Ambrosie continues to discuss potential emergency plans for the 2020 CFL season in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The league has already postponed three combined and the opening of training camps while postponing the start of the regular season – originally scheduled for June 11 – to at least July.
But no decision has been made to cancel the entire 2020 season. This comes as no surprise given the impact such a decision would have on the CFL, which is an open house league.
Flutie, 57, knows this all too well after spending eight of his 21 seasons as a professional quarterback in Canada (1990-1997).
“I think all the leagues are struggling with this right now and all of them want to be on the field,” Flutie said in a telephone interview. “Obviously, the CFL is very dependent on the door, on the sale of tickets.
“I don’t know enough to be able to say whether it can happen or not, but even if it’s a reduced season and you start late, you have to do something to maintain that fan base, obviously the wages and everything. This league operates from year to year. They depend on sales (of tickets) to pay their bills. “
It has been suggested that some professional sports will play in empty stadiums upon their return. But Flutie, who has been a color commentator for Notre Dame Football on NBC since 2014, agrees that this scenario would be a challenge for the CFL.
“The Major League Baseball could play in front of an empty house and everything would be fine because of its contract with the television,” he said. “But the CFL, you need ticket sales and people who buy beer at the stadium and everything.
“I don’t know what the answer is, it’s the same everywhere. The same goes for the guy who owns the pizzeria down the street. He struggles to find a way to make ends meet, by taking out and delivering only, at the curb, he delivers to areas he has never delivered before … we have to find ways. “
Flutie had an excellent career in Canada with the B.C. Lions (1990-91) Calgary Stampeders (1992-95) and Toronto Argonauts (1996-97) before returning to the NFL with the Buffalo Bills. The former Heisman five-foot-10, 181-pound trophy winner at Boston College has been an outstanding CFL player six times, has won three Gray Cups and has been named the player of the game each time.
In 2007, Flutie became the first non-Canadian to be elected to the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame and the following year, he was shortlisted for the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. Flutie was inducted into the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in 2009.
“I say it all the time, the CFL put the joy of playing soccer in soccer for me,” said Flutie. “Whenever I’m up there for something, it’s just a big hot hug and I love those years.
“In British Columbia, I was able to play with my brother, Darren. I wish it had lasted longer, but there are so many things that were special about the days in the CFL. I keep in touch with people from Toronto, I keep staying in touch with people from Calgary… I was flipping through Instagram not long ago and there was something with the BC Lions and I jumped above. It’s just a lot of tenderness. “
Flutie said the longer, wider pitch and the transient nature of Canadian football both suited him. But he also credited his coaches for allowing him to do what he did best.
“I think the number one reason for my success is that the coaches I played for realized my strength and left me alone,” he said. “They put me in a position to succeed and said,” Hey, that’s what you do well, go ahead. “
“I started when we were in Calgary chatting with Huf (former offensive coordinator John Hufnagel, now president of the Stamps / GM) whenever we have peace, we do very well. So a few times we just started the game. without any problems and we did a lot of this stuff. “
Flutie was given carte blanche by head coach Don Matthews upon his arrival in Toronto, where he has won his last two Gray Cups.
“Don was the timekeeper for that,” said Flutie. “It was like,‘ Doug, this is your football team. If you launch five interceptions, guess what? You’re going to have a chance to throw six, you don’t go out. “
“It just made me more confident on the pitch and never looking over my shoulder and being afraid of taking a risk or something like that. “
Matthews, nicknamed “The Don,” was a larger-than-life character with a sharp mind who thrived in the spotlight. The Hall of Fame, who died in 2017 at the age of 77, registered 231 victories as a career head coach and was one of 10 Gray Cup winning teams.
“When you played for another team against him, he seemed to be an arrogant and brash guy,” said Flutie. “You hated Don if you played against him.
“But Don had the gift of diverting the pressure from his players. He took a lot out of himself, part of his great personality. But when you played for Don, you had no worries in the world. We just went out and played and we loved it. “
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on April 16, 2020.