Friday, November 24, 2017

Randy Ambrosie Delivers His First State of the CFL Address

Media preview

The Canadian Football League is strong and looking towards an even brighter future, says Commissioner Randy Ambrosie.

“Our mission is to take our league to even greater heights,” Ambrosie told those at the annual State of the League news conference today in Ottawa.

Five months into his tenure as the league’s 14th Commissioner, Ambrosie highlighted some key metrics:

- It is expected that one in three Canadians will watch at least part of the 105th Grey Cup presented by Shaw on TSN and RDS this Sunday at 6 pm ET.
- Two million fans attended a CFL game this year.
- 2.4 million watch the CFL on TSN and RDS each regular season weekend.
- Playoff ratings for the divisional semifinals were up seven per cent and ratings for the divisional finals were up 15 per cent from a year ago.
- Offensive scoring is up 19 per cent and penalties are down 14 per cent since 2014.
- The league has seen $2 billion invested in recent years in new and improved venues, including the opening of the new Mosaic Stadium this year in Saskatchewan.
- Fans are engaging with the league online like never before, with 20.7 million video views this year on CFL social media channels; 25 million page views on; 175,000 fans playing some form of CFL fantasy and 60,000 downloads of the league’s CFL Football Frenzy mobile game.

Ambrosie cited several new steps forward for the league in 2017:

- the launch of its Diversity is Strength campaign, which brought a message of inclusion to the CFL’s own sidelines and events with youth, including a #BringItIn Rally with hundreds of local school children here this week.
- the introduction of Mark’s CFL Week, a fan- and media-friendly offseason showcase for the league’s leading players and top prospects;
- the mid-season decision to improve game flow by reducing coaches’ video challenges to one per team per game;
- the CFL NFL Flag Football tournament for youth that included competitions in every CFL city and culminated in a championship played here this week.
- an unprecedented agreement with the Canadian Football League Players’ Association to ban full contact practices during the regular season plus an extension of the season to reduce the number of short turnarounds between games.

“The health and safety of our players is of paramount importance to us,” said Ambrosie, who played in the CFL for nine seasons and was a member of the Edmonton Eskimos team that won the Grey Cup in 1993.

Addressing the issue of concussions in sport, Ambrosie described as “state of the art” the league’s approach to promoting awareness among players and working to prevent, diagnose, assess and treat concussions.

He vowed to continue to work with experts in the medical and scientific communities as research evolves.

He praised the work CFL teams and players do in the community, including the Be More Than a Bystander program that combats violence against women, Purolator Tackle Hunger which supports local food banks, CP Has Heart and its efforts to promote heart health, and many more.

On the prospect of the CFL adding a tenth team, Ambrosie confirmed an “enthusiastic and credible” group has come forward with hopes of securing a franchise for Halifax. But he stressed that discussions are in the early stages and a lot of work has to be done before any decisions are made.

“I know this can feel like unfinished business for many Canadians and especially our fans,” he said.

“But we must do our due diligence to ensure any expansion would make our entire league stronger over the long term.”

The Calgary Stampeders will face the Toronto Argonauts Sunday in the 105th Grey Cup presented by Shaw, which will also feature a half-time performance by Shania Twain.

To be played here at TD Place Stadium at Lansdowne Park, the home of the Ottawa REDBLACKS, the Grey Cup is the biggest single day sporting event in Canada and one of the country’s most watched events of any kind.

(CFL Communications)

This And That

Welcome to Friday!  Here are the usual weekly thoughts running through my muddled mind, and as always they come in no particular order.

--Grey Cup Sunday is near. Do you care?  Surprisingly, the answer is no with many I have spoken to and many who texted in or called into the Sportscage Monday. I find it hard to believe that in a province where so many eat, sleep and breath Rider football, that there is a lack of interest in the CFL championship.  Are we that jaded as a fan that we can't watch the league's championship game without the Riders in it or do we just hate Calgary that much. It may be a little of both.

  I will be the first to admit that I will be watching NFL games on Sunday and forgoing the pre-game show on TSN, but even though the Seahawks are playing the late game, I will be checking in with the Grey Cup and not ignoring it as so many have said they will do.  If you do that, is it good for the league?  If the league isn't healthy, the Riders aren't healthy.  Yes, they are the straw that stirs the league's drink, but it does surprise me there is so much apathy towards the game.  Is this just the moral minority speaking?

--As for the game, the Stampeders are seven point favourites and they deserve to be. They clearly are the better team, but that was the case last year against Ottawa as well and we know what happened.  If that should happen again this year, what will it say about Dave Dickenson?  It will be two years in a row he has gotten to the big game and been beaten.  Could another veteran quarterback have a day to remember in what could perhaps be his swan-song? If Ray pulls off a Henry Burris, questions will have to be asked in Calgary.  Despite the disparity in records, we all know things can happen in a one-game winner-take-all.  While Calgary has ruled the regular season in the CFL over the past decade, they still own as many Cups as the Riders over that time frame at 2 with Toronto also looking to make it two in the last 10 years with a win on Sunday.

--Commissioner Randy Ambrosie will get grilled today---twice!  Once by the media and then a while later by the fans in what may be a better deal than the session with reporters from across the land.  We all know there are many issues that Ambrosie must face in the off-season.   What is the number one issue?  There are so many different topics ranging from the marketing of the league to its officiating to the playoff format to scheduling.  I think the fans may be tougher on him than what the media will be. They will be the ones sending the message because they are the lifeblood of the league.  I'm sure he will handle everything the way he has handled things since becoming the guy in charge.  I do want to know what his off-season agenda is. As I've said before, I think this will not be an off-season where the CFL closes its doors with many announcements coming from the league office as Ambrosie tries to get a better reputation for his 9 and maybe 10 team loop. In fact, he basically assured us of that when he told Tim Baines of the Ottawa Sun this week.

"In the next five years, I want this game to set reasonable but aggressive targets for growth. I want to set revenue growth targets, I want to set attendance growth targets, I want to set broadcast growth targets. I want our players to be in a league that is on the move and marching forward. We’re going to have two seasons in the CFL from now on – football season and business season. Football season will end Sunday night at about 9:30 (EST). Business season starts Monday at 8 a.m. I use this word ‘co-opetition.’ We compete like crazy sideline to sideline, but we co-operate with each other in the name of a better Canadian Football League.|

How can you not love that statement if you're a CFL fan!!

--They kicked the Rider pep band out of media row?! Is this going to be the story before the 105th Grey Cup much like the fight between Angelo Mosca and Joe Kapp dominated the days leading up to the 102nd GC in Vancouver. It might.

--The Vanier Cup goes this weekend if you've forgotten.  Laval will play Western in Hamilton.  I'm not sure why USports Canada insists on having this game played on the day before the Grey Cup when the contests are in a different venue.  It would benefit USports Canada greatly in having the Vanier played in the same city, but that does present other problems.  The game should perhaps be played the day before CFL divisional finals weekend, Move it up a week if you can't have it in the same place as Grey Cup.

I also wonder when Regina will put a bid in for a future Vanier. You can't tell me it hasn't been discussed by the Rams and the University of Regina. It's not like they don't have a nice stadium to play the game in.

--Congrats to Nick Cross! Everyone around the Rams knew this kid was going to be special right out of the gate and they were right.  The linebacker is more than deserving of his national award for rookie of the year.  It won't be the last award he wins in university and pro football.  Congrats as well to Noah Picton for being named a 1st team All-Canadian. He just puts something else on a resume that should be more than good enough to get drafted and get a good look by a CFL team. 

--Week 12 NFL Lock of the Week --- Steelers over Packers
   Week 12 NFL Upset of The Week --- Jets over Panthers

--After watching a tripleheader of NFL on Thursday, I can say  1) The Vikings are possibly setting their fans up for another playoff heartbreak 2) The Cowboys are nothing without Ezekiel Elliott and 3) The sleepiness those in the US had from watching the Giants-Redskins wasn't because of o-d'ing on turkey.

--They say if you aren't in the Stanley Cup playoffs at US Thanksgiving, you aren't getting in. While that does astound me seeing we are just hitting the quarter pole, the numbers do seem to reflect that as 75 percent of teams in a playoff spot now do hold on to make it.  If that is accurate this year, it means Ottawa, Montreal and Edmonton would be on the outside looking in come playoff time.  I'm going to look at the standings and say that 75 percent number won't hold true this year.

If it does though, the Canadian team at the Worlds would be Olympic-calibre.  You could have Carey Price and Corey Crawford in net. Your defence could consist of guys like Brent Burns, Aaron Ekblad, Brent Seabrook and Shea Weber. Your forwards would be led by Connor McDavid, Jonathan Toews,  Brad Marchand, Claude Giroux and Logan Couture.  Not bad! Olympics Shmolympics!

--Gary Bettman and the city of Houston are apparently talking about the NHL. The Flames ownership is talking about leaving Calgarry if they don't get a new rink.  Hmmmmmmm!!! I still don't think Calgary is leaving, and I still think Quebec City is back in the NHL before places like Houston and Seattle are.

--Great point from Sportsnet's Ian Mendes. He sent out a tweet Thursday saying good on the NHL for not having any games on US Thanksgiving. He says it would nice for the league to respect Canada Day and not have free agency start that day. I couldn't agree more!

--When I first got onto Twitter, I never ever dreamed of having over 4000 followers.  That number really does astound me. Thanks to all who do "follow".  I do question the sanity of many of you.

--For those who complain about nothing to do in Regina on a Friday night, may I suggest some University basketball.  The Cougar men and women both have a challenge in front of them this weekend as Lethbridge comes to town.  Both teams come in with a record of 5-1. Michaela Kleisinger will start draining threes just after 6 and Brian Ofori will start dunking around 8:15. Come out and support some student-athletes and see some entertaining basketball at the same time.

--That's all I got.  Have a great weekend.  Enjoy the game!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Mike Reilly Named CFL Most Outstanding Player

On a night where the league’s biggest stars were celebrated at the Shaw CFL Awards, Mike Reilly emerged with the league’s top honours for the first time in his career as he was named 2017’s Most Outstanding Player. The Calgary Stampeders, Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Toronto Argonauts split the other awards in a star-studded evening recognizing the incredible accomplishments of players and leaders across the league. The Shaw CFL Awards, hosted by TSN’s James Duthie, took place at the Shaw Centre as part of the festivities for the 105th Grey Cup presented by Shaw.

The 2017 award winners:

  • Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly (Most Outstanding Player)
  • Calgary Stampeders linebacker Alex Singleton (Most Outstanding Defensive Player)
  • Winnipeg Blue Bombers running back Andrew Harris (Most Outstanding Canadian)
  • Winnipeg Blue Bombers offensive lineman Stanley Bryant (Nissan TITAN Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman)
  • Calgary Stampeders return man Roy Finch (Most Outstanding Special Teams Player)
  • Toronto Argonauts running back James Wilder Jr. (Most Outstanding Rookie)
  • Toronto Argonauts head coach Marc Trestman (CFL Coach of the Year)
The Commissioner's Award, recognizing an individual or group for outstanding contributions to the league, was awarded by Commissioner Randy Ambrosie honouring the memory of Rick Sowieta.
The Hugh Campbell Distinguished Leadership Award, chosen by the Commissioner of the CFL to recognize an individual who has demonstrated great leadership and made significant contributions to the league, was awarded to Vice President and Executive Producer at TSN Paul Graham.
The CFLPA announced Adarius Bowman as its 2017 recipient of the Tom Pate Memorial Award, given to a player who has made a significant contribution to his team, his community and Association to celebrate outstanding sportsmanship.
Luc Brodeur-Jourdain received the Jake Gaudaur Veterans’ Award from the CFL and Veterans’ Affairs Canada in recognition of his courage, perseverance, strength and service to his community.
The winners of the Shaw CFL Awards were selected by a panel of voters which included representation from the Football Reporters of Canada from all nine CFL markets, the national chapter of FRC voters and the head coaches of the CFL. In total, 77 voters completed their ballots.


In his eighth season in the CFL, Mike Reilly won his first Most Outstanding Player award after leading the league in passing yards (5,830), rushing touchdowns (12) and quarterback rating (87.1).
Reilly became the first Edmonton Eskimo to win the league’s top honour since 1989 when Tracy Ham took home the accolade. He also became the seventh Eskimo player to win the award, making it nine times that the award has gone to Edmonton.
The 32-year old set career highs in passing yards, passing touchdowns and rushing touchdowns while starting all 18 games for Edmonton. Reilly improved his career record in the CFL to 45-33. It was the third consecutive season he has been named Edmonton’s Most Outstanding Player.
The Kennewick, WA native led Edmonton to a 12-6 record in the ultra-competitive West Division, becoming the first 12-win team to finish third in the division. The Eskimos led the league in passing yards.
Reilly received 64 first-place votes.


Calgary Stampeders linebacker Alex Singleton was named the Most Outstanding Defensive Player for the first time in his young career.
Singleton set a new Canadian record for most tackles in a season with 123, good for second in the league and a new franchise benchmark. Singleton anchored a defence that allowed a league-low 349 points (19.4 points per game), created a CFL-best 50 sacks and forced the most turnovers.
Singleton added four sacks, a forced fumble and one interception of his own, finishing second in the CFL with 151 total defensive plays.
The last Stampeder to take home the top defensive honour was John Grace in 2005. This is just the fifth time that a Canadian has won Most Outstanding Defensive Player; Singleton joins Jim Corrigall (1975), Bill Baker (1976), Dave Fennell (1978) and Brent Johnson (2006).
Singleton tallied 74 first-place votes.


Winnipeg native and Winnipeg Blue Bombers running back Andrew Harris made 189 carries, leading the league in rushing yards with 1,035 and yards from scrimmage with 1,892.
This season Harris threatened to become the first player in CFL history to record 1,000 rushing and receiving yards. Despite falling short of the milestone Harris set a new running back record of 105 receptions, breaking Craig Ellis’ record (102) set in 1985.
Harris became the first player in CFL history to rush for 1,000 yards and 850+ receiving yards in a single season.
Harris played a big role in Winnipeg hosting their first playoff game at Investors Group Field, their first home playoff date since 2011.
In his eight years in the league Harris has amassed 6,268 rushing yards, 4,127 receiving yards and 60 total touchdowns.
The last Blue Bomber to take home the Most Outstanding Canadian Award was Doug Brown in 2001.
The running back received 74 first-place votes.


In his third season with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Stanley Bryant anchored an offensive line that rushed for the most yards and scored the second-most offensive points in the CFL.
The Goldsboro, North Carolina native became the first Blue Bomber to take home the top offensive lineman honour since Dave Mudge did so in 2001.
“Congratulations to Stanley Bryant for winning the 2017 Nissan TITAN Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman of the Year Award,” said Steve Rhind, director of marketing, Nissan Canada Inc. “In partnership with the CFL, Nissan Canada is proud to recognize the CFL’s offensive linemen for their performance and dedication, and is thrilled to present this year’s award to Stanley for his contribution to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.”
Bryant started in 18 regular season games this year and played an integral role in Matt Nichols setting new career highs in passing yards and touchdowns.
The East Carolina standout received 60 first-place votes.


Calgary Stampeders return man Roy Finch had one of the best seasons in CFL history when it came to punt returns. His 1,200 punt return yards were the third-most ever in a season, trailing only Henry Williams in 1991 (1,440) and Chris Wright in 1995 (1,236).
Finch averaged 16.4 yards per punt return, a benchmark that puts him third in the record book behind Leon Bright and Larry Highbaugh who both averaged a CFL-best 16.8 yards per punt return.
The third-year player scored three punt return touchdowns and recorded nine punt returns that exceeded 30+ yards.
The Oklahoma Sooner product added 696 kickoff return yards and 18 missed field goal return yards for 1,914 combined return yards on the season. He is the first Stampeder to be named the Most Outstanding Special Teams Player since Rene Paredes in 2013.
In his career, he has scored four punt return touchdowns while averaging 14.9 yards per punt return.
Finch received 61 first-place votes.


After starting the season as primarily a special teams player, Wilder accumulated 261 yards from scrimmage (169 rush, 92 receiving) in the first 10 weeks. Once the second half of the season began, Wilder took a huge step into the spotlight.
The Florida State product recorded 1,141 yards from scrimmage (700 rush, 441 receiving) in his last seven games en route to securing the regular season’s East Division title for the Argonauts.
In total this season, Wilder rushed for 872 rushing yards and averaged 7.1 yards per carry. He added 51 receptions for 533 receiving yards and scored a total of five touchdowns on the year. He finished fifth overall in rushing yards despite starting in just ten games.
The last time an Argonaut won Most Outstanding Rookie was Derrell “Mookie” Mitchell in 1997.
The running back received 72 first-place votes.


After four years away from the CFL, Trestman helped turn around the Toronto Argonauts to win his second Coach of the Year award.
After being named the head coach in late in February, Trestman flipped the team from bottom dwellers in the East Division to East Division Champions in one year. He was instrumental in the team hosting their first playoff game since 2013.
Trestman becomes the first Argonaut to win the Annis Stukus Award since 2012 when Scott Milanovich won the award.
This is Trestman’s second honour: he won his first Coach of the Year award in 2009 with the Montreal Alouettes.
Trestman recorded 54 first-place votes.

Rams LB Nick Cross Named USports Canada Football Rookie of The Year

Media preview

Thursday was a big night for University of Regina Rams linebacker Nick Cross.

The Regina product, who played his high school ball at Leboldus, was named the recipient of the Peter Gorman Trophy as the U SPORTS Rookie of the Year on Thursday night at the All-Canadian Gala in Hamilton, Ontario.

Cross was also named a second-team All-Canadian, while Rams quarterback Noah Picton earned first-team All-Canadian honours for the second consecutive season.

Cross, who becomes the first player in Rams history to earn the Peter Gorman Trophy, had a sensational first season with the team.

He earned the starting job in camp and proceeded to win Canada West Defensive Player of the Week honours following his first career game, a win over UBC. Cross ended up as the team’s leader in tackles (33 solo, 26 assisted) while also recording three tackles for loss including a sack, two pass breakups, one interception, and one forced fumble.

Cross also becomes the first rookie in Rams history to be named an All-Canadian after earning a selection to the second team.

Picton joins only Jon Ryan, Jamir Walker, and Brett Jones as Rams players with multiple first-team All-Canadian selections after an outstanding fourth season at the U of R. Picton led Canada West in completion rate (68.8%), tied for the conference lead in touchdown passes (19), and was second in Canada West in passing yards (2491). With a full season of U SPORTS eligibility still remaining, Picton also became the conference’s all-time leader in passing yards.

University of Alberta RB Ed Ilnicki was named the Hec Crighton Trophy as the country's most outstanding player. That was an honour Picton won in 2016. 

This Week In Cougar Athletics

Home Schedule – Friday
Women’s Basketball – vs. Lethbridge, 6:00 PM (CKHS)
Men’s Hockey – vs. Lethbridge, 7:00 PM (The Co-operators Centre)
Men’s Basketball – vs. Lethbridge, 8:00 PM (CKHS)

Home Schedule – Saturday
Men’s Basketball – vs. Lethbridge, 6:00 PM (CKHS)
Men’s Hockey – vs. Lethbridge, 7:00 PM (The Co-operators Centre)
Women’s Basketball – vs. Lethbridge, 8:00 PM (CKHS)

Away Schedule – Friday
Swimming – at Canada West Championships (Victoria, B.C.)
Women’s Volleyball – at UBC Okanagan, 6:00 PM PST (Kelowna, B.C.)
Women’s Hockey – at Lethbridge, 7:00 PM MST (Lethbridge, Alta.)
Men’s Volleyball – at UBC Okanagan, 8:00 PM PST (Kelowna, B.C.)

Away Schedule – Saturday
Swimming – at Canada West Championships (Victoria, B.C.)
Women’s Hockey – at Lethbridge, 3:00 PM MST (Lethbridge, Alta.)
Women’s Volleyball – at UBC Okanagan, 5:00 PM PST (Kelowna, B.C.)
Men’s Volleyball – at UBC Okanagan, 7:00 PM PST (Kelowna, B.C.)

Away Schedule – Sunday
Swimming – at Canada West Championships (Victoria, B.C.)
Wrestling – at Huskie Invitational (Saskatoon, Sask.)

Swimming (Women’s U SPORTS Ranking: No. 9) – The Cougars will head to Vancouver Island this weekend to compete in the Canada West Championships, which will be hosted by the University of Victoria from Friday through Sunday. Both the men’s and the women’s teams will head into the meet after being recognized in the latest national poll, with the women’s team checked in at No. 9 and the men’s team receiving votes but just outside of the top 10. Live results and video will be available all weekend long at

Men’s Hockey – The Cougars picked up a weekend split against the No. 9-ranked Calgary Dinos last weekend, winning 3-2 on Friday night before falling 3-2 on Saturday. Zach McPhee netted the winning goal in Friday’s contest while Tristan Frei had a goal in each game. Regina is back at home this weekend as the Lethbridge Pronghorns visit The Co-operators Centre for two evening matchups.

Women’s Basketball (U SPORTS Ranking: No. 3) – The Cougars picked up a Friday win but lost their first game of the season on Saturday at the hands of the UNBC Timberwolves, falling 81-79. Friday’s contest saw the Cougars roll to an 88-53 win but a late Timberwolves run on Saturday dropped the Cougars to 5-1. The Cougars will return to the CKHS this weekend for a battle against the 8-0 Lethbridge Pronghorns.

Men’s Basketball – The Cougars (5-1) bumped their win streak to five games with 80-76 and 96-88 wins over the hometown UNBC Timberwolves on the weekend. Regina is back at the CKHS for the final home games of the calendar year this weekend, as the undefeated Lethbridge Pronghorns are in town for a two-game series.

Women’s Volleyball – The Cougars earned a sweep of the Brandon Bobcats at the CKHS last weekend, fighting back for a thrilling five-set victory thanks to kills on the final four plays by Canada West Second Star of the Week Ashlee Sandiford on Friday night before a three-set sweep on Saturday. Regina (5-5) will head to Kelowna this weekend for a matchup against the 6-2 UBC Okanagan Heat.

Men’s Volleyball – The Cougars dropped a pair of home matches against the Brandon Bobcats on the weekend, losing 3-0 on Saturday before a tough five-set defeat on Saturday night. The Cougars will refocus this weekend as they take on the UBC Okanagan Heat (3-5) in Kelowna.

Women’s Hockey – The Cougars suffered a pair of defeats at The Co-operators Centre on the weekend, as the Calgary Dinos picked up two 1-0 wins. Regina (4-6-1-1) will look to rebound this weekend on the road against the seventh-place Lethbridge Pronghorns.

Wrestling (Women’s U SPORTS Ranking: No. 4 / Men’s U SPORTS Ranking: No. 10) – The Cougars hosted the Cougar Invitational at the CKHS on the weekend, with the women’s team finishing first in the overall standings. The men’s team placed second, as six Cougar wrestlers earned top spot in their weight class. Both teams will be in action in Saskatoon this weekend for the Huskie Invitational.

Track & Field – The Cougars opened the 2017-18 season on Saturday with their annual Intrasquad Meet split between the CKHS and the Regina Fieldhouse. The team’s first official meet will be on Dec. 2, when the Cougars will compete in the Larmer Friendship Games in Regina.

Week 12 NFL Capsules

Image result for thanksgiving turkey 

It is Thanksgiving weekend in the U-S.  That means football, and a lot of it today as instead of one game there are three. That leads us into the usual Sunday diet of NFL.  For a complete look at this weekend's games, click here

Monday, November 20, 2017

Chris Jones Reflects On East Final Loss and 2017

Riders HC and GM Chris Jones faced reporters Monday less than 24 hours after the 25-21 defeat at the hands of the Toronto Argonauts in the East Final to talk about that game, the 2017 season and where the team is going forward.

Amongst the highlights of the almost 19 minute session

-- This team has as much character as any he has ever been on
-- Despite the improved play in year 2 from year 1, the fact you aren't playing for a championship still stings
--The roughing the passer call on Kevin Glenn that wasn't called is a penalty as stated in the rule book and should have been called. It also was not the reason they lost the game
--Talks with pending FA Brandon Bridge have already started
--He will be sitting down with Duron Carter to discuss his future