Photo: Scott Grant
Canadian Football League legend Doug Flutie loves the three-down version of the game.
The Canadian Football Hall of Fame quarterback doesn’t want to see the CFL change any aspects of the way football is played north of the border if a partnership comes to fruition with the XFL.
“I see bringing in those big names to engage the younger fan. You hear those names involved, you hear The Rock involved, you hear Drake involved, yeah, they’d love that, they’d be a part of it. And then you’ve got a good financial backing that can support it for a while and grow the game,” Flutie said on The Benny and Bo Show.
“My fear is the loss of the CFL game, the uniqueness of it. I love three-down football, the wider field and all of that. I don’t want Canadian teams to end up turning into playing American football. I’d love to see it stay the way it is.”
The owners of both leagues have agreed to work together to identify opportunities for innovating and growing the game of football. Dwayne Johnson has stated he’s excited for the ‘unique opportunity’ the CFL and XFL ‘can potentially create together.’
“My years in the CFL were mostly the 90s. All the RPO (run-pass option) game and all that stuff started in those days in the CFL, and then the NFL sees something working and then they bring it to their game. We have been the innovators in football in the CFL for a long time. I love the uniqueness of the game and I don’t want to lose that,” Flutie said.
Johnson, Dany Garcia and RedBird Capital were selected as the winning bidders last August for all of the assets of Alpha Entertainment LLC, the parent company of the XFL. It cost $15 million and the goal is to make the XFL a stable league in the future, which could be aided by an agreement with the CFL.
“The other aspect of a successful league, the fan base, the attachment to your team. The CFL has been around so long, teams in Saskatchewan, teams in Winnipeg, Calgary. When you start up new leagues and they just have teams in newer cities, there is no attachment yet,” Flutie said.
“It’s just: ‘Oh yeah, there’s a football game, they’re playing over at the high school stadium. I don’t know, whatever.’ And that’s what’s so important, the history, the fact that the fans have that attachment to these teams.”
The original XFL lasted one full season in 2001 and lasted just part of one season before the COVID-19 pandemic put their 2020 season on hold, which led to Vince McMahon filing for bankruptcy and selling to Johnson, Garcia, and RedBird Capital. Meanwhile, the Grey Cup has been awarded for over 100 years in Canada.
“When it’s on and I’m flipping through stations, I stop and I watch the game. NFL game I’ll flip it on and watch a quarter or couple series, whatever. Anytime a CFL game is on and I flip it on, I’m locked in and I’m texting [Dave Dickenson] Dickie, [John Hufnagel] Huf, Pinball is still a friend in Toronto,” Flutie said.
After the Canadian government refused to provide a $30 million interest-free loan a year ago, the board of governors voted to cancel the 2020 season. The CFL reportedly lost between $60 and $80 million while sitting on the sidelines in 2020 when mostly every other pro league in the world found a way to play amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The CFL is so dependent on ticket sales and people in the seats, it’s hard to imagine they could have played and not had fans, they would have been bankrupt by the end of the year. It was a necessary evil to sit out last year for the CFL,” Flutie said.
“I love watching CFL football, it was a special time in my life and the friendships that I have from those days last forever. So, I’m very thankful it’s back. For my legacy, I didn’t want anything to happen to the CFL. You want to see it continue on.”
For the love of Flutie, hopefully the CFL lives on forever.