CFL doesn't need Toronto to survive, Als coach says

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:14 AM ET

MONTREAL -- Early in his life in Canadian football, Jim Popp felt first-hand the crush the NFL can have on the CFL.

And if it happens again in Toronto, as many fear, the Montreal Alouettes coach and general manager firmly believes the CFL will survive.

"I don't think we would ever know until it was tried, but I don't think there has to be a team in Toronto to have a successful Canadian Football League," Popp said yesterday in advance of today's Als-Argos tilt at Olympic Stadium.

"Maybe a team needs to go to the outskirts of Toronto like London or Mississauga and pack in 20,000 people with a nice atmosphere. But the league could still survive without a team in the city."

Like many in the CFL, Popp has heard talk of the NFL sniffing around Toronto for the better part of two decades. That hot button was pushed again this week with news that the Buffalo Bills are planning to move a series of pre- and regular-season games to the Rogers Centre, if approved.

When it comes to the CFL and NFL knocking heads, Popp speaks from experience. In 1994 and '95, he was the assistant GM and director of player personnel for the Baltimore Stallions, by far the most successful team in the CFL's brief U.S. experiment.

Popp believes the Stallions could have co-existed when the NFL's Ravens came back to roost, largely because they didn't try to be an NFL team.

"In Baltimore, we did things the right way," Popp said of the only American team to win the Grey Cup. "We tried to be a Canadian team. We had respect for the tradition and history of the league."

As for the league surviving without a team in Canada's biggest city, Popp believes too much is made of Toronto's importance in attracting corporate money to the CFL.

"Maybe there's something I'm missing, but I don't know what corporate money we're talking about," Popp said. "There's seven other teams not living off corporate money in Toronto. I don't think it's going to affect anyone's view out west, either. We've got a hell of a product. The league can survive with or without the NFL (in Toronto)."


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