Hufnagel on player vaccination status: ‘I’m not going to sign a player that can only play home games’

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

Calgary Stampeders’ president and general manager John Hufnagel doesn’t seem keen on the possibility of having unvaccinated players under contract for the 2022 season.

The 70-year-old was asked in his year-end media availability on Wednesday if vaccination status would play a role in who the club chooses to re-sign before free agency gets underway in February 2022.

“I’m not going to sign a player that can only play home games,” said Hufnagel via videoconference. He did not elaborate further on the subject.

The federal government introduced new regulations on Nov. 30 barring all unvaccinated individuals from air travel nationwide. This means that unvaccinated players are ineligible to travel for the upcoming East and West Finals as well as the Grey Cup on Dec. 12.

The travel restrictions do not have a set expiration date, which means they will likely remain in effect by the time players report to training camp in 2022. There is a separate regulation being introduced federally on Jan. 15 that will prevent all unvaccinated athletes from entering the country.

TSN reported in late October that the Stampeders had “five or six key players” who remained unvaccinated. Though it’s believed that some of these individuals got vaccinated before the postseason, head coach Dave Dickenson indicated that his team would have been without some of their players had they advanced to the West Final due to the travel restriction on unvaccinated individuals.

Calgary finished the 2021 season with an 8-6 record despite a 2-5 start, though they were eliminated from the playoffs following a 33-30 loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the West Semi-Final. This marks the second consecutive season in which the Stamps did not advance beyond the first round of the postseason.

The Stampeders have a huge list of pending free agents, which isn’t uncommon given the current landscape of the CFL and the prevalence of one-year contracts. Hufnagel indicated that the team will look to begin negotiating extensions shortly with the hope of finalizing a number of deals early in the new year.

“It’s a task, it’s not easy. We’re at work already making the plan of attack, so to speak, and start early next week calling the agents or the players depending on how they choose to do negotiations. I don’t want to be too early with it but I want to have a lot of work done so beginning in January we can get some player names on some contracts,” said Hufnagel.

Hufnagel served as the head coach and general manager of the Stampeders for eight seasons (2008-15), producing a 102-41-1 record, four first-place West Division finishes, and two Grey Cups (2008, 2014).

He became the team’s president in 2016 when he relinquished the role of head coach, though he remains general manager. The team has gone 61-23-2 over five seasons since with three first-place West Division finishes and one Grey Cup (2018).

Ryan Ballantine is a lifelong Stamps fan and host of the Horsemen Radio Podcast. He has been covering the team since 2008.