Monday, November 30, 2015

Grey Cup 103 Attracts 4.3 Million Canadians

Canada’s biggest party, the GREY CUP, continues to be one of the biggest events on Canadian television, growing 6% compared to last year according to preliminary overnight data from Numeris. An average audience of 4.3 million viewers tuned in to TSN and RDS to watch the Edmonton Eskimos win a hotly-contested clash with the Ottawa Redblacks in last night’s 103rd GREY CUP presented by Shaw.

Overall, 9.7 million unique viewers, or nearly 30% of the entire Canadian population, watched some or all of the 2015 CFL championship game on TSN and RDS.

Audiences for the 103rd GREY CUP presented by Shaw peaked at 5.5 million viewers late in the game as Edmonton scored a clutch goal line touchdown to take the lead for good in the fourth quarter.

Fans of the winning team rallied around the 103rd GREY CUP presented by Shaw, as the game became the highest-rated program of the calendar year in the Edmonton Extended Market, with 66% of people watching television tuning in for the broadcast.

Among the highlights:

The 103rd GREY CUP presented by Shaw becomes the 19th program in the history of TSN to average more than 3 million viewers
The electric halftime performance by multi-platinum rockers Fall Out Boy during the Nissan Titan Half-Time Show attracted an average audience of 3.8 million viewers
An average audience of 1.8 million viewers stayed to watch TSN’s extensive post-game coverage
Once again, the GREY CUP proved to be one of the premier television properties for Canadian advertisers and a coveted platform for key sponsors, including Shaw, Nissan, GMC, Wendy’s, SiriusXM, Kal Tire, and Marks.

(Bell Media)

NHL Three Stars of Week

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Dallas Stars left wing Jamie Benn, Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby and Montreal Canadiens center Alex Galchenyuk have been named the NHL’s “Three Stars” for the week ending Nov. 29.
            Benn shared the League lead in goals (4) and points (6) as the Stars (19-5-0, 38 points) won two of three games to continue their best start to a season in the franchise’s 48-year history. He opened the week with 2-1—3, his fourth multi-goal and three-point performances of the season, in a 7-4 loss to the Ottawa Senators Nov. 24. Benn also scored once in a 3-2 shootout victory over the Vancouver Canucks Nov. 27 and added 1-1—2, including the primary assist on Tyler Seguin’s overtime goal, in a 4-3 comeback win over the Minnesota Wild Nov. 28. The 26-year-old Victoria, B.C., native and reigning Art Ross Trophy winner paces the NHL with 18 goals and ranks second with 35 points in 24 outings this season, including 8-6—14 during an eight-game point streak and 6-2—8 during a four-game goal streak.
            Holtby posted a 4-0-0 record with a 1.75 goals-against average, .945 save percentage and one shutout to backstop the Capitals (17-5-1, 35 points) to the top of the Metropolitan Division standings. He denied all 33 shots he faced to earn his 21st career shutout and first of the season in a 1-0 victory over the Edmonton Oilers Nov. 23. Holtby followed that performance with 23 stops in a 5-3 triumph over the Winnipeg Jets Nov. 25 before capping the week with a pair of 32-save outings: in 4-2 wins over the Tampa Bay Lightning Nov. 27 and Toronto Maple Leafs Nov. 28. The 26-year-old Lloydminster, Sask., native leads the NHL with 15 victories and a 1.95 goals-against average in 19 appearances this season, including a career-high seven consecutive wins.
            Galchenyuk tied for first in the NHL with four goals and added one assist to help the Canadiens (18-4-3, 39 points) earn five of a possible six points and reclaim first place in the League standings. He registered 1-1—2 in a 5-1 victory over the New York Rangers Nov. 25. Galchenyuk then scored in regulation and the shootout in a 3-2 win over the New Jersey Devils Nov. 27 before recording his first multi-goal outing of the campaign in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Devils Nov. 28 (2-0—2). The 21-year-old Milwaukee, Wis., native has 7-11—18 in 25 contests this season, including 5-2—7 during a five-game point streak as well as goals in a career-high four straight games.

(NHL Media) 

Something to "Mitch" About

What do you know! They said Connor McDavid would bring the Cup back to Edmonton and in his first year it is coming back. Oh wait!  The Edmonton Eskimos are the 2015 Grey Cup champs as they beat the Ottawa REDBLACKS in what was an entertaining 103rd Grey Cup. More on the game in a bit, but first.....

This is not getting a favourable reaction, nor should it. I asked people their thoughts on this logo and some of the answers I got were

  • Lame, boring, understated
  • Dull, unimaginative
  • Ugly
I had to make sure I was asking about the logo and not this blogger when the answers started coming in. I can't disagree. Who approved this and why? Was this created by a Grade 4 student in a school assignment? The thing that bothers me about this logo, besides the fact it is beyond bland, is the fact the Maple Leaf which has been distinct in all previous logos is basically gone. There is a half Maple Leaf at the bottom and in a league that presumably is Canadian (or National). Why are the ends of the football cut off? Some have asked why the logo needed changing seeing the other pro sports leagues haven't changed their logo and that is a very good question. The NFL, NHL, MLB and NBA haven't felt the need to change their logo for years. The NHL did a subtle tweak with theirs, but nothing as radical as what the CFL has done. Some have suggested it will grow on you. We'll see.

While the logo didn't go over with many, I think it is safe to say the new promotional video with the "What We're Made Of" campaign is a hit. This was very well done and very well produced. The CFL needs to run with this. Why was the old logo so prevalent on Grey Cup Sunday. The old logo was seen a lot more than the new one. Why?

That takes us to the first "State of the League" address by new commissioner Jeffrey Orridge and let's just say I hope the second one at Grey Cup 2016 provides us with a little more substance. The Edmonton Sun's Terry Jones summed it up the best in an article where he said it was ironic that Orridge went to a photo op holding a football after everything was said and done and fumbled the football because he fumbled and bumbled his way through the news conference without providing answers on questions the CFL needs answers to. He defended the bad TV ratings, he defended the officiating, he didn't offer any real solutions to anything. One person claimed on social media if he really knew anything about the league and if someone from the league had just written notes for him on the various subjects.  This was a bad year for the CFL for a variety of reasons and while some of those reasons have some validity to them, you don't want it to happen again. Tell your league and your fans what your vision is for this league and don't hope a video and a new logo will change everything. Orridge has a marketing background, but that background didn't appear to pay any dividends during his first real test. That state of the league address was on TV as well which was outstanding, but I was shocked to see it come on Sportsnet and not the official broadcaster TSN. By the way, TSN did a fantastic job again with their game-day telecast. I don't know where the Grey Cup lies when it comes to their pecking order of yearly shows, but once again they hit it out of the park with Chris Cuthbert and company doing a Grade A job.

Back to the logo for a second and the tweet of the week and perhaps the year may have come from the overly-sarcastic and very clever person who runs the @fakegainer account.  His tweet was he had encountered a Bombers fan who said the new CFL logo was too simple as to which he responded...dude your logo is an uppercase W.  LOL!! In the words of John Lynch---how Winnipegish!

Now to the game. It looked at the start like we might see a 48-45 shootout as both Henry Burris and Mike Reilly had no problems to start the game, but the defences eventually took over and made life difficult for the quarterbacks who had to earn every yard they got. I wasn't in favour of the PI rule when it came in and it had a big part in the outcome of the game, but it was a penalty. A penalty that should have been thrown by the official, but that opens up another can of worms. I couldn't believe Chris Jones actually wasn't going to throw the flag and if he hadn't, that might have been a decision that would  have haunted him forever.  In the end, Edmonton's defence which was lights out all season put the clamps down on Burris and his talented receiving group and it just seemed like a matter of time until Edmonton did what they had to to get the lead.

At the end of the day, the Eskimos did what I think many thought they would do around mid-October and that is bring the Grey Cup back to Northern Alberta. They were by far and away the best team in the CFL this year and it showed.  Now the story will shift back to the Riders and what their future holds. Is Chris Jones a part of it as some are suggesting? I really don't see that happening, but we can apparently stop the John Hufnagel talk as he has said he isn't changing addresses.

All in all, the product we saw on the field this weekend was a good showcase for Canadian football as the Vanier Cup didn't disappoint either with the UBC Thunderbirds winning on the last play to beat Montreal.

It was a good way for the game to leave us for a few months as it wasn't a very good year as we all know. A lot of work has to be done and after what I heard from Orridge this week, I wonder if he actually knows what he is up against.  It will be an interesting off-season where I don't think the league will be put on the backburner. That off-season starts today with training camp a long ways away.

That's all I got. Enjoy your week.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Grey Cup 103 Depth Charts

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 Enjoy the 103rd Grey Cup! REDBLACKS 29 Eskimos 21.

Media preview

Recycled Kickers Take Center Stage at GC 103

Released by Saskatchewan in early July, kicker Chris Milo had to think of other ways to pay the bills.
"After two, three weeks I started wondering what I was going to do with my life," he said Saturday. "You never know if that call (from another team) is going to come — ever.
"So you start thinking about things. I was actually working for Honda in Regina for about a week. And then Marcel (Ottawa GM Marcel Desjardins) rang the phone and I said ‘I’m coming."’
The 29-year-old Milo, who sold two cars during his brief stint in the dealership, will be kicking in the 103rd Grey Cup on Sunday. And he has played a key role in getting the second-year Redblacks to the CFL championship game.
"Those kicks he made in the Hamilton game, those are some big kicks -- and into the wind," said Ottawa coach Rick Campbell, referencing Milo's four field goals in the Eastern Division final. "Chris has been great.
"The other thing that's nice about him is he's a pretty level-headed guy. When you ask him to punt or do everything, he's not fazed by it. We're glad we have him."
Milo will face another recycled kicker in Edmonton's Sean Whyte, who joined the Eskimos in early September after being cut by Montreal the previous month. The 30-year-old Whyte, a seven-year CFL veteran who played two seasons with B.C. prior to joining the Alouettes, was considering a job as a cable installer and repairman when Edmonton summoned him.
The two ran into each other earlier this week and compared notes.
"I said 'Sean, it's kind of weird. We were both out of a job and now we're playing for a Grey Cup,"' said Milo. "Good things happen to good people. Sean's a great kid. He's been really consistent throughout his career and he serves to be in this league.
"It's going to be a battle of the unwanted, I guess. It's fun. We kind of laugh about it now that we're in the Grey Cup and those teams aren't. So we'll take advantage."
Whyte has collected 882 regular-season points while Milo has 601.
Milo, who won the Grey Cup in 2013 with Saskatchewan and two Vanier Cups with Laval, said he never lost confidence despite being out of a job.
"I knew that I can do it. I've done it. I've played in the big games, I've have success in the big games. So I had full confidence in my abilities.
"That's just the way it goes sometimes. I was out there kicking every day and waiting for a phone call. And sure enough it came about a month later. And here I am."
Milo, who started with Saskatchewan in 2011, says his journey this season has made him appreciate how special the Grey Cup experience is.
"I'm definitely taking advantage of every opportunity, every moment. I'm really taking it all in. It's things that don't happen every often, especially the way things played out for me this year -- I definitely didn't expect to be in this game."

(Canadian Press) 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

UBC Captures Vanier Cup

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(Picture courtesy CIS) 

Quinn van Gylswyk kicked the game-winning field goal with no time remaining as the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds defeated the University of Montreal Carabins 26-23 to win the Vanier Cup on Saturday afternoon.
With the game tied in the final minutes, UBC wasted what could have been a winning boot when Trevor Casey mishandled the snap. But two plays later, Anthony Blackwell picked off a Gabriel Cousineau pass at the Montreal 52 to give the Thunderbirds a second chance.
Van Gylswyk, with his fourth of the game, was good from the 20 on the final play of the game to give UBC its fourth Vanier Cup and it's first since 1997.
The Carabins, who won their first Cup last year, won the Quebec conference by blocking a last-play field goal against Laval, but couldn't repeat that feat against UBC.
Marcus David caught a touchdown pass and Brandon Deschamps ran one in for UBC, whose offence was led by a spectacular performance from first year quarterback Michael O'Connor. O'Connor was named MVP of the game and Stavros Katsantonis was named defensive player of the game.
Cousineau, in his last university football game, threw TD strikes to Guillaume Paquet and Samuel Nadeau-Piuze and David Deschamps had three boots for Montreal, which erased an early 16-0 deficit.
A lively but less than capacity crowd of 12,557 at Telus Stadium at Laval University seemed split between fans of the Carabins and those who wanted the Laval Rouge et Or's closest rivals to lose.
O'Connor, perhaps the top Canadian quarterback prospect in more than decade, lived up to his billing with 290 passing yards and 21 completions in the first half. The Carabins defence did well to hold UBC to a 16-10 lead at the intermission.
The opening drive produced a 45-yard Van Gylswyk field goal and the next he was good from 33 after O'Connor moved the offence with six completed passes.
Late in the opening quarter, Dylan Chapdelaine picked off a Cousineau pass at the Montreal 33 and, four plays later, O'Connor found David with a six-yard TD pass.
Momentum turned late in the half when the Carabins' Jonathan Boissonneault-Glaou recovered a fumbled punt at the UBC 28. Four plays later, Paquet hauled in a Cousineau pass in double coverage in the end zone at 12:01.
UBC opted for a fake field goal while inside the Montreal five, but it failed, and a last-minute drive helped by a 23-yard Cousineau run ended with a final-play 10-yard boot by David Deschamps.
The Thunderbirds' ground attack was held to 28 first-half yards, but on their first possession of the second, Brandon Deschamps went 44 yards up the middle to score at 5:37.
Montreal answered with two drives capped by David Deschamps' field goals, from 22 and 12 yards.
Then Cousineau led his best drive of the game, marching 88 yards on nine plays ending with Nadeau-Piuze's diving catch in the end zone to tie the game 23-23 with 7:15 left to play.
(Canadian Press)

2016 Canadian Football Hall of Fame Class Unveiled

Coming off the heels of an exciting year of festivities and marquee events in 2015, The Canadian Football Hall of Fame and Museum (CFHOF) has officially announced the Induction Class for 2016 at a celebration event during the 103rd Grey Cup Festival in Winnipeg.
“It is my pleasure to announce the Induction Class of 2016,” said Mark DeNobile, Executive Director of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and Museum. “The Inductees are Doug Brown, Rodney Harding, Derrell Mitchell and James West in the player category. In the Builder category, long time administrator of minor football in Saskatchewan and the Saskatoon Hilltops Don McDonald has been selected.”

The new inductees will bring the total Hall of Fame members to 283 members already included in the Hall’s Zone of Champions, which features busts of each member of the Hall.

 Mookie’ Mitchell enjoyed an 11-year CFL career, spending eight season with Toronto Argonauts (1997-03 and '07) and three with the Edmonton Eskimos (2004-06). Mitchell broke on to the CFL scene in 1997 for his first stint with the Argonauts and immediately made an impact. As a rookie, the Miami, Fla. native snatched 77 passes for 1,457 yards and a career-high 17 touchdowns en route to being named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Rookie and helping the Boatmen to hoist the second of back-to-back Grey Cup wins.
Following his outstanding rookie season, Mitchell set the CFL record for receptions in a single-season (160) for 2,000 yards – the third-best single-season receiving yards total in CFL history.

Rodney Harding played 12 CFL seasons (1985-96), most notably with the Toronto Argonauts (1985-94). Known as one of the most dominant defensive lineman in the CFL from the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s, he registered over 253 defensive tackles, 105 career QB sacks, 14 fumble recoveries and five interceptions in 201 career games.
In his 10 seasons with the Double Blue, the Oklahoma City native inscribed his name in the Argonauts record books as the club’s all-time leader in sacks (92) and sacks in a single-game (5). Harding still ranks second all-time in Double Blue history with 18 sacks in a single-season.
Linebacker West started his career with three seasons in Calgary, including a 1983 campaign which saw him earn West Division All-Star honours. He played a total of 37 games for the Stamps from 1982-84 and recorded 13.5 sacks as well as four interceptions and six fumble recoveries.
West went on to play nine more seasons - eight for Winnipeg and one for BC - and was named a Division All-Star a total of four times.
Brown spent his entire illustrious 11-year career as a member of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, placing second on the team's all-time tackles list with 429 and third on the team's all-time sack list with 52. The seven-time All-Star played in 188 career games and earned CFL Most Outstanding Canadian honours in 2001.
Entering the Hall of Fame in the builder's category is McDonald, a long time administrator of minor football in the Province of Saskatchewan and for the Saskatoon Hilltops.
The Canadian Football Hall of Fame and Museum operates as a non-profit registered charity. Located in Hamilton, Ont. since 1963, and in its current location next to Hamilton City Hall since 1972, the Hall is home to more than 30,000 Canadian football artefacts, ranging from equipment and trophies to photos and
videos. The CFHOF is open to the public year-round.


Friday, November 27, 2015

The CFL Gets a New Look

Commissioner Jeffrey Orridge says the league's logo is getting a makeover.  Here is the new one.

Do you like it?

Meanwhile, more on the logo and Orridge's state of the league address today can be found in the following story from Canadian Press.

Commissioner Jeffrey Orridge continues to put his stamp on the CFL.
Orridge unveiled a new logo, slogan and marketing campaign for the league Friday at his first Grey Cup state-of-the-league address. The new logo consists of the block letters "CFL" over a small maple leaf on a silver, football-shaped background with its new slogan, "What we're made of."
Orridge's presentation also included a 90-second video that will run during the television broadcast of Sunday's game between the Ottawa Redblacks and the Edmonton Eskimos at Investors Group Field. The move is aimed at attracting a younger demographic.
"Our great fans will be the first to tell you: we need more fans and in particular, we need to attract the next generation of fans so this league is strong for years to come," Orridge told reporters. "The time has come to update and transform how we present ourselves.
"We're not asking our new fans or casual fans to join our already avid fans in the stands just because somehow it's their duty as Canadians. We're inviting them to join us because the product and the experience are fun, exciting, accessible and authentic. We are showcasing who and what we are today and we're looking to build for the future."
Since being hired in March, Orridge has said attracting younger fans is a top priority. In May, the CFL partnered with Whistle Sports, a multi-channel digital network with millions of subscribers on various platforms including YouTube and Facebook.
These days, the CFL is on solid economic footing, thanks in large part to a lucrative, long-term TV deal with TSN. But attracting the next generation of fans remains very important. Orridge said league attendance remained stagnant this year with reports TV ratings dipped 15 per cent.
"While the league has come a long way . . . it would be foolish and even irresponsible for us to ignore these rapidly changing landscapes and challenges," Orridge said. "We also have a lot of momentum with new stadiums in place and more on the way, some great, new young stars on the field, emerging technologies and the social dynamic that allows us to reach new fans in new ways and we need to capitalize on that."
One team that struggled at the turnstiles this season was the Toronto Argonauts, who played four scheduled home games outside the GTA due to the Pan Am Games and scheduling issues at Rogers Centre. But next season, the Argos — who posted a 10-8 record to make the East Division playoffs —will be under new ownership (MLSE chairman Larry Tanenbaum and Bell) and play at a refurbished BMO Field.
"We can't assume these two things will automatically ensure the Argos, who've been strong for years now on the field, will be just as strong in business," Orridge said. "However there is tremendous potential for a new era for the Argos, and a new era we plan to mark with a tremendous Grey Cup in 2016 in Toronto."
The CFL also adopted several significant rule changes this season, including pushing converts back 20 yards and moving up two-point attempts two yards. Another major move was preventing defensive backs from contacting receivers more than five yards downfield, giving pass-catchers a less obstructed path to the football.
The changes helped create an eight per cent boost in scoring (44.5 points per game this year compared to 37.7 in 2014) while shaving three minutes off the average length of games (two hours, 52 minutes).
One-point converts dipped to 85.5 per cent from 99.5 per cent while two-point attempts were successful 65.9 per cent of the time. But there was also a nine per cent spike in penalties that resulted in continued criticism of CFL officials, which Orridge felt was wrong.
"I wish everyone who watches our game was just as quick to acknowledge when a good call is made and when a good game is officiated," he said. "Overall our officials do a really difficult job very very well but I say to them . . . our best can always get better and we'll always work to get better."
Orridge said the league is always looking at improving itself and left the door open to the possibility of hiring American officials.
The CFL's most pressing issue was the health of its starting quarterbacks as seven-of-nine teams lost their starter and/or backup for significant portions of the season. Ottawa's Henry Burris, the league's outstanding player and oldest quarterback at age 40, was the only one to start all 18 regular-season games although Calgary's Bo Levi Mitchell made 17 straight starts before being rested in the Stampeders' regular-season finale.
"Injuries are part of any sport," Orridge said. "But the truth is this affected teams' ability to perform at their best and so it did affect our product.
"I plan to sit down with our teams, our football leaders, in the off-season and really examine this issue."

This and That

--It is Friday meaning its time for the weekly set of thoughts from my muddled mind, and as always, they come in no particular order.

--The time has come. Grey Cup 103 is upon us with the Edmonton Eskimos battling the Ottawa REDBLACKS.  I don't think when teams got together for training camp in June that anyone had this matchup happening on Sunday. The Eskimos were in the equation for sure, but how could have anyone seen what was going to happen in Ottawa.  Their rise to prominence in year 2 of existence is the story of the year in what has been a bad year for the CFL on a variety of levels.  While I do believe the Eskimos are the better team, I think Ottawa gets it done.  I don't know why and I have no rhyme or reason when making this pick, but I think they somehow get it done even though they are outmatched just about everywhere except one thing. They have the experience on their side as guys like Henry Burris, Greg Ellingson, Keith Shologan and Zack Evans have been to the big game while the Eskimos feature a roster of players that mainly haven't been on this stage.  I don't know how the REDBLACKS do it, but I say they do and I will say they do it by a score of 29-21 with Burris being named the MOP, Would that be enough for Burris to call it a career?  I can't see that happening. If he does, there is a spot at TSN waiting for him.

--There is a lot of talk about Greg Ellingson's TD on 2nd and 25 to win the Eastern final and how it is a play that will go down as one of the greatest in CFL history. Whoa, whoa, whoa!  As great a play as that was by both Ellingson and Burris, if Edmonton wins it all Sunday night, that play means as much as Jose Bautista's homer against Texas in the deciding game of the American League Divisional Series and that is nothing. All it did was get you a little more time. Take nothing away from the play because it was fantastic and it was perhaps the biggest play in the short history of the REDBLACKS, but it doesn't mean a lot if Ottawa doesn't win, It gives you something to talk about, but it didn't get you what you wanted.

--If the CFL is going to refer to non-imports as "nationals" now, don't you think it is dumb to still have a Top Canadian award, Why not call it the Top National? Here's a better idea, just go back to calling players who aren't imports either non-imports or Canadians.

--Congrats to Henry Burris on being named the M-O-P. Some can argue the award would have gone to Zach Collaros had he not gotten hurt, but there is no denying the numbers the 40 year old put up. He deserves it.

--Was it really just two years ago we were still celebrating the Riders win over Hamilton in the 2013 Grey Cup. The L-P's Rob Vanstone wrote a column this week asking if the cost was worth it after what was experienced in Riderville this season, I say absolutely. I also say this season would have seen the team make the playoffs if Darian Durant and Shea Emry do not get hurt in the opening half of the season. Would they have been playing on Sunday? NO! Would Corey Chamblin and Brendan Taman still have their jobs. YES!!---at least for now. Championships are special and they don't come easy. When that chance is there, you have to take it and hope everything falls into place. The euphoria of that night for Rider Nation is one I don't think many would give up if someone was to tell them what would happen two years later.

--Who exactly is Brock Sunderland? His name is getting more and more press over the last few days regarding the much sought after GM vacancy here. I will be honest when I say I had not heard of him until the Gary Lawless report last weekend. Talk about flying under the radar.

--I don't know what the bottom line was for the Grey Cup in Vancouver last year, but I do know Regina's 2013 Grey Cup meant over nine million dollars for the football club. It is safe to say the Bombers will turn a tidy profit, but is it a franchise-saving profit. I can't see the Bombers being in need of money because of the TSN deal and the benefits they are getting from Investors Group Field, but the product on the field has been sub-standard and that must be having some kind of impact on their bank account.

--Johnny Manziel = Idiot. He got help and he still doesn't want to let go of his party-boy image even though it is costing him his NFL football career. The Cleveland Browns make Manziel their starter and this is how he thanks them.  Johnny Football has probably played his last snap in the NFL for quite a while and he may have played his last snap period. A couple of weeks ago, NFL Radio was talking about him and wondering if he would be a quarterback who could end up in the CFL. I think Manziel could be outstanding north of the border if he could understand the game. The problem is I don't think he is mature enough at this time to even give it a shot. Then again, maybe he would be a perfect fit for the Cowboys and they have an opening at QB now.

--I can't decide if the Eagles or Cowboys had a worse Thanksgiving. Both were absolutely brutal.

--The Brett Favre/Bart Starr moment was just powerful! Starr is to Green Bay what Ron Lancaster is to Saskatchewan. Legend doesn't even start to describe it.

--I wonder how Bill Belichick would respond if someone asked him the question of players having sex before the game that is asked at Grey Cup every year. I'd love to see it happen. I am thinking Pete Carroll would love the question. Most coaches are so stone-faced these days and many give cookie-cutter answers. This isn't a question where a cookie cutter answer is given.

--Week 12 NFL Lock of the Week -- Cardinals over 49ers (yeah, going out on a limb there)
   Week 12 NFL Upset of the Week -- Broncos over Patriots

--The David Price rumours are flying, One day it is said he wants to come back to Toronto, the next day you hear he is too expensive for them. It is the same with many other players and teams. I don't know what the Blue Jays can give Price for a maximum deal in their budget, but I would consider it because of the talent that team will possess in 2016.

--I am guessing it isn't easy being Todd McLellan these days. If it is frustrating to watch the Oilers play, I can't imagine how frustrating it must be coaching them, I think Todd knew going in that he had a major job in front of him, and I think he sees they are close and will be better when Connor McDavid gets back, but the amount of one goal games they are losing is maddening. Of course with the effort they gave in Carolina, the Edmonton Oil Kings might have beaten them, The trade spotlight is now apparently on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. I'd be OK with that.

--Still with the Oilers, I was shocked to hear an assist by Nail Yakupov on Wednesday night was his 100th career point and that he is the leading scorer amongst players taken in the 2012 draft.  I had to go back to see who went in the first round that year and it was the year of the defenceman as guys like Morgan Reilly, Griffin Reinhart, Olli Maatta and Derrick Pouliot were taken in the first round as were Filip Forsberg, Tomas Hertl and Teuvo Teravainen.

--Its great to see the NBA coming to Regina with its all-star tour to promote the game that will be in Toronto. There are other leagues and events that could take note of what the "Association" is doing to help grow the game in this country. The event will be here December 3-6 at various spots across the city with some clinics and a lot of other things being held.

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

Thursday, November 26, 2015

This Week In Cougar Athletics

At Home – ThursdayMen’s Hockey vs. Manitoba, 7:00 p.m. (The Co-operators Centre)
At Home – FridayWomen’s Volleyball vs. Manitoba, 6:00 p.m. (CKHS)
Men’s Hockey vs. Manitoba, 7:00 p.m. (The Co-operators Centre)
Men’s Volleyball vs. Manitoba, 7:30 p.m. (CKHS)

At Home – SaturdayTrack & Field at Intrasquad Meet, 9 a.m. (CKHS)
Track & Field at Intrasquad Meet, 2 p.m. (Regina Fieldhouse)
Women’s Volleyball vs. Manitoba, 5:00 p.m. (CKHS)
Men’s Volleyball vs. Manitoba, 6:30 p.m. (CKHS)

On the Road – FridaySwimming at Canada West Championships, 4:00 p.m. PST (Vancouver, B.C.) – Day 1
Women’s Basketball at Alberta, 6:00 p.m. MST (Edmonton, Alta.)
Women’s Hockey at Manitoba, 7:00 p.m. (Winnipeg, Man.)
Men’s Basketball at Alberta, 8:00 p.m. MST (Edmonton, Alta.)

On the Road – SaturdaySwimming at Canada West Championships, 10:00 a.m. PST (Vancouver, B.C.) – Day 2
Women’s Hockey at Manitoba, 4:00 p.m. (Winnipeg, Man.)
Women’s Basketball at Alberta, 5:00 p.m. MST (Edmonton, Alta.)
Men’s Basketball at Alberta, 7:00 p.m. MST (Edmonton, Alta.)
On the Road – SundaySwimming at Canada West Championships, 9:00 a.m. PST (Vancouver, B.C.) – Day 3

Swimming – The Cougars will send their largest contingent of swimmers to the Canada West meet in recent memory this weekend, with eight to represent the men’s team and four on the women’s side. Noah Choboter, Daniel Gomez, Mitchell Hebert, Brent Hill, Marcell Madar, Chris Myers, Oscar Vila, and Noah Wasyliw will wear U of R caps on the men’s side, while Ophelie Coughlan, Jacee Kaczmar, Lexy King, and Eva Madar will make up the women’s team. The three-day meet is hosted by UBC and runs from Friday to Sunday.

Men's Hockey – The Cougars (4-10-0) will close out their 2015 schedule with a rare Thursday/Friday series at The Co-operators Centre with the Manitoba Bisons in town. The team is coming off a road sweep over the Lethbridge Pronghorns, winning 7-4 on Friday and 8-4 on Saturday. Ian McNulty had a hat trick on Friday and J.J. Coleshaw followed it up with one of his own on Saturday to bump the Cougars' win streak to three games. Both Thursday’s and Friday’s games have 7 p.m. scheduled starts.
Men’s Volleyball – Coming off their bye week, the Cougars (1-9) return to the court this weekend with a pair of home matches against a University of Manitoba team that comes in with an 8-2 Canada West record and the No. 3 ranking in the CIS. The Cougars and the Bisons will start following the conclusion of the women’s match on both nights, with a scheduled start time of 7:30 p.m. on Friday and 6:30 p .m. on Saturday.

Women’s Volleyball – After numerous lineup changes over the past few matches due to a spate of injuries, last weekend’s bye probably couldn’t have come at a better time for the Cougars. And they’re back in action this weekend at the Centre for Kinesiology, Health & Sport as they’ll look to get one in the win column against Manitoba (1-9). Match time is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. on Friday and 5:00 p.m. on Saturday.
Track & Field – The Cougars have their first meet of the 2015-16 season this Saturday, as they’ll compete in the Intrasquad Meet split between the CKHS and the Regina Fieldhouse. Events start at 9 a.m. upstairs at the CKHS and continue at the Regina Fieldhouse starting at 2 p.m.
Women’s Basketball (CIS Ranking: No. 5) – The Cougars (4-0) moved up one spot in the CIS Top Ten after a pair of convincing wins over Lethbridge, defeating the Pronghorns by scores of 86-44 and 74-54 at the CKHS. They’re one of three undefeated teams remaining in Canada West’s Pioneer Division, and this weekend they’ll go head-to-head with another team that has yet to lose in Canada West play – the Cougars and No. 10-ranked Alberta (6-0) will play on Friday and Saturday night at the Saville Centre on the U of A campus.

Men’s Basketball – The Cougars suffered their first Canada West loss of the season last Friday after an 83-76 setback to Lethbridge, but smoked the Pronghorns by a 90-66 count on Saturday to finish with a weekend split. Now 3-1 on the season, the Cougars are tied for third place in the Pioneer Division and continue conference play this weekend with two road games at Alberta (2-4).

Women's Hockey – The Cougars (5-5-3-1) hit the road this weekend for the last time in 2015 to take on the Manitoba Bisons. Kylie Gavelin is fresh off a Canada West Second Star of the Week nod after notching five points in the team’s 3-0 and 3-2 wins over Lethbridge last weekend. Gavelin is riding a seven-game point streak that has seen her score six goals and add nine assists over that span. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. on Friday and 4:00 p.m. on Saturday.

Wrestling (Men’s CIS Ranking: No. 5 / Women’s CIS Ranking: No. 5) – The Cougars hosted their only home event of the year on the weekend, and Waylon Decoteau placed first in the men's 100-kilogram event. Seven other Cougars wrestled their way to a podium finish, while the men's team placed second in the team standings and the women's team finished third. The teams will now take a month-long break from competition until the Golden Bears Invitational in early January.

Week 12 NFL Capsules

Image result for thanksgiving 2015

Happy American Thanksgiving! It means a tripleheader of NFL action today starting with the Eagles taking on the Lions. For a look at that game, the other two games today and the usual weekend action for Week 12 of the season, just click here

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Tidbits from Grey Cup 103

With the Ottawa Redblacks and Edmonton Eskimos settled into their hotels and bags unpacked, Wednesday marked the official beginning to what will surely be a rowdy week in Winnipeg as the city prepares to host the 103rd Grey Cup on Sunday.

Texting fail
It’s the kind of relationship Eskimos head coach Chris Jones isn’t looking to lose anytime soon. Jones, who finished the season 14-4 in just his second year with Edmonton, took a moment to expand on his relationship with NFL Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells.

"About once a month or so I'll text him," said Jones during a Q & A this morning that also included Redblacks coach Rick Campbell. "I give him a hard time about not being able to return a text, but he gives me, you know, when I have questions, I know it's somebody that I can bounce ideas off of."

The friendship began thanks to a mutual friend in Paul Jones, the Eskimos executive director of player personnel. Now, the two talk whenever Jones feels the need for advice from the two-time Super Bowl winner, both of which came as coach of the New York Giants. He got some words of encouragement following last week’s 45-31 win over the Calgary Stampeders in the West Final but any encouragement heading in to Sunday’s Grey Cup will just have to wait.

"I left a message for him but I've not gotten a return call yet," said Jones.

Dimming the bright lights
There will be plenty to do in the days leading up to Sunday’s game with events happening at every corner of the city. With the bright lights constantly acting as a potential distraction, how does each coach plan to keep their players on the straight and narrow heading into the biggest game of the season?

"If you win the Grey Cup, you're a Grey Cup champion forever and you'll remember it forever," said Campbell, who led the Redblacks to a 14-4 record, tops in the East. "So that's where you want the focus to be, is that you're here first as a football player.

"We're not going to discourage our guys from interacting with some fans some and enjoying the process, but it's got to be about football. And we still have adequate time for meetings and practice and to do all the things we need to do. And to beat anybody, especially Edmonton, which is a top rate team in this league is we're going to have to be fully prepared, and our guys have been good so far and understanding that there's a big difference between winning and losing the Grey Cup, and so you want to be able to put your best foot forward."

For Jones, the message was to take nothing for granted mixed in with a threat of being sent home.

"We actually flew in a couple of hours early yesterday just so the guys could go out, get a bite to eat at a regular hour and not be rushed around like normally you are at most of these events," he said. "I told them, I said, you assume when you're young that a lot of things are going to happen over and over and over. There's no guarantee that you'll ever be back at this moment, so enjoy the moment.

"But with that being said, I told the coaches to make sure that their, PR guys and whoever it may be that, you know, we flew in on a plane, that there's planes going out. So if you act the wrong way, we'd fly you home."

To sex or not to sex
Known as the Jim Hunt Memorial Question, it's become a tradition to ask each head coach their philosophy on whether their players should have sex during Grey Cup week. Given a slight heads up the question was coming, here's what Campbell had to say about the topic:

"Well, it's my job to put guys in the best position to have success, whether that's on or off the field," started Campbell. "So I guess I'm going to give advice more than a policy. And this would probably apply to most of our players and coaches, and it mirrors our football team this year – is that the odds aren't good, and no one gave you much of a chance, but if you pay attention to detail and you execute, and you do it with zest and enthusiasm, anything can happen."

(Winnipeg Free Press)

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

John Murphy States Interest in Riders GM Job

In assessing the debris field in Regina — hypothetically, naturally — John Murphy doesn’t consider the clean-up to be as extensive as people might believe.

“I don’t think it’s a ‘project’,” replied the Calgary Stampeders’ assistant GM/director of player personnel, “and if it was, that to me would be even more reason why people would be interested in a job like that.

“You’re interested not only for the opportunity but the chance to put your mark, your stamp — no pun intended — on the roster.

“There’s a lot of quality players there. Guys who’ve won football games. They’ve suffered through injuries just like we have and games just went a different way. It’s not like they lost 50-0 every week this year. They were in a lot of those games early, the ball and the play went a different way and if it hadn’t they’d be a lot closer to possibly even a .500 record and we probably wouldn’t be holding this scrum.

“You’re not going to walk into an (ideal) situation because no 14-4 team is looking for a general manager.”

In his eighth year with the Stampders’ organization, fifth in the dual role, Murphy is a man in demand.

GM posts don’t materialize often, there’s only nine of them in this league, and it’s best not to dawdle if one present itself. The Riders are interested in him for their vacant general manager post at a key time, trying to rebound from a lamentable 3-15 seasonal stinker.

“Myself and 250,000 other people who live out there are probably interested in that job, probably think they could do it,” he said Monday.

“You have to at least professionally take a look at it and see what they have to say, share your thoughts. The Stampeders organization has been great to me. I have no reason to want to do anything other than remain in the position I have, but they’re set pretty good in those roles.

“So from a professional standpoint, it’s just time to take a look.

“It’s a win-win, either way.”

One thing the Stamps have never been short on over the past number of years is talent. Arguably better than any other CFL franchise, they’ve been able to replenish with quality players, even when an injury plague hits.

Which makes Murphy a sought-after commodity. His current contract with the Stampeders expires Dec. 31st.

“When the first person that offers you an opportunity is Jim Popp. Then Jim Barker and (John) Forzani, (Ted) Hellard and Huff and Lyle (Bauer). To be able to interact with those guys over an eight-year period of time, I would think that by now, ‘ready’ would be a good word for it.

“I really have a good idea of what my plan would be and how to implement it, and it comes from working with those guys.

“It’d be exciting to see how your plan would work out. And all the hard work you’ve put into it, to be the decision-maker rather than the idea-maker.”

A couple of weeks ago Saskatchewan expressed an interest in Murphy’s services through Stamps’ GM John Hufnagel. Murphy has spoken twice over the phone to the Riders, but with Calgary’s season now over, he’ll better be able to gauge the level of interest and they’ll be free to accelerate the courtship.

Right now, says Murphy, the situation is just “phone conversations, going through the process.”

“I’m not actively pursuing anything. If anyone wants to speak to me about something they’re more than welcome to contact Huff. But I would have no reason to be anything pleased with the position I have, other than the latest result.

“It (GM job) is a goal in one sense, but it’s not something I need to achieve to feel comfortable with who I am and what I do.

“I do my role and do it well and if somebody wants to take that and give me an opportunity, it shines well on everyone in this organization.”

And the hardest part of the equation if the fit seems right and the Riders deem him the man to put things right?

“Leaving the Stampeders. Period.”

(Calgary Herald)

Monday, November 23, 2015

NHL Three Stars of Week

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San Jose Sharks goaltender Martin Jones, Vancouver Canucks left wing Daniel Sedin and St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk have been named the NHL’s “Three Stars” for the week ending Nov. 22.
            Jones went 3-0-0 with a 1.63 goals-against average, .951 save percentage and one shutout during a week in which the Sharks (13-8-0, 26 points) picked up four victories to complete their season-high, six-game road trip with a perfect 6-0-0 record. In doing so, the Sharks became the sixth team in NHL history to win every game of a road trip of six or more contests – and the first to accomplish that feat since the 2010-11 Boston Bruins, who Jones made 25 saves against in a 5-4 win on Nov. 17. He followed that effort with a flawless performance (34 SV) for his 10th career shutout in a 1-0 overtime victory against the Philadelphia Flyers Nov. 19. Jones then capped the week with a season-high 38 saves in a 3-1 triumph over the Pittsburgh Penguins Nov. 21. The 25-year-old North Vancouver, B.C., native has compiled an 11-5-0 record with a 2.02 goals-against average, .929 save percentage and three shutouts in 17 appearances this season, his first campaign as an NHL starter.
            Sedin led the NHL with five goals and ranked second with seven points as the Canucks (8-8-6, 22 points) went 1-2-1 in four outings. He scored in each of the team’s first two games – a 4-3 overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens Nov. 16 and a 4-1 defeat against the Winnipeg Jets Nov. 18. Sedin then registered 3-1—4, including his 900th NHL point, sixth career hat trick and the game-winning goal, in a 6-3 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks Nov. 21. In doing so, Sedin (337-567—904) became the second player in Canucks history to reach the 900-point milestone, following his brother Henrik (218-718—936). He finished the week with one assist in a 3-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils Nov. 22. The 35-year-old Ornskoldsvik, Sweden, native leads the Canucks with 10 goals and 23 points in 22 contests this season.
            Shattenkirk paced all defensemen and shared third in the League with 2-4—6 in four outings as the Blues (13-6-2, 28 points) earned five out of a possible eight standings points. He began the week with a pair of assists in a 3-2 triumph over the Winnipeg Jets Nov. 16. Shattenkirk then scored in each of the next two games – a 3-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets Nov. 17 and a 3-2 shootout win over the Buffalo Sabres Nov. 19. He rounded out the week with two assists in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings Nov. 21. The 26-year-old New Rochelle, N.Y., native has 2-6—8 in 11 appearances this season, including 2-5—7 in eight games since returning from injury Nov. 7.

(NHL Media) 

Something to "Mitch" About

--It is now official. The 103rd Grey Cup will have the 2nd year Ottawa REDBLACKS  against the Edmonton Eskimos after two games where good old fashioned CFL football that Canadians love returned. Who ya got?

--The Eastern final was a dandy that ended on a play that to me basically cinches the MOP for Henry Burris. The football gods were not going to let Ottawa lose this back and forth affair as Greg Ellingson reached up and snatched a Burris pass on a play Ottawa simply had to have and raced 90 some yards to send the "R"Nation into a frenzy. If Burris doesn't make that play, the REDBLACKS are kicking into the wind and the end result likely would have been what it was last week with Justin Medlock kicking a last play field goal. I didn't think it would come down to the final moments with Jeremiah Masoli quarterbacking the Ti-Cats, but he played his heart out and maybe deserved a better fate. Somehow I think it will take a while to wipe the smile off of "Smilin Hank's" face. Somehow I think this will result in another 5 Burris columns to be written by Rob Vanstone as well.

--As for the Western final, it was Edmonton all the way as they capitalized on an early turnover to gain momentum that I don't think they ever let go of in beating Calgary.  I don't know about you, but it warms my heart to see the Stampeders and Ti-Cats both on the outside looking in. Yes, I would have loved to see former Rams QB Marc Mueller get another Grey Cup ring, but it won't be this year.  There is new blood in the Grey Cup as two teams who haven't been to the big game in a long time will be there. Winnipeg are you ready?

--For those who care, the Weather Network is predicting a high of minus 8 in Winnipeg on Grey Cup Sunday. They don't obviously have a deal with Mother Nature that Regina has had when it comes to Grey Cup games. Do you remember how cold it was on the day before Grey Cup 2013 and how nice it was when the game finally kicked off.

--By the way, wasn't it refreshing to see both teams actually accept and touch the respective divisional trophies. They didn't avoid it like it was some kind of disease. More teams need to start doing that!! 

--Chris Jones as the new coach and GM of the Riders? He has a pretty good thing going in Edmonton. Why would he leave? I can't buy that one. I will say this though. With Jones, John Hufnagel, Paul Lapolice and Mike Benavides all at Commonwealth Stadium yesterday, someone in that mix will likely be the new head coach of the Riders. If you missed it, TSN's Gary Lawless threw out the name of John Murphy---the assistant GM in Calgary and Ottawa's assistant GM Brock Sunderland.

--Cam Cole of the National Post brought up a very great thing in a column this week. Cole says the 40 million a year contract TSN has with the CFL pays the salary cap for all teams meaning teams should be financially sound because of gate receipts (even though there has been dwindling attendance) and other things.  Cole also mentions TSN re-upped its deal with the CFL until the year 2021. Did that get publicized? If it did, I missed it. While the product is suffering, the bottom line isn't. If the suits can find a way to get the CFL front and center again, this league can flourish.  The question is do the suits want to find a way to get the CFL front and center again when they know the TSN money is keeping the league afloat.

--If you haven't seen him play yet, watch University of North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams and tell me he hasn't got CFL written all over him. Williams has broken a lot of school records including most TD's that were held by some guy named Durant that has become pretty good north of the border. I'd love to know whose neg list he is on. Then again, I would love to know who is on the neg list of many teams as we start to approach bowl season.

--What has happened to Sidney Crosby. He only has 10 points? Is it Phil Kessel related?

--His team may have been beaten in Vancouver Saturday night, but there is no better player in the NHL right now than Patrick Kane. Despite his off-season problems, Kane has shown he is head and shoulders above everyone else. I would still take his teammate Jonathan Toews if I had my choice of anyone to start a team up with, but right now Kane is #1.

--Travis Hamonic would be a great addition in Edmonton, however if it means the Oilers sending Jordan Eberle to the Islanders, I say no. Yes, I am being completely selfish when I say that. A package involving Justin Schultz, Anton Lander and maybe even a Brandon Davidson would suit me better.  Schultz needs a new home and Hamonic wants one and both have the same salary cap hit so that makes sense to me, but in the world of the NHL, what does make sense these days.

--The reason for that last statement is a report suggesting the NHL will institute bye weeks next season. Really? NHL'ers need a bye week? Cmon!! This is beyond ridiculous.

--The win by the Dallas Cowboys over Miami happens in Tony Romo's first game back after injury and it also ended a karma-like stat. Since getting rid of Greg Hardy, the Carolina Panthers have not lost dating back to last year and since he joined the Cowboys, Hardy had walked off the field a loser in every game until yesterday.  Other takeaways from Week 11

  • The Oakland Raiders have a ways to go before they can be considered a contender like they had been by some. You can't lose to Detroit the way the Lions have played, but they did
  • The Green Bay Packers came up with a defining win in Minnesota by spanking the Vikings. Minnesota isn't ready yet if that game was any indication, but they are close 
  • When do you start putting Cam Newton in the MVP talk if you haven't already
  • What are those who thought Jameis Winston would be a bust saying now. The number one pick in the NFL draft was rolling with 5 TD's against Philly and now has 15 on the season 
  • Marshawn who? Thomas Rawls will be a nice replacement for Lynch in Seattle when his days in Seahawk Blue come to an end. Without the rookie, Seattle might have blown another one. Why don't the Seahawks throw more to Jimmy Graham? I truly don't understand why they traded for the best tight end in the game and then not utilize him more. 
  • Matt Hasselbeck is showing us 40 is the new 30. 
  • Did Brock Osweiler's performance seal Peyton Manning's fate?

--The Uteck and Mitchell Bowls were played Saturday and all of a sudden many started to tweet about what a shame it is there isn't more Canadian university football on TV. What the hell took everyone so long to figure that out?  It just baffles me how our two main sports networks and CBC can ignore CIS football until it gets down to crunch time.  It is why I really hope Jim Mullin and David Dube can be successful in getting the Northern 8/10 proposal going and we get matchups featuring teams from across the country.  It would be better football and it would prevent some, but not all blowouts like the 72-8 embarassment Calgary delivered to the Rams this year.  The partnership Canada West has with Global and SHAW/Access  is a great one and is one that must be fostered going into year 2, but it would be huge for Canadian university football from coast-to-coast if we could see games every weekend featuring the best teams instead of for three weeks in November. There has to be a way.

--The Cougar mens basketball team had a terrible 3rd quarter on Friday night and it cost them a game against Lethbridge, but they came back in tremendous fashion Saturday as they crushed the Pronghorns. As I mentioned Friday, it is going to be a great year of basketball at the CKHS this year and a lot of people showed up to watch both Dave Taylor and Steve Burrows' teams do their thing.  Here's hoping that trend continues in two weeks time when Winnipeg is here.

--Sheamus is the WWE champ? I guess they had to do something with all their big names out, but another Roman Reigns losing from someone cashing in the Money in the Bank briefcase is a little lame. 

--I was very happy to hear Dan Shulman will be calling 30 Blue Jays games this year. I was very disappointed to hear he wouldn't call more. That would have been tremendous.

--That's all I got. Enjoy the week!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

UBC and Montreal To Fight It Out For Vanier Cup

Media preview

(Picture Courtesy CIS)

The combatants in the Vanier Cup have been decided.

The UBC Thunderbirds were thought to be a contender for the Vanier when Blake Nill moved from Calgary to Vancouver to take over the program, but no one thought the team could get to the Vanier in Nill's first year. That is exactly what they have done.

With quarterback Michael O'Connor calling the shots, the T-Birds crushed St FX 36-8 in the rain in Antigonish, Nova Scotia Saturday night to capture the Uteck Bowl.

O'Connor was 21 of 31 for 272 yards and two touchdowns while the UBC defence allowed less than 300 yards.

UBC will take on the University of Montreal Carabins in the Canadian University championship game. The Carabins are going back to the Vanier for a 2nd straight year after beating Guelph 25-10 in the Mitchell Bowl.

Montreal led the game 23-0 at the half.

The Vanier Cup will go next Saturday afternoon in Laval.

Friday, November 20, 2015

This and That

It's Friday and that means that once again its time for some thoughts running through my muddled mind, and as always they are in no particular order.

--It has started. As we start to hear what players are going to CFL free agency, the armchair GM's are having a field day saying the Riders should go after this guy or go after that guy as the "retooling" begins.  That's fine as everyone is entitled to have thoughts on players and whether he would look good as a Rider or not, but I am surprised to see so many people suggest the football team should pursue Ricky Ray or Travis Lulay.  Why?  I completely understood the need to have a veteran quarterback brought in last year for insurance because the 2014 season went right off the tracks when Darian Durant went down. The team didn't get want to stuck like that again when they thought they had the horses to repeat in 2014 and had to depend on the likes of Tino Sunseri, Seth Doege and Kerry Joseph.  As the Riders approach 2016, there is absolutely no need for a veteran quarterback of Lulay or Ray's ilk. Having one of those two on the roster would have a negative impact on the development of Brett Smith and Keith Price.

--I have had many a conversation with Riders director of player personnel and scouting Craig Smith over the year, but I haven't had a chance to talk with him about this year's draft and how deep it is. There are many different ways the team can go when it comes to the first pick overall and perhaps this is a year where maybe they trade the pick to get some good veteran Canadian assets. That is always a risk though. I wonder how much interest there is in a guy like U of C running back Mercer Timmis or Manitoba d-lineman David Onmeyata. I am guessing the Bombers would cringe if another Bison came to Regina on draft day as they are still somewhat sour over the fact Nic Demski got away from them. At the end of the day, the team could just decide to stock up with another offensive lineman as they are valued, but I would think the team wants and needs someone who perhaps can step in and be a starter on opening day. In the CFL though, that is sometimes a tall order to ask for the number one pick to be a starter as it is much different than someone who is taken number one in the NFL, NHL or NBA.

--It's hard to bet against a Kent Austin team in a division final and if they had Zach Collaros and Eric Norwood in the lineup, I probably wouldn't, but I just don't see Hamilton beating Ottawa in the CFL East final.  This game just means too much to Ottawa and its passionate fan-base that is coming close to matching what we have here. I also want to see Keith Shologan and Zack Evans get another shot at hoisting the Grey Cup. I am sure both guys never ever thought they would get an opportunity to perhaps do so again when they were taken in the expansion draft.  As far as the Western final goes, I have pegged the Eskimos as the best team in the CFL for quite a few weeks and I think having homefield against Calgary will work in their favour. However, if Calgary gets off to a quick start and takes advantage of an Edmonton team that hasn't played in a long time, it could spell trouble for the green and gold. The first 10  minutes will be huge.

--Neither semi-final drew a million viewers.  This matter must be brought up at Grey Cup week with Commissioner Jeffrey Orridge who certainly isn't as visible as the man he succeeded Marc Cohon, I was a big Cohon for a variety of reasons and I have had only one opportunity to meet the new boss, but it seems to me as if he is just sitting back and not being proactive. His address during Grey Cup week when he gives a State of the League speech should be very revealing. Is he still doing a Q and A with fans like what Cohon did. That was the best part of GC 2013 as it was something done in a more relaxed setting and something that let the fans of this league have a say on their game. While the fan support is dwindling, there are still hardcores out there who want answers and deserve them.

--It was great talking to Bob Ellard about the 1995 Grey Cup on Thursday. Ellard, who was the chair of the event, talked about how his committee just kept overcoming all the negatives thrown in front of them as the week drew closer and how the wind on that day just about caused the game to be played Monday. Ellard felt the Grey Cup may never have come back to Regina had that game been pushed to Monday because of all the people who said Regina couldn't pull it off.  I remember walking to the stadium from the exhibition grounds that afternoon and how windy it was. I had just returned to Regina after working in Peace River, Alberta and I couldn't believe I was sitting in the press box with Canada's best sports reporters in what was Canada's marquee sporting event. It was a week I won't soon forget, and I am guessing many of you who experienced it feel the same way. Growing up, I never thought Regina could host a Grey Cup game and while we have grown as a city, it amazes me how well the three Grey Cups Regina have hosted have gone. Then again, many good people have gone above and beyond to make sure a Regina Grey Cup is a special Grey Cup. It will be that way when Regina hosts its 4th one and its first in the new Mosaic.

--The news of the Flutie boys losing both their parents to heart attacks within a one hour span this week was certainly one that tugged at the heart-strings. No one deserves that. Don't tell me you can't die from a broken heart, because that is what appears to have happened here as Doug alluded to when discussing what had happened. The CFL community mourns with the Flutie brothers at what is a terrible time for them.

--Why must the NHL keep screwing around with the game? The latest decision to have the all-star game be a showcase of 3 on 3 hockey is dumb. I think the NHL all-star game is a joke anyway, but its more of one this year because now the league isn't giving us any semblance of the game that is played night after night after night. It is just another reason why leagues should just scrap all-star games altogether.  Do we really need them especially when they don't play the game the way it is normally played?

--Is it safe to say the Regina Pats have hit perhaps the most important part of their schedule. A team that is 10-8-1 and certainly in the mix in the Eastern Conference at the one quarter pole hits the road for nine straight as Agribition moves in to the Brandt Centre (YEEHAW!!). A 4 or 5 win trip would keep them there.  A 6 or 7 win trip would turn some heads while a 1 or 2 win trip might accelerate the plan as it moves forward.  Still with the East Division, I think it is safe to say the Prince Albert Raiders are a force to contend with. I don't think anyone saw them sitting atop the Eastern Conference as we hit mid-November.  Curtis Hunt is doing something right up there.

--With all apologies to Mike Trout, Josh Donaldson should have been a unanimous selection for the American League MVP. It was clear going into September who the league's best player was. With Donaldson and Bryce Harper winning the respective MVP's, you could say this was a year where a Blue Jay and an Expo were given baseball's biggest honour.

--Many people were complaining as that first blast of winter hit Wednesday. We ain't seen nothin yet!! Have we forgotten that!

--Have we seen the last of Peyton Manning? The hall of fame quarterback simply isn't getting it done anymore and will miss a game this week because of plantar fascitis (which hurts like a son-of-a-you know what). The Broncos signal-caller has had a terrible season and there is talk he perhaps might have thrown his last pass. If Brock Osweiler succeeds against the Bears on Sunday, that talk will escalate. It would be nice to see one last Brady vs Manning battle though---albeit that game will be on at the same time as the Grey Cup.

--Week 11 NFL Lock of the Week -- Panthers over Redskins
   Week 11 NFL Upset of the Week -- Chargers over Chiefs

--How dominant were the Leboldus Golden Suns football team this year as they won another Saskatchewan 4A high school championship--their 4th in a row. They scored almost 500 points and gave up less than 100. That is impressive! The Rams and Thunder should be doing whatever they can to get these kids on their squads as they already have a winning pedigree which for the Thunder isn't a problem, but is for the Rams as they look to get off the canvas after their 0-8 season. I know the University squad has already secured one of Leboldus' o-lineman for next year, but there are many others who can move on to the next level as well.

--The best value for your sports dollar is on display at the University tonight and tomorrow as the Cougar basketball teams begin the home portion of their Canada West schedule against Lethbridge. Dave Taylor and his girls will once again be a strong team while Steve Burrows has a team that could be a playoff squad. I am excited to get another year going and once again, I am fortunate enough to have the best seat in the house as I will serve as the p-a announcer. Here's hoping the CKHS is full!

--TSN gets rid of "Off the Record" and Michael Landsberg, but keeps Cabbie Richards and his show? I'm not the biggest Landsberg fan, but I would much rather watch "Off the Record" than anything that Cabbie does. I don't find the guy funny at all. Others agree with me and others think he is the real deal. I don't get it.

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

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Week 11 NFL Capsules

Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans battle the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday night football to open up Week 11 of the NFL season. For a look at this game and all the others this weekend, click here

20 Years Ago Today

The first ever Grey Cup game in Regina was played on this day 20 years ago in very windy conditions. What do you remember about that game besides the fact the only American team to ever win the Grey Cup did so on that night? 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

This Week in Cougar Athletics

At Home – FridayWomen’s Basketball vs. Lethbridge, 6:00 p.m. (CKHS)
Women’s Hockey vs. Lethbridge, 7:00 p.m. (The Co-operators Centre)
Men’s Basketball vs. Lethbridge, 8:00 p.m. (CKHS)
At Home – SaturdayWrestling at Cougar Invitational, 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (CKHS – Gym 1)
Women’s Hockey vs. Lethbridge, 3:00 p.m. (The Co-operators Centre)
Women’s Basketball vs. Lethbridge, 6:00 p.m. (CKHS)
Men’s Basketball vs. Lethbridge, 8:00 p.m. (CKHS)

On the Road – FridayMen’s Hockey at Lethbridge, 7:00 p.m. MST (Lethbridge, Alta.)

On the Road – SaturdayMen’s Hockey at Lethbridge, 1:00 p.m. MST (Lethbridge, Alta.)

Women’s Basketball (CIS Ranking: No. 6) – At home for the first time during the Canada West schedule, the Cougars (2-0) had last weekend off but are back to action this Friday and Saturday at the Centre for Kinesiology, Health & Sport. In town for the U of R’s home openers is the University of Lethbridge, which will enter the game with an 0-2 conference record after opening the season with two losses to Brandon last weekend. Tip-off for both nights is set for 6 p.m.
Men’s Basketball – Coming off an early bye week, the Cougars (2-0) will return to the hardwood this weekend for their home openers on Friday and Saturday against the University of Lethbridge. It’ll be a battle of two of the three unbeaten teams remaining in Canada West’s 11-team Pioneer Division, as Lethbridge will also come in with a 2-0 mark. Both games are scheduled for an 8 p.m. start at the CKHS.

Wrestling – The women's team won five medals at the University of Winnipeg's Wesmen Open on the weekend, as Amber Wiebe, Maeghan Wild, Dalynn McKay, and Emily Foerster all captured bronze medals and Kristine Longeau won silver medal at 72 kilograms. The men's team had the weekend off but is back in action this weekend, as both teams will co-host the Cougar Invitational on Saturday. Action starts at 9:30 a.m. in Gym 1 at the CKHS.
Women's Hockey – The Cougars return home this weekend for two Canada West games against the Lethbridge Pronghorns. Regina (4-5-2-1) is coming off a split against Mount Royal University, as they downed MRU 5-2 on Friday before dropping a 6-2 decision on Saturday. Kylie Gavelin had a five-point weekend and Stephanie Sawchuk had three goals and an assist in the away series.
Men's Hockey – The Cougars dropped two games against the visiting Mount Royal Cougars on the weekend, falling 9-2 and 6-3 at The Co-operators Centre. J.J. Coleshaw, Sanfred King, Cody Fowlie, Miguel Pereira and Ian McNulty scored goals for the Cougars, and Mitch Kilgore played both games in net. Regina (2-10-0) will travel to Lethbridge this weekend to battle the 6-5-1 Pronghorns.

Swimming – The U of R’s Noah Choboter set a new provincial long-course record in the 200-metre backstroke on Saturday at the Arena Pro Swim Series at Minneapolis. Choboter won the B final in a time of 2:03.76, smashing the old record of 2:05.50 which had stood since 2010. The Cougars will have this weekend off before returning to the water for the Canada West Championships, which will be hosted by UBC on Nov. 27 and Nov. 28.
Cross Country – The Cougars concluded their 2015 schedule on Saturday in Guelph, Ont. at the CIS Championships. Adriana Davis and Avery Westberg were the top finishers on the women’s side with times of 23:14 and 23:16 on the 6K course, while Marc Turmel was the top runner for the men’s team with a 10K time of 33:19. Seven of the eight Cougars that ran this weekend will be back next year, as only Westberg is in her final season of CIS eligibility.

Men’s Volleyball – The Cougars lost two Canada West road matches last weekend, falling on both Friday and Saturday to a Trinity Western team that was ranked No. 10 in the nation. The Cougars (1-9) will now have a weekend off before returning to the conference schedule on Nov. 27 and Nov. 28 at home against the University of Manitoba.

Women’s Volleyball – Facing the No. 2-ranked Trinity Western Spartans last weekend in Langley, the Cougars ended up on the wrong end of a pair of three-set decisions. There’s only two more matches in the first half of the Canada West schedule, and those will see the Cougars (0-10) at home against the Manitoba Bisons on Nov. 27 and Nov. 28 at the CKHS.

University of North Dakota Selects New Nickname

The University of North Dakota has announced that Fighting Hawks will be the University’s new nickname. The results of the nickname runoff vote, held online November 12-16 for eligible voters, were tallied and provided to UND by Qualtrics, the third-party voting platform management firm that conducted the voting process. Final results of the vote were:

Total votes: 27,378

Fighting Hawks: 15,670 votes (57.24 percent)
Roughriders: 11,708 votes (42.76 percent)

As noted in the voting guidelines previously issued by the University, any name receiving over 50 percent of the runoff vote would be determined to be the University’s new nickname.

Said UND President Robert Kelley, “We are pleased to be able to announce the selection of a new nickname — Fighting Hawks — and bring this process, in which so many people have participated, to a successful conclusion. We especially appreciate the two nickname committees who worked so hard during this past year to make this a transparent, inclusive process that led to a short list of potential nicknames. Now, the voters have spoken, and they have told us that Fighting Hawks should be that new nickname. This is an appropriate choice, as Fighting Hawks symbolizes the competitive spirit of our athletes, the perseverance of the North Dakota spirit, and the continual ascendancy of the University and the state.”

The nickname vote was launched following a year-long effort by the UND Nickname Process Recommendation Task Force, and, subsequently, the UND Nickname Committee. The groups were charged with developing a process for nickname selection, and then with developing a short list of potential nicknames for a vote. They facilitated broad public input along the way, including an online survey, a series of regional town hall meetings, and a 30-day nickname suggestion period.

Monday, November 16, 2015

NHL Stars of the Week

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Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene, New York Rangers right wing Mats Zuccarello and Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender James Reimer have been named the NHL’s “Three Stars” for the week ending Nov. 15.
            Duchene led the NHL with four goals and eight points – including three multi-point performances in as many outings – to help the Avalanche (7-9-1, 15 points) begin their season-long, seven-game road trip with a 3-0-0 record. He posted 2-1—3 in a 4-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers Nov. 10. Duchene then recorded 1-1—2, including the game-winning goal midway through the third period, in a 3-2 comeback victory over the Boston Bruins Nov. 12. He finished the week with 1-2—3 in a 6-1 triumph over the Montreal Canadiens Nov. 14. The 24-year-old Haliburton, Ont., native and No. 3 overall pick from the 2009 NHL Draft has 8-6—14 in 17 games this season, including 7-5—12 and a +6 rating in his past seven contests.
            Zuccarello paced the NHL with five assists and ranked second with seven points in four outings to help the League-leading Rangers (14-2-2, 30 points) extend their winning streak to nine games and point streak to 13 contests (11-0-2). He registered one assist in a 3-0 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes Nov. 10, followed by 1-2—3 in a 6-3 triumph over the St. Louis Blues Nov. 12. After scoring in the shootout in a 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators Nov. 14, Zuccarello collected 1-2—3 – including the tiebreaking goal with 53.8 seconds remaining in regulation – in a 4-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs Nov. 15. The 28-year-old Oslo, Norway, native leads the Rangers with 9-9—18 in 18 games this season, including 5-7—12 in his past eight outings.
            Reimer went 3-0-0 with a 1.62 goals-against average and .952 save percentage to backstop the Maple Leafs (5-9-4, 14 points) to three wins in four games. He made 36 saves in a 3-2 victory over the Dallas Stars Nov. 10. Reimer then denied 21 shots – as well as all five attempts he faced in the shootout – in a 2-1 triumph over the Nashville Predators Nov. 12. He capped the week with 43 saves in a 4-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks Nov. 14. In doing so, Reimer improved to 14-2-2 in 18 career regular-season games when making 40 or more stops. The 27-year-old Morweena, Man., native owns a 5-2-3 record in 11 appearances this season (2.30 GAA, .925 SV%), including a 3-0-2 clip in his past five starts.
(NHL Media)

Something to "Mitch" About

As the news filtered across our social media accounts and our televisions late Friday afternoon about the senseless carnage which occurred in Paris, the stark realities of life hit us. Yes, we can bitch about what happened to the Riders and who is to blame and what is the best route when moving forward along with many other happenings in the sports world, but at the end of the day it does not compare to what happened on Friday. So many went out to enjoy a night of music, a soccer game or a nice meal not knowing what was going to happen and over 100 who went out to enjoy themselves never returned home. Those who were fortunate enough to survive what happened will be scarred for life. It is days like Friday that you never want to see repeated, but sadly from time to time it is. Now the debates begin on many other topics and what the future will hold. Some ridiculous statements have been made and there have been some outlandish ones made as well.  As a society, we just need to stay strong and continue to do what we do on a day-to-day basis.

The CFL is down to four teams. Ottawa and Edmonton have been joined by Hamilton and Calgary in the divisional finals. The East semi went right down to the last play before it was decided with the weather conditions playing a huge factor in the football game, but the Argos made Hamilton work for it, while the West semi went the way I thought it would as Calgary played a BC team that was the best of a bad lot. Next weekend, I will take the home teams as well,At but the fact Edmonton has had two weeks off will play a huge factor.

At the start of the CIS season, I don't think many people had the final four that we've got. Certainly not in the Uteck Bowl where UBC will play St FX. I knew the top ranked Dinos would not be able to get it done in the Hardy Cup for the second year in a row as they looked nothing like the team that destroyed the opposition week after week after week in the regular season. The fact they almost got beat by the Huskies the week before should have served as a warning, but it didn' least it appeared that way. With the Canada West championship trophy resting at Thunderbird Stadium, the UBC football program might want to make sure the Hardy Cup is front and center in the trophy case because I don't see it leaving anytime soon and it will likely be joined by a Vanier Cup or two perhaps as early as this year. Blake Nill has accomplished what UBC wanted him too when he took over the program after successful years in Calgary----he has brought the T-Birds back to prominence and he only took one year to do so. I wonder if Nill has ever thought about moving up to the CFL.

I don't know about you, but I love the fact the games are on later now with the time change. As far as I'm concerned, we can stay one hour behind Ontario all year long. There are some nights when I leave the 620 CKRM studios with a game already having started at 5 o'clock meaning by the time I get to sit down and watch it, its half over or worse. Having games start at 6 or NFL games starting at high noon is a much better alternative for this blogger.

Mid November in Saskatchewan and we had temperatures well into double digits. I have no problem with that. Yes, 40 below is coming, but lets enjoy this mild streak for as long as we can.

On Friday, I asked about CFL TV numbers and who is to blame. I had two people ask me if I had seen Sportscenter after the game to which I hadn't and then Rob Vanstone brought it up in his Saturday "Robservations" column. TSN, the league's broadcaster, showed no Saskatchewan highlights in a Saskatchewan win and had the gall to lead with Major League Soccer over the CFL. Huh??? I can understand Sportsnet somewhat ignoring the CFL even though they have the best league insider in Arash Madani, but how can TSN do this. It isn't the first time they have been guilty of this and it won't be the last. I am sure the network will do its usual tremendous job at the Grey Cup with many hands on deck, but when that is your property, shouldn't you promote it right through from the opening weekend of training camp right through the handing out of the CFL's championship trophy.  Network execs  have some explaining to do.

Speaking of having some explaining to do, those who developed a game plan for Ronda Rousey might want to re-think their strategy. The unbeatable got beat at UFC 193. Correction, she got her ass handed to her. Who thought it was a good idea for Rousey to stand in there with a boxer? Then her manager after the first round where Ronda got dominated with one left hand after another and he says to her "You're doing great!" Excuse me? There is no doubt there will be a rematch. Can you say UFC 200? It was literally amazing to wake up Sunday and see all the criticism being launched at the face of UFC. Ronda will be back, but she may never be the same.

The Patrick Marleau situation is one of the many things I hate about sports. Marleau says he is open to a trade, but only if it is the Rangers, Ducks or Kings. Why would the Sharks want to trade the Saskatchewan native to one of their rivals and can they really get what they would think is fair value from the Rangers when they could get something more to their liking from perhaps the Leafs, Flyers, Jets or Wild.  GM's are hamstrung when trying to make player moves today and I think that is wrong. Do players have the right to say where they want to play?

Greg Harder's article in Saturday's Leader-Post on Josh Harding was a tremendous one. The former Pats goalie seems to be at peace after having his NHL career derailed thanks to a battle with MS and he is doing what he can to bring awareness to the disease. Its also good to know he is helping coach a high school team in Minnesota where high school hockey is a big deal. I wonder if that could lead to him someday perhaps returning to Regina as a member of the Pats organization. That would be outstanding although the current John Paddock-Dave Struch combo is just fine and by no way needs to be changed.

Will Colby Williams change the way the Regina Pats have played? If the 20 year old captain's return to the lineup is any indication, I would say yes. The defenceman was a huge force in an 8-5 win over Memorial Cup hosts Red Deer on Friday night with his highlight reel play being a thunderous hit near the penalty box that got the Rebels dander up. An off-season arm injury cost Colby a chance to go to Washington's training camp and took almost a quarter of his last season of junior hockey away from him, but he is ready to make his last season a great one if Friday was any indication. They followed that up yesterday with a big win over another good team from Lethbridge. Perhaps the blue and white have turned the corner.

It warms my heart to see Greg Hardy walk off the field a loser. How Jerry Jones still has this guy on the team when he got rid of Joseph Randle just baffles me. The topic of Jason Garrett's future came up on the FOX pregame show with Terry Bradshaw saying the Cowboys need to get a marquee coach to which the others said a marquee coach doesn't want to come to Dallas because of Jones and the way he meddles. I couldn't agree more.

After Carolina, who is the next best team in the NFC? Is it really Minnesota? It isn't Green Bay and it isn't Seattle. I'm not sold on Arizona yet, but they will win the NFC West after walking into Seattle and beating the once invincible Seahawks at home. The window has certainly closed on the Seahawks for this year methinks.

One has to think Peyton Manning will be retiring when the season is over. He looks awful!!!

That's all I got. Have a great week everyone!