Stamps in town

Sinopoli’s CFL journey demonstrates challenges for Canadian quarterbacks

Brad Sinopoli (above) practices with the Calgary Stampeders at Queen’s West Campus on July 10. He’s the only Canadian quarterback currently on a CFL roster.
Brad Sinopoli (above) practices with the Calgary Stampeders at Queen’s West Campus on July 10. He’s the only Canadian quarterback currently on a CFL roster.
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Canadian football fans were treated to a rare sight at Queen’s West Campus earlier in July.

Around 700 fans were in attendance to watch the CFL’s Calgary Stampeders practice on July 9 and 10, in between Toronto and Montreal road games.

Gaels head coach Pat Sheahan viewed the practices as an opportunity to market the league to football fans unfamiliar with the Canadian game.

“One thing that’s painfully obvious is the CFL has the ominous monster to the South — everything it does is compared to the NFL,” Sheahan said. “Until you see them live … you don’t realize how the big the players are — how fast, how athletic."

“This is elite level football. This is what [the players] do to earn a living.”

The Stampeders featured a familiar face in former Ottawa Gee-Gees quarterback Brad Sinopoli — the only current Canadian-bred quarterback on any CFL roster. In 2010, his final season with the Gee-Gees, Sinopoli passed for 324 yards and three touchdowns in a 27-25 overtime win over Queen’s at Richardson Stadium.

After starting quarterback Drew Tate was injured in Calgary’s July 7 loss to the Toronto Argonauts, Calgary signed Brad Sinopoli to serve as their third-string quarterback.

Selected 29th overall by the Stampeders in the 2011 draft, Sinopoli dressed for all of Calgary’s 18 games in 2011 but only took the field as a field-goal holder. The Stampeders cut him after training camp this past June.

“In a very short time at training camp, [a Canadian quarterback] must be able to compete with their American counterparts, and actually outperform them,” Sheahan said. “There’s no question their backs are against the wall.”

While the CFL requires each team carry at least 20 non-import players on its active roster — a mandate aimed at preserving the amount of Canadian talent in the league — there are no such restrictions on the quarterback position.

Sinopoli’s situation is similar to that of former Queen’s quarterback Danny Brannagan, who was released by the Toronto Argonauts in June 2011 after just one pro season.

Sheahan proposed a potential solution to the problem — one that would afford more opportunities to players like Sinopoli and Brannagan.

“I think the league has to protect the Canadian quarterback,” Sheahan said. “Secure a roster spot for a Canadian quarterback so he can develop ... when he gets the chance, he is capable of winning the job with his performance.”

“If the league doesn’t protect a roster spot for a Canadian quarterback, at this time, it’s going to be very difficult for one to overcome all of the obstacles.”

­­—With files from Peter Morrow

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