Acrimony between Legends Football League Canada management and players in Calgary and Saskatoon has resulted in the complete cancellation of the 2013 season.
The four-team league, formerly known as Lingerie Football League Canada, announced last week that half of its scheduled games would be cancelled and the season-opening date pushed back by three weeks in order "to insure a better product on the field with greater preparation."
A Metro Calgary newspaper report later indicated that there had been a mass exodus of players from the Calgary Fillies, a new expansion squad, amid complaints of league disorganization and safety concerns.
Then earlier this week, according to the Saskatoon StarPhoenix, the Saskatoon Sirens voted not to suit up in 2013 after their schedule was trimmed from four to just two games, prompting the league to dissolve the season entirely.
The move was described as "devastating" by B.C. Angels linebacker/receiver Kate Marshall, one of five returning veterans from last year's squad which won the inaugural LFL Canada championship. The Angels play out of the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre (AESC).
The Angels, according to Marshall, were organized and prepared for the 2013 season – they had a roster of 17 committed players, and had been holding two to three practices per week in Vancouver and White Rock for the past four-plus months.
"Our team was definitely ready to go," she said. "It's a pretty big disappointment for us, because of the time commitment and everything we'd put into this season and launching the season in Canada.
"We were just starting to get into major promotion mode and selling tickets and everything."
Complaints out of Calgary about player safety – the Fillies reportedly only received shoulder pads and helmets two weeks before their first scheduled game – weren't shared by the Angels, Marshall said.
"Obviously with a contact sport, there's a concern with player safety," she noted. "But at the same time, we were pretty prepared in that aspect – we'd done a bit of hitting and contact with our pads and helmets to get up to speed. But my understanding is that a lot of the other teams hadn't gotten there (practicing in pads) yet."
As for the claims of LFL disorganization, Kevin Snell, who coached the Angels last season and has been mentoring the new coaching staff, noted that there's not typically a lot of communication between the league and the coaches until just before the season starts.
"(LFL founder) Mitch (Mortaza) is running a U.S. league and an Australian league," he said. "To be a coach in this league, you have to be a self-starter. They kind of give it to you and let you run with it, which is awesome – nobody likes to be micromanaged."
Snell said that the Angels players are "crushed" and "devastated" that the season has been kiboshed.
"It's unfortunate, because it's about the girls," he said.
Mortaza told the StarPhoenix that the LFL – which tends to generate controversy to begin with due to the players' skimpy attire – plans to return to Canada in 2014 with six teams and an expanded schedule.
The B.C. Angels had two home games scheduled at the AESC, and ticket purchasers will be issued refunds.