‘You just feel lost’: Wiped out Stampeders season hits hard for fans, football community

Lee Cawiezel (right) and his daughter Skylar are pictured at a Calgary Stampeders game with the Grey Cup. Cawiezel, of Drumheller, has been a Stampeders fan for 35 years and runs the Calgary Stampeders Fan Page on Facebook.

Like many diehard Canadian Football League fans, there’s been a gaping hole in Lee Cawiezel’s summer weekends this year.

The Calgary Stampeders season-ticket holder was disappointed but unsurprised when word came Monday that the CFL season — already delayed and facing a shortened schedule —

was officially cancelled


The 2020 campaign was wiped out as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, after the federal government denied the league the $30-million interest-free loan it had requested in order to stage games this season.

For Cawiezel, who has followed the Stampeders since 1985, there’s a sense of sadness when it comes to losing the sacred summer ritual of watching football action from the seats of McMahon Stadium.

“It kind of feels like there’s something missing now,” he said. “You just feel lost. All the friends you might see (at games), the tailgates.”

But beyond finding ways to fill countless weekend hours normally reserved for watching the three-down game, Cawiezel said the bigger impact of a lost Stampeders season would likely be felt by the community as a whole.

 Calgary Stampeders fans cheer their team after they beat the Edmonton Oilers 39-18 in the Labour Day Classic at McMahon Stadium, Monday September 4, 2017.

Cawiezel, who lives in Drumheller, is one of the administrators of the

Calgary Stampeders Fan Page

on Facebook, which boasts more than 6,000 members.

He said a shared love for the Red and White helps bring together supporters far and wide in camaraderie with one another each football season.

While a get-together for fans and Stamps alumni could be in the cards next month, he said it won’t be the same as watching live Stampeders games together in the hopes of a Grey Cup run this fall.

“I think (fans) are feeling worried about what the future holds for the whole CFL, itself,” Cawiezel added.

At the community football level, the lack of pro games this summer has hit hard, according to Ron Logan, past president of the Calgary Bantam Football Association.

The organization is one of many minor football groups that benefit each year from 50/50 draws at Stampeders home games, through the Calgary Stampeders Foundation.

Players, coaches and parents from both the CBFA and the Calgary Colts

volunteer their time

to sell 50/50 tickets at McMahon Stadium every summer.

“I think the trickle-down effect is huge,” said Logan. “They all look forward to going to Stamps games.”

 Empty stands are shown at McMahon Stadium in Calgary on Wednesday, June 17, 2020.

He said the Stampeders Foundation still made a donation to the CBFA this year, albeit at a lesser amount than usual.

“We draw a significant amount out of that every year,” Logan said.

“It’s a loss but our Calgary bantam football is financially secure. We’ve reduced our fees this year tremendously for the kids as well to help them out. We’ll just try to make it back up in coming years, I guess.”

Calgary Colts coach Dennis Holowaychuk said his junior football team would also feel the pinch.

“With the CFL not going, it hurts us for sure, but we’ve had to be a little creative the last few years anyway,” said Holowaychuk, noting the junior league squad’s season was also cancelled due to the pandemic.

“I just think it hurts, not having them, period,” he said of the CFL.

“The role modelling part of it is not there and the Stamps have been pretty good with helping with amateur football, particularly with junior. Not having that, I think will hurt, and financially for sure it will hurt some.”

Cawiezel called the community impact of the Stampeders “huge.”

“A lot of people don’t recognize how much volunteer work and fundraising the Stampeders players do for the community and surrounding communities, and the money that brings in and the fans it brings in, let alone all the restaurants and the service industries that on game day are affected as well,” he said.

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