June 18, 2017

Long Read | If Chad Rempel Were Commissioner

Chad Rempel (46) of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers during the game against the Montreal Alouettes at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, MB. on Friday, June 24, 2016. (Photo: Johany Jutras)

Chad Rempel has seen some things during his days in the Canadian Football League.

There have been superb moments over a career that dates back to 2004, featuring stops in Edmonton, Winnipeg (twice), Toronto (twice), Hamilton and Saskatchewan and including a Grey Cup title with the Argos in 2012.

He came into the league as a top-rated receiver prospect after an all-star career at the University of Saskatchewan, survived as a special teams player, and then became a self-taught long snapper – now widely considered to be the best at the gig in the entire loop.

He’s been around this league long enough to see it go through three different commissioners – Tom Wright, then Marc Cohon, and finally, Jeffrey Orridge, who served his last day last week.

Recently, sat down with the oldest player on the Bomber roster – ‘most experienced’ might sound better – who is younger than only seven others in the CFL; Saskatchewan’s Kevin Glenn and Chad Owens, Ricky Ray in Toronto, Nik Lewis, Stefan Logan and Kyries Hebert in Montreal, and D’Anthony Batiste in Edmonton.

We chatted about what makes a good commissioner, who the best candidates might be, and what he’d change if he was able to slide into the big chair at CFL headquarters in Toronto…


“I believe the commissioner must have a good understanding and vision as to what is best for the league, while balancing the interests of the Players’ Association and the owners. Good negotiating and deal-making skills will be important in order to reach a consensus with a lot of different parties.”


His first act as CFL boss would be…

“I’d put a lot of energy into adding a 10th team for the league. Now that doesn’t happen overnight, so I would start with solidifying the right ownership group. That would be a goal because it makes sense on a lot of levels.

“Not only would a 10th team provide an opportunity to grow the game across Canada, it would also balance the schedule. A balanced schedule could mean more prime-time games, which would lead to increased viewership and revenue for the league.

“I’d like to see a team in the Maritimes, most likely Halifax. I firmly believe it would be a great market, similar to the way it has worked in the Prairies. Our league is 105 years old and it just doesn’t seem right that we don’t have a team on the East Coast.

“This would complete the CFL and make it coast-to-coast.”

After expansion, a priority atop his to-do list would be…

“I would like to see the league have a better plan in regards to player safety. Currently, players are only covered for up to 12 months after an injury. Injuries can take months, years or even a lifetime to heal. These are rare situations, but can have significant impact on a player’s career, finances and quality of life. The NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL all have some sort of treatment plan or long-term disability for those rare instances, and the CFL needs to do the same.

“The players are assets and deserve to be protected like every other business in North America.”


“I really love our game right now so this is a tough one. I’ve put a lot of thought into how the pass interference challenge process can be improved. I don’t like how some coaches fish for illegal contact calls on receivers or defensive backs away from the play, but as explained by Glenn Johnson (the CFL’s Senior Vice President of Football Operations and a former referee) it’s impossible to know what a quarterback’s first read was. The QB could have been looking at that particular receiver before moving to his next read on the opposite side of the field. In theory it makes sense, and the intent of the rule is great. However, there are still challenge situations that make me roll my eyes.

“One of the things I would tweak is I’d like to see a defensive player be allowed to have in-helmet communications, similar to a quarterback. If the offence is allowed in-helmet communication, the defence should be granted the same opportunity. This would also help mitigate signal stealing, which has been an issue and has no place in our game.”


(Rempel played in Toronto from 2006-07 and 2009-13)

“They’ve addressed some of their biggest issues, in my opinion, already. They now have a strong ownership group and were able to move to BMO Field, which had been a major hurdle for their organization in the past. On the football end, they’ve hired Jim Popp and Marc Trestman, who have had success together in Montreal.

“I did scratch my head at their Grey Cup ticket prices last year. They were marketing a tailgate game day experience while setting prices high enough to compete with the Maple Leafs. I couldn’t figure out who they were targeting. They ended up slashing prices later on in an attempt to salvage the ticket sales. I think they dropped the ball on that opportunity to host the Grey Cup in their first year at BMO Field.

“If I was the commissioner at the time, I probably would have granted the new ownership there the Grey Cup in two-three years, similar to what happened in Ottawa.”


Keep the East and West Divisions, or set up one table where the top six teams qualify for the playoffs?

“I’d keep the divisions because I think the rivalries are important for the league and each division goes through ebbs and flows over the years. We also have a crossover format currently in place which works well when one division is stronger. The league is too competitive top to bottom to justify the elimination of divisions. Ottawa was a great example of that last year.”

Move the season up, so that the Grey Cup game isn’t played on the last Sunday in November and potentially in adverse conditions?

“No. Those cold weather games are part of this league’s history. The Fog Bowl, the Mud Bowl, Eddie Brown’s catch in that snow game in 1996…. The list goes on and on and I love those games. Dealing with the elements is part of the game, whether it’s wind or rain or snow or cold.”

The Canadian quarterback issue: how do you help get more Canadians playing the position?

“Canadian quarterbacks are getting an opportunity now. It’s changing, much the same way it has changed in recent years at the running back position with guys like Jesse Lumsden, Jon Cornish, Jerome Messam, Andrew Harris. The level of Canadian football has improved quite a bit and I think we’re going to see more Canadian quarterbacks in the league.”

Dump the single point on a missed field goal?

“No, again. I’m a purist. I like it and I think it enhances the game.”


(Excluding himself and in no particular order)

  • Jim Hopson – Played for the Saskatchewan Roughriders from 1973-76; President and CEO of the Riders from 2005-2014 during which time the club captured two championships and posted record profits.
  • Wade Miller – Suited up for the Blue Bombers from 1995-2005; until last year, was the CFL’s all-time special teams tackles leader; currently the Blue Bombers President and CEO.
  • Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons – A CFL icon, Clemons played from 1989-2000 with the Toronto Argonauts; served as head coach, President and Vice-Chairman of the club since his retirement. Inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.


“I would choose more of a football guy, especially with the way this last one went. I think it takes a special candidate to do that job who also knows a lot about the CFL. The reason why these are my Top 3 candidates is because they know what the CFL means to Canada and I think that’s critical.”