Thinking Cap

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:46 AM ET

Ted Hellard isn't trying to fool anyone. He'll admit quite candidly his Calgary Stampeders will exceed the salary cap this year.

Instead of the CFL's age-old practice of denying his club has ignored the voluntary guideline set to help teams remain financially viable, the Stamps owner went one further yesterday by saying he considers the $2.6 million "ceiling" as outlined by the Collective Bargaining Agreement to be the absolute minimum amount teams must now spend to compete.

Yes, a starting point.

"In fact, the minimum number does not allow you to put a quality product on the field," said the Stamps president and CEO, who said his club will spend $1 million more than Michael Feterik did last year on its operations budget, including player salaries.

"Without spending a reasonable amount of money, things won't work for you in a league based on gate receipts. If you spend the minimum number, nobody would come to your games. You could lose five times your money. It's a relatively simple business decision."

In other words, he's not upset the Edmonton Eskimos have become the CFL's New York Rangers by signing Ricky Ray to a deal worth $460,000 annually.

"I don't think anybody should single out Edmonton here," said Hellard, who spent close to $400,000 on his own starter, Henry Burris, months back.

"Does it concern me? No. Clearly it's a large number and any team that tried to get him would have been at the top of the league in terms of spending. This late in the season you've already signed most of your players and you've probably already maxed out your budget. In the big picture, I think he's a valuable asset to the league. I don't think you've seen a major outcry because he's good for the league. We wish there was a system to force them to make moves to level out their team but I don't think you want a system that prevents you from signing the Ricky Rays of the world. That's not good for the league."

That being said, Hellard agrees one of the biggest issues facing the league is finding a salary cap number and system to regulate spending down the road.

"Everybody thinks it's simple to come up with a number but the NHL sat out an entire season because they can't come up with one," said Hellard, who insists his club is in the "middle of the pack" salary-wise.

"The NFL took a long time to come up with one and the NBA is now looking at a potential work stoppage. Let's be honest, the CFL has a small budget and if you have to spend a huge number on monitoring and enforcing it, it's a big issue. We're comfortable the CFL is working towards it. They certainly recognize there's a problem."

Obviously, CFLPA president Stu Laird has no issue with his players benefiting from the liberal spending habits of today's CFL owners as competition heats up.

"As long as every team still has the ability to compete," said the former Stamp.

"We want fans and players in all cities to believe their team has a chance to win every year."

And that's exactly why teams spend, like Hellard and the Stamps did on free agents this winter.

"This is entertainment and every team will tell you that if you're winning you'll have no problems," said Hellard, adding that with fans come the all-important corporate sponsors, TV ratings and merchandise and concession sales.

When asked if he thought a team might border on $4 million in salaries this year, Hellard was nonplussed.

"Whatever the number is that teams are spending on players doesn't concern me. It's not relevant to the public. I don't think anyone is going out of their way to bust a system."

What system? Sounds like a free-for-all to me.


Videos

Photos