Residents of Nova Scotia grasping for something to look forward to in the wake of the devastating weekend killing rampage and grim COVID-19 statistics may not be able to turn to the mid-summer Touchdown Atlantic football game.
“The CFL is evaluating its season and is expected to have a press release in the next couple of weeks,” said Bruce Bowser, chairman of the Touchdown Atlantic 2020 steering committee and a founding partner of Schooners Sports and Entertainment, the group that hopes to bring a Canadian Football League team and stadium to the Halifax area.
“The game virtually sold out overnight so I know we all want to keep the momentum going for CFL in Atlantic Canada,” Bowser said of the July 25 regular-season game scheduled for Huskies Stadium in Halifax between the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Toronto Argonauts.
The game was to be preceded by a three-day mini-Grey Cup festival of music, parties and family-friendly fun.
All 10,000 seats at the stadium on Saint Mary’s University campus, including about 6,000 temporary seats, sold out in a single day after being made available to the public in early March.
Two weeks ago, however, league commissioner Randy Ambrosie sent out a statement saying the CFL, like Canadians everywhere, are striving to meet today’s pandemic challenges with pragmatism and hope.
“Our hearts go out to the families who have lost loved ones,” Ambrosie’s statement said of the COVID-19 crisis. “We salute the heroic efforts of those on the front lines of our health-care system and our supply chain. And we are grateful for the leadership being shown by all levels of government.
“We respect the decisions being made by the federal government, provinces and municipalities on behalf of our safety and we will continue to follow their directives.
"These include indications from Canadian cities that they will not allow sporting events to take place before the end of June.”
The CFL had scheduled nine preseason games from May 24 to June 6 and the regular season was to kick off on June 11, with 11 games scheduled in June.
“While it is now clear that the 2020 CFL season won’t start before the beginning of July, we are committed to working with our teams, the players' association, TSN and RDS to play a full season or as close as we can come to one,” Ambrosie’s statement said.
“We recognize this may require some creativity and we are preparing for multiple scenarios.
"We realize there are more important things on Canadians’ minds right now than games of any sort. But we also know Canadian football has long been a source of pride and unity for our country and – when the time is right – we can play an important role in its recovery.”
How that recovery role may or may not play out in Halifax in July remains up in the air.