Ticats coach worried about Canadian content

TERRY KOSHAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 6:48 PM ET

HAMILTON — Bob O’Billovich isn’t happy that talk of changing the Canadian ratio in the Canadian Football League is taking attention away from the playoffs, which start Sunday.

But the general manager of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats also is not happy that there is discussion, period, of the possibility of decreasing the number of Canadian starters in the CFL to four from seven.

“Those of us who have been around the league as long as we have, I would be surprised if the people in capacities like myself and head coaches would not support the way it is now,” O’Billovich said Friday.

“When I coached, we had 10 Canadians starting. That used to make it tough, because at times it was hard to find 10 quality Canadian starters. But now with the way it is, and with the way we are using three designated imports (players who can play on special teams or replace an import starter), it has made the game more exciting.

“As far as I am concerned, it should stay the way it is.”

The Canadian content issue is said to be on the table between the CFL and CFL Players’ Association in collective bargaining agreement negotiations that are underway, and it has the potential to be contentious.

B.C. Lions GM/coach Wally Buono, whose team will be at Ivor Wynne Stadium Sunday afternoon for the East Division semi-final against the Ticats, spoke only of the ratio issue in general terms.

“Here’s my thought: The league has had a proud tradition of non-import and import players,” Buono, who was born in Italy and raised in Montreal, said in a telephone interview. “Without our league, there is no opportunity for either.”

As of 6 p.m. last night, the Ticats had sold 24,100 tickets for their first playoff home game since 2001. That, for O’Billovich (who has done a fine job of restoring respect among Steeltown football fans), is where the attention should be.

“What disturbs me about this kind of thing coming out is the timing of it,” O’Billovich said. “We have the playoffs coming and that should the biggest story, not that other bull----. The playoffs should be front and centre.”

CFL commissioner Mark Cohon has refused interview requests on the issue and when he was on Prime Time Sports on the Fan 590 Friday, he would not answer questions on the topic.

But Cohon did touch on the Argonauts’ ownership situation, one that has David Cynamon and Howard Sokolowski mulling the sale of the club, possibly to B.C. Lions owner David Braley.

“I think they are still trying to decide what they want to do,” Cohon said. “We’ll be in position right after the Grey Cup to hopefully make some announcements as to the next steps with Toronto.

"Fans need to understand we’re going to be okay in Toronto. Howard and David are looking at a couple of different scenarios and have had some discussions with (Braley) and at the right point we’ll announce what the specifics will be.”


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