No lead is safe — unless lightning strikes during a CFL game
New weather protocol forced 1st-ever early finish last week
No lead is safe is the CFL's rallying cry — unless lightning strikes.
With two minutes 41 seconds remaining in the third quarter and the Roughriders leading 17-10, lightning electrified the Montreal night sky, rained poured down, and the teams headed off the field.
Here's where the drama, and CFL weather protocol, take centre stage.
Because the game passed the midway part of the third quarter (7:30) as soon as the game was delayed the clock started ticking down. In this scenario, protocol now states that should a game be delayed for more than an hour, it will be called and the team leading will be awarded the victory.
Game 42 between the Montreal Alouettes and the Saskatchewan Roughriders has been called following a weather delay which began at 9:06 p.m. ET and concluded at 10:06 p.m. ET. In accordance to the CFL and the CFLPA’s weather protocol, Saskatchewan has won the game by a score of—@CFL_PR
And so the Riders, Als and fans across the league waited. The delay began at 9:06 p.m. ET. At first, nobody was really talking about this new hour time limit. But as the minutes ticked by, the protocol started to become a factor, even though many had no idea this rule was in place. However, shortly after the clock struck 10:06 p.m., the CFL called the game and awarded the Roughriders a 17-10 win.
"Player safety was the single most important factor considered in developing the protocol. It is based on a combination of two important factors: minutes played and minutes delayed," the CFL explains on its website.
It marked the first time in CFL history a game had been decided before reaching full-time.
And people weren't happy about it. Why an hour? How was this new protocol decided upon anyway?
Protocol developed this past off-season
Before this season, the league actually didn't even have a plan or protocol in place for how long a game should be delayed before it was called. It was a judgment made in real time, case-by-base, by the commissioner and other officials at the time — and so that meant that never before had a CFL game ended due to weather.
The weather protocol was negotiated into the CFL and CFL Players' Association collective bargaining agreement this spring. There's a lot in it but here it is quite simply.
Each stadium across the league has an onsite weather station to monitor extreme situations. The game supervisor and the CFL Command Centre will be notified if any lightning strikes occur within 25 kilometres of the stadium. In the event of a lightning strike within 10 km, the Game Supervisor will automatically stop the game by contacting the head referee, who will then send teams to their dressing rooms, while notifying spectators that the game is under a weather delay.
We don't recall our last game making it to the final three minutes... Are you sure about that stat? 🤔—@MTLAlouettes
If the game is halted before the midway part of the third quarter, they'll wait for three hours for the weather to clear. That seems like more than enough time.
If the game is stopped after the midway part of the third quarter, like it was in Montreal, they'll call the game after only an hour.
As for those marquee matchups in the post-season — If a playoff game or the Grey Cup is halted for more than three hours, it will be postponed and concluded the next day with the game commencing where it left off.
There are a few other finer details in the protocol which get kind of complicated but these are the key points to all of this.
Do changes need to made?
There have been many memorable CFL contests over the years featuring inclement weather — wicked summer storms knocking out power only to have the teams return late in the night to finish the game.
There's the Fog Bowl. Icy turf. Blizzards. And snowglobe settings capturing the quintessential Canadian experience. The CFL is built on quirky. Weather is part of the game. And so many wonder if an hour delay is enough.
This past week the CFL and CFLPA met to talk about this weather protocol. During that meeting the league says it "fully acknowledged that communication with the players association should have been better during the process, and those communication issues were fully discussed and resolved between the parties."
It seems inevitable this weather protocol will undergo an overhaul during the off-season but both sides agreed they would leave this current iteration of it in place for the rest of this season. As the weather starts to change in regions across the country, the chances are becoming slimmer a summer storm will stop another CFL finish.
But you can be sure officials, players and fans are hoping that lightning doesn't strike in the same place twice.