A work stoppage in the CFL. That sounds absurd as the CFL certainly can't attempt to do what the NHL, Major League Baseball and the NFL have done in the past. However, as this story from the Canadian Press suggests, there is some talk about it.
There could be labour strife looming on the horizon for the CFL.
Two league sources requesting anonymity told The Canadian Press on Thursday the CFL Players' Association is visiting with teams talking about of a potential lockout as the two sides head into the off-season looking to secure a new collective bargaining agreement.
The present deal expires the day before the start of training in 2010. Preliminary talks have begun between the two sides, with real negotiations expected to heat up over the winter. However, one source said negotiations aren't going well and if the CFL and the CFLPA can't reach an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement before camp and league holds the right to lock its players out.
"Hence the lockout talk," one of the sources said.
And that's a huge surprise, considering negotiations between the CFL and its players have traditionally been tough yet cordial, with both sides intent on reaching an agreement to maintain labour peace. And in years when the two couldn't get a deal done before the expiration of the old one, they've simply gone by the terms of the old CBA until a new one was reached.
A clean labour record has long been a source of pride for the CFL at a time when other professional leagues have had to cancel entire seasons and championships due to stalled contract talks.
Then again, keeping games on the field is of vital importance for the CFL, given its teams draw a big chunk of their operating revenue from ticket sales. The league, simply put, can't afford to alienate its fans.
Even with that in mind, both sources said they expects talks between the CFL and its players to be very heated this time around.
And Toronto Argonauts linebacker Kevin Eiben, for one, says the uncertainty is something that will play on his mind.
"Of course," he said. "We've got to take care of the players.
"That's the reason the CFL exists, because of the players. The players must stick together and we'll get a nice little contract put together."
The sources said two of the more contentious issues on the bargaining table are daily work hours and reducing the number of Canadian-born players teams must play.
Currently, CFL teams have their players for 4 1/2 hours a day. They must cram meetings, practices and film study during that time, creating challenges for coaches to work on new wrinkles, let on implementing weekly game plans.
In fact, many CFL coaches told The Canadian Press recently that the limited workday was a reason why the Wildcat formation, which has taken the NFL by storm the past year, has been slow to catch on in Canada. Coaches simply don't have enough time to introduce it properly to players and work on it in practice.
After years of coaching in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans and having players in the facility for 8-to-10 hours a day, Toronto Argonauts first-year head Bart Andrus said adjusting to the 4 1/2-hour CFL work day was challenging.
"It's a huge challenge, it really is, because you want to be as detailed as you can, you want to have time for extra walk-throughs and meetings and film study particularly," Andrus said. "The one thing we don't get because of that time limitation is more film study with the players.
"They take the video home with them on DVD. That's something that's real difficult, it really is."
According to the sources, the CFL would like its players to be available to teams for six hours a day. But the sources say a significantly more sensitive issue is the league proposing the number of Canadians teams must start be slashed from seven to four.
"I could see that being a major issue," said a CFL player who requested anonymity. "The numbers are low as it is."
Canadian content has been a bone of contention this season in the CFL as many teams have scrambled to find capable Canadians to replace non-imports who have been hurt. That has prompted suggestions that teams be able to have one less Canadian on their roster who's replaced by an extra American.
Currently, CFL teams must carry 20 Canadians, 19 Americans and three quarterbacks (Canadian or American) on their 42-man active rosters but only start seven a minimum of Canucks, or non-imports
Trouble is, the sources says the CFL hasn't offered anything in return, at least not as of yet. One starting point could be boosting the $41,000 minimum salary and-or increasing the $4.2-million salary cap, with the CFLPA being able to point to 2006 when the league negotiated a five-year television deal with TSN reportedly worth $45 million.
Officials from either the CFL or CFL Players' Association weren't available for comment. The two sides have agreed to keep details surrounding contract talks in-house.
Other issues expected to be on the table include drug testing and procedures teams must follow in order to place players on the nine-game injured list.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR – WEEK 9
CHANGES AT THE TOP: Nearly halfway through the NFL season, division titles are up for grabs yet again. Entering Week 9, seven teams (in six divisions) that did not win their division in 2008 either sit atop or tie for first place in their division.
Last season featured six new division winners, tied (2003) for the most since realignment in 2002.
The 2008 division winners and the division leaders entering Week 9:
-- NFL --
MANNING-IFICENT DECADE: Three-time MVP PEYTON MANNING of the Indianapolis Colts is approaching several milestones. With 19 passing yards on Sunday against the Houston Texans, Manning will become the first player in NFL history with 40,000 passing yards in one decade. With four touchdown passes, he will become the first player with 300 touchdown passes in one decade.
The most touchdown passes and passing yards by decade in NFL history:
MOST TD PASSES
MOST PASSING YARDS
Norm Van Brocklin
* Individual passing statistics were first officially recorded in 1932
-- NFL --
SUSTAINED SUCCESS: The Pittsburgh Steelers have 99 wins since the start of the 2000 season. With a victory in Denver on Monday night, the Steelers would become the third team this decade with 100 regular-season wins, joining the Indianapolis Colts (108) and New England Patriots (107). The Colts and Patriots are within striking distance of the all-time win mark for a decade held by the San Francisco 49ers of the 1990s (113).
The teams with the most wins since the start of the 2000 season and the most wins in any decade in NFL history:
WINS SINCE 2000 SEASON
WINS (DECADE, SEASONS)
San Francisco 49ers
113 (90s, 1990-99)
New England Patriots
108 (00s, 2000-09)
New England Patriots*
107 (00s, 2000-09)
105 (70s, 1970-79)
San Francisco 49ers
104 (80s, 1980-89)
104 (70s, 1970-79)
-- NFL --
CJ GOES FOR 7.0: Tennessee Titans running back CHRIS JOHNSON leads the NFL with 824 rushing yards and a robust 6.9 yards per carry average. Johnson looks to become the first back since 1970 to lead the league in rushing through Week 9 with an average of 7.0 yards per carry.
Johnson’s 6.92 yards per carry average is the highest for the NFL rushing leader through Week 8 since 1970 by more than a full yard (JAMAL LEWIS, 5.89 in 2003).
The players in NFL history to lead the league in rushing with an average of 6.0 yards per carry:
YARDS PER CARRY
Barry Sanders, Detroit Lions
O.J. Simpson, Buffalo Bills
Jim Brown, Cleveland Browns
Joe Perry, San Francisco 49ers
Beattie Feathers, Chicago Bears
Chris Johnson, Tennessee
* Leads the NFL in rushing entering Week 9
-- NFL --
SPINNING SACKMASTER: Indianapolis Colts defensive end DWIGHT FREENEY has recorded a sack in each of the Colts’ first seven games of the season. Freeney needs one sack on Sunday to tie ROBERT MATHIS (eight games, 2005) for the longest such streak since the sack became an official statistic in 1982.
The longest streaks of consecutive games with a sack to start a team’s season:
New York Jets
In addition, Freeney has recorded a sack in eight consecutive games overall, tying him for the fifth-longest streak since 1982. He aims to tie Pro Football Hall of Famer BRUCE SMITH and KEVIN GREENE this week for third on the all-time list.
The longest streaks of consecutive games with a sack since 1982:
San Francisco, Carolina
-- NFL --
ELITE EIGHT: Rookie head coach JIM CALDWELL of the Indianapolis Colts has started his rookie season at 7-0, the second-best start to a season by a rookie head coach since 1930. With a win on Sunday, Caldwell can tie POTSY CLARK (1931 Portsmouth Spartans) for the best start in the past 80 years.
The most consecutive wins to start a season by a rookie head coach since 1930:
RECORD TO START CAREER
1931 Portsmouth Spartans
2009 Indianapolis Colts
# # #
Meanwhile, it would appear as if yet another US based NHL hockey team is in financial peril. Here's a story from the Associated Presson the Columbus Blue Jackets that isn't flattering. Have you seen this Mr. Balsillie?
Columbus may have trouble holding on to the NHL's Blue Jackets because the club has been losing $12 million a year in central Ohio, according to a report released Thursday by a business group.
The report from the Columbus Chamber offers a variety of options for strengthening the hockey team's financial position, such as new taxes or fees to support it.
Other suggestions include allowing the team to renegotiate its lease for Nationwide Arena or trying to attract a second major tenant, such as a basketball team.
"It is important that our community retain this team," said Dave Blom, chairman of the Columbus Chamber board. "The Columbus Blue Jackets impact our regional economy, support thousands of jobs and bring millions of dollars in tax revenue that contribute to our quality of life."
Columbus Blue Jackets President Mike Priest said that the team's current economic model has "significant disadvantages" and that it plans to work with public and private groups to find a solution.
Priest said the Blue Jackets, now in their ninth season, have built and maintained fan and corporate participation that has supported the team.
"Public partnership in arenas and stadiums has been a critical element to ensuring healthy, competitive sports franchises in markets across the country, including Cleveland and Cincinnati in Ohio, and our priority continues to be to secure long-term financial viability in this great city," he said.
Nationwide is one of the few NHL facilities in the country that is privately owned -- largely because county voters wanted it that way. They have rejected arena tax issues three times between 1986 and 1997.
The team's owners unsuccessfully asked that the current state budget include a tax increase on beer, wine, liquor and cigarettes in Franklin County to raise $65 million to underwrite a county takeover of the arena.
Local voters have repeatedly rejected public financing of the center, and the tax increase was opposed by members of the beer and wine industry, including brewing giant Anheuser-Busch, which operates one of its 12 U.S. breweries in the city.
The Blue Jackets qualified for the first time last year for the NHL Western Conference playoffs, losing in the first round to the Detroit Red Wings.
The team came to town nine years ago through significant private funding -- much of it from the late John H. McConnell of steel finishing company Worthington Industries. McConnell died a year ago, leaving his son John P. McConnell at the helm of the business.