I wonder if Commonwealth Stadium misses me too?

Turning the calendar page from 2020 to 2021 did not auto-correct the world. Ever the optimist, this sports fan hopes that as the spring flowers bloom, the plethora of Edmonton sports teams will be able to return to play in front of a percentage of their regular fan base. Let’s check in on one team in specific.

The first unofficial needle into the bubble of a spring return to sports lays next to the CFL. Per the Rod Peterson Show: “My league sources have indicated to me that the CFL intends to play in 2021 and that – worse-case scenario – they’re preparing the stadiums to be setup similar to the NFL’s and NHL’s in 2020 (tarps over the lower sections with national & local ads on them). A June or July kickoff is reportedly “off the table” and they’re looking at a late-August or Labour Day kickoff.”

The five stages of dealing with that report are as follows:

  • It is just a way-too-soon report in the middle of February.
  • CFL fans were all fed the Labour Day start bologna sandwich last year, let’s not order from that deli again.
  • Maybe if the league played their exhibition games in front of no fans and player safety in terms of covid were upheld, the regular season could start on time with an escalating amount of fans.
  • A small piece of Canadiana would die if the CFL was forced to shut the down again in 2021 and possibly forever.
  • The league needs fans in attendance to have any chance of surviving and if waiting another month or two longer than expected to protect the players and fans, then so be it.

If you are going to play football in Canada you need a moniker. One of Edmonton’s longest enduring sports reporters feels the decision on the mystery E has already been made.

I had to unblock Terry Jones to see the tweet because his opinions tend to make my eye twitch. This time round though, I agree with him.

As logical as Edmonton Empire would have been (it was their marketing slogan for a spell), the team immediately said the negative connotations to the word would keep it out of the running. If memory serves correctly (because Google searches are coming up empty), it was rumoured GM Brock Sunderland liked “Express”. Former EE star AJ Gass suggested “Elite”. With all due respect to the former basketball team, “Energy” seems fitting. Well, I’m still not sure what an “Evergold” is or why the team wanted to name itself after a Christmas tree in “Evergreen”. I just can’t help but to believe Terry Jones’ conspiracy theory.

Whatever the team name, whenever the doors swing open at Commonwealth Stadium, I’ll be there. If allowed to buy 50/50 tickets, yes please. If allowed to purchase cold beverages, yes please. If needed to get thermal tested while standing on one leg while reciting the alphabet backwards…you get it, I’m excited to go back.

3 Questions with Brad Gatschene, President of the Edmonton Wildcats Football Club

Sunday August 8 the Edmonton Wildcats travel to Saskatoon to play the Hilltops. Date, location and opponent subject to change due to the ongoing pandemic. When the Canadian Junior Football League (CJFL) released their schedule, they were very clear with their intentions:

“All games and dates are subject to change with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but announcing the schedule gives some hope of getting back to a “normal” football season.”

As a general football fan, it is exciting to see a schedule. As a Wildcats fan, it would have been nice if the schedule did not start against the team that has won the Canadian Bowl six (6!) consecutive times. As Wildcats management, how do you prepare your squad for battle when we are currently in a period of time where schedules are written in pencil instead of ink?

Let’s ask Brad Gatschene, President of the Edmonton Wildcats Football Club:

Q1) How does a team, 6 months ahead of opening day with no other confirmed timelines due to a pandemic, proceed?
“Great question, we are taking the same approach as last year and we are proceeding under the assumption there will be a season and if we have to decide to cancel the season then at least we were ready.”
To expand on President Gatschene’s “same approach” comment, here’s a quote on the pandemic forced approach so many teams had to adopt from an interview with Wildcats Coach Park from July 2020:
The irony of this pandemic is that the time we normally do not have to talk about the why’s and what’s of what is happening in a football game, we now have and have tried to make the most of it. Lots of meeting time, full offensive meetings, breaking into specific groups, zoom meetings for evaluations. Moving forward, Google meetings and Zoom meetings are now an adopted tool.
Q2) After a lost season, how do the Wildcats promote themselves to potential sponsors and fans (new and returning)?
“We have found a lot of positive response to the fact that we are surviving and plan to have a season in the future.  I feel like people recognize the importance of what we provide to our players, coaches and staff  and are very supportive.  The evidence of that was the tremendous support for the Edmonton Football Club 50/50 for the Wildcats, Huskies and Golden Bears.”
Q3) The Wildcats play games at Clarke Stadium (long time home) and at JP Bowl (aka Johnny Bright Park). Discuss the Clarke Stadium and the JP Bowl situation.
“The City has been very gracious to renovate JP Bowl for use by ourselves and the Huskies as the main tenant and shared with minor football.  Clarke does have additional seating capacity so we may ask the city to use it for our games against each other but our plan is to make JP our home.”
It is understood that there are currently more questions than answers so a sincere thank you Brad for taking the time to answer these three.

Xavier Moon, Jordan Baker and Hoops Sanctuary with Coach Small

How it started? A franchise that won their inaugural game on May 10, 2019 hosting the Niagara River Lions (highlights) and a league that was forced into playing the 2020 season in “a bubble”.

How it’s going? The reigning, defending, undisputed Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL) champion Edmonton Stingers recently re-signed two of their original starting lineup five players and started up a weekly question and answer feature with their Coach.

One would figure the first order of business would be locking up the only player to ever win the CEBL Player of the Year and the Stingers did just that.

“I am extremely excited to back with the Stingers for the third year! I am looking forward to being back in Edmonton and defending our Championship” Finals MVP Xavier Moon

Baker, the U of A Golden Bears all-time leader in scoring, rebounds, steals and assists, added CEBL Canadian of the Year to his list of accolades.

“We have built a strong, championship-level culture in Edmonton over the past two seasons. It was an easy decision to re-sign and continue to represent my hometown in the CEBL.” Jordan Baker

When I first saw the social media notifications that Coach Jermaine Small was going to be answering fan questions, I presumed it would be a “zoom” type, “live” setting. What the Club does instead is ask fans to send in questions through a “Direct Message” on their Twitter account (if they follow you) or message through their Facebook account.

The initial question Coach answered was about goals in free agency and Xavier Moon.

“Our biggest goal is to bring back the core of the Championship team. With that being said our first signing was Xavier Moon once again. I think it goes without saying with all his accolades that he’s a big piece of this and we’re so glad to have him back.”

Be sure to send in your questions Stingers fans. This is your chance to be a reporter. Cheers!

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