VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- When he stopped by as a guest at the Baltimore Football Club's preseason luncheon two weeks ago, Canadian Football League commissioner Larry Smith scoffed at the notion that negotiations between the league and the CFL Players Association might end in a strike.
"We have no intention of allowing that [a strike] to happen," Smith said. "We're trying to grow as a league. A labor interruption would make absolutely no sense. There's no way it will happen."
Smith meant what he said. The league and the CFLPA agreed Thursday night on a one-year collective bargaining accord. The deal is expected to be ratified by the union in about three weeks, according to the Canadian Press.
Details of the contract weren't released, but the league's import ratio, one of the main points of contention in the labor talks, will remain intact for another year. The league's eight Canadian-based teams must continue to dress at least 20 Canadian players, which represents a little more than half of each team's 37-man roster.
The two sides also adopted a new playoff format. The top five Canadian teams in the Northern Division and top three American teams in the Southern Division will qualify, with the fifth Canadian team joining the U.S. playoff pool.
That leaves open the possibility, however unlikely, of an All-Canadian Grey Cup.
Oddsmakers in Las Vegas have established Baltimore as a 7-2, second choice to win the Grey Cup, behind Calgary (3-1). British Columbia and Edmonton are tied for third choice at 6-1, with San Antonio fifth at 10-1. . . . Baltimore will own an official nickname by Friday. For now, the Vancouver newspapers are calling the team the "CFLers" and the "No Names."