Friday, January 27, 2006

CFL returning to Halifax

Adam Richardson / The Daily News
CFL at Huskies Stadium, SMU

Back in Action: Atlantic Canadian football fans will have a second opportunity to taste CFL action when the league marks its returns to Halifax next summer. (File photo)

Renegades and Alouettes will clash at Huskies Stadium in June

The Canadian Football League is stopping in Halifax for the second straight year, beating out Moncton and Quebec City again for the right to host an exhibition contest.

So, CFL commissioner Tom Wright, what can Halifax fans hopeful of landing an expansion team read into the decision?

"You could say (Halifax) is the front-runner for expansion right now," said Wright, from the league's office in Toronto. "Halifax is now vying for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, and if they are successful, they'll need to build a stadium. It's definitely a key factor in expansion."

Wright says stadium issues are also a reason why the CFL won't be testing the Moncton waters with this year's exhibtion game between the Ottawa Renegades and Montreal Alouettes, scheduled for June 3 at Huskies Stadium.

"Moncton had plenty of support for the game, just as Halifax does. But we just felt with Moncton, we would practically have to build the stadium at Rocky Stone Park," Wright said. "Both cities have strong community involement, but when we did our homework it was hard go go against the tremendous success of last year's Touchdown Atlantic and the facility at Huskies Stadium."

Last year's game, a 16-16 tie between the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger Cats, drew 11,148 fans to the stadium, using temporary bleachers to bump up the crowd.

Wright said he was "thrilled" with last year's festivities, and said the announcement that Halifax is Canada's bid to host the 2014 Commonwealth Games is a sign of a city on the rise.

"We put a lot of thought into this decison, and Halifax has never failed when hosting big events like the world junior hockey championships, world women's hockey championships and last year's CFL game," he said. "It's a city that rises to the occasion. The support for football is there, and Commonwealth Games would almost certainly provide another piece of the puzzle towards expansion."

But before you start booking your season tickets, Wright also points out they won't award a franchise unless it benefits the league and its existing members.

Looming just as large as the stadium issue is the fact the East Divison is currently comprised of only four teams, with five clubs in the West Division.

"It's no secret expansion is a priority, and that we would like to balance the divisions," said Wright. "But it would have to be a good fit for the board of governors. We want a viable addition that will add to the pie, not just another hand to take from the exisiting pie. Even with a stadium, that may not be the case.

"But without a facility, those issues are too preliminary to judge."



- WHAT: Canadian Football League's Touchdown Atlantic.

- WHEN: Saturday, June 3 at 4 p. m.

- WHERE: Huskies Stadium.

- THE TEAMS: Ottawa Renegades and Montreal Alouettes.

- TUBE TIME: The Sports Network will broadcast the game live nationally.

- LAST YEAR: The first Touchdown Atlantic saw the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats play to a 16-16 tie last June 18 before 11, 148 fans at Huskies Stadium.

- WARM UP: This year's game will begin four hours earlier than last year, which had a few teeth chattering during a chilly June evening.

- QUOTE: "Aside from the Grey Cup, these two teams played the most exciting game of last year." - CFL commissioner Tom Wright, referring to Ottawa's come-from-behind 39-36 overtime victory on July 1.


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