Montreal Alouettes new president Mario Cecchini speaks to the media during a news conference Monday, January 13, 2020 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Montreal Alouettes executives Cecchini, Maciocia both expecting CFL to play in 2021

Montreal Alouettes executives Cecchini, Maciocia both expecting CFL to play in 2021

Montreal Alouettes president Mario Cecchini and general manager Danny Maciocia expect the CFL team to be playing games in 2021.

Both Cecchini and Maciocia were brimming with optimism Tuesday during Montreal’s state-of-the-franchise videoconference. It was part of Grey Cup Unite, the league’s virtual program to celebrate a traditional Grey Cup week after the CFL cancelled its 2020 campaign in August due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The decision came after the CFL couldn’t secure financial assistance from the federal government to play a shortened campaign in Winnipeg.

Cecchini said his optimism for a ‘21 season was based solely upon science. On Monday Moderna was touting positive trial results for a potential COVID-19 vaccine after Pfizer Inc. suggested last week its vaccine appeared to be similarly effective.

Cecchini said medical people he’s spoken with are hopeful a vaccine could be available as early as March.

“To me, that’s all encouraging news,” Cecchini told reporters. “That’s really the news that counts, which gives me that sense of optimism I’m feeling right now.”

Maciocia was more definitive.

“To me, it’s very simple we’re playing,” he said. “There’s no doubt in my mind … or else I’d be a fool to wake up at 5:30 a.m. and get on the phone to talk to our scouts and have the multiple numbers of Zoom calls that we have.

“If there was one shred of a doubt, one per cent of a doubt in my mind that we wouldn’t be playing then I wouldn’t be doing it. There’s no question in my mind that we’re going to field a competitive team and no question in my mind that we’re going to play at McGill.”

With no football and minimal revenues in 2020, the CFL could again approach Ottawa for financial assistance to kick off a ‘21 season. In April, it presented the federal government with a three-tiered request that began with $30 million initially, more in the event of a shortened season and up to $150 million for a cancelled campaign.

In July, the CFL modified that request to $44 million before asking Ottawa for a $30-million, interest-free loan on Aug. 3. However, the two sides couldn’t agree on a deal.

“There is a sense right now that we have more than one scenario,” Cecchini said regarding the CFL’s ‘21 plans. “I sincerely believe we’ll see where all that leads but I don’t think it is going to be required.”

There certainly was a sense of optimism in Montreal this year. The franchise was under new ownership — Ontario businessmen Gary Stern and Sid Spiegel purchased the Alouettes from the CFL in January — after finishing second in the East Division with a 10-8 record under first-year head coach Khari Jones.

Once the franchise was sold, Cecchini and Maciocia were hired to lead Montreal into its new era. It seems a majority of Alouettes season-ticket holders share the optimism expressed by the two executives.

“Close to 86 per cent of them kept their money with us for the 2021 season,” Cecchini said. “We’re extremely appreciative of that, which shows their confidence in us.

“Our internal surveys are telling us most fans, a great majority of fans are looking forward to coming back to the stadium to watch games.”

But the harsh reality these days is the only certainty is uncertainty. No one knows what the COVID-19 numbers might be come next summer or when a vaccine will be widely available.

And then there’s the matter of whether fans will be allowed into CFL stadiums in 2021, and if so, how many?

Cecchini, for one, didn’t want to discuss whether the CFL could survive a second straight year without games.

“I don’t even want to put it out there,” he said. “I don’t think this will happen … there’s no reason for it to happen.

“We’re in the process of playing and as we’re preparing to play we’ll have some announcements in the coming weeks as far as the team is concerned … hopefully we’ll have scenarios to narrow that down to one. To me it’s playing with fans in our own stadiums, that’s absolutely very important to us.”

Maciocia, too, is dealing with plenty of uncertainty.

With no tackle football being played in Canada, evaluating U Sports players eligible for the 2021 CFL draft will be much more difficult. Compounding matters, too, is also trying to determine which draft-eligible players might defer to the 2022 draft.

Then there’s trying to deal with CFL free agency unsure if the league’s salary cap will be $5.35 million, as per the collective bargaining agreement with the CFL Players’ Association.

“As far as we’re concerned we’re going to have another year on the CBA so until further notice we’re going to function as if that’s going to be enforced, and be the status quo moving forward,” Maciocia said. “It will be, without a doubt, some of the longest days we’re going to spend here as a football operations staff.

“I can see us going around the clock seven days a week for a few months, probably 14-16 hours a day trying to figure out this puzzle. But that’s just our reality and it’s not like we’re living it alone. We’re all collectively going to experience it.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 17, 2020.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

CFL

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference at Rideau Cottage during the COVID pandemic in Ottawa on Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Feds spending plan heads to confidence vote as provinces seek more health-care cash

OTTAWA — Provinces are criticizing the federal Liberals for failing to signal… Continue reading

In this Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020 file photo, Herman Termeer, 54, stands on the roof of his home as the Blue Ridge Fire burns along the hillside in Chino Hills, Calif. An overheating world obliterated weather records in 2020 — an extreme year for hurricanes, wildfires, heat waves, floods, droughts and ice melt — the United Nations’ weather agency reported Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
UN calls on humanity to end ‘war on nature,’ go carbon-free

As an extreme year for hurricanes, wildfires and heat waves comes to… Continue reading

John Lambert
Military identifies remains of Newfoundland soldier killed in Belgium in 1917

OTTAWA — More than 100 years after a young soldier from Newfoundland… Continue reading

Military police officers carry a bag filled with money left behind by armed bank robbers, in Criciuma, Santa Catarina state, Brazil, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020. Dozens of criminals armed with assault rifles invaded the city in southern Brazil overnight and took control of the streets as they assaulted a local bank. (Guilherme Hahn/Futura Press via AP)
Massed Brazilian bank robbers attack another city, kill 1

RIO DE JANEIRO — A large gang of heavily armed bank robbers… Continue reading

(Black Press file photo.)
Red Deer city council holds closed-door discussion about proposed aquatics centre

Recommended design, cost and location won’t be made public until next spring

In this May 16, 2019, file photo, Salesforce chairman Marc Benioff speaks during a news conference, in Indianapolis. In a deal announced Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, business software pioneer Salesforce.com is buying work-chatting service Slack for $27.7 billion in a deal aimed at giving the two companies a better shot at competing against longtime industry powerhouse Microsoft. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)
Salesforce buying work-chat service Slack for $27.7 billion

SAN RAMON, Calif. — Business software pioneer Salesforce.com is buying work-chatting service… Continue reading

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases speaks remotely during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on May 12, 2020 in Washington, DC. The committee is hearing testimony from members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force on how to safely open the country and get America back to work and school. (Win McNamee/Getty Images/TNS)
People magazine reveals its ‘2020 People of the Year’

LOS ANGELES — People magazine has named George Clooney, Dr. Anthony Fauci,… Continue reading

Zeke Thurston, of Big Valley, Alta., rides Lunatic Party during saddle bronc rodeo semi-final action at the Calgary Stampede in Calgary, Sunday, July 14, 2019. Thurston is among five Canadians competing in the 2020 world championship of rodeo Dec. 3-12 in Arlington, Texas. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Rough ride to National Finals Rodeo for Canadians in pandemic season

Levi Simpson and his horse Stetson are about to trample the turf… Continue reading

Team Manitoba celebrate after defeating Team Ontario to win the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Moose Jaw, Sask., Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020. Curling Canada wants Calgary's Canada Olympic Park to be a curling hub for the season's top events. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
CP NewsAlert: Calgary facility set to become curling hub during pandemic

CP NewsAlert: Calgary facility set to become curling hub during pandemic

Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney watches late in the second half of the team's MLS Cup soccer match against the Seattle Sounders on Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Seattle. Vanney has stepped down as coach of Toronto FC. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP Photo-Elaine Thompson
Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney steps down, says it’s the right time to move on

Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney steps down, says it’s the right time to move on

Hamilton Forge FC's Giuliano Frano (8) heads the ball against CD Olimpia's Jorge Benguche (9) during Scotiabank CONCACAF League 2019 second half soccer action in Hamilton, Ontario on Thursday, August 22, 2019. Forge FC looks to win its way into the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League on Tuesday when it takes on Haiti's Arcahaie FC in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF League, a 22-team feeder competition that sends six clubs to CONCACAF's elite club tournament. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Power
Forge FC loses penalty shootout to Haitian side in CONCACAF League quarterfinal

Forge FC loses penalty shootout to Haitian side in CONCACAF League quarterfinal

Public health must balance science and society: former top doctor

Public health must balance science and society: former top doctor

California boat captain indicted in fire that killed 34

California boat captain indicted in fire that killed 34

Most Read