The preseason in the Canadian Football League is a special time when fans celebrate the league’s return to the field, and this season, it was cause for an even bigger celebration after the way things have gone over the past two years. Now that it’s over, fans are looking forward to seeing their rosters take the field in week one, or week two if you happen to be a Toronto Argonauts fan. But first, let’s take a look back at three winners, and three losers from the preseason.
Winner – Edmonton Elks Big Time Crowd
Let’s start with a good story. Attendance in the preseason has been a big conversation for fans around the league, but that’s nothing new. Preseason games for any league are not typically well attended, after all, the quality of football dips noticeably in the second half of games, and oftentimes, they aren’t overly entertaining, to begin with. But the Edmonton Elks found a way to change that, reportedly selling over 35,000 tickets for their preseason game against the Calgary Stampeders on Friday night.
The crowd that filled Commonwealth Stadium likely wasn’t quite as big as that, but still, it was an impressive attendance nonetheless. The Elks used the game as their “Stand With Ukraine” game, fitting as there is a large Ukrainian population in Edmonton.
The entire event had fans singing the praise of Victor Cui, the Elks president and CEO, who is just in his first season with the team. After a pair of seasons left fans disappointed both on and off the field, Cui has stepped up looking to repair both, and the relationship the team has with their fans, particularly those who stayed away after the name change. So far, he has done a remarkable job, and fans, not just of the Elks, but the CFL as a whole, should be excited to see what they have in store for the rest of the season, and beyond.
Loser – That Dang Siren the Alouettes Use
The Montreal Alouettes didn’t make too many friends during their home game on Friday night, when they continuously played a siren when their opponent got to second down. The siren is a mashup of just about any loud sound people find annoying, complete with police sirens from various places around the globe, car alarms, and probably millions of other horrible sounds.
It’s honestly surprising that this wasn’t a trending topic on Twitter during the game. Maybe that’s just because CFL fans outside of the Ottawa and Montreal basees were paying attention to their own games with four other teams playing at the same time, and two more waiting for their start. Those who did watch the game, however, weren’t fans of the apocalyptic alarm.
For the betterment of fans watching on their television every week, we are hoping the Alouettes see their mistake and remove the siren from their games, or if that doesn’t happen, hopefully, the CFL lays down the law and bans the thing. This is not entirely serious, of course, but that siren sucks and should never be played again. That part was serious.
Winner – Young, Emerging Quarterbacks
One of the biggest concerns in football is always the play of quarterbacks, and in the CFL, there has been a lack of young, emerging players in the past handful of seasons. During the preseason, we got a glimpse into what the future could be, with numerous players around the league stepping up to the plate and impressing. We saw Jamie Newman play well enough to earn the lone quarterback on our CFL Team of the Week, Michael O’Connor and Nathan Rourke turned in solid performances for the Lions, Dru Brown showed some flash for the Blue Bombers, and the Redblacks saw Tyrie Adams come out and play while Caleb Evans has already been called the future of the franchise.
But still, there was more. The Edmonton Elks used a first-round pick on Tre Ford, and he showed some serious potential, both with his arm, and his legs. Mason Fine might need some more time to develop, but he looks like a decent option for the Riders as of now. Chad Kelly looks like he could start in the CFL this season if needed, and of course, who could forget about Jake Maier in Calgary?
Everywhere you look around the league, there’s a player that you can look at and say they have at least a chance of becoming a starter in the CFL at some point. That is important, with some of the league’s top pivots starting to get older. There will come a day when Bo Levi Mitchell, Zach Collaros, Jeremiah Masoli, McLeod Bethel-Thompson, and Trevor Harris are done with football, and having these young players who can come be the next stars in the league is critical. Finally, it seems like we have that again.
Loser – Kwaku Boateng’s Potential Season-Ending Injury
Every season, there’s always a player or two who suffers a season-ending injury during training camp, and every season, it’s hard to stomach for everyone, but especially for the player who trained all offseason. This season, it was Ottawa Redblacks Canadian defensive end, Kwaku Boateng. Boateng came to Ottawa looking for a bounceback season and was excited to get going with a veteran defensive group led by defensive coordinator Mike Benevides. During practice ahead of their game against Toronto, Boateng suffered a lower-body injury, that could be season-ending.
Boateng’s decision to sign with the Redblacks was an easy one, as he described it as a “no brainer,” thanks largely to his distance to home. Additionally, it was a place where he felt he could bounce back after a bit of a down season in 2021.
It seemed like a bit of a match made in heaven for both Boateng, who would have had the chance to show what he can do, and for the Redblacks who were in need of some help in the pass rush, but it wasn’t to be. A freak injury stole his season away, and it stole one of Shawn Burke’s prized free agency additions off the field. No one wins here, and it’s incredibly unfortunate that this is part of football.
Winner – The Entire CFL
Just two weeks ago, everyone in the CFL, including the fans, was sitting around wondering if there would be games at all. The question wasn’t about who was going to make the team or who would be the surprise cut, it was all about the Collective Bargaining Agreement. With just hours to go before football was scheduled to be played, there was still no deal, and it looked increasingly likely that there would be another strike, possibly killing the season before it ever got started.
Thankfully, a deal was hammered out at the 11th hour, and football was played the very next day. It was a scary time for players, owners, and fans alike, who all just wanted to be back on the field, and disaster was very narrowly avoided. It’s a scary conversation to have to talk about what could have happened if the season was delayed, but thankfully, we didn’t have to have it.
Everyone in the business is better off with games being played. The players are getting their game cheques, owners are making their money from tickets and concessions, and fans get to watch their favourite team and put life on the side for a few hours a week. For as bad as it was, it could have been a lot worse.
Loser – Nine General Managers
No matter the league, sport, or level, training camp and the preseason provide players both a chance to impress, and equally, a chance to disappoint. This year in the CFL was no exception, and across the league, there are difficult choices to be made. All nice general managers will have been stressing about their cuts, and who can blame them?
There have been numerous players with name recognition around the league handed the pink slip, meaning they will be searching for a new job ahead of the regular season. Some of those include B.J. Cunningham and Trumaine Washington for the Ottawa Redblacks, Quan Bray and Krishawn Hogan for the Montreal Alouettes, Adrian Tracey for the Toronto Argonauts, and Paul McRoberts for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Some of these players will land on their feet somewhere in the CFL sooner rather than later. For the general managers, however, these were moves that needed to be made, even though some of these players are more than good enough to be on opening day rosters. Cut down day is always hard, and there are always difficult decisions to be made, but you never want to have to cut a player who could help out your roster.
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