CFLers envy how other half lives

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 6:25 AM ET

In the CFL, where Kraft Dinner and Wal-Mart are a way of life, it's hard for players to imagine cashing an NHL cheque. Football players in Canada would love to gorge themselves on a piece of the huge pie being fought over by NHL owners and players, a standoff threatening the 2004-05 season now that the collective bargaining agreement has expired.

The average NHL salary has leaped from $733,000 to $1.8 million US in recent years while CFL players have been fighting for nickel and dime increases with the average salary hovering around $50,000 Cdn.

"Are we jealous they make that kind of money? Of course we are," admits Canadian offensive lineman Jay McNeil, one of the Calgary Stampeders CFLPA reps who signed a new deal with the team prior to this season.

"We'd all like to make that kind of money. Anybody would. But I don't think the situation they are in is their fault. The owners shelled out that money and if somebody was going to offer it to me, I'd take it."

Why not? The minimum salary this season for CFL veterans is $36,000, up $4,000 from two years ago, while next season the minimum will get a boost to $37,000 in the final year of the CFLPA's agreement with the league.

A handful of marquee CFL players earn $300,000 to $400,000 per season while the gate-driven league currently operates under a $2.5 million Cdn salary cap for each of its nine team.

Meanwhile, NHLers are intent on avoiding a salary cap in any new agreement with hockey owners despite riches beyond the wildest dreams of CFL players.

"I don't blame them for feeling the way they do," McNeil says of the NHLPA's tough stance against a salary cap.

The CFLPA, formed in 1965, went on strike for a brief period in 1974, fighting for meagre increases.

"Everybody here feels we get paid to play a game and a lot of them would play for free but to make those millions would be nice, too," says McNeil, an 11-year CFL veteran from London, Ont., also works at IPSCO selling steel pipe to oil companies.

- - -

POINTS AFTER: Marcus Crandell will start at QB tomorrow against the visiting Ottawa Renegades. Stamps coach-GM Matt Dunigan said he's concerned about protecting rookie backups Tommy Jones and Mike Souza from harsh criticism from fans desperate for a QB messiah ... Import running back Joffrey Reynolds, who arrived in camp Monday after being cut by the New York Giants, isn't expected to dress for tomorrow's game.


Videos

Photos