On the heels of the announcement yesterday that the Buffalo Bills' pre-season game scheduled for Toronto this season would be moved back to Orchard Park, some Toronto writers greeted the news with happiness. But in interviews released yesterday afternoon, both the Bills and Rogers Communications are optimistic a new deal will be struck.
The negativity in Canada about the deal is thick among the media. Andrew Bucholtz, Canadian Football League blogger for Yahoo! Sports' 55 Yard Line, was glad the game was being moved. He shared his thoughts with me.
"Bills in Toronto was originally seen as a stepping stone to full team there by some up here," said Bucholtz. "So the overall lack of success (which I think moving this is part of) helps forestall that. Good for the CFL, good for me. Nothing against the Bills; I'd just much rather see them stay in Buffalo than keep showing up in Toronto."
Officially, the game was moved for "scheduling conflicts." The Rogers Centre, home of the Bills in Toronto, was booked for three of the four weeks of the Bills' pre-season slate. When the Bills and the NFL couldn't guarantee that weekend could be set aside for an all-important pre-season tilt, they were forced into moving it back to Buffalo.
At least one Canadian writer is skeptical about that explanation.
"Unofficially, there will be speculation and suggestions that dumping the August game from the Rogers Centre schedule is due to a 'potential lack of interest,'" said Bill Lankhof of the QMI Agency. "Or at least a lack of interest in spending a week's grocery money to watch a bunch of guys who are mere weeks from playing in the Indoor Football League."
While he did mention that "reality lies somewhere between the two" explanations, Lankhof continues to question the series' viability at the current prices.
The future of the series was also discussed yesterday by both Buffalo Bills CEO Russ Brandon and Rogers Communications' Media President Keith Pelley. Both noted that the two sides are working on a new deal.
"We continue to have dialogue, just as we did at the Super Bowl in Indy, and we’re optimistic that an agreement could be reached," Pelley said in an interview with John Wawrow of The Associated Press. "We’re definitely interested in continuing the relationship with the Bills in Toronto."
One item of note to many uneasy Bills fans is that Rogers is not looking to add regular season games to the series at this time.
"No," Pelley said. "At this point, without getting into any details of the conversation, I think that it would be a deal that would that would certainly work for both sides. We're not looking to increase the number of games."
While tickets prices would be lower, the scope of the deal would likely remain very similar Bills owner Ralph Wilson told the AP in December. Russ Brandon also had comments about extending the deal yesterday.
"We are currently working with Rogers Communications to extend our agreement to play Bills games at Rogers Centre," said Bills CEO Russ Brandon in a statement yesterday. "Our core goal is to continue to regionalize our franchise and continue our series in Toronto which has served us so well."
If you're one of the few who had tickets to the game, Rogers Media is offering full refunds.