April 23, 2021

Return To Play? Hufnagel’s Take

On Wednesday April 21st, the CFL announced that they start of the season would be delayed, with a new start date of August 5th being announced.

The following afternoon, Stampeders President and General Manager John Hufnagel spent time fielding questions from some members of the local media. We’ve compiled some of his top quotes from the conference below:

When were you aware about the change?

Well, I knew a few days before since I’m on the management council and there have been many, many discussions on how to pursue things. I’m ambivalent about the decision, I would rather have our season start on time, but the climate won’t allow it. I think an August 5th start is a very realistic start date, very prudent and very well thought out. Fingers crossed that people will keep getting vaccinated and doing the right things as far as the protocols to beat this thing and we can get back on the field and get fans back in the stands.

How many fans need to be in the stands to make it feasible?

It all depends on what your definition of what feasible is. We’re going to lose money, but that’s not the issue. The issue is, we need some fans in the stands. There hasn’t been a whole lot of revenue coming into the Stampeders football club for over a year and we are a fan driven league. I know our ownership, along with all other ownerships in the CFL, is very very committed to play football this year.

A percentage of fans necessary?

There’s not really anything definite about a number. We want as many as possible. Our fans would like to have as many as possible. I think we’ll be given permission to have enough to get done what we need to get done.

What communication has been provided to players?

First of all, Dave Dickenson, our head coach, has sent out a couple letters previously explaining what the situation is based on what we knew at that time. Dave and I will be sending out a note to players tomorrow to tell them about the new start date, about the day of training camp, the day of travel, the end of training camp and some information about the possibility of isolation and quarantining, which really hasn’t been mandated or agreed upon by health officials yet.

What has the province asked of you?

The province has our return to play protocols and also fans in the stands protocols, so to speak. They’ve been very receptive on both of those, so I don’t think there’s a problem with what we are planning. They just have to feel comfortable with giving us the green light on it.

Are you concerned about players choosing not to come for a shortened season?

I’m always concerned about that. Players have reached out to Dave and I about the situation and what should they do. Some players have the opportunity to take a high school coaching job and that coach needs a decision, so I’m very concerned about it. I’m just going to go with the flow. We’re going to play football and we’ll play with the players that are comfortable with being here.

What is your level of certainty football will be played in 2021?

I’m comfortable with saying that it looks possible and very realistic, but if we get another downturn on this thing, it’s out of our control. Truthfully, the CFL ownership is doing as much as they can and everything they can to get us back on the field but we have to follow protocols and get permissions.