The Saskatoon Hilltops have made history in the CJFL again, welcoming the first female athlete to a CJFL team. Emmarae Dale joins the six-time defending champions after an incredibly successful career with the Saskatoon Valkyries, helping the organization win the Western Women’s Canadian Football League (WWCFL) title in 2016 and 2019.
“I am extremely honoured to be joining the Hilltops,” said Emmarae Dale. “It’s definitely been very surreal so far and I still can’t even believe it’s really happening, but I’m so grateful or the opportunity to play football at a higher calibre and challenge myself as an athlete. It has been an awesome experience so far. I have received a lot of positive feedback and support which has really helped me keep my composure on the field. Coming from the Valkyries, things haven’t been all that different other than the obvious fact that I’m playing against men now. The pace is definitely quicker but I’m excited to keep learning and growing as a football player.”
“This is an incredible day for the CJFL,” says league Commissioner Jim Pankovich. "We have always pride ourselves allowing 18-22 year old athletes a chance to continue their football careers and to have Emmarae become the first female athlete, we couldn’t be more proud. She joins a storied franchise, who once again has found a way to make history for our league.”
“I have watched Emmarae grow into a dominant football player with the Saskatoon Valkyries,” commented Jeff Yausie, Defensive Coordinator for the Hilltops. “She has great quickness along with strength and athleticism. We are looking forward to her contributing to our Hilltops defense on the field. She has a great attitude, and no one works harder than her.”
The addition of Emmarae to the team marks the first time in CJFL history that a female athlete has been a member of a team’s roster.
“Emmarae is joining a long list of Dale family members who have been great players and leaders for the Saskatoon Hilltops,” said head coach Tom Sargeant. “She has a great work ethic and brings a very physical element to her play. She is joining us for our 2020 practice schedule, and we can’t wait to see her in the Hilltops uniform at linebacker in 2021!”
The CJFL is focused on returning to play in 2021 and continue to plan for a full season leading up to the Canadian Bowl National Championship.
The cancellation of the 2020 season affected all of our players but most significantly those athletes that are nearing the end of their eligibility. The decision has been made to extend the eligibility of those players 22 years of age in 2020 (born 1998) for one additional season in 2021. Furthermore for those players 21 years of age in 2020 (born 1999) they have been granted one additional year of eligibility as well for the 2022 season. The CJFL remains committed to players that have chosen the CJFL as their long-term development path. To be eligible for this extended eligibility, affected players must have been on a 2019 CJFL roster, or registered with the CJFL (including those signed to a letter of intent) prior to August 6, 2020.
The CJFL and our 18 member teams continue to work towards a successful 2021 season.
The Canadian Junior Football League has determined that it is not feasible to operate a regular season or playoffs for the 2020 season. Our focus and attention will now be on our return to play plan for the 2021 season.
“It is very disappointing to make this announcement today, but our priority is the health and safety of our players, coaches, staff, and team administrators”, stated CJFL Commissioner Jim Pankovich.
Since the beginning of this pandemic, the CJFL has followed all public health guidelines and will continue to support them in the future. Unfortunately, at this stage, return to play guidelines do not allow for large enough gatherings to make training and competition safe for our athletes. Despite our hope that the situation in Canada would improve and allow for the CJFL to proceed with the 2020 season, the health and safety challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing risk to our players, coaches and staffs make it unfeasible for the CJFL teams to compete in 2020.
"Our teams play an important role in their communities. All CJFL teams will continue to engage with their players and communities as regional public health regulations allow." continued Pankovich.
We look forward to returning to competition in 2021.