No blackout a credit to Esks

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:30 AM ET

The Edmonton Eskimos deserve a tip of the hat for refusing to slam the door on their fans and the media.

Unlike the Calgary Stampeders, the Green and Gold are allowing media reporters to attend their entire practice sessions this week in advance of Saturday's regular-season opener in Regina.

In the world the Stampeders live in, they are only allowing reporters a chance to see a 25-minute window of practice - which is stretching and warmups - and another 10-minute window, which is special teams and cooldown.

So, in other words, reporters aren't seeing anything of any relevance.

That means Stampeder fans are going to learn very little about their club in advance of this week's first game of the regular season.

Obviously, Calgary coach and GM John Hufnagel is keeping media eyes out of the important offensive and defensive portions of practice because he doesn't want his starting lineup revealed.

Fear quickly spread across the network of football reporters in the last 36 hours that the other CFL teams would follow the Stampeders' lead and keep journalists in the dark.

The Eskimos haven't followed the Stamps' bad example.

Head coach Danny Maciocia, president/CEO Rick LeLacheur and communications guru Dave Jamieson deserve credit for making the right decision.

"We're committed to the media access that has been in place for years," said Jamieson. "It works well for us and the media.

"We won't comment on another team's (public relations) decisions. That's their business. (But the media) conveys to the public.

"It's advantageous to the fans (to have open practices)," he added.

"The fans follow us closely and the media coverage is a big part of it."

This is a win-win situation for everyone surrounding this team.

The fans can still follow the team with up-to-the-minute details on media Internet sites and through in-depth analysis of what is happening in the morning newspaper.

For the Eskimos, they get oodles of free publicity through the media and that helps drive ticket sales.

The last time I checked, the CFL is a ticket revenue driven business.

There isn't a massive TV contract - like in the NFL - that drives the CFL.

That is why in the past the Eskimos' brass has been very reluctant to lift local TV blackouts.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that politicians and professional sports teams in this country get free advertising through the media.

They get it more than any other group.

That is why the Stampeders' move makes such little sense.

The Cowtown club claims the closed practices are only for this week.

Yes, it might gain them a little bit of a competitive advantage if their opposition - the B.C. Lions this week - doesn't know who is starting in what defensive position.

But isn't this game determined by who executes the best?

In a time when the CFL needs to gain every single fan it can get with the NFL's possible invasion into Toronto on a full-time basis, the last thing a team needs to be doing is slamming the door in the face of the paying public.

Kudos to the Esks for getting that point.

The club raised a flag with the No. 13 on it in the south endzone of Commonwealth Stadium during the pre-season game to recognize the 13th player - which is the fans.

It appears that three hours to the south there isn't the same commitment to the paying public.


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