14 MORE - Am I surprised to see the Regina Pats going to Calgary with a 2-0 lead over the Hitmen in Round 1 of the WHL playoffs. Nope! I'm guessing most of you feel the same way too. John Paddock's proteges shook off what I thought were a couple of tentative starts to beat Calgary 5-2 and 5-1 in front of sold out Brandt Centre crowds on the weekend, Sold out crowds that had to be told by 620 CKRM's Brandon Basler to make noise and wave towels. Cmon people!! It's OK to make some noise at the good old hockey game. Then again, you should be commended because you didn't do the wave! I digress!
In the playoffs, your best players have to be your best players in the first two games that has happened as Adam Brooks controlled Game 1 and Sam Steel controlled Game 2. Steel's performance, and yes you could say it on a nightly basis, just makes me shake my head as to why he wasn't a member of Team Canada at the World Juniors. Kelly Remple tweeted Phil Andrews after Saturday's game saying it will be great watching Sam in Buffalo (the sight of 2018 World Jrs) at Christmas time. I had to ask if its a guarantee seeing he was snubbed this season before suggesting he have a chat with Warriors head coach Tim Hunter who will once again be an assistant to Dominic Ducharme at this year's event. One would think Steel is an automatic, but who knows!
Back to the present, Regina goes into Calgary looking to complete the sweep. With all due respect to the Hitmen, I don't think I'll be seeing them on Sunday for a Game 5. A lot will have to go right for them at the Saddledome to make that happen.
One other thing, and it has been said before on this blog.
Pats photos Courtesy Keith Hershmiller
What the Pats do for an intro is second to none as they salute their long-standing relationship with the military along with showing the young man skating from the Legislature to the Brandt Centre, I don't know if Sportsnet is planning on doing any Pats playoff games from the Brandt as these playoffs go along, but if they do, I hope they show the opening ceremony from start to finish. As I said on Twitter on Saturday, if there is a better intro in junior hockey today in this country that is done on a nightly basis than I need to see it. The country needs to see it! I have seen that intro countless times since it started, and it still captures my attention the moment it starts.
Oh yeah, one last thing. Was I the only one who thought the presentation of the regular season trophy before Game 1 was needed? If I want to see Commissioner Ron Robison presenting a trophy to the Pats, it is at the end of the playoffs and not the start. I had no problem with the banners being unveiled, but the presentation was something that could have angered the hockey gods. I don't think Bill Daly presents the NHL team that gets the most regular season points at the end of the regular season before the playoffs. Perhaps I'm just being a little nitpicky. I know of a couple others that felt the same way though as I patrolled the concourse in the intermissions of Game 1.
ALL TIME PATS FAVES - A couple of posts below this one is a post on former Pat goalie Josh Harding and how life after hockey is going for him after his career was cut short due to MS. If you haven't read it, go do so. A couple of people came up to me at the games this weekend thanking me for putting that up, with one asking me where Josh ranks as I have said previously he is the best goalie I have ever seen wearing a Pats uniform. Please remember I was just a young lad attending my first ever games when Ed Staniowski was doing his thing. What a great question. I had to think about it for a moment before concluding my favourite Pat all-time would be Jordan Eberle. As I drove home Friday night, I started wondering about that and who my all-time faves are. In no particular order, Eberle, Harding, Rick Rypien, Dave Michayluk, Dale Derkatch, Josh Holden, Darren Veitch, Ron Flockhart are just a few.
CFL WEEK - CFL Week is over, and as mentioned in Friday's column, the league scored a touchdown. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if they do this again next year in Regina, although several places may bend the league's ear to have it in their city. It was great walking around Evraz Place chatting with the likes of Wayne Morsky, Craig Reynolds, Steve Bryce, Farhan Lalji and Justin Dunk. Seeing the guys do their thing at the combine was outstanding. You watch the combine on the NFL Network and it can seem somewhat mundane, but when you see this guys live looking to do their best in front of peering eyes, it is something to watch.. The one on one battles between o-linemen and d-linemen were fantastic. and by all accounts the work done between the receivers and defensive backs was just as great with both Noah Picton and Asher Hastings throwing ropes. I wonder if any of the 9 teams noticed those two guys. I certainly hope so!
As Regina Rams offensive lineman Jeremy Zver told me Saturday after he was done. "This is the ultimate job interview if you want to continue playing the game". For Zver, he has exhausted his university eligibility so he had to show teams why he can play at the next level. He succeeded as did many others.
I don't know how many people went through Evraz Place, but I think some in the CFL were even surprised to see the level of activity. Can things be done better if they do this again in Regina? Absolutely it can be, but that is the case with anything that is done in its infant year. If the league wants to come back, and the Riders want to host it again, why not? One suggestion, and this is a minor one, but it is valid. Perhaps push the event back from Tuesday to Saturday and make it Wednesday to Sunday. It allows for those from out of town to come in and enjoy. I ran into a gentleman and his 8 year old boy Saturday afternoon who had come from Saskatoon not knowing the fan-fest ended at 3. They had gotten to EVRAZ Place at 12:45. Having the fan-fest go Saturday until 9 and Sunday until 3 would have been a lot more feasible. Again, its a lesson learned for next year no matter where it is held. At the end of the day, a tremendous job was done by those in the CFL office. Can the momentum be kept up now until draft day which leads us basically to training camps. I hope so!
It was also good to get a couple of moments with Darian Durant Friday afternoon.. Before heading inside the Brandt Centre, I went over to his autograph session which you can imagine was very popular, Many of Darian's fans showed up to perhaps say one last goodbye.
I was hoping just to catch his attention to say hi, but he was gracious enough to stop what he was doing for a second or two and come over to shake my hand. I wish him nothing but success in Montreal. Say what you will about him Rider Nation, but he was all class when he was here and he showed that until the end with a heartfelt message to fans when his autograph session was over. Would this team have gotten to three Grey Cups without his efforts? Nope! And that includes 2013!
Chris Jones got me thinking Saturday afternoon. (This just in---I did wayyyyy too much thinking this weekend)
When speaking to the local media about the combine, Jones was asked what type of questions they ask potential players. He said one of the things they ask is "What's the first thing you think about when you open your eyes?". What a great question! Do you even think about that when you roll out of bed? Jokingly, I say god, I made it through another night. That is something we perhaps should all ask ourselves.
The event wrapped up with the Canada West passing showcase as the Rams, Huskies, Bisons and Golden Bears went at it with the U of S winning. It was great seeing the up and coming stars of Canada West perform as the event was limited to first and second year players in what was a no-contact 6 on 7 event. The future looks great. By the way Saskatoon, if Mason Nyhus isn't on your radar yet, he will be soon. The kid was throwing darts around the Eventplex during the event.
--NEED FOR CHANGE? - With the NHL's Metropolitan Division having three 100 point teams in it with the chance of the Rangers making it a 4th, there is talk about wanting to change the NHL playoff structure yet again. Does the NHL want to go down this road? If they do, can we make it simple and then just have it 1 vs 8, 2 vs 7, 3 vs 6 and 4 vs 5 in the first round and then go from there. I have no problem with the current playoff format, but admittedly 1 vs 8 might be better. Remember, when it was 1 vs 16, 2 vs 15, etc etc in the first round. I would love to see that happen again, but it won't. I say just leave it alone. In the end, we will see the two best teams fighting it out for the Cup which is what we want. Looking at the standings in both conferences, what a final two weeks we are in for. I think Chicago is home and cooled as far as first in the Central goes, but the other three divisions are wide open. It's a three way battle for first in the Metropolitan, and a three way battle for first in the Pacific with Calgary trying to make it a 4 way race. The Islanders, Tampa and Carolina are trying to get a late surge to get an Eastern Conference wildcard spot while the Western spots seem to be taken care of. Once again, there can't be any clear Stanley Cup favourite. Isn't that what we want as fans?
--THE MADNESS CONTINUES - The NCAA mens basketball tournament is one of my favourite events of the year. The emotion and passion can't be matched at times. This weekend, Florida and Wisconsin had a classic as did North Carolina and Kentucky. It just doesn't get any better than that.
How is my bracket going into the final 4. Pretty damn good if you ask me, especially on the right hand side.
QUEEN RACHEL - Canada is back atop the womens curling ladder thanks to Rachel Homan. What a week for her Ottawa crew in Beijing as they rolled through the world championship with a perfect record capping it off beating Russia in the final. Its Canada's first gold at the event since Jennifer Jones in 2008. It also tells me the only person who could beat Homan this winter was Regina's own Michelle Englot. She did it twice at the Scotties before dropping the final. Tells you just how good Michelle's rink was doesn't it!
That's all I got. Have a great week!