Former CFLer Jeff Fairholm thinks Halifax is the wrong city for CFL expansion: ‘Nova Scotia is a province that doesn’t want to be around the others’

Photo Courtesy: Atlantic Schooners

Former CFL wide receiver Jeff Fairholm thinks a tenth team could thrive on Canada’s east coast, but league officials are putting it in the wrong place.

The Calgary native, who made 426 catches for 7,465 yards and 59 touchdowns in nine seasons with the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Toronto Argonauts, has considered himself a supporter of the Atlantic Schooners since attending the 2019 Touchdown Atlantic Celebration. He just doesn’t see Halifax as the kind of unifying market that could make a regionally supported franchise work.

“I’m not sure putting it in Halifax is the best idea,” Fairholm said during an appearance on The Rod Pedersen Show. “Nova Scotia, as far as I know, is a kind of province that doesn’t really want to be around the other provinces, while New Brunswick would be [a good location]I thought.”

Since 2005, the CFL has played five touchdown Atlantic games in the Maritimes, with only the first coming in Halifax. The remainder were housed in Moncton, New Brunswick, Fairholm’s preferred expansion destination.

“We were in New Brunswick, we were there in Moncton and it was a hip town. Everything was happening, the bars and restaurants were going, the fans were there and the game was a good game. It was a great little stadium there too, obviously they would have to expand, but I think it could work out there,” he said, comparing it to Regina, where he played his first six CFL seasons.

“That’s kind of the feeling I got and then you make an Atlantic out of it [team]what they were up to.”

Halifax has become the CFL’s preferred expansion location thanks to its larger population base — with around 465,000 residents in its metro area compared to 145,000 in Moncton — but the league has yet to deliver on the promise of a franchise there since unveiling marketing for the Atlantic schooner ahead of the 2018 Gray Cup.

Schooner Sports and Entertainment, the ownership group led by Gary Drummond, managed to secure $20 million in government money to build a stadium in Halifax and had hoped to start playing in 2022, but the COVID-19 Pandemic prompted the city to discontinue the stadium funding project 2021.

According to Fairholm, announcing plans before a franchise was secure was a huge mistake by the league, just as it was when the Schooners’ first proposed franchise died in 1982.

“I think they were trying to test the waters by almost announcing it to see if we’re announcing it, what kind of coverage we’re getting,” he said. “I think unfortunately they also made a mistake, because here we are, what three or four years later, and nothing works.”

With the project firmly on hold, SSE has stated that they are still interested in pursuing a stadium deal if timing allows. During his 2021 State of the League speech, Commissioner Randy Ambrosie said talks about expansion were continuing, but gave no timeline for when a team would start playing.

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