Regina native Jon Ryan believes the league has ‘forgotten’ what the ‘C’ stands for in ‘CFL’

Regina native Jon Ryan has watched the CFL become less Canadian in recent years.

The 39-year-old punter spent 12 years punting in the NFL between time in the three-down league with Winnipeg and Saskatchewan.

“Watching the CFL even over the last 15 years, I feel like they’ve forgotten a little bit sometimes what the ‘C’ stands for in ‘CFL,’” Ryan told Regina Leader-Post reporter Rob Vanstone.

“You’ll see them over and over again trying to take away jobs from Canadians by turning them into international jobs or increasing the ratio to have more Americans. There are things like that that I just find disappointing.”

Ryan punted 107 times for 3,783 yards — 48.8-yard average — with a long of 77 yards while playing all 18 regular season games for Saskatchewan. He was named a West Division all-star for his efforts in 2019 during his first season playing for his hometown team.

“I remember as a kid that my season ticket was $110. I had to raise $55 in the winter by shovelling walks and taking in bottles and cans. My parents matched the amount for my birthday,” Ryan said.

“I worry a lot, to be honest. I grew up watching the CFL. While I was playing in the NFL, I watched the CFL. I’m a huge CFL fan now when I’m playing. And when I retire, I don’t know if there’s going to be a CFL to be a fan of. That terrifies me.”

Recently CFL and XFL stakeholders agreed to work together to identify opportunities for innovating and growing the game of football. The Rock has stated he’s excited for the ‘unique opportunity’ the leagues ‘can potentially create together.’ Although, non-disclosure agreements have prevented even the players from knowing what’s going on.

“I don’t feel like they really gave us any information other than that there was going to be some type of partnership. As a huge fan of the CFL, it’s a little bit frustrating that we didn’t get more information,” Ryan said.

“As a guy who’s now on the business side of sports, I think it’s a genius move just to dangle that carrot in front of fans and not give them any information, because I’ve never heard so many people in Canada talking about the XFL.”

“I’ve never heard so many people in America talking about the CFL before, even though they gave us no information. As a marketing strategy, I think it was very smart.”

Dwayne Johnson, Dany Garcia, and RedBird Capital were selected as the winning bidders last August for all of the assets of Alpha Entertainment LLC, the parent company of the XFL. It cost $15 million and the goal is to make the XFL a stable league in the future, which could be aided by an arrangement with the CFL.

“I think there could be some kind of alliance without a merger. I have some partners who have something to do with the Dallas team (in the XFL) and they kind of talked to me like the agreement would be that the CFL would kind of share that on-field experience with broadcasting with the XFL,” Ryan said.

“And the XFL kind of would share some of the social media and some of the stuff they do on that side of it. They would kind of collaborate on some of those things to make it more powerful. Whatever it’s going to be, I’m not too sure, but I’m excited and frustrated at the same time.”

The original XFL lasted one full season in 2001 and just part of one season before the COVID-19 pandemic put their 2020 season on hold, which led to Vince McMahon filing for bankruptcy and selling to Johnson, Garcia, and RedBird Capital. Meanwhile, the Grey Cup has been awarded for over 100 years in Canada and the three-down league is trying to put football back on the field in 2021.

“I think the XFL has the potential to be a great league but, right now, some of the CFL teams are 100-plus years old and they’re potentially partnering with a league that has played one-and-a-half seasons over the last 20 years. It’s kind of an infant in terms of professional sports,” Ryan said.

“It’s kind of interesting that they would put their future hopes in that league. I don’t necessarily see them doing that. I would hate to see some kind of deal where the American game just eats up the Canadian game, because I don’t want to see that. I want to see Canadian football being played for a long time.”

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