Calgary Stampeders’ president and general manager John Hufnagel spoke to the media on Wednesday and indicated that his team is managing the COVID-19 pandemic comfortably from a financial standpoint.
“At this time, we’re comfortable. Being an owner of a CFL team isn’t a bonanza-type of business in the first place. Obviously you want to be able to pay your bills and save for a rainy day and we’re still on that schedule,” said Hufnagel.
Calgary sold an average of almost 23,500 tickets per game this season, though it was clear many customers didn’t redeem their tickets amid concerns regarding COVID-19. The club sold an average of just over 27,000 tickets per game in 2019, meaning attendance decreased by 13 percent per game coming out of the pandemic.
“Obviously, COVID is the reason for all this mess, so to speak. How much is COVID going to affect the future? I’m not quite sure. I’m hoping that by next spring everything is clean but I’m not holding out for that, that’s for sure,” said Hufnagel.
“How much confidence — this is the thing — are people going to have to get back sitting next to people that they really don’t hang out with? We’re all hoping that that does take place, but until we see it we’re under that little bit of a dark cloud, so to speak.”
The CFL reportedly lost $60 to $80 million in 2020 following the cancellation of its season with the league’s three community-owned teams — Edmonton, Saskatchewan, and Winnipeg — losing a combined $21.6 million. It was assumed that teams would lose money again in 2021, though playing a season would help mitigate those losses.
The Stampeders were eliminated in the first round of the CFL playoffs for the second consecutive season following a 33-30 double overtime loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the West Semi-Final. The club has a long list of potential free agents to deal with, including up-and-coming quarterback Jake Maier.
Hufnagel was also asked how much longer he’d like to remain in his role as the president and general manager of the Stampeders. At 70, there isn’t much left for the four-time Grey Cup champion and Canadian Football Hall of Fame inductee to accomplish.
“I’m not a member of a golf course yet, so there you go,” said Hufnagel with a laugh.
The Stampeders have gone 163-64-3 in the regular season since Hufnagel took over as the team’s head coach and general manager in 2008 with seven first-place finishes in the West Division and three Grey Cups. He relinquished head coaching duties to Dave Dickenson when he took over as president in 2016, though he remains the club’s general manager.