Ottawa gets extension for CFL stadium deal

TERRY KOSHAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:50 AM ET

HAMILTON -- Football fans in Ottawa should know by mid-September whether the Canadian Football League returns to the nation's capital.

At its annual congress yesterday, the CFL's board of governors gave the Ottawa ownership group a six-month extension to reach a deal with the city on a new stadium. The extension kicks in on March 18 and ends on Sept. 18.

"In this window, we would like to see the deal get done," CFL commissioner Mark Cohon said. "We have the right ownership group (67's owner Jeff Hunt and businessmen Roger Greenberg, John Ruddy and William Shenkman). We are in an economic environment where there is potential stimulus money from the government to make it happen, so it is incumbent on the city of Ottawa now to make some decisions."

There's a stadium war underway in Ottawa, as the National Hockey League Senators owner Eugene Melnyk wants a new facility built in the suburb of Kanata for a Major League Soccer team, while the Hunt group wants to put a CFL franchise in what would be a re-developed Frank Clair Stadium at Lansdowne Park.

The city has said it will only back one project.

Does the extension put pressure on the prospective owners and the city to get a deal done?

"I don't think so," Cohon said. "We hope by the end of April the city will have some indication where it will go. I'm not going to speculate on whether we would have to extend it again in six months, but clearly this is an indication the time is right now to act upon an opportunity."

Also yesterday, John Hufnagel was named CFL coach of the year after leading the Calgary Stampeders to a Grey Cup title after the club compiled a league-best 13-5 record during the regular season.

It was Hufnagel's first year as a head coach in the league, a fact not lost on Argonauts coach Bart Andrus. With 37 first-place votes, Hufnagel beat Montreal Alouettes rookie coach Marc Trestman, who received eight, and Saskatchewan Roughriders coach Ken Miller, also in his first year, who had two.

"Each case is unique, but what it says is it can be done," Andrus said of a rookie head coach achieving success immediately.

"But we're not looking that far into the future."

The CFL's rules committee will meet tomorrow morning, when it will discuss as many as 12 possible rule changes. More than 2,000 suggestions were sent in by fans, and there was a common thread.

The rules committee will send its recommendations on how to act on the suggestions to the league's board at its annual general meeting in the spring.

Meanwhile the Argos have moved their July 30 game against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to Saturday, Aug. 1 at 1:00 p.m.


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