Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Durant's Knee Injury Not Considered Serious

After further testing, the Montreal Alouettes announced Wednesday evening that they don’t believe quarterback Darian Durant’s knee injury isn’t serious.

Durant was forced out of Tuesday’s training camp session with an injured left knee but on Wednesday, an MRI all but confirmed Head Coach Jacques Chapdelaine’s suspicion that the injury isn’t a significant cause for concern.

The Alouettes issued the following statement regarding their newly-added franchise quarterback following further medical examination:

“After having undergone MRI imaging and further examination by our medical staff, it appears that Darian did not suffer a major injury. His return timetable will be evaluated on a daily basis.”

The Alouettes first pre-season game is June 8 in Toronto. The first regular season game is June 22 at home to the Riders. 

Riders Add and Subtract To Roster

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Before hitting the field in Saskatoon for Day 4 of training camp, the Saskatchewan Roughriders made a couple of transactions.

The team announced they have signed quarterback Marquise Williams.  Williams comes to the CFL from the University of North Carolina.  While at UNC, he broke several records once held by Darian Durant including touchdowns and total offensive yards.

Williams went undrafted in the NFL draft in 2016, but he did attend training camp with the Green Bay Packers.

You can check out some highlights of his senior season with the Tarheels right here

At the same time as they announced the signing of Williams, the Riders announced offensive lineman Kennedy Estelle had been released.

MLB All-Star Voting Update

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1. Salvador Perez, Royals: 420,268 votes
2. Welington Castillo, Orioles: 339,902
3. Brian McCann, Astros: 296,187
4. Gary Sanchez, Yankees: 267,683
5. Yan Gomes, Indians: 240,688

Perez is the league's standard for defense behind the plate and he's also been the best hitter at his position in the league, with 11 home runs, 29 RBIs and an .787 OPS entering Wednesday's games. Castillo has a .317/.339/.467 slash line, and McCann is enjoying his new home in Houston with six homers and a .360 on-base percentage.

Last year's rookie sensation, the Yankees' Sanchez, missed a month due to a strained right biceps but has four homers in 95 at-bats and is getting hot with the weather. Gomes has four homers and is a solid presence behind the plate for Cleveland.

1. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers: 326,952
2. Yonder Alonso, A's: 287,975
3. Carlos Santana, Indians: 270,816
4. Eric Hosmer, Royals: 225,989
5. Yuli Gurriel, Astros: 182,945

A .780 OPS with five homers and 22 RBIs isn't very Cabrera-like, but reputation goes a long way toward All-Star Game selection, and fans are clearly expecting Miggy to be Miggy again very soon. Alonso, meanwhile, is one of the true breakout stars of early 2017, with a 1.052 OPS, 14 homers and 31 RBIs.

Santana ranks tied for fifth among AL first basemen with 30 RBIs, Hosmer has posted a .299/.357/.438 slash line, and Gurriel has contributed to a formidable Astros attack with four homers in his first full Major League season.

1. Starlin Castro, Yankees: 516,268
2. Jose Altuve, Astros: 515,732
3. Jason Kipnis, Indians: 253,409
4. Robinson Cano, Mariners: 159,557
5. Jonathan Schoop, Orioles: 149,060
Yankees fans are turning up at the online polls in droves for Castro, who is hitting .322/.358/.477 with seven homers and 28 RBIs, building on a terrific 2016. Altuve is Altuve, with a .320/.383/.510 line, and Kipnis has come back from injury well, with six homers and 20 RBIs.

Cano is leading all AL second basemen with 10 homers and 34 RBIs and has an OPS of .877, while Schoop is as solid as ever with an OPS of .801 plus seven homers and 24 RBIs.

1. Manny Machado, Orioles: 369,069
2. Miguel Sano, Twins: 363,607
3. Jose Ramirez, Indians: 351,814
4. Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays: 221,350
5. Chase Headley, Yankees: 174,702

Machado hasn't gotten hot yet, but he does have 10 homers with 25 RBIs and the dynamic skillset that has voters believing he'll steam into July on a torrid streak. Sano, meanwhile, is becoming a star, with 12 homers, a .996 OPS and 39 RBIs, the most in the AL among those who play the hot corner.
Ramirez has an OPS of .860, Donaldson is a former AL Most Valuable Player who is just getting back on the field after missing more than a month with a lingering right calf strain, and Headley is getting lots of votes from Yankees fans who appreciate his presence in the lineup and at third base for a first-place club.

1. Francisco Lindor, Indians: 602,238
2. Carlos Correa, Astros: 253,518
3. Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox: 252,379
4. Didi Gregorius, Yankees: 239,170
5. Jean Segura, Mariners: 169,487

Lindor finished second to his countryman Correa in AL Rookie of the Year voting two seasons ago, but he's well ahead of his fellow Puerto Rican star in this vote. Lindor leads AL shortstops with 11 homers and has a .276/.347/.531 slash line. Correa has rebounded from a slow start and is among the AL leaders at shortstop in batting average (.309) and leads in OPS (.895).
Bogaerts is batting .339 for the Red Sox, and Segura's batting average of .345 is tops in the AL among shortstops.

1. Nelson Cruz, Mariners: 457,050
2. Edwin Encarnacion, Indians: 282,837
3. Matt Holliday, Yankees: 276,855
4. Corey Dickerson, Rays: 216,350
5. Albert Pujols, Angels: 154,626

Cruz just keeps getting it done, with a .279/.364/.525 line, 12 homers and a position-best 42 RBIs, which has him comfortably ahead, at least for now, of second-place Encarnacion, who hasn't quite gotten it going as compared to years past.

Holliday is doing just fine for the Yankees, with 11 homers and 32 RBIs, and Dickerson has been brilliant for Tampa Bay, with a 1.006 OPS, 12 homers and 25 RBIs. Pujols sits one career homer from the magical 600 mark.

1. Mike Trout, Angels: 776,937
2. Aaron Judge, Yankees: 730,438
3. Mookie Betts, Red Sox: 337,473
4. Michael Brantley, Indians: 333,703
5. Andrew Benintendi, Red Sox: 327,047
6. Avisail Garcia, White Sox: 303,603
7. Adam Jones, Orioles: 236,481
8. Lonnie Chisenhall, Indians: 229,856
9. Abraham Almonte, Indians: 202,999
10. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays: 195,199
11. Brett Gardner, Yankees: 192,288
12. Jacoby Ellsbury, Yankees: 179,600
13. Carlos Beltran, Astros: 175,700
14. George Springer, Astros: 162,087
15. Kevin Pillar, Blue Jays: 160,484

It's amazing to consider that prior to his injury, Trout was having the best year of his career, with a 1.203 OPS, 16 homers and 36 RBIs plus 10 stolen bases. Judge has been a phenom in the Bronx, with 17 homers, many of which have been tape-measure moonshots, but also a 1.112 OPS. And Betts has been his stellar self, with nine homers, 32 RBIs and an .849 OPS.

Brantley has rebounded from the injuries that derailed his 2016 season and is batting .307 while driving in 22 runs. And Benintendi, who's among the candidates for AL Rookie of the Year honors, has 27 RBIs and seven stolen bases while batting .272.


1. Buster Posey, Giants: 559,428 votes
2. Willson Contreras, Cubs: 355,289
3. Yadier Molina, Cardinals: 303,857
4. Matt Wieters, Nationals: 177,957
5. Yasmani Grandal, Dodgers: 127,844

Posey, a three-time World Series champion and one-time NL Most Valuable Player Award winner, is always a popular choice, as is perennial Gold Glover Molina, who also happens to own a couple of World Series rings of his own. But Posey has also up a .963 OPS (entering play on Tuesday) with seven home runs.

Contreras has fared well as the Cubs' everyday backstop, and he's the co-leader, along with Grandal, in RBIs among NL catchers with 23. Wieters has been solid in his first foray in the NL, swatting four homers and driving in 17 for the Nationals.

1. Anthony Rizzo, Cubs: 452,620
2. Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals: 359,055
3. Freddie Freeman, Braves: 286,389
4. Paul Goldschmidt, D-backs: 205,828
5. Eric Thames, Brewers: 170,244

Rizzo is off to a slow start in batting average (.235), but he's got 12 homers and 30 RBIs, an OPS of .835, and the defending World Series-champion Cubs have a fan base that continues to flock to the online ballots and support their favorite players. Meanwhile, Zimmerman's incredible rebound year (1.120 OPS, 14 homers, 40 RBIs) has deservingly resounded loudly with fans.

The only thing that can stop Freeman, apparently, is the May 18 left wrist fracture that will have him sidelined for up to two months. Freeman had posted a .341/.461/.748 slash line with 14 homers and 25 RBIs at the time of his injury. Goldschmidt is getting his usual love for his usual consistency (11 homers, .998 OPS) and Thames' unexpected April heroics have resonated in lots of votes.

1. Daniel Murphy, Nationals: 669,643
2. Javier Baez, Cubs: 474,119
3. Brandon Phillips, Braves: 126,404
4. Kolten Wong, Cardinals: 118,416
5. DJ LeMahieu, Rockies: 113,889

Murphy's offensive dominance at the position continues. After an MVP-caliber 2016, he keeps raking, as evidenced by nine homers, 35 RBIs and a .929 OPS. Baez has eight homers and provides highlight-reel defense, as much of America learned last October, and Phillips seems to be enjoying his new team in Atlanta. He's hitting .301.

Wong is chipping in to the Cardinals' attack with a .378 on-base percentage and .792 OPS, and LeMahieu, last year's NL batting title champ and a Gold Glove winner, has a .354 OBP to help pace the first-place Rockies' attack.

1. Kris Bryant, Cubs: 632,900
2. Nolan Arenado, Rockies: 392,051
3. Justin Turner, Dodgers: 220,029
4. Jedd Gyorko, Cardinals: 182,950
5. Anthony Rendon, Nationals: 137,767

Bryant, the reigning NL MVP Award winner, has Cubs Nation firmly behind him, and he has a .930 OPS, 11 homers and 23 RBIs. Arenado is a Gold Glover at the hot corner with a .913 OPS, 12 homers and 34 RBIs.

A recent right hamstring injury has derailed the consistent Turner, who was batting .379 when he got hurt. Gyorko (.927 OPS, eight homers) has been brilliant for St. Louis, and Rendon (.910 OPS, nine homers, 32 RBIs) is off to a great start.

1. Corey Seager, Dodgers: 399,347
2. Addison Russell, Cubs: 379,640
3. Zack Cozart, Reds: 264,516
4. Chris Owings, D-backs: 219,287
5. Trea Turner, Nationals: 180,184

Seager finished third in the NL MVP Award voting in 2016, and he's done nothing to slow down this year. He is second among NL shortstops with seven homers, has driven in 24 runs and has an OPS of .856.

Russell's 19 RBIs have been a bright spot for the Cubs, and Cozart's blistering start to 2017 (.344/.422/.569, five homers, 25 RBIs) has him squarely on the All-Star radar. Owings (.841 OPS, six homers, 27 RBIs) is in the midst of a breakout offensive season, and Turner has five homers and 23 RBIs and hasn't even gotten hot yet.

1. Bryce Harper, Nationals: 900,079
2. Charlie Blackmon, Rockies: 520,479
3. Jason Heyward, Cubs: 344,166
4. Ben Zobrist, Cubs: 327,231
5. Kyle Schwarber, Cubs: 305,449
6. Matt Kemp, Braves: 284,420
7. Marcell Ozuna, Marlins: 255,945
8. Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins: 232,329
9. Yoenis Cespedes, Mets: 229,401
10. Jay Bruce, Mets: 180,970
11. Dexter Fowler, Cardinals: 180,888
12. Ryan Braun, Brewers: 143,587
13. Jayson Werth, Nationals: 127,511
14. Yasiel Puig, Dodgers: 125,149
15. Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies: 117,944

Harper is healthy and hammering the ball once again. The charismatic Nationals star has posted a .331/.443/.663 slash line with 15 homers and 41 RBIs, putting him right at the top of the NL MVP Award conversation. Blackmon continues to prove his versatility and value to a tough Rockies team, slashing .329/.364/.625 with 13 homers and a league-leading 46 RBIs.

Heyward has rebounded offensively, with five homers and 21 RBIs while providing his usual Gold Glove defense. Zobrist (.816 OPS, six homers) and the popular Schwarber (seven homers) round out the top five.

Fans may cast votes for starters at and all 30 club sites -- on computers, tablets and smartphones -- exclusively online using the 2017 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot until Thursday, June 29, at 11:59 p.m. ET. On smartphones and tablets, fans can also access the ballot via the At Bat and Ballpark mobile apps. Vote up to five times in any 24-hour period for a maximum of 35 ballots cast.

(MLB Media)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Victoria Royals Need New Head Coach; Dave Lowry to L-A

The Victoria Royals are proud to announce that Dave Lowry has accepted an assistant coach position with the National Hockey League’s (NHL) Los Angeles Kings.

Lowry spent five seasons in Victoria (2012-13 thru 2016-17). He departs as the franchise’s all-time winningest coach, amassing a regular season record of 199-112-13-9. The Royals qualified for the playoffs every year under Lowry’s leadership, setting the franchise record with 21 playoff victories.

“We are thankful for the time that Dave was behind the bench for our club,” President and General Manager Cameron Hope said. “It was just a matter of time before he moved back to the NHL. Dave set a high standard and was an important part of building our program to where it is today. We thank the entire Lowry family for their commitment to our franchise, and wish Dave success as he takes another in his career.”

While with the Royals, Lowry was honoured twice (2013-14 & 2015-16) with the Dunc McCallum Memorial Trophy as the league’s Coach of the Year. He is only the 11th head coach in WHL history to have won the award two or more times.

Twice during his time with the Royals, Lowry earned the opportunity to bring his expertise to the coaching staff for Hockey Canada’s World Junior Team. As an assistant coach in 2015 Dave helped Canada earn a gold medal, and in 2016 he was named head coach of the team.

“A goal of our franchise is to provide a platform for players, coaches and staff to advance in their careers,” Hope said. “The process of securing a head coach who can pick up where Dave left off has already begun.”

Darian Durant Injured At Alouettes Camp

Alouettes quarterback Darian Durant, centre, with his teammates at training camp in Lennoxville on Sunday, May 28, 2017.

Jacques Chapdelaine admitted his heart skipped a beat when he saw the player go down. That it happened to be Darian Durant, the Alouettes’ starting quarterback, only magnified the situation.

“You don’t want see anybody get hurt in practice,” Chapdelaine said Tuesday afternoon, after the Als practiced once at Bishop’s University. “You certainly don’t want to see that happen — ever again.”

Near the end of the workout, Durant planted his knee to complete a pass. A player rolled into the veteran quarterback’s left knee. Durant eventually had to be assisted from the field and taken to the sideline, where athletic therapist Rodney Sassi worked on him, almost immediately applying ice to prevent swelling. The two eventually left for the dressing room.

While Chapdelaine was loath to speculate until having further conversations with Sassi, he was cautiously optimistic the damage would be minimal simply because the therapist didn’t communicate with him or seem distressed. Even should Durant be present Wednesday morning for the first of two scheduled practices, he’ll almost certainly be held out for precautionary purposes.

“We’ll have to see how long it takes him to feel good about what happened today,” Chapdelaine said.

On Tuesday night, Durant texted the Montreal Gazette, writing: “Everything is fine. I’ll be back at practice in a day or so.”

Durant, of course, is the Als’ meal ticket this season as they attempt to make the playoffs for the first time since 2014. He was acquired in a trade in January from Saskatchewan when it became apparent the Roughriders had no intention of signing the potential free agent.

Durant hasn’t played a full season since 2010 and has had major injuries recently, including a torn tendon in his right elbow along with a ruptured left Achilles tendon. He missed three games last season with a high ankle sprain.

“This isn’t him being vulnerable to something. This is us having to be a little smarter in the way we practise,” Chapdelaine said.

Montreal quarterbacks wear a distinctive navy blue practice jersey so they stand out in a crowd. They also generally have a buffer zone around them and aren’t to be touched, let alone tackled. While Tuesday’s mishap clearly was an accident, Chapdelaine also elected to practise outdoors while it was raining.

“You want to have a certain level of competition and you have to get everyone to play and practise at a certain tempo,” Chapdelaine said. “But at the same time, it’s important for us to respect each other and make sure we come out of here with all of our elements.”

Durant’s one of four quarterbacks at camp — a traditionally low number for this franchise — although philosophies obviously have changed since Kavis Reed replaced Jim Popp as general manager. Durant is joined by Vernon Adams, now in his second season with Montreal; Jacory Harris, acquired in a trade from Hamilton, and rookie Matthew Schiltz, who played collegiately at Butler.

Canadian Football League teams dress three quarterbacks and generally retain a fourth on the practice roster. Both Rakeem Cato and Jonathan Crompton were released over the winter. Cato wasn’t going to be the starter, while Crompton wasn’t even in line to be second-string, according to Chapdelaine.

Chapdelaine said it’s still premature to speculate on who will play June 8, when the Als launch their exhibition schedule in Toronto. But he said he would like to see Schiltz for at least a quarter, since he’s unlikely to play the following week, against Ottawa.

Chapdelaine also said it’s too early to determine who would back up Durant and be next in line in the event of an injury. “Right now it’s a healthy competition,” the coach said.

Training camp is only three days old, and Chapdelaine has already seen his starting quarterback hurt and middle-linebacker Bear Woods released on Monday. What else can go wrong?

Reed and Chapdelaine conversed on Tuesday after it appeared the two had different agendas a day earlier over the release of Woods, the East Division’s outstanding defensive player last season. Whether they agree or not, the message from management always must be the same — and it’s generally considered wise for a coach to support his boss.

(Herb Zurkowsky/Montreal Gazette)

CFL Says Justin Cox Still Not Welcome To Play

CFL commissioner Jeffrey Orridge says Justin Cox is still not welcome in the league despite the fact he has been acquitted on a charge of assault causing bodily harm.

A judge in Regina determined there was not enough evidence to go to trial Monday and dismissed the charge against the former Riders defensive back.

Outside the courthouse, Cox said it was his desire to rejoin the Riders.

When charged, the Riders immediately released him with Orridge releasing a statement saying any contract signed by Cox with a team would not be validated…..he is standing by that statement today despite the acquittal saying it doesn’t change the position of the league.

When asked about Cox at Riders training camp today, head coach and general manager Chris Jones said he would not be returning to the team, and that the decision was made after talking with assistant general managers John Murphy and Jeremy O’Day.

“I’ve got two little girls at home and both of those guys have two little girls at home and it’s just a situation (where) it’s a matter of principle for us,” Jones said. “We’re going in a different direction.
When asked if the team would reconsider its stance if the CFL rescinded their position on the matter, Jones replied by saying “It doesn’t change my opinion whatsoever.”

Brandt Group of Companies Is New Founding Partner For Riders

The Saskatchewan Roughriders announced today the addition of the Brandt Group of Companies as a new Mosaic Stadium Founding Partner.

As a Founding Partner, the Brandt Group of Companies will receive lifelong recognition within the new facility and the ability to secure exclusive multi-year sponsorship and partnership assets, naming rights and other activation opportunities with our fans.

Founding Partners also have access to premium hospitality areas, including suites and lounges that will provide an exclusive environment for building relationships with clients, vendors and preferred customers.

The Brandt Group of Companies – headquartered in Regina, Saskatchewan – is comprised of Brandt Agricultural Products Ltd., Brandt Engineered Products Ltd., Brandt Equipment Solutions Ltd., Brandt Road Rail Corporation, Brandt Developments, and Brandt Tractor Ltd. - the world's largest privately held John Deere construction and forestry equipment dealer. Brandt has 50 locations in Canada and the US, nearly 2000 employees and a growing international audience; serving the agriculture, forestry, rail, mining, construction, and tube & pipe industries with unique custom products. Brandt is one of Canada's largest privately owned companies and is among an elite group of Platinum Members of Canada's 50 Best Managed Companies.

“It was a natural step for us,” said Brandt President, Shaun Semple. “The Riders are an iconic sports brand in Canada and being a Founding Partner ‎gives us a tangible opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to our hometown and our home team.”

The addition of the Brandt Group of Companies brings the Founding Partners total to eleven after the Riders introduced The Mosaic Company, SaskTel, Harvard Broadcasting, Capital Automotive Group, AGT Foods, Molson Coors, Viterra, Young’s Equipment, Crescent Point Energy and Dream Unlimited Corp.

(Ryan Pollock/Riders PR)

Monday, May 29, 2017

Judge Throws out Justin Cox Domestic Assault Charge

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Former Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive back Justin Cox was acquitted on Monday of assault causing bodily harm.

On April 18, Regina police were called to a home after a woman claimed she had been physically attacked by Cox.

In a Regina courtroom, a judge heard the facts surrounding the case and determined there was not enough evidence for the case to proceed.

Cox indicated after the proceedings were over he would like to resume his football career with the Riders who released him shortly after he was taken into custody.  In December, the 24 year old had signed a contract extension keeping him with the team until after the 2018 season.

Once he was released, the CFL said they would not honor any contract of a team wanting to sign Cox.  There has been no public comment from either the Riders or the league on Cox’s status now that the charge has been dismissed.

Cox, who has previous incidents of domestic violence in the U-S, was the Riders rookie of the year last season after a season in which he had four interceptions.

Stanley Cup Preview

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The Pittsburgh Penguins will make history if they can beat the Nashville Predators in the 2017 Stanley Cup Final.

No team has been able to win back-to-back Cups since the NHL instituted a salary cap in 2005. The Detroit Red Wings nearly did it in 2009, only to be beaten by the upstart Pens.

Since 2009, no defending champ had even made it back to the final, until the Penguins knocked off the Senators Thursday.

According to captain Sidney Crosby, the chance to become the first repeat champs of the salary-cap era is just one of the things that’s driving his team.

“I think when you get here you have a ton of motivation, regardless if it’s trying to go back-to-back,” said Crosby. “The motivation comes from a lot of different things for a lot of different guys. Maybe (repeating) is one of them, but it’s not something that we talk about a whole lot. This is a new year. It’s a new opponent.”

And the Predators will be a tough opponent, even without their No. 1 center, Ryan Johansen. Nashville’s strength is on the back end, with Roman Josi, P.K. Subban, Ryan Ellis, and Mattias Ekholm comprising arguably the strongest top four in the league.

“You have to be aware of where they are,” said Crosby. “They’re so good at joining the rush, they’re so good at leading the rush.”

But the Pens have the clear advantage down the middle. Crosby on the first line, Evgeni Malkin on the second. That combination has helped Pittsburgh win seven straight series, with a chance to make it eight.

“I can’t tell you how rewarding it’s been to have the opportunity to coach this team,” said head coach Mike Sullivan. “I’m so grateful to have been given this opportunity. We believe we’ve got such a competitive group of players. They’re high-character people. They have an insatiable appetite to win. They’re a privilege to coach.”

Winger Bryan Rust was on last year’s team. For him, the opportunity to win two straight Cups, in a league that loves to brag about its parity, is energizing.

“I think it does motivate us to be able to do something that is so hard, and be able to accomplish a goal that hasn’t been done in a very long time,” said Rust. “It gives us an extra spark. Winning it once is hard enough, but trying to do it twice in a row is even harder.”

Game 1 of the series goes Monday in Pittsburgh.

The Red Wings were the last team to repeat as champions. They won the Cup in 1997 and 1998, back when teams had no limits on their spending.

Something To "Mitch" About

Back to blogging!

I have to admit it was nice just letting the world pass by and disconnecting for a few days from everything happening back home (albeit people were texting me with events happening from back home because they forgot I was gone), Without further delay, here we go.

BASEBALL HEAVEN -   I knew it wouldn't disappoint me, and while the weather didn't really co-operate the way I would have loved it to, Wrigley Field was simply tremendous in what was my first (and hopefully not my last) visit.

When you go to Wrigley, sitting in the bleachers is an absolute must so on Day 1 for my first ever game at the cathedral on the corner of Clark and Addison that is where we sat.  For those who don't know, bleacher seating is general seating and the lineup to get in when the gates opened two hours before first pitch. 

While having our choice of where to sit, we ended up just to the right of the bottom right corner of that videoboard you see above,  It was just fine.  Oh yes, like it is at most parks and stadiums, you have some let's just say "interesting" spectators.  There were two guys sitting in our row both in their early 20's.  They brought their gloves with them (Note: Unless you are a kid or you are sitting in the first three rows where a foul ball can come whizzing at you, leave your glove at home).  They both yelled incessantly at Milwaukee center fielder Keon Broxton to toss them a ball.  This just in---A) he probably couldn't hear you and B) the attention of Broxton was likely on the young ladies that had gathered many rows below, Once the game started, they had no idea what was happening, but they knew where to get their 8 dollar beers.  

There was another fan just below us who constantly kept going by us to get some cold malted beverages as well, but this guy had a reason. 

The guy standing in the light blue shirt got on his knee after the 7th inning stretch and proposed to the girl in the red and black shirt.  I didn't see the actual proposal, but he apparently had bought her a baseball and had inscribed his proposal on there so that when she turned around he was there on one knee getting ready to do the deed.  It was cool to see as was seeing my favourite Cubs--Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant both go yard in a 13-6 stomping of the Brewers. 

Walking around the stadium beforehand was magical.. Having watched Cubs games on WGN since the early 80's (which is how I become a Cubs fan), I have seen the park many, many times. I have seen the rooftops, I have seen the shots outside the stadium, etc. etc, but to walk down Addison and all of a sudden see the famed marquee just made me stop in my tracks.  I had arrived at baseball heaven. I just had to stand from across the street and gaze at that marquee while many wandered the streets getting ready for an afternoon of baseball.  To see the statues of Cubs greats Ron Santo, Ernie Banks and Billy Williams along with the legendary Harry Caray. It was amazing.  

As one friend told me in an exchange of e-mails, it must be how Rider fans feel from outside of Saskatchewan when they come here for the first time to see a game whether it be at the new or old Mosaic Stadium. I couldn't agree more. 

I also thought as I wandered around the ballpark that the Riders need statues of some of their greatest players.  Wouldn't it be cool to walk up to the main gates of Mosaic Stadium and see a statue of Ronnie handing the ball to George, go to another part of the stadium and see a statue of Dave Ridgway kicking the field goal to give the Riders the 1989 Grey Cup, How about Darian Durant holding the 2013 Grey Cup high on that magical November Sunday.  

It would enhance the fan experience and the statues would become iconic for Rider fans near and far.  Why not?  It's just one of many ideas that crawled through my mind while watching the games, 

I won't bore you with many pictures, but here are some....

At the Harry Caray statue....

Outside of the famed marquee....

The famed Cubby Bear saloon right across the street which is a gathering place before and after the game and a place where apparently many deals have been finalized and announced including the hiring of current manager Joe Maddon.  It was an event where Maddon apparently bought all of those in attendance "a shot and a beer".  It is the most popular of many sports bars that line the area, In fact, the area around the ballpark is either A) a bar or B) a sports shop.  Yeah, there's a Dunkin Donuts and a Subway near by as well along with a Taco Bell where on game days it costs you 30 dollars to park in their lot and do they ever jam them in,  

This is the Park at Wrigley which is brand new as it just opened this year.  It is just outside the seats along the third base line. There is a videoboard to watch the game and the post-game press conference, you can go out and mingle, sit on the grass or the many tables with food and beverages on hand and enjoy from this locale.  I don't know why you would want to leave your seat in the 4th inning to go outside the park to watch the game and I don't think those without a ticket can get into this area, but many fans were doing so. 

A display case featuring many great Cubs of the past including my favourite all-time Cub and the 2nd greatest player to wear "23" in Chicago, Ryne Sandberg.  Why is it the hall-of-famers wear 23? Think about it. 

Another display case features the Cubs of today where pics of last year's World Series celebration, the National League MVP trophy shared by Jon Lester and Javy Baez and mementos of last year's All-Star game in San Diego are featured. 

Standing at the famous seat where Steve Bartman unwittingly became a part of Cubs and baseball history....

On the field just behind home plate. 

And finally, a shot with the World Series trophy.  I still look back at watching Game 7 against Cleveland and how that emotionally just tore me apart with the highs and lows. I have to admit seeing this brought just as  much a lump in the throat to this fan as it was when Brendan Taman brought the Grey Cup to the CKRM studios the day after the 2013 Grey Cup or seeing the Stanley Cup after the Oilers had won it.  Now if I could just find a damn way to see the Super Bowl trophy the Seahawks won. I guess putting Jon Ryan's Super Bowl ring on for a few moments will still have to suffice for now.  

Wrigley Field is "baseball". Yes, a lot has been done to the park since it opened many years ago, but they have done tremendous things to it and there is no talk of ever tearing it down with a brand new facility being put up.  Instead, they do what they have to do and they build around it as construction is being done on a hotel and other things to make the area known as "Wrigleyville" even more profitable for both the neighbourhood that thrives on the team and its fans and the organization, 

All in all, it was five days I won't soon forget.   The Cubs won 3 of 4...they hit 11 homers including 2 by Bryant, 4 by Rizzo and one by Kyle Schwarber that went right out of the park in right center with none of the 11 resulting in a bat flip as the team won with class.  They even used the videoboard to have Harry Caray sing the 7th inning stretch which brought goosebumps---it was either that or the fact it was colder than it should have been in Chicago for mid-May.  As I said, I don't know if I will return (although I want to), but it was special being in "baseball heaven".  Scratch one item off the bucket list. 

SEATTLE SOILS THE LINEN -   I didn't watch one second of the Memorial Cup. Had the Regina Pats gotten there, it would have been the same way, but I at least would have been looking at my phone for updates. However, friends were texting me saying how bad the WHL champion Seattle Thunderbirds had been, how they made the league look bad and  how the Pats would have fared much better.  Would they have?  I didn't want to bring this up during the WHL final, but the league needs to look at its scheduling procedures when it comes to the playoffs and get the finals done earlier,  Seattle won Game 6 on a Sunday in Regina, flew back home on Monday to fly back across the country on Wednesday seeing media responsibilies meant they had to be in Windsor on Thursday for the tournament that started Friday.  That's a tough haul. 

It was the same for the Brandon Wheat kings last year even though the Mem Cup was in Red Deer. In the last two years, the WHL champs are 0-6 at the tournament while being outscored 33-8. The other teams are coming in well-rested and the WHL champs are not.  Perhaps the league needs to look at moving the entire season up one week so playoffs can get done and its champion team whomever it may be can actually get some rest and refill the tank.  Would the Pats have done any better this year? Considering they would have had to play a Game 7 on Tuesday and get on a plane to Windsor the next day, I am guessing the answer is no and that is not a slight on what was a very talented Pats team. 

As for the tournament itself, congrats to the host Windsor Spitfires for winning, but are they really the best team in Canada or are they the team that benefitted by being awarded the event.  Seattle, Erie and Saint John all earned their ticket by going through the playoff battles winning the 16 games needed to advance. Windsor didn't. I know the scenario could repeat itself next year when the Pats are hosting, but if they were to hoist the trophy after being ousted in round 2 or 3 of the playoffs would it really be because of their talent or their bid committee.  I don't know how you do it and some already say the event is too long, but I would still like to see the event expanded with two games per day. Next year, you would have the Pats and the WHL champs joining the two finalists in Quebec and Ontario. When the event is in Quebec, the host team and its champ would join the two finalists from the OHL and the Dub. If the RBC and Telus Cup can have more than 4 teams, can't the Memorial Cup? Maybe an easier way is to have a frozen four like event where you play a one and done semi-final.  I don't know how you do it, but there has to be a better way. 

IS THERE ANY OPTIMISM? -  Riders training camp has arrived. The first of the two-a-days went Sunday morning in Saskatoon. Yes, a new season brings excitement, but is there a lot of excitement amongst the fan base.  If there is, it is being enveloped by the negativism of many,  Before leaving for the Windy City, one Rider fan told me the brand has taken a beating over the past couple of years and the Pats brand may be the more popular one in Regina at this moment. With all due respect to the Pats, I think that is a stretch, but I would say the gap has narrowed somewhat due to the success of the hockey team and the lack of success from the football team since the midway point of the 2014 season. 

There is still a lot of anger out there and it is directed at Chris Jones.  The release of Dressler, Chick and Getzlaf, the trade of Durant, the bringing in of Khalif Mitchell, the attempts to bring in Greg Hardy, the Vince Young experiment, One fan told me after the report the team tried to get Michael Vick to come north of the border that Jones had turned the Riders into a circus.  With all due respect again, I think that is a stretch as well. 

A poll on the 620 CKRM website asked fans where the Riders would finish this year and leading the way at the time of this writing was last at 30 percent.  11 percent do think the team will finish first BTW.  Has the fanbase already relegated themselves to another dismal season?  I'm not going to sit here and tell you that all the moves that have been made have been right ones, but it seems as if many are writing off the season already and pointing the finger at Jones,.  Year 1 was a housecleaning designed to find a new core of leaders and players who could become the stars of tomorrow. Year 2 now has some continuity as some leaders and players emerged from Year 1.  As I have said previously on this stage and on the Sportscage, I think the Riders are better, but admittedly I think 3rd is as high as they can get unless BC or Calgary have disaster strike.  Are they better than Edmonton or Winnipeg?  That is the question I've asked for months. 

It just seems to me as if the fanbase has their arrows focused squarely on Jones' back and are not willing to see what can be done.  I understand the frustration, and know why it is that way, but let's see what comes out of camp and how the 17 season starts before we start digging the hole to put the coffin in. 

We're not the CFL's version of the Cleveland Browns here people!! 

STANLEY CUP -   How many people had the Nashville Predators playing the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup final?  How many in hockey drafts are boasting because they have numerous Predators and Penguins left?  If you are one of them, I am guessing you decided to take a stab at some Nashville players late in the proceedings because you needed some points and thought guys like Forsberg, Johansen and Ellis would get 6 or 7 points before being bounced by Chicago.  

Nashville has shown again that all you have to do is get into the playoffs to have a legitimate shot at winning. They were the 16th seed going in.  Do they have enough to beat the high-flying Penguins. I don't think they do, but this is a team that has knocked off Chicago, St, Louis and Anaheim. I'll say Pittsburgh in 6, but there will be no wagers. 

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

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Rider Transactions

The Saskatchewan Roughriders announced the following roster moves:


·       International wide receiver Ahmad Fulwood
·       International defensive back Warren Gatewood
·       International defensive back Cedric Hill
·       International defensive lineman Ja’Boree Poole


·       National offensive lineman Logan Ferland (Regina Thunder)
·       National running back Logan Fischer (Saskatoon Hilltops)


·       International offensive lineman Derek Dennis
·       International wide receiver Bakari Grant

##Both are tending to personal matters in Calgary. The Riders say they will miss one or two days of camp.


·       National safety Marc-Olivier Brouillette
·       National running back Aaron Milton

Riders Trade Armanti Edwards To Toronto

The Saskatchewan Roughriders have acquired national offensive lineman Peter Dyakowski from the Toronto Argonauts in exchange for international wide receiver Armanti Edwards.

 Dyakowski (6’5 – 320) is entering his 11th season after originally being selected by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the second round (11th overall) of the 2006 CFL Draft. Through ten seasons with the Tiger-Cats, the 33-year-old Vancouver native played in 148 regular season games, with 131 starts. He also added ten playoff games and two Grey Cup appearances.

Dyakowski had signed with the Toronto Argonauts as a free agent in February, 2017.

He was named a 2012 East Division All-Star and received nomination as the Tiger-Cats Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman in 2011.

Pats F Sam Steel Takes Home CHL Award

Photo: Keith Hershmiller

Windsor – The Canadian Hockey League today announced the 10 national award winners for the 2016-17 season including Chicago Blackhawks prospect Alex DeBrincat of the Erie Otters who earned Sportsnet CHL Player of the Year honours.

A trio of Western Hockey League representatives brought home hardware from the national awards, including Nolan Patrick (Brandon Wheat Kings/Sherwin-Williams Top Prospect Award), Sam Steel (Regina Pats/Chrysler Top Scorer Award) and Tyler Wong (Lethbridge Hurricanes/Mastercard Humanitarian of the Year Award).

The awards were presented as part of the 2017 Mastercard Memorial Cup festivities in Windsor.

2016-17 CHL Award Winners:

Sherwin-Williams Top Prospect Award: Nolan Patrick, Brandon Wheat Kings
Brandon Wheat Kings captain Nolan Patrick is listed number one in NHL Central Scouting’s Final Rankings for the 2017 NHL Draft in Chicago.  The 18-year-old forward from Winnipeg, MB, wrapped up his third WHL season with 20 goals and 26 assists for 46 points limited to just 33 games played due to injury.  He is the first WHL player to earn this award since Seth Jones of the Portland Winterhawks in 2013, and could be the first western Canadian to be chosen first overall since Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Red Deer Rebels in 2011.  Finalists for the award include Nico Hischier of the Halifax Mooseheads who was listed second by NHL Central Scouting, and Gabe Vilardi of the Windsor Spitfires ranked fourth.

Chrysler Top Scorer Award: Sam Steel, Regina Pats
Anaheim Ducks prospect Sam Steel led the CHL with 131 points in 66 games played scoring 50 goals and 81 assists along with a plus-minus rating of plus-49 helping the Regina Pats to a first place finish atop the WHL’s regular season standings.  The 19-year-old from Sherwood Park, AB, delivered the CHL’s highest point total since Brendan Shinnimin of the Tri-City Americans recorded 134 points in 69 games played during the 2011-12 campaign.  Finalists for the award were Chicago Blackhawks prospect Alex DeBrincat of the Erie Otters with 127 points in 63 games, and Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Vitalii Abramov of the Gatineau Olympiques who scored 104 points in 66 games this season.

BRP Sportsman of the Year Award: Nick Suzuki, Owen Sound Attack
2017 NHL Draft prospect Nick Suzuki of the Owen Sound Attack finished fifth in OHL scoring with 96 points including 45 goals and 51 assists in 65 games played with a plus-minus rating of plus-51 while recording just 10 penalty minutes.  The 17-year-old from London, ON, is listed tenth by NHL Central Scouting and helped the Attack secure franchise best marks of 49 wins and 102 points this season.  Finalists for the award were Tyler Steenbergen of the Swift Current Broncos and Hugo Roy of the Sherbrooke Phoenix.

Mastercard Humanitarian of the Year Award: Tyler Wong, Lethbridge Hurricanes
Lethbridge Hurricanes captain Tyler Wong is the CHL’s Humanitarian of the Year after being named a finalist for the award last season, establishing himself as an exceptional ambassador for his team and the league both on and off the ice.  The 21-year-old from Cochrane, AB, carried forward the ‘Canes KidSport program he introduced a year ago which donates $5 to KidSport Lethbridge & Taber for each goal he scores.  Powered by 51 goals of his own and with the help from teammates, alumni, and the community, the initiative surpassed all expectations and raised over $13,000 this season.  Finalists for the award were Garrett McFadden of the Guelph Storm and two-time nominee Samuel Laberge of the Rimouski Oceanic.

CIBC Scholastic Player of the Year Award: Sasha Chmelevski, Ottawa 67’s
2017 NHL Draft prospect Sasha Chmelevski of the Ottawa 67’s achieved a 98% average across his six Grade 12 courses through Michigan’s Virtual Charter Academy.  The 17-year-old from Northville, Michigan, also scored 21 goals and 22 assists for 43 points in 58 games appearing 43rd among North American players listed by NHL Central Scouting.  Finalists for the award were Brian King of the Everett Silvertips and Antoine Samuel of the Baie-Comeau Drakkar.

Sofina Brian Kilrea Coach of the Year Award: Ryan McGill, Owen Sound Attack
Ryan McGill led the Owen Sound Attack to an all-time franchise best record of 49-15-2-2 for 102 points surpassing the club’s previous highs of 46 wins and 97 points set during the 2010-11 season.  The 48-year-old from Sherwood Park, AB, helped the Attack become the league’s most improved team in just his second season behind the bench increasing their win total by 17 and point total by 27 while establishing a franchise record 15-game winning-streak and surrendering an OHL-low 177 goals against.  McGill was previously nominated for this award in 2013 during his tenure with the Kootenay Ice.  Finalists for the award were John Paddock of the Regina Pats and Danny Flynn of the Saint John Sea Dogs.

CCM Rookie of the Year Award: Nico Hischier, Halifax Mooseheads
2017 NHL Draft prospect Nico Hischier of the Halifax Mooseheads led all rookies in scoring with 86 points in 57 games including 38 goals and 48 assists.  The 18-year-old from Naters, Switzerland, was chosen sixth overall in the 2016 CHL Import Draft and is listed second in NHL Central Scouting’s final draft rankings.  He becomes the second Moosehead to win the award following current Winnipeg Jet Nikolaj Ehlers in 2014, and will challenge for the NHL’s top pick in June where he would follow 2013 first overall pick and Moosehead grad Nathan MacKinnon who currently stars with the Colorado Avalanche.  Finalists for the award were Aleksi Heponiemi of the Swift Current Broncos and Ryan Merkley of the Guelph Storm.

Vaughn Goaltender of the Year Award: Michael McNiven, Owen Sound Attack
Montreal Canadiens prospect Michael McNiven of the Owen Sound Attack carried a record of 41-9-2-2 including six shutout victories that tied for an OHL-high, while also posting a league-low goals-against-average of 2.30 and save percentage of .915 that ranked sixth overall in the OHL.  The 41 wins by the 19-year-old from Georgetown, ON, led the OHL this season and established a new Attack single season record while his shutout tally brings his three-year career total to 11 which is also a new team mark.  Finalists for the award were Philadelphia Flyers prospect Carter Hart who was the 2015-16 recipient, and Francis Leclerc of the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada.

Superstore Defenceman of the Year Award: Thomas Chabot, Saint John Sea Dogs
Ottawa Senators prospect Thomas Chabot of the Saint John Sea Dogs is the CHL’s Defenceman of the Year after scoring 10 goals and 35 assists for 45 points in just 34 games played.  The 20-year-old from Ste-Marie-de-Beauce, QC, was also a member of Canada’s National Junior Team earning a silver medal and Tournament MVP honours at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship.  The 18th overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft helped the Sea Dogs to a first place finish in the QMJHL this season.  Finalists for the award were Edmonton Oilers prospect Ethan Bear of the Seattle Thunderbirds and Darren Raddysh of the Erie Otters.

Sportsnet Player of the Year Award: Alex DeBrincat, Erie Otters
Chicago Blackhawks prospect Alex DeBrincat of the Erie Otters led the OHL with 127 points in 63 games scoring 65 goals and 62 assists along with a plus-minus rating of plus-60.  The 19-year-old from Farmington Hills, Michigan, helped the Otters capture a second straight regular season title and set a CHL record with their fourth straight 50-win season.  The former CHL Rookie of the Year set a team record for goals in a season while eclipsing the 50-goal and 100-point plateau for the third straight season.  He is the second Otter to win the award in three seasons following current Edmonton Oilers star and NHL Top Scorer Connor McDavid who received the honour in 2015.  Finalists for the award were Anaheim Ducks prospect Sam Steel of the Regina Pats, and Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Vitalii Abramov of the Gatineau Olympiques.

Questions Abound as Rider Training Camp Hits

The wait is over! Rider training camp begins as another season gets underway.  As the excitement for another year gets started, there are questions that need to be asked that will hopefully get answered over the next few weeks as the team gets ready for its season opener against Darian Durant and the Alouettes on June 22.  Here are some of the questions I have going in


  All eyes will be on the former NFL quarterback who hasn't played a competitive football game in many years. Will he be able to understand the Canadian game to continue on as a member of the team moving forward or will the grind of a CFL camp and the nuances of the Canadian game be too much for the former University of Texas standout.  Young looked good at the Florida mini-camp, but we know those camps don't see a lot of 12 on 12 action if any. There is still a lot for Young to learn. I would have to think Kevin Glenn comes in as the starter, but if Young makes the team will he be the backup or the clipboard holder. I would think Brandon Bridge would like Young to hold the clipboard. It will be up to Young to show Chris Jones and Rider Nation what he can do.


  I don't think it is any secret the Rider weakness last year was the offensive line.  They allowed 57 sacks while using 10 bodies. Getting Derek Dennis in free agency should fix that. Having a healthy Brendon Labatte also helps.  How much progress does Josiah St. John take from year 1 to year 2 and is the number one pick overall in the 2016 draft ready to establish himself? I don't think its any secret to think Dennis, Labatte and Dan Clark can be pencilled in as starters, but after that I'm not sure and I don't know if Chris Jones and company know at this time either.


   At the end of the season this wasn't a question, but the tragic shooting of Joe McKnight meant the team had a hole to fill seeing Curtis Steele left via free agency.  Former NFL running back Daniel Thomas and former Bomber Cameron Marshall will vie for that job as will Kienan Lafrance who was brought in via free agency from Ottawa. Lafrance had a break-out game in the Eastern final, and obviously the Riders are hoping that performance was the tip of the iceberg.  Marshall may be the odds-on favourite to start the season.


   This question may have gotten a lot easier with word Saturday afternoon that Marc-Olivier Brouilette has decided to retire. It may answer why the team went out and traded for Mike Edem late in the off-season.. I would have to think Edem is the favourite to take the job now.


    As of the time of this posting, the Riders first round draft pick Cameron Judge is not signed, sealed and delivered. The UCLA linebacker needs to get into camp ASAP much like St. John last year. Losing reps at the start of the camp and not being there with the guys can mean that hill gets steeper and steeper for the rookie. Just ask St. John


    Every year in every camp there are rookies that turn head during camp, and there are rookies that have expectations on them coming in.  I want to see what DB Zavian Bingham can do after having a great Florida rookie camp, and I have heard nothing but great things about receiver Mitchell Baines who will try to fit in to what is an already stacked group of pass-catchers. Obviously, you want to see how Rams receiver and 2017 draft pick Mitch Picton will do with DB's Alfonso Dennard and Erick Dargan being guys that I think have a future with this team moving forward.


  Can that question be answered before camp gets started? I think we need to see a few days of two-a-days and perhaps a game before that can be answered.


   I would think it has to be considering what has happened the last two years. The pressure is on Chris Jones and company. Some believe this team can compete for a playoff spot, but I think the best they can do as it stands today is 3rd place behind BC and Calgary. Are they better right now than Edmonton or Winnipeg? That might be the biggest question of all!

Let the long road to the Grey Cup begin!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Regina Red Sox Season Ready To Go

Related image

The  Regina Red Sox are announcing 2017 Training Camp will begin on Saturday, May 27. The team will be on the field from 3 pm to 6 pm.

From Sunday May 28 to Tuesday May 30, Manager Mitch MacDonald will have his team of the field from 6 pm to 8 pm.

The final day of Red Sox training camp will be Wednesday, May 31 from 4 pm to 6 pm. All practices will be held at Currie Field. Fans are welcome.

The Red Sox home opener is set for Sunday, June 4 when the Yorkton Cardinals visit Currie Field.
First pitch is set for 2:00 pm.

All Regina Red Sox information can be found at 

Riders Sign Some Draft Picks; Getzlaf Going Back To Edmonton

The Saskatchewan Roughriders have signed six of their selections from the 2017 CFL Draft.

Offensive lineman Dariusz Bladek, Eddie Meredith and Marc Glaude, wide receiver Mitchell Picton, linebacker Alexandre Chevrier and defensive lineman Emmanuel Adusei have all signed with the team and are schedule to attend training camp on Sunday, May 28th.

The Roughriders have yet to sign linebacker Cameron Judge (1st round – 2nd overall), receiver Antony Auclair (4th round – 46th overall) and offensive lineman Danny Sprukulis (6th round – 46th overall) from the 2017 draft class.

Auclair is currently with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after signing an NFL rookie contract in April, while Sprukulis is currently tending to a program requirement at the University of Toronto to complete his degree.  

The Riders also announced additional roster moves:


·       National defensive lineman Albert Awachie
·       National defensive lineman Emile Charron-Ligez
·       International defensive lineman Davis Tull
·       International defensive back Sammy Williams


·       National offensive lineman Brendon Philogene (Regina Thunder)
·       National running back Johnathon Thebaud (Regina Thunder)

(Ryan Pollock/Riders PR)


The Edmonton Eskimos have signed free agent, national slotback Chris Getzlaf.
Getzlaf originally joined the Green and Gold in February 2016. Last season, he recorded 41 receptions for 455 yards and two touchdowns in 18 games.
Originally selected by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the 2007 CFL Draft, he was traded to the Saskatchewan Roughriders where he would play for eight seasons.
The two-time West All-Star (2012, 2013) has amassed 6,149 receiving yards on 409 receptions with 40 touchdowns.
A member of two Grey Cup championship teams, Getzlaf was on the practice roster for the 2007 Rider win and named the Most Valuable Canadian in the 2013 Grey Cup victory.

(Edmonton Eskimos)

Monday, May 22, 2017

On Holidays!

Anyone needing me over the next few days could likely find me here.  Enjoy the week!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Memorial Cup Preview

The 2017 Memorial Cup tournament to determine the champion of the Canadian Hockey League will take place at WFCU Centre in Windsor, Ontario, beginning Friday and concluding with the championship game May 28.

The four-team, round-robin tournament includes the host team, Windsor, along with Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champion Saint John, Western Hockey League champion Seattle, and Ontario Hockey League champion Erie.

Since the round-robin format was introduced in 1972, the OHL has won 16 times, including last season when the London Knights won 3-2 in overtime against QMJHL champion Rouyn-Noranda in the championship. Erie eliminated London with a 5-4 overtime win in Game 7 of the 2017 OHL Western Conference Semifinal.

Here's a closer look at the participating teams:


Coach: Kris Knoblauch

Memorial Cup championships: None

How they got here: The Otters went 16-6 in the OHL playoffs on the way to their first OHL championship in 15 years. Erie defeated Sarnia in the first round 4-0; London in the second round 4-3, Owen Sound in the Western Conference Final 4-2 and Mississauga in the J. Ross Robertson Cup 4-1.

NHL prospects: Forwards Alex DeBrincat (Chicago Blackhawks, 2016 NHL Draft, No. 39), Dylan Strome (Arizona Coyotes, 2015, No. 3), Anthony Cirelli (Tampa Bay Lightning, 2015, No. 72), Taylor Raddysh (Tampa Bay Lightning, 2016, No. 58), Warren Foegele (Carolina Hurricanes, 2014, No. 61), Kyle Pettit (Vancouver Canucks, 2014, No. 156); defensemen Jordan Sambrook (Detroit Red Wings, 2016, No. 137), Erik Cernak (Los Angeles Kings, 2015, No. 43),

Top 2017 draft-eligible prospects (CSS final ranking): Forwards Ivan Lodnia (No. 36, North American skaters), German Poddubnyi (No. 130, North American skaters).


Coach: Danny Flynn

Memorial Cup championships: 2011

How they got here: The Seadogs went 16-2 in the playoffs and won the QMJHL championship for the third time (2011, 2012, 2017) in seven seasons. Saint John defeated Rimouski 4-0 in the first round, Val-d'Or in the quarterfinal round 4-0, Chicoutimi in the semifinal round 4-2, and Blainville-Boisbriand in the President's Cup 4-0.

NHL prospects: Forwards Mathieu Joseph (Tampa Bay Lightning, 2015, No. 120), Matthew Highmore (Chicago Blackhawks, 2017, free agent), Spencer Smallman (Carolina Hurricanes, 2015, No. 138), Julien Gauthier (Carolina Hurricanes, 2016, No. 21), Bokondji Imama (Tampa Bay Lightning, 2015, No. 180), Samuel Dove-McFalls (Philadelphia Flyers, 2015, No. 98), Nathan Noel (Chicago Blackhawks, 2016, No. 113); defensemen Thomas Chabot (Ottawa Senators, 2015, No. 18), Simon Bourque (Montreal Canadiens, 2015, No. 177), Jakub Zboril (Boston Bruins, 2015, No. 13); goaltender Callum Booth (Carolina Hurricanes, 2015, No. 93).

Top 2017 draft-eligible prospects (CSS final ranking): Forward Cedric Pare (No. 146, North American skaters); goaltender Alex D'Orio (No. 13, North American goaltenders).


Coach: Steve Konowalchuk

Memorial Cup championships: None

How they got here: The Thunderbirds finished 16-4 in the WHL playoffs and will be making their second appearance in the Memorial Cup in the 40-year history of the franchise. Seattle defeated Tri-City in the first round 4-0, Everett in the second round 4-0, Kelowna in the Western Conference Final 4-2, and Regina in the Ed Chynoweth Cup 4-2.

NHL prospects: Forwards Ryan Gropp (New York Rangers, 2015, No. 41), Mathew Barzal (New York Islanders, 2015, No. 16), Keegan Kolesar (Columbus Blue Jackets, 2015, No. 69); defenseman Ethan Bear (Edmonton Oilers, 2015, No. 124).

Top 2017 draft-eligible prospects (CSS final ranking): Forwards Sami Moilanen (No. 110, North American skaters), Matthew Wedman (No. 210, North American skaters); defenseman Jarret Tyszka (No. 41, North American skaters).


Coach: Rocky Thompson

Memorial Cup championships: 2009, 2010

How they got here: Windsor lost 3-2 to London in Game 7 of the OHL quarterfinal round, but automatically qualify for the Memorial Cup as the tournament host.

NHL prospects: Forwards Jeremy Bracco (Toronto Maple Leafs, 2015, No. 61), c (Ottawa Senators, 2016, No. 11), Graham Knott (Chicago Blackhawks, 2015, No. 54), Julius Nattinen (Anaheim Ducks, 2015, No. 59), Jeremiah Addison (Montreal Canadiens, 2015, No. 207), Cristiano DiGiacinto (Tampa Bay Lightning, 2014, No. 170); defensemen Mikhail Sergachev (Montreal Canadiens, 2016, No. 9), Logan Stanley (Winnipeg Jets, 2016, No. 18), Jalen Chatfield (Vancouver Canucks, 2017, FA), Sean Day (New York Rangers, 2016, No. 81).

Top 2017 draft-eligible prospects (CSS final ranking): Forwards Gabriel Vilardi (No. 4, North American skaters), Lucas Boka (No. 201, North American skaters), Cole Purboo (No. 189, North American skaters); goaltender Michael DiPietro (No. 4, North American goalies).

2017 Memorial Cup schedule

May 19: Saint John vs. Windsor (7 p.m. ET, SN, TVA Sports; 8 p.m. ET, NHLN)
May 20: Erie vs. Seattle (3 p.m. ET, SN, TVA Sports; 7 p.m. ET, NHLN)
May 21: Windsor vs. Seattle (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, TVA Sports)
May 22: Erie vs. Saint John (7 p.m. ET, SN, TVA Sports; 8 p.m. ET, NHLN)
May 23: Seattle vs. Saint John (7 p.m. ET, SN, TVA Sports; 8 p.m. ET, NHLN)
May 24: Windsor vs. Erie (7 p.m. ET, SN, TVA Sports; 9 p.m. ET, NHLN)
May 25: Tiebreaker, if necessary (7 p.m. ET, SN, TVA Sports; 8 p.m., NHLN)
May 26: Semifinal (7 p.m. ET, SN, TVA Sports; 8 p.m. ET, NHLN)
May 28: Final (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, TVA Sports)

(Canadian Hockey League)

This And That

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

--After the defeat of the Edmonton Oilers in Round 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs, and the Regina Pats in Game 6 of the WHL final, my hockey interest has gone out the window.  I can't be the only one who spent Monday night thinking I should be at the Brandt Centre.

--Was Islanders coach Doug Weight really at the Brandt Centre for Game 6?  I was told he was. I'm not buying it.  If he was, I missed Oilers royalty.  Number 39 was a favourite for this guy.

--Thank you Adam Brooks!  I can only wonder where this kid would be in all-time Pats lore if he had been allowed to get some solid ice time in his first few years as a Pat.  Chances are Brooks wouldn't have a shot at the NHL if it weren't for John Paddock who saw what coaches before him didn't.  It was tough watching that kid say good-bye on Tuesday as the Pats cleaned out the room.  The best Pats captain I have seen is Rick Rypien, but Brooks has to be near the top of that ladder.  If the Toronto Marlies aren't playing in the AHL playoffs next May, I am guessing number 77 will be back at the Brandt Centre watching his junior team compete for the Memorial Cup.  Some are wondering if Brooks is one of the all-time best Pats. Nothing against Adam, but I can't go that far.  You certainly can't take away what he did here though especially over he last two years.

--What will the Pats look like next year? Brooks, Dawson Leedahl and Chase Harrison are gone. Connor Hobbs, Austin Wagner and Filip Ahl may not be back. The same could be said for Sam Steel. Is Tyson Jost a possibility? That is a question no one seems to know the answer to.  John Paddock was on the Sportscage Tuesday and admitted he doesn't even know what the situation is as he has heard many different things about what happens to Jost if he fails to crack the Avalanche.  Joe Sakic could make it easy for everyone and keep him in Denver, but if he doesn't what happens? An answer on that is needed right away.   FWIW:  I think Wagner is back as a 20. I would be more confident in that if Darryl Sutter was still the coach in L-A as the Kings will shed some of their older players which could create room in the minors for Wagner, but I somehow think he will back. Time will tell!

--Home ice advantage? PFFFT.   The home team was 44-41 in the WHL Playoffs this year.

--This won't be a popular statement, but Yorkton's Turner Ottenbreit could play on my team anytime. The guy is an old-school defenceman who can hit and hit hard. You have to be accountable when on the ice and know where he is. Guys from Erie, Saint John and Windsor will find that out over the next week.  Imagine him as a 20 year old on the Pats next season!  I doubt that happens, but you never know.

--People think the Ottawa Senators are boring.  Go watch the NBA playoffs then if that is your take. They may not be high-flying like the Hawks, Oilers or Penguins, but it's working and they just might be in the Stanley Cup. Did you know Ottawa has made more appearances in a conference final over the last 20 years out of the Canadian teams. Absorb that for a few moments. Yes, those Ottawa Senators could be Canada's best team over the past two decades. Again, let that sink in for a bit.

--Jose Bautista, what are you thinking? Down 8-3 to Atlanta  in the 7th, Jose was Jose by doing another batflip,  Sorry, guys batting less than 200 on a team that is in last place in the division and is down 5 don't do batflips. I wouldn't even endorse that if it were a Cub doing it.

 At least he was somewhat apologetic after Wednesday's game.  It's no secret I have no time for this guy, and this is just another reason why.  His ego is just off the charts.  I really don't know why because he isn't and hasn't been one of the game's best.  No one wanted this guy in the off-season so the Jays took sympathy on him.  If he keeps playing the way is batting under 200, his Jays career will officially end come the beginning of October.

As for Kevin Pillar, that one shocked me. In the heat of the battle whether it be on the diamond, the court or the field, things are said that shouldn't be. 10-15 years ago no one would have batted an eyelash at what Pillar said to Motte, but in these times you can't say that anymore.  He has handled this in a very classy like fashion. As some have said though, how you act now isn't the key, it is how you react the next time. That is true. 

-- Riders training camp is now less than two weeks away.  Are you ready Saskatoon? Are you ready Rider Nation?  Of course you are. What is the expectation Rider Nation? Kevin Glenn told a conference call this week they are Grey Cup calibre. Some believe they aren't even a playoff team. I think they'll be better, but I don't know if they are a playoff team. At this juncture, they certainly aren't in the same stratosphere as the Lions and Stamps.  All CFL fans know though that you don't crown a champion in mid-May.

--Tom Brady really needs to tell his wife to zip it. Maybe Bill Belichick needs to tell Brady to tell Gisele to zip it. Why on earth would she say her husband played the season with a concussion. Does she not know what type of firestorm that would and has created.  Did Belichick extend and ignore the rules again? Does anyone in New England really care?  They would if the Patriots were 5-11.

--Six weeks into the baseball season and your division leaders are the Yankees, Minnesota and Houston in the American League and Washington, Milwaukee and Colorado in the National League,  ????? Houston and Washington might have been the only teams I would have put in there. If it's like this in August, there will be a lot of good teams having questions asked of them.

--That's all I got. Have a great long weekend! The summer starts now

Monday, May 15, 2017

John Chick Signs Contract Extension With Ti-Cats

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The Hamilton Tiger-Cats announced Monday that the football club has signed international defensive end John Chick to a contract extension through the 2018 CFL season.

“John’s performance last season proved that he is still an elite and impactful player in this league,” said Tiger-Cats Vice-President of Football Operations and Head Coach Kent Austin. “His professionalism, intensity level and the way he prepares himself on a daily basis both mentally and physically is infectious to our locker room. We’re very excited to have a player of his calibre locked up through 2018.”

Chick, 34, started all 18 regular season games and the Eastern Semi-Final for the Tiger-Cats in 2016, and was named a CFL All-Star and Hamilton’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player in his first year with the team. The 6-4, 253-pound product of Utah State finished the season tied for second in CFL sacks (14) and tied for third in forced fumbles (4), while adding 40 defensive tackles, four tackles for a loss, two fumble recoveries and five pass knock downs.

In seven CFL seasons with the Saskatchewan Roughriders (2007-09, 2013-15) and Tiger-Cats (2016), Chick has registered 210 defensive tackles, 67 quarterback sacks, 24 tackles for loss, one interception, 14 forced fumbles and eight fumble recoveries in 109 career games. The native of Gillette, Wyoming, is a three-time CFL All-Star, previously earning the honours with the Roughriders in 2009 and 2014. He is also a two-time Grey Cup Champion (2007, 2013) and was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player in 2009.

Something To "Mitch" About

A "TRUE" HEARTBREAKER -  So much for a Game 7 at the Brandt Centre.  With 7 minutes left, it looked as if the Regina Pats were going to send the WHL Final to a deciding game, but as they have so many times in this final, the Seattle Thunderbirds showed they wanted it more and as a result, they are headed to the MasterCard Memorial Cup in Windsor starting Friday.

The difference in this series was the fact the T-Birds simply never ever stopped. In Game 5, the Pats were up 2-0, but Seattle roared back to tie it at 2.  That to me was the turning point of this series.

With 6:48 to go and needing a win to send it to Game 7, the Pats just weren't strong enough to stem the tide and when Seattle tied it at 17:06 I had a bad feeling.  It set the stage for Alexander True to win it for the T-Birds in OT crushing the Pats dream.  They just seemed hungrier. Whether or not it was the fact they lost the final last year or something else, the T-Birds just seemingly wanted it more.

It's a tough lesson for John Paddock's crew to take, but perhaps they will have an opportunity to take that lesson into next year and use it to their advantage when they host the Memorial Cup next year.  Of course they will do it without Adam Brooks, Dawson Leedahl and Chase Harrison, but this team will be good next year.  They may not be 52 wins good, but there is no reason to think John Paddock and crew will have this team back in the hunt again.

This one stings, but in the end Regina, you have a hockey team you have been dreaming to see for a long time and they aren't going away.

CITY OF CHAMPIONS -  Do the fine people in Ottawa need to steal that moniker from Edmonton.  The REDBLACKS are Grey Cup champs, the Senators are trying to get to the Stanley Cup championship, Rachel Homan's curling rink are Canadian and world champs, and Carleton seemingly wins the USports Canada men's basketball championship every year.   Do you think the NHL wants to see Ottawa in the final when it comes to TV numbers in the states. Having Anaheim oppose them as they did a decade ago would at least have a large market in the final, but I would think an Ottawa-Nashville final wouldn't draw many to their TV's south of the border.  In Canada, we will watch no matter who is in the final, but we all know the U-S is a different story.

By the way, do Leafs fans care considering the rise they took this year that Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf are opposing one another in this series. I wouldn't think so.

GIVE NOAH A CHANCE -  Message to all 9 CFL teams.  Someone draft Noah Picton in the 2018 CFL Draft and give him a meaningful chance to be a member of your team moving forward.  Yes, I know that is a tall task to ask since CFL teams don't look at the talent at the game's most important position but rather the birth certificate instead.  The 2016 Canadian University football MVP went out Saturday and won the MVP honours at the East-West bowl where players for the 2018 draft will be eligible.

At the combine, Picton was making all the throws that had to be made. He has shown what he can do at the University level and will likely have another fine season in front of him as the Rams look to finish first in Canada West for a second straight season.

He deserves the opportunity. Do I realistically think he will get it? NOPE!  I've said it once, and I'll say it again. If Picton and other Canadian QB's  past and present went to school in the U-S, they would be looked at seriously. If Brandon Bridge had gone to school in Canada, he wouldn't be in the CFL right now.

I know its far down the  list on priorities for the league, but they must find a way to get the "Canadian" quarterback into the "Canadian" Football League.

SALUTING THE CAPTAIN -- Derek Jeter will never go down as one of the best players in the history of baseball, but he does go down as one of the greatest New York Yankees to have ever played the game.  The long-time shortstop of the Yankees who did many great things including 5 World Series titles in a 20 year career got his due Sunday as the team retired number 2.  All that is left now is a trip to Cooperstown.

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In a city that has swallowed up numerous athletes, Jeter did it right.  The guy is pure class. Those who aren't Yankee fans had to respect what Number 2 meant not only to the Bronx Bombers but baseball as a whole.  He had a flair for the dramatich which was stamped in his final at-bat which was a game-winning hit.

He penned his own thank you to New York, and in only the way Jeter can, he hit a homer with it.

By the way, it was somewhat ironic that the Yankees had the retirement ceremony in between games of a doubleheader needed because of a rainout Saturday.  I guess the baseball gods wanted the Yankees to play "2" on Sunday.

WHAT NOW -  The Thunderbirds win was also the last WHL game on SHAW.  Thanks to some extremely short-sighted decisions by suits, it has been decided that coverage of the WHL along with Canada West Football is no more.

The big loser in that are both the WHL and Canada West Football along with you the fan. You got to see other players and other teams that you don't see thanks to the hard-work of the people at SHAW.

 You can't tell me that Canada West Football didn't see a record amount of players drafted because scouts had more of an opportunity to watch games along with film. You also can't tell me that more people became invested in the WHL because of what SHAW has done over the last many years bringing us games we would otherwise not see.  Both need someone to step up and pick up the ball.  Fingers are crossed, but once again there is the stark reality that sports fans in Western Canada have perhaps seen the end of the road of two properties that deserve the coverage they have received and more.

With 5 TSN's and numerous SNET's, it baffles me as to why Canada can't have a sports channel to showcase its amateur athletes and leagues,   It's something we could ask decades down the road as well, as we all know that sadly won't happen.

That's all I got, Have a great week and thank you to the Regina Pats for once again giving the Queen City a team we can be proud of moving forward.