Say goodbye to byes

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:23 AM ET

There are still 27 games to be played in the 2006 CFL season, but the look of the 2007 schedule has already become an intriguing topic.

Speculation has started that league executives will scrap bye weeks from next year's schedule, dropping it from 20 to 18 weeks.

That is based - of course - on Ottawa not coming back to the league until 2008, which now seems like a much more realistic option than 2007.

The rumour mill also suggests the regular season might not start until early July, nearly three weeks later than the 2006 schedule because the Grey Cup will be played indoors in Toronto next year, meaning weather in late November will not be a concern.

Edmonton Eskimo president Rick LeLacheur was unaware of the speculation when he touched down in Hamilton late last week, but you can add his vote to the idea of getting rid of byes.

"I'd rather not have the byes," he said.

"It's difficult for a team - like we did this year with 18 days off.

"If we are going to have byes, I'd rather the whole league shut down and then there would be no competitive edge."

Of course, there is no way in the world that would happen. Shutting down an entire league for two one-week blocks during a season would be ludicrous on many levels. But there's no denying the fact that bye weeks hurt some teams. Edmonton lost both games this season coming off a bye week.

Saskatchewan and Winnipeg have lost after a week of rest.

Granted, byes help teams get healthier and some players love getting away from the near constant grind.

But from a marketing perspective, bye weeks make it tougher to sell tickets because the team disappears from the public eye.

Thanks to the quirks of this year's schedule, Edmonton went nearly a month - Aug. 11 to Sept. 8 - without playing a game at Commonwealth Stadium.

In Vancouver, the Lions played just once - on the road - in a 29-day span this summer because of two byes sandwiched around one tilt.

That's a marketing headache.

At the moment, CFL teams are in the very early stages of a developing the body of next year's schedule.

LeLacheur admits the current template being circulated is a 20-week block, but that doesn't mean much.

The league can change to an 18-week block because a draft football schedule really can't be drawn up until after Major League Baseball sets its dates for Rogers Centre in Toronto.

HITTING THE ROAD: An Under-19 soccer tournament is going to boot the Eskimos out of Commonwealth Stadium for almost four weeks next year - from late June to July 20 - meaning the Green and Gold is going to have a tough early schedule, regardless of when the season opens.

STILL HOPING: Dynamite kick returner Ezra Landry is still hoping the 2006 season isn't a write off.

Although he's had two knee surgeries in less than two months, Landry wants to return from his Louisiana home and play for the Montreal Alouettes before the end of the regular season.


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