CFL commissioner Mark Cohon admits he breathed a huge sigh of relief earlier this month when the league and its players ratified a new five-year collective bargaining agreement.
CFL commissioner Mark Cohon
With so much riding on the 2014 season, a work stoppage would've been especially devastating.
"That (strike) was always potentially in front of us and we took it very seriously," Mr.Cohon said. "It (agreement) was important given the momentum we have.
``We didn't want to go backwards."
With labour peace achieved, Mr.Cohon has plenty to smile about heading into the new season.
A lucrative TV agreement with TSN, which is expected to net each team an extra $2.7 million in annual revenue, kicks in this year, while the expansion Ottawa Redblacks join the league and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats move into a state-of-the-art new stadium.
While not all the league's players were happy with the terms of the new collective agreement, the deal is done and the focus is back on football. The Toronto Argonauts visit the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in Thursday night's season opener.
"It's very important for us to have that stability and the right foundation to build upon," said Mr.Cohon. "I'll work closely with the players and make sure they understand our business moving forward."
While Mr.Cohon builds the business, veteran quarterback Henry Burris is building a franchise.
Mr.Burris, 39, entering his 15th CFL season, signed with Ottawa as a free agent and will lead the Redblacks into their first-ever game, July 3 in Winnipeg.
The CFL's newest franchise will also be playing in a new venue as TD Place Stadium replaces the old Frank Clair Stadium. Ottawa has been without pro football since the CFL suspended the former Renegades in 2006. That franchise was born in '02, six years after the Rough Riders folded.
"I remember seven years ago my first foray to the media and I think the second question asked was, 'When are you going back to Ottawa?'" Mr.Cohon said. "For years, it's been a hole in the heart of the CFL.
"But we weren't going to do it unless we had the right ownership group and we do. Having Ottawa back and doing it right were most important."
Mr.Cohon said having the Ticats at Tim Hortons Field is important for owner Bob Young, who for the first time since buying the club in 2003 has a viable opportunity to succeed financially. Hamilton played its home games at the University of Guelph last season while its new home was being built.
"Finally, I think he sees light at the end of the tunnel now," Mr.Cohon said. "People are going to be blown away in terms of the size and feel of that stadium.
"I think we have a lot to look forward to in Hamilton over the coming years."
The Ticats lost last year's Grey Cup game 45-23 to the Saskatchewan Roughriders at Mosaic Stadium. In the off-season, they signed free-agent quarterback Zach Collaros and released Mr.Burris.