Ontario sport minister Lisa MacLeod can see a pathway for the Canadian Football League to play in 2021.
After the three-down league cancelled its season in 2020, franchises and players are working to hit the field this year. Dr. Dhiren Naidu, the man who led the NHL’s return to play in Canada, has helped the two sides submit a health proposal to multiple levels of government.
“They have proposals in, I believe, at the health table right now. We have made provisions for professional sports in the past, so I can see that if we get to a stage where they can safely return to play, that I could be optimistic there,” McLeod said.
McLeod has been in consistent contact with Ottawa Redblacks president Mark Goudie, the leader of the Toronto Argonauts, Bill Manning, and Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ chief executing officer Scott Mitchell. She has reiterated her support to Mitchell if “some type” of Grey Cup is executed in the Hammer.
“I’m very partial to the Grey Cup, I think it exemplifies what this ministry is — it’s heritage, sport, tourism and culture. And so that’s something that we’re looking at,” McLeod said.
“We continue to have open dialogue with all of our professional sports organizations because we recognize it’s not only about a return to play for them, it’s also part of our economy.”
The NHL gained approval for the North Division to compete in Canada this year. McLeod noted the 600 page document submitted by the league and players had every last detail — COVID-19 testing, high level sanitation, types of vehicles used for travel, and when people would be permitted inside the facilities.
“The NHL has definitely set the threshold. And so we continue to encourage people to look at that threshold,” McLeod said.
That’s exactly why the CFL and union enlisted the services of Dr. Dhiren Naidu. He has a unique knowledge of what it took for the municipal, provincial, and federal governments to give the green light for professional athletes to play in Canada.
The Toronto Raptors set the precedent at the onset of the pandemic as the Dinos practiced at the OVO Athletic Centre last May prior to entering the NBA’s bubble at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex located inside Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.
Fortunately for the CFL, the NHL and NBA have provided blueprints to follow. McLeod will monitor the league’s progress and remain open to dialogue, which could lead to football being played in 2021.