‘It’s not even a maybe, it’s a for sure’: Riders’ head coach Craig Dickenson believes Stampeders, Elks gained competitive advantage due to CFL strike

Photo courtesy: CFL

A little jealousy between brothers is nothing new, but Saskatchewan Roughriders’ head coach Craig Dickenson currently has a very valid reason to be envious of his brother Dave.

While the Riders weathered four days of inactivity during the CFL’s player strike, the Calgary Stampeders and their head coach Dave Dickenson were able to stay on the field thanks to Alberta labour laws. In the eyes of his sibling, that gives the Stamps and their provincial counterpart the Edmonton Elks a significant leg up on the seven other CFL teams.

“There’s no doubt they got an advantage. It’s not even a maybe, it’s a for sure. They got essentially a full week on everybody else,” Craig Dickenson said in an appearance on The SportsCage in Regina Thursday.

Seven CFL franchises saw their players go on strike ahead of the opening of training camp last Sunday, after the league and the Canadian Football League Players’ Association failed to reach a deal on a new collective bargaining agreement. The two Alberta teams were scheduled to walk off the job and join the rest of the league in a work stoppage on Thursday afternoon, but the CFLPA signed a memorandum of understanding on a proposed CBA Wednesday night.

The strike ended without either the Elks or Stampeders missing a practice, while the rest of the league is stuck playing catch-up.

“Like the weather, you can only control what you can control and that was out of our hands,” Dickenson said. “We think it’s going to even out in the long run, but I think definitely for the first month of the season you’ll see a team in Edmonton and Calgary that has maybe a touch more polish because that extra week of practice does make a big difference.”

The Riders finally got back on the field Thursday for a walkthrough, but it will take some time to get up to full speed. The CFL has already rescheduled the team’s first pre-season game, originally slated for Monday, May 23, to allow for more prep time and Dickenson is staying on the safe side with his practice planning for the first few days.

“We’ll do our best to put them in a competitive situation safely,” he said. “You’ve got to respect the fact that they’re coming off of four days of sitting around, where Edmonton and Calgary have been moving and working out and practicing for four or five days. We’ve got to make sure we approach this thing cautiously from an injury standpoint.”

Nevertheless, the Riders’ bench boss is thrilled to see the strike come to an end and allow everyone to get back to business.

“Nobody likes sitting around and I think players and coaches alike were getting a little bit frustrated,” Dickenson admitted. “I was really happy to see the two sides come together and come to an agreement.”