The most important word in the CFL

TERRY JONES, EDMONTON SUN

, Last Updated: 12:03 PM ET

It's a lesson that the Americans who run teams never seem to learn: The most important word in Canadian Football League is Canadian.

And now we have a commissioner, the man who inspired and drove the successful "It's Our League" campaign, allegedly leading the CFL in negotiations to reduce the number of starting Canadians for each team every game from seven to four.

Maybe commissioner Mark Cohon spent so much time growing up in the U.S. and overseas that he doesn't understand that "It's Our League" hit a chord, not only with the people who sit in the stands, but the ones wearing the uniforms on the field and living next door.

This league needs more Canadian starters, not fewer. Make it four and, unless the guy is a kicker, there would no longer be a reason for a Canadian kid to aspire to play in the Canadian Football League.

And there no longer would be a reason for CFL teams to nurture Canadians and create homegrown heroes of the best kind -- the ones who not only live next door but live here year round, where they're your ambassadors in the community, not just now, but long after their careers are over.

Most American players are a dime a dozen and can be replaced. But if a quality non-import goes down, it's another matter.That's the biggest reason why many of the Americans who have come and gone as GMs and coaches in this league would like to do away with the import/non-import ratio.

The other reason is that it would also be cheaper. First- rate starting Canadians are worth more because of the options they allow through the rest of the lineup.

The greatest team in CFL history, the five-in-a-row Eskimos, had Warren Moon. But they also had the best Canadian content because of the work of scout Frank Morris. Most top teams in CFL history have had the best Canadian players.

A guy like Eskimos guard Patrick Kabongo is the perfect example. He is a double nominee in the CFL awards this year as top Canadian and offensive lineman.

But remember where he was when GM Danny Maciocia made a project out of him? Reduce the Canadian starters any further and it wouldn't be worth the time and effort to develop a Kabongo.

"At the end of the day, this is the Canadian Football League and there should be considerable Canadian content," said Maciocia, a Canadian. "You need to inspire youth to play in this league."

Maciocia won't go beyond that, saying he has no idea what's involved with the negotations. But he does say he thinks the league should be going in the other direction in Canadian philosophy on another front.

"I think there should be a quota on coaches," he says. "We grow up with the game. We coach in minor football and dream of coaching in this league.

"Yet, we get a lot of coaches who come up here hoping to get back on the other side of the border. I think we need to make more room for Canadian coaches to be able to get in and stay in."

It's hard to believe Cohon is serious about the idea of four Canadian starters. Maybe this is just collective bargaining strategy. Maybe the idea is that you give them "back" their seven Canadians to get something else in the CBA.

But if it is a negotiating ploy, that just makes it worse.

Canadian content should be sacred. To turn it into some cheap negotiating chip is an insult from Normie Kwong to Russ Jackson to Tony Gabriel to Dave Fennell to Paul Bennett to Ray Elgaard to Dave Sapunjis to Ben Cahoon to Patrick Kabongo.

It should not be on the table in the first place.

A lockout and/or reducing the Canadian content are just about the two dumbest things you could do to this league.

TERRY.JONES@SUNMEDIA.CA


Videos

Photos