CFL commish says 2017 Grey Cup news will have to wait

Canadian Football League commissioner Jeffrey Orridge charmed the crowd at Thursday morning’s Mayor’s Breakfast with his wit, but he wouldn’t deliver the news the city was hoping to hear most of all.


After lauding the Redblacks franchise as “an incredible success story,” the rookie commissioner said Ottawa will host a Grey Cup in “good time” but it was too early to award the 2017 championship to a host city yet.


Mayor Jim Watson has already declared the CFL’s championship game to be part of a “hat trick” of major events he hopes to see in the capital for Canada’s 150th birthday bash, along with the Juno Awards and an outdoor NHL game.

The Junos announced earlier this week they will be coming to Ottawa in two years, but for now the Grey Cup will have to wait.

“We award Grey Cups one year at a time, and there are a number of different factors that we consider,” Mr. Orridge told reporters after the breakfast event at City Hall. “We’re discussing what’s going to happen in 2017, but we just announced (Toronto will host the 2016 Grey Cup) a couple of weeks ago. We need some time and some space to breathe a little bit.”

The expansion agreement between the league and the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, which owns the Redblacks, stipulates that the franchise would be awarded the championship game within its first four seasons. Its fourth season will be in 2017.

“I have to beg ignorance on that because I wasn’t here at the time that the agreement was made,” said Mr. Orridge, who took over the commissioner’s duties in late April. “I’m really not in the business of speculation.”

OSEG partner Jeff Hunt said he believes the Redblacks are the leading contender to the host the big game in the country’s sesquicentennial year.

“We’ve got a good story, and with the success that we’ve had, I think that 2017 is certainly very much a factor,” he said. “It just makes a lot of sense. Ottawa is really hosting Canada’s birthday, and what better event to have to celebrate Canada’s birthday than an iconic event like the Grey Cup?”

Still, he added, the franchise must present a sound business plan to effectively sell the bid.

“You don’t get a Grey Cup just because it’s your turn,” Mr. Hunt said. “You have to meet minimum criteria, you have to demonstrate that it’s going to be an event worthy of the Grey Cup. There’s no doubt that we can do that.”

Before Mr. Orridge spoke, OSEG chief executive Bernie Ashe received a warm round of applause for being named the 2015 CEO of the Year by OBJ and the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce. The commissioner later praised Mr. Ashe and his colleagues for their work in revitalizing Lansdowne Park.

“It’s been an incredible success story,” he said. “It’s not just what they’ve put on the field, but what they’ve put around the field. The stadium, the whole TD Place and Lansdowne development project has been phenomenal, not just for the league but certainly the community and the city of Ottawa. I think they’re a shining example of where the CFL is going with all of its venues.”

The Mayor’s Breakfast is a regular event co-hosted by OBJ and the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce.