Saturday, July 22, 2017

Players To Watch

The Riders look to go to 2-2 tonight in Calgary as they battle the Stampeders in a Western Division showdown.

Here are some players to watch for on both sides

KEVIN GLENN -- The Riders quarterback should surpass the 50,000 career yards passing mark tonight as he is just 116 yards away.  It should cement KG as one of the best ever passers to play professional football as he will become the 7th CFL quarterback, and the 13th overall to reach that milestone. Glenn goes into tonight leading the CFL in completion percentage at 72.8 percent.

DURON CARTER --  Is this the night?  In three games, Carter has caught a rather pedestrian 14 passes for 144 yards.  There is no doubt Carter is a game-breaker and can flip field position with one play.  The matchup between him and Calgary's Tommie Campbell could arguably be the  best one on the field tonight.  If Carter wins that matchup, the Riders could very well pull off an upset.

CHARLESTON HUGHES --  The Stampeders get what arguably is their main man on defence back for this one as Hughes comes back onto the roster after missing two games with a leg injury. The CFL's reigning sack king has been exchanging words with former teammate Derek Dennis this week. If he can get to Glenn and disrupt his rhythm, it will be a good sign for the Stamps.

KIENAN LAFRANCE --  The free agent pickup makes his first appearance on the roster after being bothered by an injury suffered in training camp.  Chris Jones says he will play special teams, but one has to think we will see him spell off Cameron Marshall a tine or two.  The Riders showed against Hamilton that they are a more diversified offence when running the football and Marshall/Lafrance could be a nice 1-2 punch.

JEROME MESSAM --  It is somewhat hard to fathom tthat the beast that is Jerome Messam is averaging just over 3 yards a carry. That could be one of the reasons Calgary is struggling  out of the gate. I am guessing the Stamps may want to rectify this meaning the Rider D could get a solid dose of number 33 running the rock. It will be a big test for Zach Minter and Eddie Steele in the middle of that Rider d-line to keep Messam in check.

Depth Charts for Saturday's Riders-Calgary Game


620 CKRM's coverage begins at 4 with Rod Pedersen and Luc Mullinder having the play-by-play at 7 

Friday, July 21, 2017

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.

Image result for spy vs spy

--"Spy Games" goes tomorrow night in Calgary, and I can't wait.  The Riders don't like the Stampeders, the Stampeders don't like the Riders. A green wave will once again descend on MacMahon Stadium, and both coaches are treating this Week 5 game like a playoff contest by closing practices so things don't get "leaked".  It's a little far-fetched to think fans are divulging secrets, but hey whatever sells tickets works for me. 

The Riders are better than last year, and Calgary isn't as good as last year.  While it is early, the Stamps seem to be missing something from last year when they ran roughshod over the league until the Grey Cup game.  Will this translate into a Riders win? One would have to think the Stamps will win at home, but I will say the Riders will cover the 11 and a half point spread.  Yes, Calgary could add a late TD to make it a double-digit win, but I think Bo Levi and crew are in for a tough game against an opponent that gives them nightmares no matter their record. 

--Riders head coach Chris Jones has the quote of the year in the CFL so far this year for his "We had more fans in the stands today (for Tuesday's practice) than Toronto has fans. Some have said that was an unnecessary shot against the Argos and are condeming him (surprise, surprise!) while others are taking it for what it was which was humour.  It was a well-played dig, and he wasn't really wrong was he? We all know fan support in Toronto is disgraceful. 

--Can someone please tell me what Dave Dickenson was trying to accomplish when he told Calgary radio station QR77 on Monday night that he thought the Riders had  a good team last year with the exception of their QB play?  Why is Dickenson taking a shot at the now-departed Darian Durant. The same Darian Durant that beat his Stampeders one week ago!  If he had said, they had bad o-line play or a bad secondary I could understand it, but taking a poke at a player who is no longer here. I don't get it! 

--Another thing I don't get is fans (smokers) who are railing on the Riders for the fact they put out an edict this week reminding people Mosaic Stadium is now smoke-free. Why is that? It's a City of Regina bylaw.  A city of Regina bylaw and not a Riders one. It's also a bylaw this non-smoker wholeheartedly endorses.  If it's a city bylaw, the Riders are simply adhering to it. Do you want them to not abide by this?  The hate of the smoker is being directed at the wrong folk. 

--There is also a furour over the fact once you leave,  you can't get back in. IT WASN"T LIKE THAT BEFORE!!! claim many.  Guess what? Things change, deal with it! Many other stadiums have this policy in place. Every NFL, NHL and MLB game I have seen over the last few years whether it be at Rogers Place, Bell Centre, Target Field, Wrigley Field, CenturyLink Field, the now no-more Metrodome, you are not allowed to leave once you enter. Its a safety thing!!  It's the same reason you get your bag searched, and its the same reason many venues give you souvenirs in a clear plastic bag. How easy would it be for someone to say oh, I forgot something and come back into the stadium whether it be here or anywhere with a weapon he or she has hidden hoping security will go "Oh I remember him/her. you're good and then chaos breaks out. 

Yes, the chances of that ever happening in Regina are slim, but if it did, questions would be asked about why fans weren't protected. Things change! Get used to it. It could be worse. Once again, the anger for this is a little unwarranted.  Do you say the same thing when going through the airport? Yes I do, but I understand why it's being done.  Bottom line, settle down and don't let the little things consume you as they seemingly are with some.

--Through 4 1/2 weeks of the CFL season, as a fan you can't say you are not seeing good games. Wednesday's game in Ottawa went right down to the wire and so did last night's game between the Eskimos and Ti-Cats. What a letdown by the Tabbies.  Despite another night of shoddy o-line play, Hamilton had a chance to win until late in the 4th quarter when Mike Reilly said enough was enough.  A win by the Ti-Cats (or Spy-Cats as RP has joked) would have tightened things up in the East and he West.  Perhaps Derek Meyers wasn't wrong when he said the gap between top and bottom in the league has shrunk significantly in the last year.  There seemingly isn't a lot between the top team and the worst one in the CFL.

Of the 18 games in the league this year, 13 have been decided by 8 or less. You can't ask for much better than that as a fan. A majority of the games including the two this week are coming right down to the end which I think is what you want in the end.

--Football of another kind comes to Mosaic Stadium on Saturday. I'm looking forward to seeing the New York Cosmos take on Valencia CF in the first ( and what won't be the last) international friendly. Say what you will about the game, but its popularity is increasing in our country by the day with more and more kids playing.  There is talk about a new league setting up a franchise in either Regina or Saskatoon. Former Rush prez Lee Genier is one of the people trying to make it happen. That guy knows what he's doing, so don't bet against him. Lee is scheduled to join me in the Cage at 605 Friday nightt to talk about it before a meeting at O'Hanlons at 7.

--It would only be fitting if Al Cowlings picked up OJ Simpson once he is paroled and drove him home would it not?

--People are talking about the home runs being hit in baseball and whether or not the ball is "juiced". How about the fact there are many more young stars in the game than before who can make you pay for a mistake.  Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Kris Bryant, Cody Bellinger, Aaron Judge, Miguel Sano and Jose Altuve are just some of the names that will carry baseball for the next many years. There is a lot of talent on the field, and that is being shown by the increased numbers and interest in the game. You won't see me complaining about it.

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

Monday, July 17, 2017

Lulay Gets Start for BC This Week

The news about Jonathon Jennings’ wounded shoulder probably couldn’t be much better for the B.C. Lions.
After an MRI, the Leos’ star pivot appears to be in clear.
Jennings told reporters Monday at the team’s training facility in Surrey that his range of motion was already better than the day before.

Head coach Wally Buono said he was “relieved” at the news.
The Lions host the Blue Bombers on Friday; Travis Lulay is slated to start.
The veteran put up the best-ever performance by a backup on Saturday, after he came in early in the game in relief of Jennings.
Lulay threw for 436 yards after relieving Jennings, who hurt his shoulder on the first play from scrimmage.

(Vancouver Province) 

Why Are So Many HR's Being Hit In Baseball?

Image result for giancarlo stanton home run

Home run hitters have always had great nicknames like The Sultan of Swat, Hammerin’ Hank and The Big Hurt.
And, now, Scooter.
Cincinnati utilityman Scooter Gennett — whose given name is Ryan — last month became the 17th player in major league history to hit four homers in a game, accomplishing the feat in a Reds win over St. Louis.
“For a guy like me to have done it, it’s amazing,” Gennett told reporters afterwards. “It’s maybe a little bit short of a miracle.”
Not this season, in what seems destined to go down as “The Year of the Homer.”
At the All-Star break, 3,343 home runs had been hit this season in the major leagues (15 of them from Scooter, by the way). That pace would produce 6,126 homers, which would not just break but obliterate the record 5,693 homers hit in 2000 season during the height of the Steroid Era.
At least this time around it’s the ball that’s suspected of being juiced and not the players (a topic addressed elsewhere today in these pages).
“There’s just something different about the baseballs,’’ Miami reliever Brad Ziegler said in a recent USA Today story. “I don’t have anything to quantify it, but the balls just don’t feel the same. It just feels different to me, a little harder, tighter than the past. ...
“Balls aren’t moving as much. And they’re being hit a long ways. Basically, it feels like every park is Colorado.’’
New York Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen, in the same story, said, “There’s a lot of people unhappy with the baseball, and I’m getting the same feedback. You’re seeing guys going opposite field, breaking their bats, and the balls are flying out.
“It’s the balls. They’re throwing harder with it, but they’re getting less movement, so they’re just hanging there.
“There has got to be some investigation.’’
Speaking to the Baseball Writers Association of America hours before last week's all-star game, Commissioner Rob Manfred said they have “done more testing on the baseballs in the last few years than (ever), and we know with certainty the baseball falls within the specifications that have existed for many years.”
Added Manfred: “We are in the process of trying to come to a conclusion as to what is going on.”
MLB uses Rawlings balls that are produced by hand at a factory in Costa Rica. The balls that don’t meet minimum standards are pulled aside, stamped with the word “PRACTICE” on them and used for BP.
Balls have been produced to exacting specifications — 9 to 9.25 inches in circumference and 5 to 5.25 ounces in weight — for more than a century. They still have a cushion cork center and four layers of tightly-wound wool wrapped with two strips of horsehide that is secured with 108 stitches.

“To be honest, I haven’t noticed anything (with the ball),” Padres starting pitcher Clayton Richard said. “I think the game constantly advances and it’s ever adapting, and pitching becomes more difficult, as I’m sure hitting does. It’s a game of adjustments. To me, it doesn’t seem like it’s changed much.”
Walking through Padres clubhouse during the discussion was first baseman Wil Myers, who said: “Strikeouts and home runs, baby! It’s what we’re about.”
He’s right.
Interestingly enough, this HR explosion has occurred just after homers had dropped to their lowest level since MLB expanded to its present 30 teams — with only 4,186 hit in 2014.
That year, Baltimore’s Nelson Cruz led the majors with 40 homers. The most 40-homer seasons in history was in 2000 when 16 players did it. Nine players did it in 2015 and eight players last season.
This year, there were 24 players with at least 20 homers — led by New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge with 30 — and were roughly at a 40-homer pace at the All-Star break.
The surge in home runs has brought an even greater increase in strikeouts, which have gone up every year since 2006. There were a record 38,982 strikeouts last season. Hitters are on pace to surpass the 40,000 mark this year.
By comparison, there were 31,356 strikeouts in 2000 when the HR record was set.

“Everything that research shows is we’re not (juicing the balls),” Padres Executive Chairman Ron Fowler said during a radio interview this week. “I think part of it is that guys are all or nothing. That’s the mentality. I don’t know if I necessarily agree with it. I like balls in play, but there are fewer balls in play and more home runs and more strikeouts.
“I like (Paul) Goldschmidt, for instance, from the Diamondbacks. He changes his approach at the plate when he has two strikes. He might be a free swinger on the first two, but after that he puts the ball in play. There’s a lot to be said for it.”
Much more is said these days about launch angle and exit velocity. Players are swinging for the fences and don’t seem to mind much if they swing and miss.
Richard, for one, has noticed different approaches at the plate.
“It seems as if hitters’ holes have changed,” he said. “Four, five years ago, you tried to stay down with everything and you’d be right. Now, a lot of guys’ holes are at the top of the strike zone. It’s changing all the time.”
Among the revelations in a recent story by The Ringer was that there has been a significant increase in the home run rate per batted ball.
“That increase coincided with a significant rise in the average exit velocity of batted balls,” the Ringer story said, “which largely explained the extra home runs but effectively replaced one mystery with another, leaving us wondering instead why balls were leaving bats with such speed.”
Back to the ball. Is it wound tighter? Are the seams lower (explaining why more pitchers have complained about blisters)? Or, what?
“That’s something for a scientist to figure out,” Padres reliever Craig Stammen said. “There are a lot more home runs. I think the hitters’ approach is a lot different. ...
“I mean, it could be the baseballs. I’m not denying that. But I don’t know. I can’t speak on something I don’t know anything about. I’m just out there to pitch, and whatever baseballs they give us I’m happy to use.”

(San Diego Union-Tribune) 

Something To "Mitch" About

NEW NUMBER ONE ON CFL LADDER  -- Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, for the past few years there has been no denying the Calgary Stampeders have been the best team in the CFL.  Yes. they aren't the defending champs thanks to Ottawa in last year's Grey Cup, but after what I saw this past weekend, they are no longer atop the CFL throne.  When this week's power rankings come out, I would not be surprised to see the BC Lions atop the pack.

Say what you will, and yes Edmonton may have a claim to that #1 spot as they are the lone unbeaten, but BC is the top team after four weeks if you ask me.  Playing three straight games out east and winning all three of them is huge. To cap it off with Travis Lulay throwing for over 400 yards shows you the Lions can do it with their number 2 quarterback.  It is not known how long Jonathan Jennings will be out of the lineup for after injuring his shoulder, but if he is out for a while the Lions can rest easy knowing Lulay can do the job.

As for the Stampeders, well they showed us a thing or two as well.  First off, let's be clear. This team is not as good as last years. At least not yet.  They were a fortunate call from getting a tie in Ottawa and they didn't deserve to win in Montreal. There is still a long ways to go in this season, and yes they will be in a growly mood when they play the Riders, but we know they don't like playing Saskatchewan in MacMahon because of the tractor factor.  I'm guessing and hoping Chris Jones will be looking at the film of the Alouettes game and the first half of last year's Grey Cup to see what can be done to confuse the MOP.  I'm not calling for the upset, but I like the Rider  chances a little more after seeing what transpired this week.

Those chances might go up a little more if the league decides to hand out some further discipline to Jerome Messam. After getting kicked out of Friday's game for what was a stupid play, would the CFL suspend him? I'm guessing the answer is no, but who knows! This is the CFL after all!

AMBROSIE GETS AN "A" --  CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie showed us Friday he gets it.  Ambrosie was in Winnipeg Thursday night when a PR stunt blew up in the league's face.  The penalty that shouldn't have been called, and resulted in a Winnipeg woman losing one million dollars had headlines across North America. Ambrosie realized this, and he acted.

He, and the league, turned what could have been a PR nightmare into a positive by awarding Karen Kuldys and her family a trip to Grey Cup. It's a small way of saying you're sorry for the officiating and the fact they jobbed her out of the cash she deserved.  The Bombers, the CFL, Safeway and Air Miles also hopped on board to make it better for this woman and themselves.  Without admitting the call was wrong, the league and its partners gave what was a bad story for the league a good ending.  Would Jeffery Orridge had done this? I don't even know if he would have been aware of it if the truth be known.

I like the way this guy is starting out, and CFL fans should too.  He could have taken the "oh well" attitude, but he didn't. He was proactive on what took place, and he should be recognized for that as should Wade Miller and the Bombers.

Some asked if the Riders would do the same thing if they were in that position. Absolutely!  Wayne Morsky and Craig Reynolds might have done something before the CFL did. It likely would have been the same gift as what the Bombers were giving, but they would have done it.  Despite what some have said, the Riders still realize how important its fan-base is and what they mean to this organization. The team does what it can to look after its fans. Sometimes it can't happen, but most times it does.

RUN THE BALL AND GOOD THINGS HAPPEN -   The lone unbeaten team in the CFL are the Edmonton Eskimos.  During Saturday's game, TSN's Derek Taylor, who you can hear every Wednesday on the Sportscage, sent out a tweet showing the pass to run ratio.  The Eskimos are the closest to 50-50 as they pass 58 percent of the time.  Running the football has made Edmonton a little more dangerous.  We saw what happened with the Riders offence against Hamilton when Cameron Marshall started touching the football. Yes, the CFL is a pass-happy league, but "W"s might be more achievable by "pounding the rock"!

CRYING IN YOUR BEER -  I just want to make sure I have this right.  There are one group of Rider fans who are upset over the beer prices at Mosaic Stadium.  There are another group of people upset because they can't drink craft beer.  Is there a group out there that wouldn't pay the high price for a craft beer? You can get Great Western beer at the Brandt Centre during Pats season, but you can't get a Molsons product. Damn you Pats, you don't sell Molson products. How dare you!! The Riders moved to Pepsi this year from Coke. Are Coke fans outraged? I'm not the beer connoisseur that others are, but give me a beer and most times I'm happy.  It can be a Coors, it can be a Kokanee, it can be a Mus Knuckle, something from Rebellion or whatever.

FEDERER -  Roger Federer's legacy grew a little on Sunday as he won his 8th Wimbledon mens singles title.  Federer has to be getting up there as one of the world's greatest athletes if he isn't already there.  He went through the entire tournament without losing a set.  That is beyond impressive.

FLOYD & CONOR - What a circus the hype between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor has been as the two criss-cross the continent promoting their August fight.  It has been entertaining to watch these two snipe at one another, but it was a WWE feel to it because the two are flying from stop-to-stop in the same plane.  The hype is worth following because it gives one a chuckle.  The only chuckle from the fight will be those who pay for it.  I just don't see this being worth the oodles and oodles of cash both are going to get.  I also think McGregor win or lose will want Floyd in his domain and will want another fight in the octagon so both can get another huge pay-day. No thanks!

THE FUTURE LOOKS GOOD -  Team Saskatchewan was oh so close to winning gold at the 2017 Football Canada Cup losing on a last second touchdown to Quebec by a score of 10-7. Saskatchewan has seen many good players move on to the next level with more ready to move after a year of university and college ball.  The future looks good.  One has to wonder though when Rams DC Sheldon Gray (head coach of Team Sask) and Rams OC Mark McConkey are going to get a call to the next level.  That statement probably has Rams HC Steve Bryce going SHHHHHHHHH! Good programs have good people!

That's all I got. Have a great week! Would it be too much to ask for 6-12 hours of rain?

Friday, July 14, 2017

Fan Shafted In Touchdown To Win Contest Going to Grey Cup on CFL's Dime

Image result for touchdown to win

Canadian Football League Commissioner Randy Ambrosie spoke with Winnipeg Blue Bomber fan and Safeway and Sobeys’ Touchdown To Win contestant Karen Kuldys today and invited her and her family to attend this year’s 105th Grey Cup presented by Shaw in Ottawa as VIP guests of the League.

“We’re all fans and whatever team you root for, we would all love to see a CFL fan win a million dollars. So we all feel for Karen and what she must have gone through last night, and what she must still be feeling today. I was in Winnipeg for the game and I spoke with her today. On behalf of the CFL, I invited her and her family to come to Grey Cup this year as our guests,” said Randy Ambrosie, the CFL’s Commissioner. “I know Karen’s a Blue Bomber fan and her son plays football, so we spoke with Wade Miller, the President and CEO of the Bombers, this morning. He immediately pledged to provide Karen with Bombers season’s tickets for the rest of this season and next season as well. We all know these things can’t compare to a million dollars but we wanted to do something to let her and her family know that we all wished she could have won last night.”

He added: “It was a very tough call made by our official last night, one that could have gone either way. There are tough calls made all the time in our game because these are world class athletes, moving at tremendous speeds, and we ask our officials to make difficult judgement calls in the blink of an eye, and we have to respect their decisions.”

Safeway and Sobeys’ Touchdown to Win Contest, which awards a Visions $25,000 home theatre package to a contest entrant if one kickoff is returned for touchdown, and a million dollars if a second kickoff is returned for a touchdown in the same game, is part of the grocery chains’ partnership with TSN, which along with RDS is the exclusive broadcaster of the CFL. Today, Sobeys announced that, in addition to the home theatre package, it will provide Karen with free groceries for one year at any Safeway or Sobeys.

“We were thrilled that Karen won a $25,000 home theatre package after one kickoff was returned for a touchdown,” said Lyne Castonguay, Executive Vice President, Sobeys Inc. “And while we can’t reverse a referee’s on-field call, we are delighted to be able to offer Karen a year’s worth of free groceries in addition to the great football offers made by the CFL and the Blue Bombers.”


Madani on latest black mark for CFL and its officials

This morning was business as usual for Karen Kuldys. Her alarm went off before dawn at 4:30 a.m. She got up and went to work at A&W.

This morning, the bigger question is how – or if – Ricky Ray slept last night. You’d have to think the Argos medical staff kept him up until their flight in the wee hours of the morning. He had to have suffered some kind of brain trauma on that despicable, ugly blow to the head from Cory Johnson late in the fourth quarter.

A long-time team executive texted me after the play: “One of the worse (sic) cheap shots I’ve seen.”

He saw it, you saw it, Chris Cuthbert called it, hell, Randy Ambrosie couldn’t have missed it from the executive suite a mile above the play. Yet… yet, another game and another series of blown calls affecting the game’s result and the health of a league’s marquee player.

Was there a peep from the CFL office last night or this morning? One of the last Tweets from the league’s PR director came Thursday and it was about his favourite beers, and nothing was posted after halftime. So, then, back to business as usual for the CFL: head in the sand, hoping the furor will go away with a doubleheader on tap this evening.

Will there be accountability for what happened in Winnipeg? For missing the Johnson hit? For screwing Karen out of a million dollars? For not knowing what down it was, or where the line of scrimmage was, after getting another pass interference call wrong in the end zone?

The incapability of CFL on-field officials has reached the point where players are no longer protected on the field, contradicting the longest standing drinking game the league has. Think how tipsy you’d be if you took a sip every time you hear or read someone from headquarters declare: “player safety is paramount to us.”

It isn’t and it can’t be. Not when Ben Major, promoted to referee this season by Glen Johnson, misses not one but two hits to Ray’s head in the final minutes of regulation. Not when the league went out of its way this winter to give the Argonauts the most accommodating schedule possible, putting other teams (see Ottawa) in a dangerous, disadvantageous position (see three games in 11 days in three different cities) that proves player safety is far from paramount to the RedBlacks.

Understand the politics at play here: the CFL demoted Murray Clarke from referee to field judge, in large part because he missed obvious roughing the passer calls. Protecting the quarterback is a point of emphasis at all levels of football these days, after all, and to the league office that just couldn’t be tolerated.

Now enter Ben Major, Johnson’s handpicked selection. What will the consequence be today, Karen’s million dollars missed notwithstanding? If you’re guessing very little, you probably win the prize. Not the pots and pans that Kuldys first thought were coming her way, either.

Thursday was another opportunity for the CFL. With apologies to NBA Summer League, it was the only pro sporting event being televised in North America. This was a chance to showcase what this game was all about. It was a pretty entertaining get together: two CFL neophytes continuing to electrify on kick returns; Justin Medlock cementing himself as the best kicker in the league; Weston Dressler and Andrew Harris continuing their dominance in Winnipeg’s offence.

And yet, by night’s end, there was Ray getting crushed on a hit – that should merit a suspension – where there was no flag thrown; then the kick return touchdown, that could have become the goodwill story of the season, negated by a flag that should never have been thrown.

Ray’s significance to the Argos can’t be understated. So much so that before the game, Marc Trestman told Terry Koshan of The Toronto Sun, “the rest of us are not as important as him.” At the time of this column, the Argos were flying home from Winnipeg. The team had no update on Ray’s status.

Some believed Ambrosie’s first big test as commissioner was providing the proper discipline on Will “Smith” Hill, who grabbed an official during a game last week. In reality, the new commish knows the real crisis in his league right now. He must deal swiftly with officiating and the command centre and what is happening before his very eyes. People’s livelihoods are on the line with wins and losses. Players’ lives are on the line when they get clubbed in the head. At the very least, a flag could be a deterrent.

Kuldys got her 15 minutes of fame, #WhatAboutKaren trending nationally on Twitter. She went to work this morning knowing a $25,000 prize pack is coming her way.

Ray’s health is not as certain. Nor should status quo with the CFL officiating department. Even Karen Kuldys knew that when she left for A&W in the darkness of Friday morning.

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.

--The bye week is upon us. The green-and-white are not in action this weekend. With Country Thunder happening in Craven that is probably a good thing as many of the 18-35 demographic that are country music fans are probably wondering more about what is happening at the annual country music festival than the goings-on of their favourite football team----at least for the weekend.  As of Monday though, the team will be back and the talk will start for their game Saturday in Calgary. 

--The win over Hamilton has seemingly quieted some of the critics.  That win validated the team was a good one and that the two tough losses to open the season were ones where lessons were learned. It won't be easy facing Bo Levi Mitchell and crew on their own turf where they are so good, but the green-and-white have showed us what type of football team they intend on being this year.  Some believe this is a playoff team.  I still stand by my statements at the start of the year that the best they can hope for is 3rd behind Calgary and BC as they will have to beat the Edmontons and Winnipegs and they have already lost one to the Bombers.  Let's not go overboard here!

--With the season now three games in, here is a question for you Rider fans, Did you buy a new jersey this year or are you thinking of getting one? If so, whose name and number goes on it if you do that?  I am guessing some dusted off their old Kevin Glenn jerseys, but I am guessing some new ones have been purchased.  I am sure Mark Habicht at the Rider Store could give me what I am looking for, but I would have to think there are a few people walking out with Willie Jefferson jerseys, a few who have decided on a Duron Carter uni, and some who have now decided to sport a Naaman Roosevelt shirt. While I have not been in the Rider store since it opened at the new facility, I will ask this.  Can Rider fans and CFL fans in general get t-shirt jerseys? The NHL has them and I am guessing shirts like "Bagg 6" "Glenn 5" and "Roosevelt 82" would be as big here as a "Mitchell 19" would be in Calgary, a "Reilly 13" would be in Edmonton and a "Dressler 7" would be in Winnipeg....and arguably here too. You saw the Canada 150 shirts with "Reed 34" on the back.  How about adding a Lancaster, a Ridgway, and an Aldag to the repertoire. You can't tell me those wouldn't sell. 

--One has to wonder if new CFL commish Randy Ambrosie has had a "chat" with director of officiating Glen Johnson yet. If he hasn't, he might want to after a great football game between the Argos and Bombers was spoiled by one horrific call and one questionable non-call.  

Karen Kuldys of Winnipeg is getting her 15 minutes of fame today, but for all the wrong reasons. Kuldys should be going to a Safeway or Sobeys in Winnipeg tomorrow to get a cheque for one million dollars. Thanks to the buffoonery Johnson leads, all Kuldys is getting is a what if....a big what if.  Riders PR man Ryan Pollock may have summed it up the best on Twitter Thursday night when he said "in the past, no one could put a value on a bad call----turns out its 1 million dollars".  Yup!  A terrible call not only negated a Toronto TD, but took a million dollars out of the hands of a fan.  Safe to say she has every right to bitch about the officiating.  Yes, bad calls are going to be made, but they are magnified in situations like this. Add to that that Ricky Ray was the victim of a blatant head shot on his game-ending interception yet no flag flew on this one.  This is why CFL fans hate what they see from the stripes. 

On a night where the CFL could have made headlines for all the right reasons including what was another fantastic game, they will make headlines for all the wrong reasons as their officiating will be put under the microscope yet again.  One can only wonder if Bo Levi Mitchell thought of tweeting something and then decided not to after his controversial fine for making a comment about a call in the Riders-Hamilton game. 

As for the game itself, Toronto seemed to take a step back while Winnipeg seemed to take a step up.  That isn't good news for the green-and-white in what is once again a very competitive Western Conference. 

--When the sports world brings you one negative story after another no matter the league, all it takes is watching 3 hours of the ESPY's to make you realize why sports is so great! Once again, the four letter knocked it out of the park with its broadcast Wednesday night.  The stories they tell leave many with a lump in their throat. Peyton Manning also did a great job (as expected)as host.  Kevin Durant might not think so, but he did. Get over it KD!

--The Toronto Maple Leafs are seeing what Pats fans have known for a while.  That being Adam Brooks is a player! The former Pats captain is turning a lof of heads at the team's development camp and is being considered as one of their top talents. GM Lou Lamierello has told Toronto media Brooks will likely start his season with the AHL's Toronto Marlies, but a trip to the NHL is there. It will take some time, but Lou isn't saying how much time.  If Brooks does what I think he can, I wouldn't be surprised to see him take a good shot at cracking the main roster for the 2018-19 season.

--I wonder if those in Quebec City are asking what it will take. It looks as if the Carolina Hurricanes will be staying in Raleigh as they are about to be sold. That will end any rumours of the Hurricanes relocating in Quebec City and becoming the Nordiques 2.0.  Where do they look now? Florida?

--Are the Dallas Stars the most improved team in the NHL? They have added a solid defenceman in Marc Methot, they have added scoring punch in Alexander Radulov and Martin Hanzal and they hope to have solved their goaltending woes by getting Ben Bishop.  Add this to Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, John Klingberg and the re-emergence of Ken Hitchcock behind the bench and Dallas appears ready to once again worm their way into the Western Conference playoff battle. 

--The news from MLB commissioner Rob Manfred that once Oakland and Tampa get ballpark situations resolved he will look at Montreal as an expansion team. How about just moving the A's or Rays if it doesn't work Rob? Yes, I know there's a lot more to it than that, but Montreal fans shouldn't have to wait for two other teams to sort out its problems.  In the meantime, those who want to bring MLB back to Montreal need to keep working. I wonder if Manfred would change his tune a little if plans for a ballpark were announced.  Apparently, the land is there somewhere near the Bell Centre.  Waiting and staying patient won't work here. Being aggressive and continuing to show baseball you want a team whether it be expansion or existing is the way to go. 

--Best of luck to new U of R Athletics Director (or director of sport as they want to call it) Lisa Robertson.  She has many positives to work with when it comes to Cougar Athletics, but she will have some issues that need to be worked on. One of them which was indicated in the review of the athletic program was engaging the University population with the Cougars no matter the sport.  I have some ideas, and I have shared some ideas in the past as to how to get more students at games. There are ways to do it.  I am sure Robertson has the background and the expertise to get it done otherwise she wouldn't have been hired. She ticks off all the boxes the hiring committee was looking for so let's see what happens. Those who know me know I'm a big supporter of U of R athletics and I would love nothing more than to see these teams and these tremendous student-athletes do their thing at home in front of some decent crowds. Yes, that expectation may be too much in some areas, but there is no reason why the CKHS shouldn't have good crowds for basketball, the Rams should have better crowds for footbal and the hockey teams should have more attendance as well.  

--The NBA season hasn't even started yet and I've had enough  of Lonzo Ball and his old man!

That's all I've got. Enjoy Country Thunder if you're there and have a great weekend! 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Oops!! CFL Officiating Costs Winnipeg Woman 1 Million Dollars

A controversial call prevented Karen Kuldys of Winnipeg from becoming a millionaire on Thursday.

Kuldys was the contestant for Safeway’s Touchdown to Win contest — which pays $1 million if two kickoffs are returned for touchdowns in the same game — and looked to be well on her way toward putting the money in her pocket after Ryan Lankford of the Blue Bombers took the opening kickoff 105 yards for a score and Martese Jackson of the Argonauts added a major of his own late in the second quarter after an Andrew Harris touchdown.

But, before Jackson crossed the goal line after his 109 yards return, out came a penalty flag.

The call was an illegal block on Argos receiver Llevi Noel, who appeared to be run into by Mike Miller of the Blue Bombers.

Miller fell to the ground, but the flag came out anyway, even though Jackson was already past Miller and on his way to the end zone.

The Bombers won the game 33-25.

(Winnipeg Sun)

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

U of R Hires New Director of Sport

University of Regina Faculty of Kinesiology & Health Studies dean Harold Riemer announced Wednesday morning that Lisa Robertson has accepted the role of Director of Sport, Community Engagement & Athlete Development.

Robertson, who will start in the role effective Sept. 1, most recently worked as an Associate Director at the Olympic Oval in Calgary and was responsible for leading marketing, communications, events and competition teams.

During her two years at the Oval, Robertson worked to align with the five-year strategic plan and led an organizing committee that managed the 2016 ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating competition. Robertson also led the Oval through a brand refresh and assisted in developing a new governance model for the teams she oversees.

Robertson will be in charge of directing and developing Athletics at the University of Regina and will be responsible to consider the recommendations outlined in the recently completed Athletic review.

"I am pleased to be able to welcome Lisa to the University of Regina community and look forward to the leadership she will provide to the range of sport and athletics programming offered at the University," Dr. Riemer said on Wednesday. "She will be a strong addition to the Faculty's leadership team and is a dynamic individual who will work very collaboratively to build on positive work that has been done over the last number of years."

Prior to working at the Olympic Oval, Robertson spent 18 years in the Athletic Department at the University of Calgary. Much of Robertson's career with the Dinos was focused on fund development, including time as the Director of Development from 2012 through 2015.

Robertson's experience at the University of Calgary included selling sponsorships, serving as a member of organizing committees for national championships, high-level strategic planning and program execution.

"My family and I are very excited for this new opportunity - I've dedicated my career to sport and this is a great opportunity for me to use my talents in an area that I'm passionate," said Robertson. "After working in varsity sport for 18 years with the Calgary Dinos and being away from it for two years, I can't wait to be back, especially in Canada West."

Robertson played five years with the University of Calgary women's basketball program from 1990 to 1995 while earning a Bachelor of Arts degree. Robertson was a part of a Canada West champion Dinos squad in 1991, was a Canada West first-team all-star in 1994 and was named a second-team Canada West all-star on three other occasions. Following her time at the University of Calgary, Lisa received a Diploma in Radio, Television and Broadcast News from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. Lisa and her husband Chris have a daughter (Sophia) and a son (Jack).

Robertson will be formally introduced at a press conference in early August.

WHL Champion Seattle Thunderbirds Hire New Head Coach

Image result for seattle thunderbirds

Seattle Thunderbirds general manager Russ Farwell today announced Matt O’Dette has been named the T-Birds new head coach.

O’Dette becomes the 17th head coach in franchise history replacing Steve Konowalchuk, who joined the Anaheim Ducks as an assistant coach on June 28.

“We were lucky to have a very good coach already on our staff and are excited to promote Matt to our head coach,” said Farwell. “He was a huge contributor to our team the last few years and has proven he is ready to take over the head coaching duties.”

“I am honored to be named the head coach of the T-Birds,” said O’Dette. “I want to thank Russ Farwell for the opportunity, as it has been a goal of mine to be a head coach at the major junior level. I am very appreciative of the opportunity Steve Konowalchuk gave me four years ago. We’ve created a winning culture and I look forward to that continuing in front of our amazing fans.”

O’Dette joined the T-Birds as an assistant coach on July 23, 2013, focusing on defense. Under his tutelage two of the last three WHL Defenseman of the Year Award winners have been T-Birds. Shea Theodore was named the 2015 WHL Defenseman of the Year and Ethan Bear was named the 2017 WHL Defenseman of the Year. Theodore and Bear were both twice named Western Conference First Team All-Stars under his guidance.

O’Dette directed the T-Birds penalty kill, which finished third in the league last season and first overall in 2015-16. The T-Birds have been in the top four in goals against the last three seasons, finishing third in 2014-15 and 2015-16 and tied for fourth in 2016-17.

Prior to joining the T-Birds O’Dette was the head coach and director of hockey operations for the Bakersfield Condors of the ECHL for two seasons. Prior to joining the Condors he was an assistant coach and assistant general manager of the Stockton Thunder of the ECHL.

He played 663 professional games over 14 professional seasons in the AHL and ECHL with the Roanoke Express (ECHL 1996-97), Saint John Flames (AHL 1997-2000), Quebec Citadelles (AHL 2000-02), Hamilton Bulldogs (2002-03), Fresno Falcons (ECHL 2004-09) and Falcons/Thunder (ECHL 2009-10). He also appeared in 69 playoffs games and was a member of two Calder Cup Final teams.

O’Dette played 183 career games as a defenseman in the OHL with the Kitchener Rangers and Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. He was selected by the Florida Panthers in the seventh round, 157th overall, in the 1994 NHL Draft.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

CFL Dishes Out 1 Game Suspension To Will Hill

TORONTO (July 10, 2017) – The Canadian Football League (CFL) announced that it has imposed the following discipline arising out of play #89 in the third quarter of Game #21 on Saturday, July 8th, 2017, Hamilton at Saskatchewan:

Following a hearing, Hamilton Tiger-Cats defensive back Will Hill has been assessed a one-game suspension for grabbing the jersey of an Official. This behaviour is unacceptable and violated the standards of acceptable conduct within the CFL. In addition, Hill was ejected from the game and issued a fine for punching a Saskatchewan player in a separate incident on the same play.

Commissioner Randy Ambrosie added:
“It is a fundamental principle in all of sport: you cannot and must not lay your hands on an official. Just as officials are integral to the integrity of competition, respect for officials is essential to proper behaviour in the arena of competition. I acknowledge that in this case, the player involved appeared to quickly realize the inappropriateness of his actions, and released the official. But that does not erase the fact that the player crossed a line that should never be crossed in sport at any level, and which certainly should be respected in an elite professional league such as the Canadian Football League. Furthermore, by punching an opponent, this player has not only displayed the opposite of sportsmanship, he has undermined the commitment to player health and safety that must be shared by the league and its players alike. Just as Player Safety is critical to our game, so too is the safety of our officials. I’m committed to developing a policy in the very near term to improve and codify the safety standards to further protect our officials.”

The suspension is to be served immediately. The Tiger-Cats’ next game is this Saturday. Should the player choose to appeal the suspension, it would not be served unless and until it has been upheld by an independent arbitrator, in keeping with the terms of the current collective bargaining agreement between the CFL and the Canadian Football League Players Association. The fine is also imposed immediately.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Something To "Mitch" About

VICTORY!! - It's not a season-changing win, but it is a win and that's the most important thing. In a game the Saskatchewan Roughriders had to have, they came out firing and beat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in a game where frankly the score flattered the visiting team.

I couldn't have been the only one filing out of Mosaic Stadium saying that Hamilton team looked bad.

CKRM's Michael Ball made the statement on the post-game show that he thinks Kent Austin won't last the season in Hamilton.  I think that may be stretching it, but it is obvious Austin and company have some work to do. A lot of work

Here are some thoughts on what went down:

  --The most important part of the football game was likely the Riders second possession.  There is no doubt everyone in the ballpark got real quiet when Justin Rogers took a Kevin Glenn pass 110 yards the other way. A team that was fragile enough having lost the first two in tough fashion did not need that to happen.  Glenn came right back and moved the team 76 yards on 9 plays to re-take the lead and regain control.  While Hamilton did stay in the game longer than they should have, this drive went a long way to the win.

  --The Riders dusted off the playbook and got the running game going. With that offensive line, how can you not tell the hoggies to get dirty and do some run blocking. Cameron Marshall had a couple of big runs to keep the Hamilton D on its toes and give the offence a more balanced look to it.

 --Were the Riders that good or was Hamilton that bad? There weren't a lot of positives as far as the Ti-Cats were concerned.  There were a bunch of guys on that team I had never heard from.  They almost resembled the 2016 Riders.  There are some players there, but we don't know who they are and I don't know if Austin does at this time.  It takes nothing away from what was a big win for the /=S=/ going into the break.

 --What was Hamilton D-back Will Hill thinking?  It is safe to say Randy Ambrosie's first day will be marked with what should be a suspension.  Say what you will about the officiating, but you can't put your hands on them the way Hill did. There has been some suggestion he grabbed the ref to show him what was happening.  That's not a valid excuse for that act.  He should get multiple games, but this is the CFL so who knows.  Ambrosie can take a solid first step with a harsh punishment here.

WEEK 3 CFL THOUGHTS -  Should there be some panic in Ottawa over the fact the REDBLACKS are 0-2-1.  One of those losses and that tie did come to Calgary, but the loss to Toronto should raise some eyebrows.  Has Marc Trestman turned around the Argo fortunes so quickly or is Ottawa not as good as we thought.

Do the Alouettes need to stretch it out. I didn't see all of the BC-Alouettes game and I did see Darian Durant throw some long passes, but it seems as if their offense is designed on those short 5 to 10 yard passes with the hopes of the receiver getting a block or breaking a tackle to create a big play.  Durant has not been what the Alouettes were expecting three games in, and one could certainly say Chris Jones did know what he was doing when he set the QB adrift.  I think we can all agree Glenn is playing infinitely better than Darian at this point in the season.

Who in Montreal thought SJ Green couldn't play at a high level anymore? That person was flat out wrong.

After wins in Toronto and Montreal, BC is in Hamilton next week as they continue this Eastern excursion. When was the last time a Western team played three straight games at Eastern venues?  That is something that should really benefit the Lions moving forward as they get a majority of their games on the other end of the country over with.

Once again when the Stampeders start to move the football, they are tough to stop. That will be the task for the Riders in two weeks.  Are the Bombers now what we thought they were one week ago?

There is no reason to complain about the games three weeks in. We have seen some entertaining contests which is nothing but good news for the league as a whole.

BASEBALL AT THE BREAK -  Major league baseball takes a hiatus for most of the week as the All-Star game festivities will go in Miami with the game going Tuesday night.  I don't think it would come as a shock to say the story of the first half has been the play of Aaron Judge of the Yankees and Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers.  Both are basically shoo-ins for rookie of the year, and both could be the MVP of their respective leagues as well.  The two of them have been amazing.

As for the best team, is it the Dodgers or the Astros.  Both have already achieved 60 wins.  L-A has the best pitcher in the game in Clayton Kershaw, but Houston has a lot of young talent like Carlos Correa, George Springer, Jose Altuve and others.  It is far too premature to say we will see a Houston-Los Angeles World Series, but that would be a lot of fun.

While those two teams can fight it out for best team at the break, I think it is safe to say that after winning the World Series last year, the Chicago Cubs can have the honour as the most disappointing.  The Cubs, who gave up 10 in the first Sunday to Pittsburgh, are two games under 500 and five and a half back of Milwaukee.  The Brewers may be the most surprising club in the majors at the break.  For the most part, the Cubs have the same lineup as they did last year, but the magic has disappeared for whatever reason as the pitching staff that was so dominant last year isn't even close to being that way this year and the hitting at times has vanished.  That isn't a formula for repeating.

NBA SALARIES - If you didn't know it before, you found out this week NBA salaries are a little over the top.  Kyle Lowry signed a contract with the Raptors that will pay him 30 million a season. Lowry isn't even one of the top 10 players in the NBA.  It comes on the heels of the NHL MVP Connor McDavid signing a deal that will pay him 12 and a half million.  Who is worth more, Lowry or McDavid.  Then consider James Harden who signed a deal with the Houston Rockets that will see him get 228 million over four years. It is obvious the NBA has to put the reins on salaries, but because it has gotten out of control.  They could walk out and miss seasons and I wouldn't care. Somehow I think a lot of sports fans would feel that way too.

That's all I got. Have a great week

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Riders 37 Hamilton 20

The mood in the Saskatchewan Roughriders dressing room was a lot different on Saturday night than it had been seven nights earlier. 

The Riders beat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 37-20 to earn their first win of the season after two tough losses to open the campaign. 

Kevin Glenn shook off an early interception that was returned 110 yards by Justin Rogers for a touchdown by going 32 of 43 passing for 380 yards and two touchdowns.  Glenn has now thrown for over 900 yards and seven touchdowns in the first three games of the season.  At game's end, he was one of many happy Riders.

“It shows a lot about the team and the guys in that locker room, the type of character guys that we have." Glenn said with his 8 year old son, and 5 year old daughter by his side. "They still believed and we’re still a team.  It was a big team win and everybody believed in each other and that’s why we were victorious.”

While Glenn threw for two touchdowns, he also ran for two. It is the first time he has done that since September of 2004. 

Head Coach and General Manager Chris Jones was happy to finally walk off the field as a winner. 

“If you do enough things right, you deserve to win,” Jones said. “That’s nice when you walk off the field knowing that you deserved to win the football game.”

Jones also gave credit to the Rider Nation for their vocal support during the game as the crowd forced Hamilton into numerous penalties.

"I felt the crowd tonight more than last week. It's kudos to the people that come out and support the football team." Jones quipped. "We've left them a little bit to be desired the past year and a bit so for them to keep showing up, it's a feather in our caps.

The Riders are now 1-2. They have Week 4 off and will get back into action July 29 against the Calgary Stampeders in Calgary. 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Players To Watch

Two teams in search of their first win of the year meet at Mosaic Stadium Saturday night when the Riders meet the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.  There are plenty of players to watch for various reasons, but here are some to keep an eye on.

RIDERS SECONDARY -   The magnifying glass may be on this unit more than any other tonight. If you haven't seen the Bombers video of Weston Dressler's return last week, you should go find it as it shows you there was a lot of confusion in the Riders defensive backfield leading to the problems they had. That group needs a solid bounce-back effort tonight if a win is to be achieved.

JOHN CHICK - One former Rider had a big return to Regina last week, and now another former Rider comes in looking for a big night. Chick had a big season last year, and he registered a sack in the season-opening loss to Toronto.  Kevin Glenn is hoping the only introduction he has to Chick is in handshakes after the game. The battle between Chick and Derek Dennis should be a great one to watch.

CAMERON MARSHALL - Yes, the CFL is a pass-happy league, but you also need to run the football. Cameron Marshall has run the ball 18 times this season in two games.  That production needs to be stepped up. Seeing Marshall get 18 touches in the ground game tonight would likely help an offense that has moved the ball this year be a little more efficient.

BRANDON BANKS -  This guy can kill you on returns as we all know. Craig Dickenson's group has been outstanding this year in kick coverage and they will have to be tonight.  Letting Banks break away for a couple of big returns would not be a good thing for the /=S=/.

TYLER CRAPIGNA -  A lot has been made of Crapigna's play in the first two weeks. His only two misses of the season have been crucial ones.  Head Coach/General Manager Chris Jones gave Crapigna a vote of confidence this week.  He needs to reward Jones for doing that by making the clutch kicks. He has made them before, so he should be able to make them again.

Riders-TiCats Depth Chart

620 CKRM's game-day coverage starts at 5 with the play-by-play with Rod Pedersen and Luc Mullinder beginning at 8. As always, the game is televised on TSN.