Wednesday, December 30, 2009

One Last Chance

The Regina portion of the 2010 World Juniors comes to an end today. Sweden will play Finland while the Czech Republic will take on Russia to wrap up Pool B and the Regina portion of the event. It has been great hockey. If you haven't been to the BC yet, find a way to get there tomorrow and if you can watch both games. You will see many, many players who will be in the NHL and you will see many players who will be draft picks this year. Guys like Sweden's Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson along with Finland's Mikhail Grandlund and Sami Vatanen. Add to that players like Russia's Nikita Filatov and Igor Bobkov and the Czechs Vladimir Roth and Andrej Nestasil. These guys are all destined to be NHL'ers one day. With nothing decided in Pool B yet as far as who finishes first, expect two very good hockey games to be played.
Greg Harder of the Leader-Post has a nice story on the Austrians who wrapped play up in Regina Wednesday afternoon with a discouraging 10-1 loss to Finland. To say the Finns dominated the game would be an understatement. They led 5-0 after one and had outshot Austria 25-0. That's right 25-0! When the Austrians got their first shot on goal, there was quite the hearty cheer at the Brandt Centre. The Regina fans really got behind the Austrians and they thanked those fans with a symbolic lap around the ice to salute everyone when yesterday's game was over. I don't know what happened to the Austrians in the last two games of the tournament. They played Russia and Sweden so well in the first two games and actually had some thinking they could pull an upset off against the Swedes when they tied their game at 3 late in the 2nd period. However, they were disappointing against the Czechs and the Finns. Regardless of their results, the Austrians learned some things in Regina and hopefully for them they can stay alive in the relegation round and be in Buffalo next year.
Have you caught Liam Maguire doing his thing at Worldfest. Maguire is a walking, talking hockey trivia machine. You name him a player and he will start rattling off trivia about that player. He is to hockey what Vanstone is to the Riders. He is a walking, talking encyclopedia. The question I have when it comes to Maguire is this. He walks around wearing a green Canada jersey. On the one shoulder of that jersey is the Riders 100th anniversary logo. Wasn't that logo supposed to adorn the jerseys the Canadian players wore once each in Regina and Saskatoon? That logo wasn't there when they had the jerseys on. Was the negative backlash about the jerseys and the Riders enough for Hockey Canada to pull that logo from the shoulder. It would appear so. What makes it funny is a high ranking member of the Regina committee told me at no time were the green jerseys meant to symbolize the Riders. Uhhhhhh OK! I guess Maguire went out and put that logo on himself.
What are your New Years Eve plans? Is it just me or are fewer and fewer people going out for New Years deciding instead to go to a house party or just do something by themselves. I know a lot of people who are going to a friends or to a house party or just staying by themselves and enjoying a nice dinner and a movie instead of going out. Is that just a sign of our age creeping up on us or is it a sign of the times where people can have just as good a time for 75 bucks instead of shelling out that for a ticket to go somewhere? I think its a little of both. I've had some memorable New Years Eves. If my good buddy Chop is reading this(which he probably isn't because I don't think he can read...KIDDING CHOP!!)he knows of one New Years Eve that I'm speaking of. Stories can't be told to protect the innocent. Lets just say it brings a smile to the faces of those that took part.
Patrice Bergeron and Brendan Morrow seem to be the guys getting the most attention when it comes to the Canadian Olympic hockey team roster. A lot are wondering how Bergeron gets there and guys like Lecavalier and St. Louis don't. Many want to know why Morrow is there period. Its simple. The guy brings that grit and hard-nosed work ethic that you need to be successful. Have some faith in Stevie Y. I wonder if their defencemen are old enough, but if guys like Yzerman, Lowe and Babcock think they are, I'll go with that.
And it looks like our days on this Earth are numbered. Check this story out.......

The head of Russia's space agency called on Wednesday for a massive planetary effort to deflect a massive asteroid as it skips by the Earth in 2029.
"People's lives are at stake," Anatoly Perminov told Voice of Russia radio. "We should pay several hundred million dollars and build a system that would allow us to prevent a collision, rather than sit and wait for it to happen and kill hundreds of thousands of people."
Perminov said that Russia will consider building a spacecraft designed to nudge the Apophis asteroid away from the Earth, and invited NASA, the European Space Agency and the Chinese space agency to join him.
The Apophis asteroid, the size of just under three football fields, was first spotted heading towards Earth five years ago. At that time, it was suggested that there was a 2.7 per cent chance it would strike our planet in 2029. That alarming initial estimate has been seriously downgraded since, but continues to hold the attention of expert observers.
Apophis will first pass us at close range in just under twenty years. It may graze the Earth, missing us by only 30,000 km, less than the distance between the earth and the moon. But, at this point, astronomers have ruled out the possibility that it will hit us.
However, there is a very small chance that it will pass through a 600 metre-wide "gravitational keyhole" as it swings by. That would alter the course of the rock and cause it to slingshot back and hit the Earth in 2036. New NASA calculations released in October put the chances of impact during the second pass at 1-in-250,000.
That doesn't sound too terribly alarming, but as Dr. William Ailor, of California's Aerospace Corporation said Wednesday, "That's a pretty high probability if you're betting the planet."
In April, Ailor chaired the bi-annual Planetary Defense Conference that brings together the world's leading asteroid experts.
"There are still issues around how great does the risk have to be before you start planning a mission like this. But ultimately, everyone agrees that we will have to do this sooner or later," Ailor said.
Prof. Donald K. Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office, says the time to make a decision on Apophis is in late 2012 and early 2013, when it makes another close approach, within about nine million miles of Earth.
"The additional optical and radar data taken then will almost certainly remove any possibility of an Earth collision in April 2036. To my mind it would make sense to wait until 2013, refine the orbit and in the very unlikely event that the impact probability increases, then begin planning possible deflection options.
"While Apophis is almost certainly not a problem, I am encouraged that the Russian science community is willing to study the various deflection options that would be available in the event of a future Earth threatening encounter by an asteroid. We haven't found one yet but it does make sense to study deflection options in advance."
A variety of deflection methods have been suggested in past: gravitational tractors, landing a manned mission on Apophis, knocking it off target by ramming it or striking it with nuclear weapons. There is no broad consensus on what might work best.
"There's also the question of how you design the 'campaign' to attack the asteroid. You'd probably have to launch multiple vehicles, in case some failed," Ailor said.
Five years ago, Ailor said, the Aerospace Corp. ballparked the cost of such a mission at $80 billion (U.S.). NASA's current annual budget is a little over $17 billion. Perminov, sounding less than expert on the whole subject, got the year of impact wrong (2032), couldn't cite the latest estimates accurately and seriously underestimated the potential cost. But he's right about the risk.
Ailor points out that the asteroid which exploded over Tunguska, Russia in 1908 was only 30 metres across. It devastated more than 2,000 square kilometres of forest. Apophis is 270 metres in diameter.
What if it hit the Earth directly?
"That'd be a very bad day," Ailor said. "Probably not the end of all life as we know it. But a bad day."
GULP!! I guess I should start making that list of things to do right away. We've only got 20-30 years left to enjoy ourselves.

Pats Get Goalie

With the injury to Damien Ketlo and the youth of the rest of the goaltenders in the Regina Pats system, the team today acquired 18 year old Brett Martyniuk from the Tri-City Americans in exchange for a conditional draft pick.
The Winnipeg native is in his second year with the Americans and has a 1-1 record this season as a back-up with a 2.73 GAA and a shutout.
He was a teammate of Kyle Mulder with the Winnipeg Thrashers club that went to the Telus Cup finals in 2008.

Duane Forde's Draft Rankings

Here's a position-by-position look at the top draft eligible players heading into the offseason.

Offensive Line

1. John Bender (6'8", 325, Nevada)
2. Danny Watkins (6'4", 310, Baylor)
3. Joe Eppele (6'8", 306, Washington State)
4. J'Michael Deane (6'5", 312, Michigan State)
5. Nasser Jamal (6'6", 286, Louisiana-Lafayette)

In addition to being the two best players in their positional group, Bender and Watkins may actually be the two best players in the entire class. However, both will slip a little bit in the Draft, as they're likely to garner significant NFL interest after completing their NCAA eligibility next fall. Bender is expected to be chosen in the middle rounds of the 2011 NFL Draft, while early projections have Watkins as a seventh rounder.

With CFL clubs looking for "safer" picks with their early selections, the door will be open for the other three Division 1 O-Linemen to climb ahead of them on Draft Day. Having given up his last year of college to turn pro, rather than share playing time with new recruits as WSU rebuilds, Eppele should be the first one picked.

Meanwhile Deane, who climbed four spots to #5 in the rankings of the CFL's Canadian Scouting Bureau (CSB), actually loses some ground on my board. He only played in three games in '09, including just one start, and, making matters worse, he has been suspended from the team at MSU and faces assault charges (along with eight other Spartans football players) for his role in an on-campus fight in the fall.

Jamal wasn't a starter for the Ragin' Cajuns this season, after missing most of 2008 due to injury but he did see significant playing time. Keep an eye on the status of Orlando Franklin (6'7", 318, Miami). Should this top 2011 prospect opt for early entry to the NFL and CFL Drafts, he would immediately become the best player available. He'd be an even bigger gamble than Bender or Watkins though, as he's more highly regarded by NFL scouts. In the meantime, with most of the NCAA O-Linemen returning to school next fall (Eppele is currently the lone exception), the top CIS prospects are assured of getting a long look at the CFL's Evaluation Camp and other predraft workouts.

Defensive Line

1. Brian Bulcke (6'4", 281, Stanford)
2. Eddie Steele (6'2", 280, Manitoba)
3. Chima Ihekwoaba (6'4", 255, Wilfrid Laurier)
4. Bruno Lapointe (6'5", 255, Buffalo)
5. Marc-Antoine Beaudoin-Cloutier (6'3", 240, Laval)

Bulcke saw his stock drop sharply when a season ending wrist injury led the Cardinal to redshirt him for the year. As a result, he won't turn pro until 2011 instead of offering immediate help to a CFL team drafting him this spring. He remains the best defensive lineman in this class, but teams in need of more immediate depth at defensive tackle may now turn their attention to Steele. Despite playing for a weak Bisons squad and battling a nagging knee injury all year, Steele turned in a strong enough season to earn consideration to play in the Shrine game against top U.S. college seniors (ultimately Regina receiver Jordan Sisco was chosen to represent the CIS on the West team).

Rounding out my Top 5 are three defensive ends, who should jockey for position as Draft Day approaches. Ihekwoaba is viewed as a special athlete but injuries at the CIS East West camp and during Laurier's season have raised questions about his durability. That, combined with Lapointe's decision to forgo his last year of eligibility with the Bulls, has closed the gap between these two players. Beaudoin-Cloutier and Sebastien Tétrault (6'4", 280, Ottawa) head a group of CIS players who could improve their stock with good combine workouts but, for the time being, are viewed as a few notches below the top four D-Linemen.

The same is true of Halifax-born Nicholas MacDonald (6'3", 250, Holy Cross), who is expected to apply for non-import status in the coming weeks.


1. Cory Watson (6'2", 204, Concordia)
2. Akeem Foster (6'5", 215, St. Francis Xavier)
3. Jordan Sisco (6'0", 210, Regina)
4. Shawn Gore (6'0", 200, Bishop's)
5. Josh Bishop (6'2", 215, Wilfrid Laurier)

Watson established himself as the clear Number One during the season, based largely on his physical style and consistent production against double teams. His biggest challenge for top spot will come from redshirt junior Kito Poblah (6'2", 203, Central Michigan) once the Montreal-born receiver is granted non-import status (he moved back and forth between Montreal and Florida during his youth but lived in Canada long enough to qualify as a non-import). Poblah had 50 catches for 631 yards in '09 and could get an NFL shot after next season.

Foster also had a solid season, despite injuries, but is still raw relative to Watson and Poblah. Sisco put up good numbers for the Rams but how he acquits himself against top NCAA defenders at the Shrine Game will go a long way towards determining where he ultimately ranks. Bishop's size, skill, and athleticism are as impressive as any receiver in this class but nagging injuries have been an issue throughout his CIS career, and cost him half of the '09 season.

Gore, meanwhile, got off to a great start before his numbers tailed off slightly. Overall, this is a deep, if unspectacular, crop of receivers, in which any one of the sixth through tenth ranked players, including Nate Binder (6'2", 190, Tusculum) and Kevin D'Hollander (6'4", 220, McMaster), could jump into the Top Five with a strong E-Camp performance.

Defensive Backs

1. Taurean Allen (5'10", 195, Wilfrid Laurier)
2. Chris Rwabukama (5'10", 175, Duke)
3. Cauchy Muamba (6'0", 195, St. Francis Xavier)
4. Jon Krahenbil (6'0", 187, Saskatchewan)
5. Ludovic Kashindi (5'10", 180, Sherbrooke)

Allen earned the second All-Canadian selection of his career, cementing his reputation as one of the best cover men in the pass happy OUA. Rwabukamba, a redshirt junior, has progressed steadily through his four years in the Blue Devils program, developing into a starter in '09. With three of his eight starts coming against consensus Top 15 opponents, it's clear that he's competing at a high level as well. Playing in the AUS, Muamba neither received the exposure nor faced the competition that Allen did (three of the top four receivers in the conference were his X-Men teammates). That said, athletically, he is among the elite prospects in this entire draft class, making him a prime candidate to turn heads at the E-Camp.

At every level of football he has played, Krahenbil has proven to be a top performer with a knack for making big plays. He was an All-Canadian in 2009. Kashindi may be one of the sleepers in the group. Like Rwabukamba, he is slightly built, which could limit his ability to play anywhere other than cornerback but, with CFL teams showing an increasing willingness to play non-imports at field corner, he should get a long look.

Two players from the Windsor, Ontario area, Michael Carter (5'11", 175, Maryland) and Nick Riva (5'11", 190, St. Francis Xavier), could also push for Top Five consideration. Carter, in particular, is intriguing. As the fastest player in this class and cousin of NFL All-Pro safety Oshiomogho Atogwe, he looks great on paper, but the redshirt junior has seen very little game action with the Terrapins.


1. Cory Greenwood (6'2", 235, Concordia)
2. Shomari Williams (6'2", 236, Queen's)
3. Joash Gesse (6'0", 225, Montreal)
4. Curtis Dublanko (6'0", 235, North Dakota)
5. Chris Smith (6'2", 224, Queen's)

The top three linebackers have jockeyed for position all year. Greenwood holds the top spot for now, following a season in which he deservedly won the President's Trophy as the top stand up defensive player in CIS football. That said, Williams closed ground as the year went on and made the biggest jump (up eleven spots, from #15 to #4) of any prospect in the CSB rankings. After sitting out the first two games due to transfer rules, he got better every week, emerging as a dominant force at rush end. Although linebacker is actually his natural position, scouts will want to see him use the March Evaluation Camp to demonstrate that he can perform at the same high level at that spot.

E-Camp will also be critical for Gesse, as he'll be coming off of season ending knee surgery. Even if his participation at the combine is limited, he'll still need to somehow show that, in the long term, his outstanding speed and agility won't be compromised by the injury.

Dublanko, a redshirt junior, had a breakout season in '09 to raise his stock dramatically after three relatively nondescript years with the Fighting Sioux. Smith's stock rose during the Gaels' Vanier Cup run, as he had the opportunity to showcase his versatility, especially his coverage skills, in nationally televised games.

Giancarlo Rapanaro (5'11", 195, Wilfrid Laurier) is another "do-it-all" type to keep an eye on but his size may dictate a move to free safety at the next level. Christian Houle (6'3", 240, Montreal) is surprisingly athletic for a player of his size, which could turn some heads at the E-Camp.

Running Backs

1. Mike Montoya (5'10", 235, Wilfrid Laurier)
2. Anthony Woodson (6'0", 205, Calgary)
3. Charlie Houghton (6'0", 215, Georgetown)
4. Matt Henry (6'0", 220, Manitoba)
5. Pascal Fils (5'9", 220, Sherbrooke)

Montoya put up big numbers as the Golden Hawks' feature back in '09 but he'll become a fullback in the CFL. His size and pure strength give him a chance to develop into an effective blocker and short yardage runner at the next level. Woodson's place in the Top Five is dependent upon his recovery from foot and shoulder injuries that cost him the entire 2009 season. He is a multitalented player (whose future probably lies at slotback) but may require another year in the CIS to get back to game speed. Houghton bounced back health wise from an injury plagued 2008 season but ended up splitting time in the Hoyas backfield this year. The 2006 Patriot League Rookie of the Year continued to show his good hands out of the backfield though, with 24 receptions this season (76 career catches).

Henry has been the model of consistency, posting over 600 rushing yards in each of his four CIS seasons, despite suffering a broken femur at the end of his second year. He's another big, strong tailback, whose CFL hopes will hinge on his ability to adjust to the fullback role. Fils, a powerful runner with a low center of gravity, won the CIS rushing title in '09 by a margin of over 200 yards to establish himself as a legitimate prospect.

Looking to move up should any of the Top Five falter is Nick Fitzgibbon (5'10", 200, Guelph), who has been arguably the best all-purpose back in the country over the last four years and, like Woodson, will get an opportunity to compete as a receiver as well at the E-Camp.

On another note, Montreal-born redshirt junior Carl Volny (5'10", 198, Central Michigan) should be granted non-import status before the Draft and, once that occurs, the Chippewas leading rusher will likely rank among the top two or three backs available.


1. Rob Maver (6'0", 200, Guelph)
2. Chris Bodnar (5'11", 195, Saskatoon Hilltops)
3. Grant Shaw (6'3", 210, Saskatchewan)
4. Justin Palardy (6'0", 200, Saint Mary's)
5. Carlo Turavani (5'10", 180, Hampton)

Maver cemented his reputation as one of the best all around kicking prospects to enter the league in recent years, hitting 13 of 14 field goal attempts (he was perfect inside the forty yard line) and averaging 41.3 yards per punt.

Bodnar is regarded primarily as a punter, topping the Canadian junior ranks with a 41.7 average in '09, but also improved his field goal accuracy this season.

Shaw is also a legitimate prospect at defensive back but his placekicking will provide the biggest boost to his draft stock. This season, he made 19 of 23 field goal attempts, including 4 of six from beyond the forty yard line and 2 for 2 from beyond the fifty.

Palardy improved his field goal accuracy for the third consecutive year en route to becoming the all-time leading scorer in AUS history.

Turavani's 2009 season was limited to a single field goal attempt, as he spent most of the fall recovering from whiplash injuries suffered in an August car accident. Like Shaw and Palardy, he is a better place kicker than he is a punter. Dan Village (6'0", 170, Queen's) and Scott Dixon (5'9", 165, Manitoba) are others who are likely to work out for CFL scouts between now and Draft Day.

Let The Debate Begin

Here are the players who will go for gold for Canada in mens hockey.


Patrice Bergeron, L'Ancienne-Lorette, Que. (Boston Bruins)

Sidney Crosby, Cole Harbour, N.S. (Pittsburgh Penguins) Alternate captain

Ryan Getzlaf, Regina, Sask. (Anaheim Ducks)

Dany Heatley, Calgary, Alta. (San Jose Sharks)

Jarome Iginla, St. Albert, Alta. (Calgary Flames) Alternate captain

Patrick Marleau, Aneroid Sask. (San Jose Sharks)

Brenden Morrow, Carlyle, Sask. (Dallas Stars)

Rick Nash, Brampton, Ont. (Columbus Blue Jackets)

Mike Richards, Kenora, Ont. (Philadelphia Flyers)

Corey Perry, Peterborough, Ont. (Anaheim Ducks)

Eric Staal, Thunder Bay, Ont. (Carolina Hurricanes)

Joe Thornton, St. Thomas, Ont. (San Jose Sharks)

Jonathan Toews, Winnipeg, Man. (Chicago Blackhawks)


Dan Boyle, Ottawa, Ont. (San Jose Sharks)

Drew Doughty, Ottawa, Ont. (LA Kings)

Duncan Keith, Penticton, B.C. (Chicago Blackhawks)

Scott Niedermayer, Cranbrook, B.C. (Anaheim Ducks) - Captain

Chris Pronger, Dryden, Ont. (Philadelphia Flyers) - Alternate captain

Brent Seabrook, Tsawwassen, B.C. (Chicago Blackhawks)

Shea Weber, Sicamous, B.C. (Nashville Predators)


Roberto Luongo, Montreal, Que. (Vancouver Canucks)

Martin Brodeur, Montreal, Que. (New Jersey Devils)

Marc-Andre Fleury, Sorel, Que. (Pittsburgh Penguins)

I'm surprised to see Eric Staal and Patrice Bergeron on the roster and that Vincent Lecavalier is not there. What are your thoughts on the roster?

Finland/Czechs Olympic Hockey Roster

Miikka Kiprusoff (Calgary Flames, NHL), Niklas Bäckström (Minnesota Wild, NHL), Antero Niittymäki (Tampa Bay Lightning, NHL)

Kimmo Timonen (Philadelphia Flyers, NHL), Sami Salo (Vancouver Canucks, NHL), Joni Pitkänen (Carolina Hurricanes, NHL), Lasse Kukkonen (Avangard Omsk, RUS), Toni Lydman (Buffalo Sabres, NHL), Sami Lepistö (Phoenix Coyotes, NHL), Janne Niskala (Frölunda, SWE)

Mikko Koivu (Minnesota Wild, NHL), Tuomo Ruutu (Carolina Hurricanes, NHL), Valtteri Filppula (Detroit Red Wings, NHL), Teemu Selänne (Anaheim Ducks, NHL), Saku Koivu (Anaheim Ducks, NHL), Jere Lehtinen (Dallas Stars, NHL), Niklas Hagman (Toronto Maple Leafs, NHL), Olli Jokinen (Calgary Flames, NHL), Antti Miettinen (Minnesota Wild, NHL), Jarkko Ruutu (Ottawa Senators, NHL), Niko Kapanen (Ak Bars Kazan, RUS), Ville Peltonen (Dynamo Minsk, BLR), Jarkko Immonen (Ak Bars Kazan, RUS)
Tomas Vokoun (Florida Panthers/NHL), Ondrej Pavelec (Atlanta Thrashers/NHL), Jakub Stepanek (Vitkovice/CZE).

Miroslav Blatak (Salavat Yulaev Ufa/RUS), Jan Hejda (Columbus Blue Jackets/NHL), Tomas Kaberle (Toronto Maple Leafs/NHL), Filip Kuba (Ottawa Senators/NHL), Pavel Kubina (Atlanta Thrashers/NHL), Zbynek Michalek (Phoenix Coyotes/NHL), Roman Polak (St Louis Blues/NHL), Marek Zidlicky (Minnesota Wild/NHL).

Petr Cajanek (Saint-Pétersbourg/RUS), Roman Cervenka (Slavia Prague/CZE), Patrik Elias (New Jersey Devils/NHL), Martin Erat (Nashville Predators/NHL), Tomas Fleischmann (Washington Capitals/NHL), Martin Havlat (Minnesota Wild/NHL), Jaromir Jagr (Avangard Omsk/NHL), David Krejci (Boston Bruins/NHL), Milan Michalek (Ottawa Senators/NHL), Tomas Plekanec (Canadiens de Montréal/NHL), Tomas Rolinek (Magnitogorsk/RUS), Josef Vasicek (Yaroslavl/RUS).

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Toying With The Competition

Canada is making a mockery of their pool at the World Juniors. Yes, they still have a long ways to go before they win their sixth straight, but right now its a joke as they pounded the Slovaks 8-2. It means Canada is 3-0 and have outscored their opponents 30-2. The Americans should provide a much tougher opponent on New Year's Eve and then it won't be easy when the medal round begins.
Meanwhile in Regina, there is a slim chance that we could see a three way tie for first in Pool B. Sweden would seem to have the inside track after beating the Russians 4-1 in front of a sold out Brandt Centre crowd on Tuesday night. If Finland can beat Austria on Wednesday and then upset Sweden and have the Czechs beat the Russians, it would create a 3 way tie. I doubt as if that will happen, but you never know.
Its not getting any better for the Pats. They lose again 4-3 to Calgary. There are fans who are getting very disgruntled with the play of this team and there are whispers again that Jordan Eberle may be on the trading block as the deals to get Carter Ashton, Mitch Spooner and Cass Mappin have failed miserably---at least initially. I thought this team had what it took to not have the world junior funk it had last year, but its evident they don't. Perhaps the veterans on this team just doesn't have what it takes to be a WHL calibre hockey player. I won't sit here and name names because I'm sure if you've been to Pats games, you know what players I might be speaking about. If you don't know, I'm sure these players will be playing for the Cougars or Huskies or some CIS team because they won't be getting NHL tryouts. Then again, they might just end up playing senior hockey where they don't have to deal with the pressure and structure of being a WHL'er. That's something that some of these guys on the surface seem to be failing at. That being said, they have 30 games to right a wrong. How bad do they want it? I guess we will find out. Sadly at this point, I believe we might already know the answer.
Could Brendan Taman be headed back to Winnipeg? The Riders have apparently given him permission to talk to the Bombers about their vacant vice president of football operations position. Good for Taman if he can land the job, but I would have to think if Eric Tillman is ousted as Rider GM that he would be the obvious choice as his successor. Time will tell! One wonders if Taman were to go back to Winnipeg, if he might lure Paul LaPolice to be Mike Kelly's successor?
Don't be surprised if productivity goes down this morning around 11. Why is that? Well, Steve Yzerman tells us who will represent Team Canada in mens hockey. It will end one debate that has been going on for months and will start another one. For what its worth, here's what I say the lineup looks like

G-Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo, Marc-Andre Fleury
D-Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer, Dan Boyle, Jay Bouwmeester, Brent Seabrook, Mike Green, Drew Doughty
F-Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, Jonathan Toews, Jarome Iginla, Mike Richards, Rick Nash, Mike Fisher, Brad Richards, Martin St. Louis , Dany Heatley, Vincent Lecavalier, Joe Thornton and Brendan Morrow

Notable snubs: Dion Phaneuf, Patrick Marleau, Ryan Smyth, Corey Perry, Steven Stamkos, Jeff Carter

What's Russian For "Wow"

I have been going to hockey games at the Agridome/Brandt Centre for years, but I can't recall seeing a goaltending performance like the one I and a nearly sold out rink was treated to yesterday by Anaheim draft pick Igor Bobkov. There aren't enough words to describe how brilliant Bobkov was as he stole one from Finland single-handedly. Bobkov stopping 46 shots --23 in the 3rd period as the Russians beat Finland 2-0 in a game they didn't deserve to win. The Finns outhustled, outskated, outshot, outeverythinged the Russians, but they didn't outscore them.
Some people told me after the game they remember former Pats goalie Josh Harding stopping 50 some shots in a win over Brandon, but I don't remember that. I've seen guys like Grant Fuhr, Mike Vernon, Ken Wregget, Ron Hextall, Trevor Kidd, Cam Ward, etc, etc, etc do their thing in that rink along with Pat goalies like Jamie Reeve and Harding, but I've never seen a performance like what Bobkov gave us.
What made it sad was when the game was over, the player of the game for the Russians was Nikita Filatov. My Access 7 colour man Kelly Remple was doing the game with me on and he just about exploded(well OK he did explode) when Filatov was named the game star. The crowd booed the decision as well they should. We find out after that the teams select their star of the game meaning the Russian brass in attendance chose Filatov over Bobkov. That might be the biggest head-scratcher I've seen in a long time. Was that just an ordinary stroll through the park for Bobkov, I'm thinking not!
TSN's James Duthie mentioned yesterday there were empty seats at Credit Union Centre for yesterday's Canada game against Switzerland. That is truly sad! I don't care if Switzerland is a team you are going to mop the floor with. There is no reason why CUC shouldn't be sold out for every Canadian game. Then again when you consider the game was at 3 o'clock on a Monday afternoon. I've heard a lot of complaints about this tournament and one of them was the start times and the fact that people in Regina who want to watch Canada are stuck missing part of their game or missing part of the game at the Brandt Centre. I don't know how that could have been alleviated, but with one game going on yesterday, why was faceoff at 3 when it could have been at 7? If CUC isn't sold out for the New Year's Eve game between the US and Canadians, then move the rest of the event down here where people are embracing the hockey at the Brandt Centre. It might have taken some time to realize it, but they are watching some world class hockey thanks to the Russians, Swedes, Finns and yes, even the plucky Austrians.
That sound of a bubble bursting may well be that of the Minnesota Vikings. They lose in overtime 36-30 to the lowly Bears last nite as Jay Cutler finally looked like the Jay Cutler Chicago fans were hoping for when they picked him in that trade with the Broncos. Cutler has been a joke this year, but he wasn't last night throwing for 4 TD's. The Vikings have descended into one of the ordinary teams from one of the elite over the last month. If they don't clinch the number 2 seed, there is no hope of them advancing to the Super Bowl.
Canada picks its Olympic hockey team tomorrow. The debate is in full swing now. I'll give you my picks later and I'm sure they won't match up with what Steve Yzerman tells us.
If you're reading this in Regina, I'll likely see you at the rink. Have a good one!

Monday, December 28, 2009

I'll Pass On This.....

....but the recipe is there if you want to try it.

I get the feeling Saskatchewan's sexiest blogger may be trying to convince his wife that they should do some cooking when he sees this!

Glen Suitor's Top 13 CFL Stories of 2009

As the year comes to a close, there is just enough time to take one more look at some of the top stories from the 2009 CFL season. A quick analysis of attendance, corporate involvement and television ratings would indicate that it could be considered one of the best years in Canadian Football history, or at the very least, one of the most successful seasons in the last two decades.

Not all the news from 2009 was good news; like every year in every sport, there were plenty of negative headlines, however, unlike ten years ago the league is now strong enough to not only overcome adversity and hang on, but to continue to excel and grow through that adversity.
At one time or another over 14 million people were watching the Grey Cup Championship which represents close to half the country, indisputable evidence that the 2009 CFL season grabbed the attention of more than just sports fans in Canada.

Most lists like this contain ten stories but with the way the Grey Cup ended it seems fitting to go with the top 13 from 2009 in the CFL.

13. Negotiations between the League and the Players Association begin

The only reason that this story is last on the list is because the process has just begun, because this negotiation will likely be the most important assignment in Commissioner Mark Cohon's tenure. Most have heard of the rumours that the key issue will be the Canadian ratio, but I doubt it. I would be surprised to see the league push such a patriotically sensitive topic. This story will be told over the next 4 to 6 months and its outcome could move it quickly to the top story of 2010.

12. Ottawa's return to the CFL

Again in 2012 or 2013 this story will head the list but for now it is a work in progress. Ottawa city counsel voted 15-9 to go ahead with the Lansdowne Live project under certain conditions, so the process has begun. What is compelling about this story is not just the return of a CFL franchise in Ottawa, which would be mutually beneficial for the city and the League, but who is trying to bring Canadian Football back to the Nations Capital. The Lansdowne Live group is made up of Roger Greenberg, William Shenkman, John Ruddy and fronted by Ottawa 67's owner Jeff Hunt - all of whom are local businessmen and therefore, have a vested interest in making it work. This group is not just about football, they are about improving the city they live in, and that is why this story transcends sports.

11. Regular season game in Moncton

It has been talked about for years but in 2009 the announcement to play a regular season game in the Maritimes made it official. The seed has been planted for expansion into Eastern Canada and it is long overdue. In the 2010 season the Argos will play an opponent to be determined in the off-season, in a regular season game, which according to reports, will be the Maritimes' own Grey Cup-like Festival. A ten-team league from coast to coast is still a few years away but at least now there are measures in place to take a real run at it, and that is good news for the country, not just for football fans.

10. Television ratings

Yes, the system for counting viewers during a TV show has changed but it has changed for every show and every sport. The CFL numbers have been hard for some to digest for some reason, but they don't lie, and they rival, and at times surpass, NHL numbers in our country. We are a hockey-first Nation and that is not about to change, but the NHL and CFL are now, "one and one-A," in Canada. The CFL has engaged the younger generation - a demographic that was lost in the late 90's due to boardroom issues.

9. Arrrrrrrgos

This story is one that definitely falls under the "bad" category, but is not the complete disaster that most make it out to be. Bart Andrus did not work out despite having a fairly impressive resume heading into the job, but he is not the only new coach that didn't pan out. Who will own the Argos in 2010 is the first question that has to be answered in Toronto but once it is, it shouldn't take too long for the pieces to fall into place that will turn the ship around and point it in the right direction.

8. Buffalo Bills in Toronto

This story is not about which league is better - that discussion is old, irrelevant and is a waste of time. There are thousands of NFL fans in Canada and I consider myself one of them. However, that doesn't mean it is realistic to think that Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal could be the home of an NFL franchise. Clearly the market for this product in Toronto was drastically misread. The only reason that this story is on this list is because when it was first announced that Buffalo would play games in Toronto, there were some in the GTA that felt it was a done deal that the Bills would move north permanently, and consequently, the CFL would be doomed. At this point, with what has happened over the first two years of the agreement between Rogers and the NFL, that now seems virtually impossible.

7. The Year of the Running Back

For the first time in league history seven starting running backs rushed for 1000 yards or more in 2009. There are many possible explanations, one being the trend towards smaller linebackers, but whatever the reason, it was fun to watch the talent at the running back position in 2009.

6. Hamilton makes the playoffs

The Ti-Cats not only made the playoffs, they hosted the semi-final by finishing second in the Eastern division. The fans in Steel Town deserve a winner and it looks like the Tabbies are getting closer. Owner Bob Young deserves a lot of credit for first having patience, and second for learning from early mistakes.

5. Mike Kelly in Winnipeg

No one grabbed more headlines off the field than the Bombers head coach in 2009, most of which had Bomber brass squirming in their boardroom chairs. This story came to an end with the recent firing of Kelly, and combined with the resignation of President Lyle Bauer, puts the Bombers in the same situation as the Argos, in that both have a lot of work to do over the next few months.

4. Darian Durant in Saskatchewan

In today's day and age of pro football on both sides of the border, developing a good young quarterback is tough. Coaches can't afford to lose too many games while allowing a rookie to go through some challenges, and yet a young player can't learn until he works himself out of some difficult situations in live game action. That is what makes the development of Darian Durant in Saskatchewan by head coach Ken Miller, one of the top stories in 2009. We just can't have too many great quarterbacks in the game.

3. Eric Tillman

The Rider GM was told to work from his home in 2009 until some sort of resolution was found with regards to the criminal charges he currently faces in Saskatchewan. This story is not about sports and I'm not a lawyer, so let's just hope that resolution is found soon and Tillman and the Riders can move forward.

2. The Return of Casey Printers

From the scrap heap to the face on the promotional material for the 2010 season for the B.C. Lions, the journey for Printers is a story that has the makings of a great book. With some of the issues facing athletes today, I could never get my head around how Printers was considered such a bad guy, by so many, but all of that seems to be behind the Lions pivot now. In a few games he showed that the magic is still there, and football fans in Vancouver can't wait for next year.

1. The 13th man

It was a Grey Cup that will be talked about for years to come and will be part of Canadian Football folklore forever. The question is, did the Riders lose the game because of their mistake, or did the Als win it? While the way the game finished will be the topic of discussion for years, the last play was just one of many important plays that determined the outcome of the game.

Montreal made the plays necessary to put itself in a position to win in the end, and that effort should be respected, even with its good fortune on the last play.

Congratulations to Marc Trestman and the Montreal Alouettes, and Happy New Year to all football fans from coast to coast.

Bring on 2010.

I think Suits pretty much covered it all. Did he miss anything?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Thumbs Down To Indy

Former New York Jets coach Herman Edwards is famous for saying "You play to win the game!". That is a phrase that most professional sports teams use everytime they hit their playing surface of choice. It was not a phrase used by the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.
If I were the Pittsburgh Steelers, Houston Texans or Baltimore Ravens, I would be some kind of pissed at the Colts as they mailed one in against the Jets in the 2nd half costing them the perfect season.
Coach Jim Caldwell decided to yank Peyton Manning and most of his starters in the 3rd quarter with his team trailing the New York Jets. The Jets ended up winning the game to enhance their playoff chances. It starts that old debate about resting players when you know you are playoff bound. Yes, I understand you don't want to get your key players hurt. We all know the Colts are dead in the water if Manning gets hurt. However, wouldn't that mean you just don't play him at all. All it takes is one play to suffer a serious injury and it could happen at any time. If Caldwell was going to take this approach, he should not have played Manning or Wayne or Freeney or Addai period. To do this and sacrifice a perfect season is also a head-scratcher. I wouldn't have done it, but I'm not an NFL coach and I didn't sleep at a Holiday Inn express so I can't pretend to be one. All I can say is I think Caldwell and the Colts made a big mistake today. One that will cost them when they taste defeat as one before this year's Super Bowl.
What the hell is with the Giants? How can you soil the linen that bad at home in a huge game! That was a level beyond sad! However it didn't compare to yet another stellar performance by the Seahawks. Good god! Can they just phone the league office and forfeit next week's season finale against the Titans. Embarassing is what that was in Green Bay...there are no other words to describe it. They are a bad football team and the light at the end of the tunnel is a long ways away methinks.
How can the Saints beat New England at home yet lose to Tampa at home? Forget what I said about New Orleans being a contender. You lose to the Bucs and you don't deserve playoff success. Is it too early to pronounce an Eagles-Chargers Super Bowl?!
To the World Juniors and one has to love the spirit of the Austrian team. They aren't the most talented team out there, but they are making it tough on their opponents. They deserved a better fate in the tournament opener when they lost 6-2 to Russia and they deserved a much better fate Sunday against Sweden. The Swedes led the game 3-0 at one point, but Austria fought back to tie it only to give up a late goal in the waning moments of the 2nd. Sweden tried to add some insurance early in the 3rd, but they could not do it and after withstanding a couple of Austrian chances, they scored three late goals for a 7-3 win. Again this is a score that flattered the winners . Sweden knew it wasn't a four goal hockey game. The Austrians knew it wasn't a four goal hockey game. It was a damn entertaining contest and it was one that had many cheering for the Austrians. They have been to two previous World Juniors and all they have to show for it is one tie. Finland and the Czechs best be ready for their matchup against the Austrians. If they aren't, Austria just might get their first win ever in this tournament.
The Swedes might possess the best skater in this tournament in defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. The Phoenix pick (6th overall in the 2009 draft) can do it all. He may have the best lateral foot speed I have ever seen. He dominates when he is on the ice. Its hard to think he could have Victor Hedman and Erik Karlsson on defence with him. Ekman-Larsson might actually be a little better than Hedman right now. He's better than Karlsson. He is a player! If you haven't seen him, make sure you do before the tournament is over.
The Pats lose again! SIGHHHHHHH! By the time Eberle and Teubert return from Team Canada, it may be too late. Does Brett Leffler still play for them. I haven't seen much from him lately. This team needs guys like him to step up just a little!
Why do I think the Jays will lose 100 games this season?
If you have today off, enjoy it. If you don't, try to enjoy it. Later!

Swedes Name Olympic Hockey Roster

Jonas Gustavsson (Toronto Maple Leafs/NHL), Stefan Liv (HV 71), Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers/NHL)

Tobias Enstrom (Atlanta Thrashers/NHL), Magnus Johansson (Linkopings HC), Niklas Kronwall (Detroit Red Wings/NHL), Nicklas Lidstrom (Detroit Red Wings/NHL), Douglas Murray (San Jose Sharks/NHL), Johnny Oduya (New Jersey Devils/NHL), Henrik Tallinder (Buffalo Sabres/NHL), Mattias Ohlund (Tampa Bay Lightning/NHL)

Daniel Alfredsson (Ottawa Senators/NHL), Nicklas Backstrom (Washington Capitals/NHL), Loui Eriksson (Dallas Stars/NHL), Peter Forsberg (MODO Hockey), Tomas Holmstrom (Detroit Red Wings/NHL), Patric Hornqvist (Nashville Predators/NHL), Fredrik Modin (Columbus Blue Jackets/NHL), Samuel Paahlsson (Columbus Blue Jackets/NHL), Daniel Sedin (Vancouver Canucks/NHL), Henrik Sedin (Vancouver Canucks/NHL), Mattias Weinhandl (Dynamo Moscow/RUS), Henrik Zetterberg (Detroit Red Wings/NHL)

WHL Eastern Conference Mid-Season Review

Calgary, AB -- The 2009-10 Western Hockey League season is at the midway point with teams having played roughly half of their regular season schedules, and it's time to take a look at how the season has shaped up so far.

The Eastern Conference is proving to be stacked with strong teams, particularly in the East Division, where all six teams are currently in playoff position. The Calgary Hitmen are two-time defending champs of both the Central Division and Eastern Conference, and again look like a contender to repeat. Yet, the 2010 MasterCard Memorial Cup host Brandon Wheat Kings and East Division rival the Saskatoon Blades, along with perennial Central Division strength Medicine Hat Tigers, have certainly made it clear that the battle for Eastern Conference supremacy will be a competitive one.

Here’s a look at the WHL’s Eastern Conference teams through the 2009-10 season’s first half (WHL Western Conference Mid-Season Review to be released tomorrow):


East Division

Brandon Wheat Kings

2009-10 record: 38gp 25-11-0-2, 52pts (2nd in Div., 3rd in Conf.) GF: 163 GA: 118

Top Scorers:

Matt Calvert 34gp-25g-29a-54pts

Brayden Schenn 31gp-14g-35a-49pts

Jay Fehr 38gp-19g-28a-47pts

A quick start – three shutouts in their first four games – led to an up-and-down October for the 2010 MasterCard Memorial Cup host Wheat Kings. Yet, after a successful U.S. Division road swing at the end of October, the Wheat Kings have come on strong and showed the type of play everyone knew they were capable of. Offensively, few have been able to match the firepower of the Wheat Kings. Matt Calvert, Brayden Schenn, Jay Fehr, Aaron Lewadniuk, Scott Glennie, Colby Robak and Toni Rajala have all scored at a point-per-game pace or better while the recent acquisition of Shayne Wiebe from Kamloops adds another veteran offensive presence to an already formidable attack that has averaged nearly five goals per game since the beginning of November. Defensively, the Wheat Kings have been in the middle of the pack among Eastern Conference teams, while their penalty killing ranks 19th among the WHL’s 22 teams. However, with an offense as prolific as the Wheat Kings’, defense isn’t as much of a concern. In goal, the acquisition of Philadelphia Flyers prospect Jacob DeSerres from Seattle early in the season to share duties with Andrew Hayes gives the Wheaties two veteran netminders with plenty of experience and ability.

Moose Jaw Warriors

2009-10 record: 35gp 17-15-1-2, 37pts (5th in Div., 9th in Conf.) GF: 129 GA: 121

Top Scorers:

Travis Hamonic 31gp-10g-29a-39pts

Brendan Rowinski 35pg-19g-19a-38pts

Quinton Howden 35gp-15g-19a-34pts

The Warriors have shown improvement from last season. Although they have cooled lately, they currently find themselves in the thick of the playoff race in the Eastern Conference. Offensively, the Warriors have gotten plenty of scoring from forwards Brendan Rowinski and Quinton Howden, while rookie Antonin Honejsek and veteran Dylan Hood have also chipped in. The loss of veteran Jason Bast to injury has hurt the Warriors’ attack. Defenseman Travis Hamonic has been terrific through the first half, and leads the Warriors and all WHL defensemen in scoring. The Warriors are also much-improves on the defensive end and lowered their goals-against from last season’s pace. Reliable goaltending from Jeff Bosch and Brandon Glover have helped the Warriors improve what was the WHL’s bottom-ranked defense last season. The Warriors have been a bit streaky this season, and will look for more consistency in their play over the second half as they battle for a playoff spot in a competitive Eastern Conference.

Prince Albert Raiders

2009-10 record: 39gp 20-16-1-2, 43pts (3rd in Div., 5th in Conf.) GF: 138 GA: 128

Top Scorers:

Craig McCallum 39gp-17g-27a-44pts

Brandon Herrod 39gp-23g-17a-40pts

Igor Revenko 33gp-19g-20a-39pts

The Raiders have put forth a strong first half to the season, and are now in good position to end their two-year playoff drought. Offensively, the Raiders have benefitted from good scoring depth, with six forwards having notched 30 or more points already this season. Veteran Craig McCallum has enjoyed a breakout campaign since coming to Prince Albert from Edmonton, while sophomore Igor Revenko has been a consistent offensive threat all season, as has veteran Brandon Herrod, who has a career-high 23 goals already. On the back end, Jordan Rowley, Ryan Button and Nathan Deck have helped keep the Raiders in the middle of the pack, defensively, while contributing offense as well. Goaltender Garrett Zemlak has been a workhorse, facing more shots than any other goalie in the WHL while posting a very respectable .915 save percentage. Zemlak has been a key factor in the Raiders’ strong first-half performance. A solid home-ice record has helped the Raiders remain in the playoff hunt. However, they will need to find a way to win consistently on the road through the second half of the season.

Regina Pats

2009-10 record: 39gp 16-20-3-0, 35pts (6th in Div., 10th in Conf.) GF: 136 GA: 147

Top Scorers:

Jordan Eberle 28gp-29g-31a-60pts

Jordan Weal 39gp-18g-34a-52pts

Brett Leffler 38gp-12g-19a-31pts

The Pats have been a tough Club to figure out through the first half of the 2009-10 season. At times, the Pats have looked dominant, while at other times, they have been dominated. Yet, they currently find themselves not far out of the race for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Offensively, there hasn’t been a more dominant player in the League than Jordan Eberle. The 19-year-old has scored at a goal-per-game pace and has averaged better than two points per game. Eberle, along with sophomore Jordan Weal and veterans Brett Leffler and Matt Strueby have carried the team, offensively. The acquisition of NHL prospect Carter Ashton should add more scoring depth and a big presence up front. On the defensive end, the team has allowed the most goals of any team in the Eastern Conference. Rookie Brandon Davidson has been excellent at both ends of the rink, leading the team by a landslide with a +18 rating while chipping in 23 points. More will be needed from veterans Colten Teubert, Cody Carlson and Matt Delahey it the Pats are to improve their defensive play. Goaltenders Damien Ketlo and Dawson Guhle will also need to step up their play if the Pats are to climb the Eastern Conference ranks.

Saskatoon Blades

2009-10 record: 35gp 24-7-1-3, 52pts (1st in Div., 2nd in Conf.) GF: 123 GA: 93

Top Scorers:

Derek Hulak 35gp-16g-29a-45pts

Walker Wintoneak 35gp-17g-22a-39pts

Stefan Elliott 35gp-11g-21a-32pts

The Blades have been one of the WHL’s best and most consistent teams since the start of the 2009-10 season. Up front, the Blades’ offense has been effective, but not overwhelming. Derek Hulak and Walker Wintoneak have provided consistent scoring among forwards, while Gaelan Patterson has also topped the 30-point plateau. However, more scoring will be expected from the likes of Burke Gallimore, Jeremy Boyer, Travis Toomey and Curtis Hamilton if the Blades are to compete offensively with the Wheat Kings. Defensively, there hasn’t been a stronger team in the Eastern Conference than the Blades. The team has allowed a Conference-low 98 goals while owning the Conference’s top-ranked penalty killing unit. Stefan Elliott has been strong at both ends of the ice, providing offense while sharing the team lead with a +24 rating along with the defensive-minded Sam Klassen. In goal, Adam Morrison and early-season acquisition Steve Stanford have provided an excellent combination. Both are among the WHL’s top netminders in goals-against average. With few glaring weaknesses, the Blades will look to continue their quest for a second straight East Division crown in the season’s second half.

Swift Current Broncos

2009-10 record: 38gp 19-17-0-2, 40pts (4th in Div., 7th in Conf.) GF: 130 GA: 133

Top Scorers:

Cody Eakin 36gp-27g-20a-47pts

Justin Dowling 38gp-19g-27a-46pts

Stepan Novotny 35gp-19g-17a-36pts

The Broncos may have slipped a bit from their position at this time last season, but they remain a team very much in the playoff race in the Eastern Conference. Offensively, the Broncos have been led by Cody Eakin, who has already pumped in a career-high 27 goals through half a season. Veteran playmaker Justin Dowling has also produced at a consistent level while Stepan Novotny has maintained a point-per-game average this season. 16-year-old rookie Adam Lowry has also stepped in to contribute, and currently leads the team with an impressive +10 rating. The return of sniper Matt Tassone should help boost the team’s scoring in the second half. Defensively, the Broncos have surrendered the second-most goals of any team currently in a playoff position in the conference. However, their penalty killing has been strong, currently ranking sixth in the WHL. Goaltender Mark Friesen has been good in eight appearances since coming over from Chilliwack, but more consistency is needed from veteran Morgan Clark. Perhaps the biggest issue for the Broncos has been their play on the road. The Broncos didn’t manage their first road win until November 21st. However, with a 5-4 road record since their first road win, the Broncos may have sorted out that issue.

Central Division

Calgary Hitmen

2009-10 record: 37gp 26-9-1-1, 54pts (1st in Div., 1st in Conf.) GF: 134 GA: 105

Top Scorers:

Brandon Kozun 33gp-19g-44a-63pts

Joel Broda 34gp-20g-22a-42pts

Michael Stone 37gp-13g-24a-37pts

After last season’s record-setting campaign for the franchise, the Hitmen were tabbed to slip back in the pack a bit this season. However, the Hitmen have once again defied expectations and find themselves owners of the WHL’s best record at the 2009-10 season’s midway point. Up front, the Hitmen may not be the offensive juggernaut they were last year, but they’ve still boast an offense that ranks among the WHL’s top five. Brandon Kozun has been a force this season, leading the WHL in assists and points, while Joel Broda has started to pick up his offensive game, lately. Much of the team’s offense comes from their top-ranked power play, which has produced 55 of their 134 goals. Tyler Fiddler and Ian Schultz are both on pace to top the 30-goal mark this season. The Hitmen also find themselves among the top five defensive teams in the League, and boast the fifth-ranked penalty killing unit. Michael Stone has been scoring at a point-per-game rate and leads the defense corps with a +13 rating while Matt MacKenzie, Austin Madaisky, Ben Wilson and recently-acquired Giffen Nyren have added a good blend of offense and defensive strength. In goal, the Hitmen have received quality netminding from veteran Martin Jones and sophomore Michael Snider, who has performed admirably in his second season.

Edmonton Oil Kings

2009-10 record: 38gp 10-20-4-4, 28pts (5th in Div., 11th in Conf.) GF: 94 GA: 142

Top Scorers:

Brent Raedeke 38gp-17g-13a-30pts

Tomas Vincour 32gp-16g-9a-25pts

Mark Pysyk 31gp-6g-14a-20pts

The Oil Kings started the 2009-10 season strong, posting a 5-3-2 record over their first 10 games of the season. However, the team has struggled since, managing just five wins in their next 28 games up to the break, and now sit 10 points adrift in the race for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Up front, the Oil Kings have struggled to generate scoring, and have been held to two or fewer goals in 23 of their 38 games. In addition, their power play ranks 22nd in the WHL. Brent Raedeke and Tomas Vincour lead the team in goals with 17 and 16, respectively, but no other player has scored more than nine times. 16-year-old rookie Michael St. Croix has been good, and has shown the potential to become a top-notch offensive player for the Oil Kings down the road. Defensively, the Oil Kings have given up the fourth-highest number of goals per game of any WHL team. Sophomore Mark Pysyk has been a force at both ends of the rink, and is showing why he’s one of the League’s top-rated NHL draft-eligible prospects. However, the team will need to be stronger defensively if they are to climb up the Eastern Conference standings. In addition, the goaltending duo of Torrie Jung and Cam Lanigan will need to see improvement in their play if the Oil Kings are to tighten up their goals-against.

Kootenay Ice

2009-10 record: 37gp 19-15-1-2, 41pts (3rd in Div., 6th in Conf.) GF: 126 GA: 116

Top Scorers:

Dustin Sylvester 34gp-18g-27a-45pts

Steele Boomer 36gp-13g-26a-39pts

Brayden McNabb 29gp-11g-24a-35pts

The Kootenay Ice endured a rocky start to the 2009-10 season and, at one point, found themselves five games under the .500 mark. However, having posted a 13-4-1-2 record since October 30th, the Ice have pulled themselves back into the playoff picture in the Conference. Up front, the Ice find have been average, offensively. Dustin Sylvester, once again, is the team’s offensive catalyst, whose recent strong play has coincided with the team’s turnaround. The 20-year-old has racked up 13 goals and 33 points in 20 games since the start of November. Veteran Steele Boomer is producing consistently, averaging over a point-per-game, while fellow vets Kevin King and Matt Fraser have also topped the 10-goal mark. Recently, though, players like Jesse Ismond, Max Reinhart and Joe Antilla have been chipping in, which bodes well for the team’s scoring depth. On the back end, 18-year-old Brayden McNabb has been in dominant form this season, particularly in generating offense from the point. Rearguards Joey Leach and Ryan Molle have helped the Ice remain among the top four defensive teams in the conference, in terms of goals-against. Veteran netminder Todd Mathews has played consistently well, particularly over the last two months where he has posted an 11-3-1-2 mark with a solid .911 save percentage.

Lethbridge Hurricanes

2009-10 record: 34gp 10-20-3-1, 24pts (6th in Div., 12th in Conf.) GF: 97 GA: 136

Top Scorers:

Carter Bancks 33gp-11g-20a-31pts

Cam Braes 31gp-10g-18a-28pts

Mitch Maxwell 32gp-16g-8a-24pts

Heading into the break, the Hurricanes find themselves in 12th place in the Eastern Conference and 14 points out of a playoff spot. Losing many of their veteran players from last year’s team, the ‘Canes’ younger players are getting plenty of experience and seasoning as they look to the future. Up front, the Hurricanes have relied on veterans Carter Bancks and Cam Braes for offense and leadership, especially after trading their top goal scorer, Carter Ashton, to Regina two weeks ago. 18-year-old rookie Mitch Maxwell has been able to generate scoring in his first WHL campaign, leading the team with 16 goals. However, besides veteran Austin Fyten, no ‘Canes’ player has more than seven goals. Defensively, the ‘Canes’ have struggled. Brennan Yadlowski, Luca Sbisa and the ‘Canes’ defense corps are a combined -7 this season, which isn’t bad. However, the team’s penalty killing, which ranks 20th in the WHL, has hurt them. With veteran netminder Linden Rowat injured, the ‘Canes have struggled in goal. Neither Brandon Anderson nor Ville Kolppanen have a save percentage better than .890, nor a goals-against average lower than 3.50.

Medicine Hat Tigers

2009-10 record: 39gp 22-11-2-4, 50pts (2nd in Div., 4th in Conf.) GF: 162 GA: 137

Top Scorers:

Bretton Cameron 39gp-26g-20a-46pts

Wacey Hamilton 35gp-11g-31a-42pts

Emerson Etem 39gp-27g-12a-39pts

The Tigers have enjoyed a strong first half of the 2009-10 season and currently find themselves comfortably in second place in the Central Division and fourth in the Eastern Conference. The biggest factor in the Tigers’ first-half success has been their potent offense, which currently ranks second among WHL Clubs. Veteran Bretton Cameron and impressive 17-year-old rookie Emerson Etem are ranked among the League’s top five goal scorers, while the Tigers boast six others who have already topped the 10-goal mark. On the back end, the Tigers have gotten plenty of offense from Mark Isherwood and Jace Coyle. However, the Tigers have allowed 137 goals this season, which is the most of any Eastern Conference team currently in a playoff position. As long as the Tigers’ offense keeps clicking, the goals-against won’t be as much of a concern. In goal, sophomore Tyler Bunz has been steady in taking on the majority of the workload. Although he may not be among the WHL’s top ten goalies in GAA or save percentage, Bunz ranks second in the League with 18 wins. With a seven-point cushion for fourth place in the Eastern Conference, the Tigers are in good shape to earn their eighth consecutive post-season berth.

Red Deer Rebels

2009-10 record: 35gp 18-15-0-2, 38pts (4th in Div., 8th in Conf.) GF: 107 GA: 113

Top Scorers:

Willie Coetzee 35gp-16g-31a-47pts

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 35gp-17g-19a-36pts

Andrej Kudrna 33gp-15g-16a-31pts

The Rebels have enjoyed a moderately successful first half to the 2009-10 WHL season, and currently find themselves holding down eighth place in the Eastern Conference. Offensively, the Rebels currently rank 10th in the Eastern Conference, and have the lowest number of goals of any team currently in a playoff spot. Veteran Willie Coetzee has enjoyed a breakout campaign, offensively, and currently ranks among the WHL’s top scorers. 16-year-old rookie phenom Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has been a key part of the Rebels’ attack, while Andrej Kudrna has also been a consistent contributor. However, offensive depth has been lacking for the Rebels. Part of the problem has been injuries to key offensive players like Nathan Green and Landon Ferraro. The Rebels have made up for their offensive shortcomings with a strong and stingy defense. The team ranks fifth in the Eastern Conference in goals-against, despite a penalty killing unit that ranks 13th in the WHL. Team captain Colin Archer has been steady in the defensive zone, and leads all Rebels’ blue liners with a +7 rating. Veteran netminder Darcy Kuemper has provided reliable goaltending, while Kraymer Barnstable has posted a 6-1 record in 11 appearances.

Week 16 NFL Pix

Going into the 2nd last week, Mr. X has a two game lead. The standings are:

X: 155-69
Vanstone 153-71
Mitch: 151-73
Meyers: 150-74
Colhoun: 150-74
Jones: 148-76

The pix this week are as follows







Saturday, December 26, 2009


Everyone got hot under the collar last year when Canada hammered Kazahkstan 15-0 at the World Juniors. It got worse on Saturday. Canada opened up the 2010 World Juniors by embarassing Latvia 16-0. 16-0! There is no mercy rule in hockey and when the rules dictate goals for and against as one of the tiebreakers, this is what you will get. Can you change this? Sadly, the answer is no! There will always be teams at this event that are just filler and will be used as fodder by the top teams. That was evident on the Credit Union Centre Ice as its obvious teams like Latvia shouldn't be on the same ice surface as the Canadians. An 8 team tournament won't cut it and a 12 team tournament is too much. That is why this is going to happen every year. Get used to it.
After seeing the Czech Republic give Canada a good run in a pre-tournament game, I didn't think they would get blown out by Sweden. WRONG! Sweden takes out the Czechs 10-1 in a very surprising result. It was also surprising to see the Austrians lose 6-2 to Russia. I thought the Russians would be in double digits, but the Austrians gave them a game. In fact, it may have been the best game of the day when you consider the U-S hammered the Slovaks. Getting back to the Austrians, they had some nice fan support Saturday night. I don't know if there is a strong Austrian population in Regina or if the Regina hockey fan is embracing the underdog, but they were certainly the fan favourite against the Russians. Will it be that way against Sweden tomorrow. I'm guessing the answer is yes!
That's all I got. I need some serious shut-eye. Talk to ya Sunday!

Drop The Puck

(photo courtesy Canadian Press)

An event that I never ever thought would come back to Saskatchewan begins today. I believed the World Juniors had grown to such a magnitude that it had outgrown this province. Its another sign as to how this province is flourishing on a national scale. Some of the best hockey you might see live for a long time begins at both the Brandt Centre in Regina and Credit Union Centre in Saskatoon today. Many of the players you see on the different surfaces will be players that will move on into the NHL. The passion and desire these kids will bring is second to none. It is one of the best sporting events in the world as far as I'm concerned and it is right here.

With all apologies to fans of Canadian hockey, the lid-lifter for the host team shouldn't be much of a game as the Latvians provide the opposition. Mind you, Latvia did upset Russia in a pre-tournament game in Swift Current. Some believe the game between the Canadians and the Cougar/Husky squad will be of better calibre than what this afternoon's game will be because of the Latvians, but we all know you don't play the game on paper.

Bottom line here is an event like this doesn't come around every day, so get out there and enjoy it even if you only take in a game.


Was Santa good to you? Do you have any desire to eat today after stuffing yourself with turkey? Was it a quiet Christmas or a hectic one? Whatever the answers are, its all over now and its now either time to put use to some of those presents you got, or perhaps head out and find some Boxing Day specials---maybe both if you received gift cards to clothing places. Is today wilder in the malls than it is in the days leading up to Christmas? I think it is because now you are shopping for you and not someone else.


A lot of people in NFL circles want to see a Colts-Saints Super Bowl. I really believe San Diego is going to throw a monkeywrench into those plans. I don't think there is a better team in the league right now than the Chargers who eviscerated Tennessee last night. Why isn't Phillip Rivers mentioned when it comes to MVP candidates? I said it once before this year and I will say it again. The best running back in the NFL is not Adrian Peterson of the Vikings, its Chris Johnson of the Titans. Were it not for Tennessee's 0-6 start, I would think Johnson would have to get some serious consideration for MVP.


The coach of the NBA's Orlando Magic is ticked off because his team has to play on the holiday. Stan Van Gundy doesn't think the league should play on Christmas Day. In fact, he says he feels sorry for people who have nothing better to do than watch the NBA on Christmas Day. Hey Stan, is that a way to talk about your fans that sold out your arena for yesterday's game against Boston. All 5 of the NBA games were sold out last night and it looked like there weren't many empty seats at the football game. I don't think there is anything wrong with playing a professional sports game on Christmas Day. What else are the men going to do while the wives and relatives and significant others are getting the meal prepared? Yeah, they might do the dishes later, but they aren't going to sit there and watch Miracle on 34th Street or some other Christmas programming that has dominated the airwaves for the last 3 weeks. The NBA showcases its marquee teams(although why did the Clippers play yesterday) and players on Christmas Day. They know people will be watching. Bah Humbug to you Mr. Van Gundy.

As we now start the roll towards New Years and a new decade, many are starting their best of the decade features. My poll question asks what team do you think was the best during the last 10 years. (Somehow the Leafs didn't make it to that category, but they weren't the worst either). TSN's That's Hockey asks who was the best hockey player in the last 10 years. I would argue Joe Thornton. The Bruins/Sharks forward has an MVP and a scoring title along with leading the league in assists and points during the last 10 years. The only thing is his numerous playoff failures. I can't put Sid or Ovie in there because they didn't play the whole decade. If Thornton isn't the guy, perhaps its Brodeur and maybe its the New Jersey goalie ahead of everyone else anyhow because of his track record. Who would your choice be?
I'll have the NFL pix for this week up later today. I've got to get ready to head to the rink. I'll be calling the Austria-Russia game on with the loquacious Pete Paczko of Access 7 fame. Is the world ready for us? Its my only hope Pete doesn't create an international incident today. He will if he wears lederhosen to the booth in support of the Austrians. For those who know Pete and just got a mental image in their mind of that and have spewed coffee or something else on their keyboard and screen, I do humbly apologize.
Finally, just a little seasonal tune from two people I never ever thought would get together for anything. Who thought up this idea?

Hope to see you at the rink. If you're going, buy a 50-50. Those jackpots have been huge. That could make the bill-paying after Christmas a whole lot easier.


Friday, December 25, 2009

Russians Release Olympic Hockey Roster

Ilya Bryzgalov (Phoenix), Evgeni Nabokov (San Jose), Semyon Varlamov (Washington)

Sergei Gonchar (Pittsburgh), Denis Grebeshkov (Edmonton), Dmitri Kalinin (Salavat Ufa), Konstantin Korneyev (CSKA Moscow), Andrei Markov (Montreal), Ilya Nikulin (Ak Bars Kazan), Fedor Tyutin (Columbus), Anton Vonchenkov (Ottawa)

Maxim Afinogenov (Atlanta), Pavel Datsyuk (Detroit), Sergei Fedorov (Metallurg Magnitogorsk), Ilya Kovalchuk (Atlanta), Viktor Kozlov (Salavat Ufa), Evgeni Malkin (Pittsburgh), Alexei Morozov (Ak Bars Kazan), Alexander Ovechkin (Washington), Alexander Radulov (Salavat Ufa), Alexander Semin (Washington), Danis Zaripov (Ak Bars Kazan), Sergei Zinoviev (Salavat Ufa)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sixpack Looks Possible

They might not have the likes of Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, Evander Kane and many others who could be wearing the Canadian jersey, but our World Junior team looks like they are ready to take on the world again and try and make it six straight titles. It wasn't the most pleasing game to the eye, but Canada rallied to beat the Czechs 3-2 at the Brandt Centre Wednesday night. Canada allowed their opponents to get the first before Taylor Hall, Gabriel Bourque and Jordan Eberle all scored to take control. A Czech goal in the 3rd made it interesting in the end, but in the end, Canada finishes pre-tournament play with a perfect 3-0 mark. The team got on the bus right after the game and headed up to Saskatoon. They begin the tournament Saturday afternoon against Latvia.
Another sold-out crowd at the Brandt Centre. That is a good thing. The bad thing is have people forgotten how to get out of there in an orderly and smooth fashion. I don't think its ever taken me as long to get out of the exhibition grounds as it did last night. The reason was people just weren't using their heads when it comes to getting out. Most nights the traffic flow seems to go alright as people are courteous enough to let merging traffic get in but not last night. The parking lot was a gong show. I'm not saying someone is needed to guide traffic, but if its going to be like last night for the rest of the tournament, they may want to consider it. Of course it won't be needed if many stop acting like jackasses and allow everything to move smoothly---the way it used to be.
While waiting to get out of the parking lot, who should come rolling by me but the TSN play by play crew of Gord Miller and Pierre McGuire. They threw their belongings into their vehicle and then Gord got in the drivers seat to wait along with everyone else. Gord Miller is driving a vehicle at this event? He doesn't have a driver! I find that amazing. Do Gord and Pierre drive to their assignments at rinks throughout North America with one rental vehicle after another. I seriously thought they would use a cab or have someone drive them, but I didn't think Miller would be driving himself. I like that! By the way, TSN is going to broadcast a number of games from Regina during the tournament. Who is doing those games? Will it be Gord and Pierre from Saskatoon? I hope not because you need the play by play talent in the building to make it look good and work well. I don't think Chris Cuthbert would be called into action because he will be doing NHL games so perhaps we will get a dose of Ryan Rishaug or Dave Randorf.
There were some empty seats in the rink last night and I'm guessing those that had those seats may have been out-of-towners. What a brutal day to be on the road whether it be in Regina or on the highway. That pre-Christmas dump of snow made travel extremely difficult as I'm sure you know. Being out and about yesterday, I just about saw several accidents and yes, I could have been in one or two of them. I just about had a guy slide through an intersection into my beast but he managed to stop in time. I just about slid out into another lane while trying to get my car under control after a turn on the icy roads. It was just one of those days. I'm guessing those at SGI will be pretty busy when they get back to work on Monday if not tomorrow morning when they put in what I'm guessing will be a half-day before getting out of there to enjoy Christmas.
Speaking of getting out to enjoy Christmas, that is what I'm going to do. Chances are there won't be another update until Boxing Day. To all readers of the blog, I really do thank you for checking things out on a daily basis. It is appreciated. Have a Merry Christmas, and if you are travelling, please stay between the lines and avoid having your name mentioned on TV or radio for all the wrong reasons. To those going to the World Juniors in Regina, see you at the rink! I'll be the guy trying to learn those Austrian names.

Talking World Juniors With Peter Loubardias

He may now be the voice of the Calgary Flames on Sportsnet, but there is no better person to talk about junior hockey in this country than my good friend Peter Loubardias. He was in Regina last week to take in a couple of the Team Canada practices and games. I asked him a few questions about what we can expect over the next few days.

Q: Canada has won this tournament the past five years. They go into this one without the likes of John Tavares, Cody Hodgson, Evander Kane, Matt Duchene, etc, etc who are now doing their thing in the NHL. Is Canada still the overwhelming favourite?

PL: Canada is always a favourite to win this tournament, but I think this year it is wide open. Canada is hurt by the loss of the players you mentioned and that will give teams like Sweden and Russia an advantage. Don't forget about the Americans. They are also a team you must contend with. I would think Russia is the best team in the Regina pool, but Sweden will give them a battle and so will Finland if they can get the goaltending.

Q: Canada has had some marquee goaltending in the past from guys like Carey Price, Roberto Luongo and going way back Jimmy Waite and Stephane Fiset. Will they get it this year?

PL: Everyone asks about goaltending every year. People knew Dustin Tokarski won a Memorial Cup last year, but they had question marks about him. Look at how he performed. Jake Allen was one of the last cuts last year and is a very good goalie while WHL fans should know what Martin Jones can do. I don't know who Willie Desjardins--who is one of the best junior coaches out there--will do in Game 1 against Latvia when it comes to his starter, but be confident in either Allen or Jones to get the job done.

Q:Is Pats forward Jordan Eberle the marquee guy at this tournament this year?

PL:He would be the closest thing. There are a couple of guys on the Russian team you will want to watch as well including Nikita Filatov. However when it comes to Canada's hopes, Eberle is the guy. His success is absolutely critical. When the big games are on the line this guy always answers the bell and will again.

Q: You love this tournament, I love this tournament. What makes it so special?

PL:It means so much to the kids. That's one of the great things about it for me and maybe most of all just how good the hockey is and the passion it is played with when the event reaches the semi-final stage. Some of the best hockey you will ever see comes out of this event and I expect the same thing this time around.

Thanks A Bunch

A huge thank you to whoever ordered this for us. Its not like there's enough stress in our lives in the days leading up to Christmas. Really, I couldn't thank you enough for making sure there is just a little more on our plate. I could go on, but I have to shovel the driveway.....AGAIN!!!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Who Knew

The NHL has come out with a Christmas video for the Hockey Fights Cancer charity. Take a look.....

If you're wondering who the two blondes are(and if you're a red blooded male you should be), they are the daughters of Igor Larionov.

Bombers Release Simpson

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers announce today they have released import linebacker Barrin Simpson.Simpson has spent the past four seasons with the Blue Bombers, playing in 52 regular season games, three playoff games and one Grey Cup during that time."Barrin has always been a solid player in this league and we thank him for his hard work and dedicated commitment to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. We certainly would consider the possibility of Barrin returning with the understanding of it being a fit for both parties", said interim Vice-President of Football Operations Ross Hodgkinson.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Could I Be Austria's Bob Cole?!

I have been given the opportunity to do play-by-play of five games at the World Junior Hockey Championships. A Boston based group(FASTHockey) that shows games over the internet has approached me asking if I would be interested in calling some games. Four of the five involve Team Austria. What type of audience will there be in beautiful, downtown Innsbruck? How does one say goal in Austrian? Has there been any NHL'ers out of Austria? It should be a lot of fun. By the way, the website is
The Giants literally destroyed the Redskins in Monday Night Football. If you watched the game, especially the end of the first half, can you try and explain just what the Redskins were trying to do? If creating a scenario where they will be mocked endlessly, than I understand.
I love the "CMON MAN" feature on ESPN's pre-game show leading into Monday Night Football. They didn't talk about this, but I will. Remember when the Redskins played the Saints a couple of weeks ago and kicker Shaun Suisham could have iced it for Washington only to shank a 20 yard field goal. Suisham is now a member of the Cowboys who have signed him after getting rid of Nick Folk. Folk doinked one off the upright Saturday night that would have given Dallas a two score lead late in the 4th quarter in New Orleans. So the Cowboys get rid of Folk to add on someone like Suisham who has shown he isn't that dependable. CMON MAN!!! In what could be an ironic twist, the Cowboys are in Washington next Sunday night.
Marty Brodeur records shutout 104 to become the all-time leader in that category as the Devils beat Pittsburgh. In a one game showdown, would you rather have Brodeur or Patrick Roy in net. I'll go with Marty!
I've always joked with Rod Pedersen that he is Canada's Joe Buck. If that's the case, Roddy's bosses over at Harvard better dig into their pocketbook. I find out today Buck co-owns a 12.6 million dollar Raytheon Hawker jet. This might ease those travel snafus he endures when the Rider and Pats seasons overlap. Its not as if Paul Hill doesn't have the $$$$ to buy RP a corporate jet. Consider it a Christmas present for all the hard work he does. OK Rod, I tried, the rest is up to you!!
A lot of discussion over the fact Danny Barrett wasn't named the head coach at the University of Buffalo. He is looked over with University of Cincinnati offensive co-ordinator Jeff Quinn getting the job. Do you think Danny wanted it and if so, how must he be feeling today? Do you think he stays or does he move on. Could he join up with Turner Gill again in Kansas? Could the CFL call?
Would the CFL call?
Pats forward Jordan Weal is going to the prospects game. That happens next month in Windsor. You would have to think Weal has a great shot at being on Canada's World Junior team next season.
Why didn't Blades defenceman Stefan Elliott get an invite to the World Junior camp?
Has anyone figured out what the Redskins were thinking at the end of the first half yet?

Barrett Doesn't Get Buffalo Job

The University of Buffalo has named University of Cincinnati offensive co-ordinator Jeff Quinn as their new head coach. Quinn, who will lead the Bearcats into their Sugar Bowl game against Florida, beat out current UB offensive co-ordinator and former Rider coach Danny Barrett for the position. Barrett had been named interim coach after Turner Gill left Buffalo to take the head coaching job at Kansas.

Sisco To Play In US College Football Shrine Game

OTTAWA (CIS) – Windsor centre Matt Morencie and Regina slotback Jordan Sisco are the Canadian Interuniversity Sport football players selected to suit up in the 85th edition of the prestigious East-West Shrine Game on Saturday, January 23, 2010 at the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando.

Kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. live on ESPN2.

Every year since 1985, CIS players are invited to the all-star showcase which features over 80 of the top university players in the United States. After Calgary offensive lineman Tom Spoletini was selected in 1985, two CIS representatives have made the trip down south annually with the exception of 2008, when four CIS players were invited to the event.

The Shrine Game has been played annually since 1925 to raise funds for Shriners Hospitals for Children and to raise awareness about the expert orthopedic, burn, spinal cord injury rehabilitation, and cleft lip and palate care, available at no charge to patients and families, through the 22 Shriners Hospitals for Children.

The impressive list of past CIS standouts invited to the Shrine Game includes current NFL players Israel Idonije (Chicago) and Dan Federkeil (Indianapolis), who starred at Manitoba and Calgary, respectively; Samuel Giguère of Sherbrooke, currently on the Indianapolis Colts’ practice roster; Hec Crighton trophy winners Don Blair of Calgary, Andy Fantuz of Western Ontario, and Jesse Lumsden and Kojo Aidoo, both of McMaster; three Presidents’ trophy recipients as CIS defensive player of the year, as well as 14 J.P. Metras trophy winners as CIS lineman of the year.

The list of NFL greats who played in the event includes Brett Favre, Tom Brady, John Elway and 62 NFL Hall of Famers.

Morencie of Windsor, Ont., is the first Lancer in history to be invited to the classic, while Sisco of Regina is the third Ram to be selected since Regina joined CIS back in 1999. Guard Brendon LaBatte and inside receiver Jason Clermont previously represented the Rams in 2008 and 2002, respectively.

This fall, Morencie became the first Windsor lineman to claim the Metras trophy. The 6-foot-3, 290-pound human kinetics major was selected 21st overall by the BC Lions in the 2009 CFL Canadian Draft but chose to return to school to finish his degree and was recently signed by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for the 2010 season.

Morencie started every game over five campaigns for the Lancers after joining the team as a 17-year-old freshman in September of 2005. He played all five positions on the offensive line, as well as stints at slotback in 2006 and a number of snaps on the defensive line over the past two years. After being named an OUA all-star in 2008, he made the switch to centre this fall and didn’t miss a beat, earning a spot on the first all-Canadian team.

Morencie was one of the big reasons former Windsor teammate Daryl Stephenson, now a member of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, graduated in 2008 as the CIS all-time leading rusher with 5,163 career yards.

Sisco, who made the move from wide receiver to slotback in 2009, was named to the Canada West all-star team for the second straight year after he led the conference and finished third in the nation with 52 catches. He scored two touchdowns and racked up 700 receiving yards, which was good for third in Canada West and sixth in the country.

The 21-year-old, who is eligible for the 2010 CFL Draft and could return to Regina for a fifth and final university season next year, ranks sixth in Canada West history with 141 career receptions - 32 shy of record holder and former Rams teammate Chad Goldie - and is 11th in career yards with 2,051.

Sisco helped another former teammate, quarterback Teale Orban capture back-to-back Canada West MVP titles in 2006 and 2007. In his freshman campaign in 2006, the arts student was named Regina rookie of the year after he caught 25 balls for 330 yards. The next season, he had 40 catches and led the team with 678 yards, including a single-game Rams record of 228 yards against Alberta.

In Orlando, Morencie and Sisco will get a chance to play for a pair of coaching legends.

The East team will be led by Romeo Crennel, who spent 28 years as an NFL coach and won five Super Bowls as an assistant. Crennel claimed his first two NFL championships in 1986 and 1990 as an assistant with Bill Parcells’ New York Giants and guided the New England Patriots to Super Bowl victories in 2001, 2003 and 2004 as defensive coordinator under Bill Belichik. The NFL’s assistant coach of the year in 2003, Crennel had a four-season stint as head coach of the Cleveland Browns from 2005 to 2008.

Leading the West squad will be Marty Schottenheimer, who spent 21 years as an NFL head coach. His head coaching experience began in 1984 in Cleveland, where he won three division crowns in five seasons with the Browns. He then moved to Kansas City from 1989 to 1998, leading the Chiefs to first or second place in their division in all but one year. After spending one season in Washington, Schottenheimer wrapped up his NFL coaching career in San Diego from 2002 to 2006. He was named NFL coach of the year by the Associated Press in 2004, after winning the AFC West title with a 12-4 record.

For all the information on the 2010 East-West Shrine Game:

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Boo To The Swedes

The Brandt Centre was full and those in attendance got what they wanted Sunday night. Canada(in their green jerseys that made them look like the U of S Huskies) beat Sweden 6-2 in a rematch of the last two gold medal finals at the World Juniors. While impressed with the play of the Canadians, I was very disappointed at the Swedes. I found them to be disinterested, chippy and at the end of the game, very poor sports.
The Swedes skated off the ice at the end of the game without doing the traditional post-game handshake and then insulted everyone again by refusing to line up at the blue line for the post-game ceremony. WTF Sweden? I'm guessing this performance won't go over well with the Brandt Centre faithful that will watch the Swedes do their thing in the round-robin.
As mentioned the building was packed with luminaries throughout. This game even brought out the great Will Chabun from the Leader-Post---its the first time I've seen Will in a long time. He truly is one of the good ones. Others seen in no particular order---James Gallo, Les Lazaruk, Brent Parker(loved the button), Cliff Mapes (sexiest man in the building), Dan Plaster, the lovely Brittany Thies, Rich Sutter, Curtis Hunt, a guy that looked like one of the Jonas Brothers(I only know this because my 15 year old daughter watches MuchMusic!)Kelly Remple(chose this instead of the Vikings game--I'm impressed), frequent readers of this blog Matt and Chris G. Truly a red carpet evening.
Enough of the Pepsi guys with the cheer!!! Are you with me or against me on that one! I thought the ones at the Grey Cup the last couple of years were annoying, but these guys take the cake. Whenever I saw the girls, I had this inkling to give them my keys and make sure they check the oil!
The game itself was a great one. Jake Allen answered the Who's Jake Allen question in net. The defensive core was outstanding, Ryan Ellis showed why he might be the best junior blueliner in this country and many of the forwards were flying. It was also great to see Jordan Eberle get one on home ice. Next up is Finland in Calgary before a game against the Czechs at the Brandt Centre on Wednesday at a what I'm guessing will be a sold out Brandt Centre.
When there is a Rider game going on, I don't see anyone wearing Leafs, Habs, Oilers or Stamps jerseys. Thus when there is a hockey game going on, don't wear a Riders jersey. A couple of weeks ago at the Olympic curling trials there were two guys wearing Oilers jerseys sitting behind one of the hacks--they looked out of place. So to those wearing a Rider jersey at the WJC. I'm just sayin!!!!
Steelers 37 Packers 36----it might have been the best game in the NFL this year.
Buccaneers 21 Seahawks 7-ARE YOU F**IN KIDDING ME!!! BEATEN BY A ONE WIN TEAM IN YOUR OWN PARK. THIS IS HIGHLY UNACCEPTABLE! The towel has been tossed in by yours truly. What a colossal embarassment!
The Raiders beat Denver??? The Panthers beat the Vikings????
Who is Jerome Harrison and what is he doing running for 286 yards rushing?
One last thing. Considering the colour jerseys they wore last night, would it not have been ironic had Team Canada been called for too many men on the ice!!!! For those who think that is too soon or I touched a raw nerve, I do apologize. However, it had to be said!!!

Its Time!

All the preparations are over. Its time to play hockey and to see if Canada can achieve "The Saskatchewan sixpack". While the tournament doesn't start officially until Boxing Day, we will get a good snapshot as to how good the Canadian team is tonight when they play Sweden in a rematch of the last two gold medal games tonight at 7 at the Brandt Centre---a sold out Brandt Centre I may add. It will be great to see the place sold out with the expanded seating for the first time. The game will be covered nationally by TSN2 starting at 5. Be on your best behaviour Regina, the country will be watching.
There is now only one unbeaten left in the NFL. The Saints were beaten by Dallas meaning Indy is now the only team chasing perfection. Give a lot of credit (grumble, grumble) to the Cowboys who took it right to the Saints from the opening snap. It started to look as if Dallas was going to let this one get away from them, especially when for the 2nd week in a row, an easy field goal that would have given them the game was missed. Unlike last week in Washington though, the Saints couldn't complete the comeback thanks to a very swarming Dallas defensive line and that was it.
The Oilers led the Capitals 2-0 after two periods last night. I said this team won't beat the Capitals and I was right. Washington gets a pair from Ovechkin in the first 5 minutes of the 3rd, adds another one from former Warrior Tomas Fleischmann a few minutes later and it ends up 4-2. Surprise, surprise!!
The Riders have re-signed Regina receiver Chris Getzlaf for two years plus an option. I don't have to tell you what impact Getzlaf had for the football team last season. I would have been shocked if he ended up somewhere else.
Mike Holmgren says he would be interested in coming back to work for the Seahawks. The Seahawks offer him a job and he says no thanks. I guess Mike meant to say he would be interested in coming back to Seattle if the price was right and it wasn't. He'll end up in Cleveland now if what I'm reading is right. Good luck Mike! You have a lot of work to do in Cleveland....a lot of work indeed.
Should be an interesting NFL Sunday with Mother Nature causing havoc as a big snowstorm rolls through the Northeast US. Two games have already had their start times moved to late games because of the storm. I'm thinking a lot of unders today if taking an over/under pro-line ticket.
Chad Ochocinco is known for his outlandish stunts...stunts that get him fined. Chad wants to wear the number 15 jersey worn by Chris Henry as a tribute to his teammate and friend killed earlier this week. The NFL stiff-shirts says he can't and will be fined heavily if he does. The NFLPA says it will pay that fine if that should happen. If Ochocinco wants to wear 15 today, just let him. He's not trying to make a statement here...well OK he is, but not one that is worthy of a fine. It would be very crass for the league to penalize OchoCinco if he follows through on his promise today.
Have a good Sunday. Maybe I'll see you at the hockey game.