As the Redblacks – the first Ottawa team in the Grey Cup since 1981 – landed in Winnipeg Tuesday looking for a win Sunday, CFL Commissioner Jeffrey Orridge kept a keen business eye on a very successful league expansion story.
American-born Orridge, whose dad was Jamaican, said “I am looking forward to my first Grey Cup as commissioner and all the opportunities we’ll have to grow the Canadian Football League (CFL) in the coming years.” Orridge is now a Canadian citizen.
“Orridge who appeared on The Camera’s front page when he was appointed commissioner added, “We’ve got to make sure that our product is as exciting and engaging as possible.”
That “product” promises to meet both those criteria and more on Sunday as the 103rd Grey Cup unfolds, with the upstart Redblacks – in only their second year as a franchise – taking on the Edmonton Eskimos.
The Eskimos won both regular season matchups between the two teams early in the season in July but the Redblacks, with star quarterback Henry Burris expected to be on the field, are not taking anything for granted.
Last Sunday, Ottawa defeated Hamilton TiCats before their hometown fans in the nation’s capital to win the CFL East Final. The same day, Edmonton bested the Calgary Stampeders in the West Final.
“It’s the game; always the game!” Orridge exclaimed. “But candidly, competition is always something we need to be conscious of and that we need to address.”
He noted that the Ottawa’s Redblacks are the gold standard of expansion, especially as the team has great owners, stadium and corporate partners.
Orridge says he is not only building the league’s profile but also the game itself.
“You know, if we use the analogy of this being a hospital, I wasn’t hired to be a surgeon. I was hired to make a bigger and better hospital. To make it run efficiently and effectively, and hire the right people who are very skilled but have specific duties.
“And so when people say ‘You know you are not a football guy’ my response is there are plenty of accomplished OB / GYN’s who have never been pregnant. I didn’t have to go playing the Canadian football game. I’m a sports guy,” Orridge said.
Off the field, there’s excitement in the air as the CFL is giving back to the communities in which they work and play. “It’s what we do,” the organization posted on Twitter.
Orridge, a Harvard Law School grad and lawyer, began his tenure April 29 this year as commissioner, the first-ever non-white chief executive of a major North American sports league.
He said the league will announce the 2017 Grey Cup host “in good time.” Toronto is slated to host the 2016 Grey Cup and was the host city for the 100th playing of the fall classic.
The former CBC Sports executive was responsible for including Shaw as the first presenting sponsor of the Grey Cup, an extension to the TSN / RDS broadcast deal and the new ownership group of Bell and Kilmer Group purchasing the Toronto Argonauts, and relocating them to BMO field in 2016.