; things like we might have a bubble for the first four weeks. If that kind of thing is not in place yet, that makes no sense to me.”
The NHL finished its last season using two hub cities in Toronto and Edmonton without any positive COVID-19 tests while the teams were playing down to a Stanley Cup champion, the Tampa Bay Lightning. Bettman and Fehr jointly announced the league’s return-to-play plan for a season in 2021, which had a shift to exclusively intradivisional play to reduce travel for the teams.
The CFL had chosen Winnipeg as its hub city for the 2020 season, however the board of governors voted against taking the field after the federal government denied a CFL-specific financial package. There has been a full 2021 schedule released by the league, but no concrete plans on how returning to play could be executed.
“That, to me, is the biggest problem. At least come up with Plan A and Plan B, let us know what’s going to happen, then we can make decisions when it comes to our contracts,” Pruneau said.
“All we’ve been presented is the Cinderella story where everything goes according to plan: Everything will be back to normal, we’re going to play in our own stadiums, we’ll get 18 games, there will be pre-season games; everything will be fine.”
The 2014 first-round CFL draft pick has played six seasons in the CFL. Pruneau has suited up in 93 games, making 321 tackles, 56 special teams stops, nine interceptions, four forced fumbles and four sacks while scoring one defensive touchdown. He wants the chance to add to his game total and play pro football again in the future.
“I’m optimistic there’s going to be a season, I don’t know if it will be the exact format that’s been announced. But in terms of communication, I’d say it’s still not where it needs to be,” Pruneau said.
“There needs to be more meetings, more honesty. Maybe they’re not hiding anything, but when I look at other leagues, they seem a bit clearer about what’s going to happen.”