Canadian content shouldn't be a bargaining chip

TERRY KOSHAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 12:04 PM ET

Try to picture Canada without the maple leaf, hockey or the RCMP.

It's impossible and preposterous. Now, if you're a fan of the Canadian Football League -- and television ratings across the country indicate there are hundreds of thousands of you -- picture the CFL with less of the very thing that makes the game Canadian, it's homegrown players.

That appears to be the goal of the CFL, as decreasing the starting number of Canadians to four from seven for each game is on the table as the league and the CFL Players' Association have started negotiating toward a new collective bargaining agreement.

This is an issue that shouldn't be a negotiating chip, and it certainly does nothing for the confidence of young Canadians whose pro aspirations centre around playing in the CFL.

Argos player reps, Bryan Crawford and Andre Talbot (both Canucks), refused to discuss the issue yesterday. The league has no interest in being transparent on the topic and commissioner Mark Cohon is unwilling to talk.

"That (decreasing numbers) would be very detrimental to a lot of guys," Queen's defensive end Osie Ukwuoma, a Calgary Stampeders pick who played high school ball in Mississauga, told Sun Media yesterday after a playoff win against McMaster. "Why do that? The CFL is a Canadian game and I think it should be treated as such.

"I don't think we should have the mentality that the Americans are always better. It's important to at least keep those (seven spots)."

The view that Canadians remain an integral part of the CFL is shared by those whose playing days are long over, but whose interest in the CFL never has waned. Nick Volpe, who won Grey Cups with the Argos in 1950 and '52 and now is a consultant with the club, remembered his playing days with a glint in his eye.

"We had four Americans playing at that time and the calibre of the game was great," said Volpe, one of the league's true gentlemen. "I would love to see one of the three quarterbacks (on each team) be a Canadian. I would love to see more Canadians playing."

Another Argos alumni, Grant McKee, a defensive back from the 1960s, cringed at the talk of dropping the number of starting Canadians.

"It's totally wrong," said McKee before yesterday's game between the Argos and the Als. "I'd still support the team but the thrill of it is watching Canadians play and grow."

TERRY.KOSHAN@SUNMEDIA.CA


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