Damn it Winnipeg, you did it! After the original Heritage Classic between the Oilers and Canadiens at a frigid Commonwealth Stadium, I have said the outdoor game has waned on me, and it has as I have had no interest in the New Year's Day games we have seen or the two we have had this year in Denver and Minnesota, but the Jets have me on the hook for a weekend that will be amazing, and one that I am going to try and get to even though the Riders have a home game the day before.
If you haven't seen the video to promote the weekend, check it out right here. It is tremendous, and captures the essence of the game on the prairie. How can you not be in on this? You can have your games at Fenway Park and Wrigley Field, and Dodger Stadium (which was a good one), but when the game is played outdoors in Western Canada, how can you not be in on it?
The Oilers and the Jets. Two teams who had many a Smythe Division battle over the years, and two teams who came into the NHL at the same time. It just seems like a natural fit that these two teams would go at it in a regular season game on October 23 and an alumni game on the 22nd (the same day the Riders are home to the Alouettes in a 3 o'clock start) that will feature the likes of Dale Hawerchuk, Teemu Selanne, Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey. It is something hockey fans from this province and our neighbouring province will likely flock to and why wouldn't you? This will likely be a weekend to remember.
While the Oilers and Jets prepare for an October matchup against one another, both teams know their seasons are coming to an end very quickly as both will miss the playoffs. It is beginning to look as if all of Canada's teams might miss the playoffs and I say "Is it really that big a deal?" I have heard moaning and groaning from many about the fact there may be no Canadian team in the playoffs. So? The last time I checked there were a lot of people around who are Kings fans, and Hawks fans, and Penguins fans, etc. etc. We might not get to see Connor McDavid, Mark Giordano, Carey Price and Dustin Byfuglien compete for the Stanley Cup, but we will still see good Canadian players like Toews, Stamkos, Tavares and Benn compete for the Cup alongside Regina's Ryan Getzlaf, Lloydminster's Braden Holtby and other Saskatchewan players. I am not really sure why we always get into this mentality at this time of year and make it a "must" to cheer for a Canadian team. If you have a Canadian team with 20 Canadians on it, fine! That isn't happening today because of the way the game has grown globally. Home base means nothing to me and if the teams that call Canada home base aren't in, so be it. It is not the death knell some portray it to be.
Still with the Oilers, here is hoping the injury suffered by former Pats defenceman Brandon Davidson is not a serious one. It didn't look good as he got wheeled out of the MTS Centre Sunday night. As I have stated before, I think on a night in, night out basis, he has been the best defenceman the Oilers have had this year. Scouts around the league can do nothing but praise this kid who has gone through so much to get to this level and there were whispers that he might get named to Canada's entry at the Worlds because of his play. Fingers are crossed that this injury is minor, and that he will be 100 percent again very soon.
Congratulations to Stephen Bryce as the former Ram will be officially announced as the team's new head coach later this week. He has a task of cleaning up from what was a disastrous 2015, and as several has noted, just has to win one game to join Frank McCrystal as Rams coaches to win a CIS game. As one person connected with the team told me on the weekend, "Do we really have to admit last year happened?". Yes, yes we do. The sad reality is it happened, but lets not waste our time on that anymore and look ahead to what hopefully is the start of the revival of the Rams.
Still with the University, Dave Taylor has the womens basketball team back in what is a familiar position for them---that is competing for a conference championship and looking at what will likely be another trip to the Nationals. Sidney Dobner made her last appearance on her home floor one to remember as she had two outstanding games to help the Cougars sweep Calgary and move into the Canada West final four next weekend in Saskatoon where a date with the Huskies for the championship may be on the agenda. It has been a rough go for Dobner during her time as a Cougar thanks to injury, but she showed everyone at the CKHS this weekend just what type of player she is. She joked after Friday's game that she waited until her last weekend to get a "player of the game" award and then she went back out and did it again Saturday. I am thinking there will be a Cougar convoy heading up Highway 11 for Friday night's semi-final against Grant McEwan and then Saturday's final if they get there.
BTW: Two thumbs up for whoever organized "The Curtain of Distraction". That was awesome and oh so funny. You had to be there to see it.
As for the men, Steve Burrows' team was oh so close to a big upset, but they couldn't pull out a win Friday night after beating Thompson Rivers in Game 1 of their quarter-final series and then they seemed to run out of gas in Game 3. It takes nothing away from what was a good season for Burrows and crew. In his 2nd year on the job, he has got something going. Those going to the CKHS for the 2016-17 season will see some entertaining basketball. That is a guarantee!
Still with basketball, and is anyone noticing the Toronto Raptors. It seems to me as if they are just flying under the radar in this country even though they are one of the NBA's top teams. They aren't bringing a championship to Toronto this year unless the Golden State Warriors pull off one of the most epic collapses in sports history, but this is the best team they have had and I don't think anyone is noticing. Numbers for the games certainly aren't even close to the status they were for Blue Jays games. At the end of the day, Canadians are still watching their hockey, but I would think more and more people would be getting interested in Canada's lone NBA team. Perhaps playoff failures the last two years has soured some. Toronto will be out in force, but I don't see Raptors-mania hitting this country the way Blue Jays-mania did last year.
Speaking of the Blue Jays, I am seeing more and more people wearing something with the Jays logo on it these days. Are these just some of the bandwagon fans from last July on or are these actual baseball fans? Whatever it is, it is good to say Canada's MLB team getting some love in Western Canada. I have some Jays attire, but I'll proudly be wearing Cubbie Blue again this year and perhaps this year, I will be adding some that says "World Series Champion" on it. It is a long way before you can even start thinking about that though. Considering the luck Chicago has had over the years, I am just waiting for the bomb to drop and will wait right until that final out is made.
A couple of weeks ago I stated on this blog that I thought the Stampeders had the best team in the CFL right now and would have to be considered Grey Cup favourites going into 2016. That has had many people arguing the fact. One gentleman asked me on the weekend at the U of R, how I could bet against the Grey Cup champs. Ummmmmm, have you seen what happened to them in the off-season. I maintain Calgary is the best team in the CFL at this time. We can re-visit the debate when training camps open. In the meantime, the focus is on the regional combines with Regina Ram players Mason Rossler and Riley Wilson in attendance. Wilson is a guy I think can take his game to the next level. If he doesn't get drafted, teams should take a good hard look at him as a free agent. I would think Chris Jones would like a 6 foot 3 205 pound receiver who can make the tough catches over the middle.
So much for the favourites at UFC 196! What a night it was in Las Vegas as both Holly Holm and Conor McGregor went down. Holm couldn't get the job done against Miesha Tate in a fight I felt she simply had to win after beating Ronda Rousey, and she didn't. What happens now? Rousey wants Holm, but Tate has the belt. Do we see a Tate-Holm rematch before Rousey gets another chance at the only woman who has beaten her in the octagon? Dana White has a big decision to make. As for McGregor, he went up to fight Nate Diaz and he got choked out. Diaz has had a roller-coaster career in the UFC, but this certainly gets him some points. As for McGregor, he will go back down to his normal weight and continue to dominate. His Instagram post while chock full of four letter words hit the nail right on the head.
I think every curling fan in this province knew Steve Laycock had a tough challenge at the Brier and that is proving to be correct after weekend play. Laycock was right in it against Brad Jacobs on Saturday night and Pat Simmons on Sunday morning, but he lost both on the last rock of the game. He got a big win against BC Sunday afternoon and if he can get a win over Brad Gushue Monday afternoon, he may get that confidence going to get on a roll, Speaking of the Brier, what the hell did Brad Jacobs do to himself?
I did a triple take when I saw the transformation of the former Canadian and Olympic champ. That's a different look...a much different look!
That's all I got. Have a great week!