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January 9, 2018

Winter meetings heat up CFL off-season

Photo by Mark Shannon

It’s another important milestone in the Canadian Football League off-season this week as the presidents and general managers meetings are held in Banff.

John Hufnagel, who holds both positions for the Stampeders, will be representing the Red and White.

As usual, there will be much discussion on matters involving both on-field matters as well as the business side of the league over the course of the meetings. While no policy can be made this week, the meetings are an important step in the process that leads to proposals that are presented to the board of governors later in the off-season and put to a vote.

While the board of governors could reject the proposals, the reality is the vast majority of suggestions get approved.

In recent years, examples of the changes that have been bloomed at these off-season meetings include modifications to instant replay, moving the line of scrimmage for extra points back 20 yards and adding an “eye in the sky” video official to help the on-field crew get calls right.

While the significance of this week’s meetings won’t be known until the formal proposals are prepared for presentation to the board of governors, there still figures to be news and hot-stove chatter coming out of Banff.

That’s because for the first time, at the bidding of new commissioner Randy Ambrosie, the media has been invited to meetings. That will give a chance to reporters to ask general managers and the commissioner about the some of the hot topics of the off-season including the earlier start to the season as revealed by last month’s schedule release, updates on negotiations with pending free agents and all the quarterback activity this winter with the trades of James Franklin and Zach Collaros and the possibility former Heisman Trophy Johnny Manziel will come to the CFL.

In another reminder of how small the world of professional football can be, especially in a nine-team league like the CFL, the 2018 presidents and general managers meetings will create some interesting interpersonal dynamics.

For instance, new BC Lions general manager Ed Hervey will be face-to-face with Brock Sunderland, the man who replaced him in Edmonton. Hervey will also be reunited with his former head coach with the Eskimos – Kavis Reed, now the Montreal Alouettes GM.

In addition, Ottawa RedBlacks general manager Marcel Desjardins renews acquaintances with Sunderland, his former assistant, while Hufnagel catches up with Chris Jones, the former Stamps defensive coordinator who now runs football operations for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

The meetings get underway Tuesday night.