Welcome to Friday. Here are the usual weekly thoughts running through my muddled mind. As always, they come in no particular order.
--The NFL draft went Thursday night----at least the first round. Cleveland was Cleveland by taking Baker Mayfield with the first pick and Denzel Ward with the 4th in a move that surprised many. Football fans on both sides of the border know where the guys who were drafted last night come from They know Baker Mayfield is from Oklahoma, Sam Darnold is from USC, Roquan Smith is from Georgia and Stevan Ridley is from Alabama. Do CFL fans know where the future is from? Do you know what school David Knevel, Trey Rutherford, Dakoda Shepley and Alex Taylor come from? If you do, you're better than many other hardcore CFL fans.
I realize there is a lot more attention and focus on NCAA Division 1 players on both sides of the border. All you have to do is turn your TV on on a Saturday afternoon to get a plethora of US College Football games when the season is on You can't do that here. USports, the CFL and others have to do a better job of marketing their players and making them be household names so we know who they are come draft time. In a league where Canadian depth indicates how strong you are, not many know where those Canadians are playing before they enter the league. That shouldn't be. Yes, I readily admit that if the guy isn't playing in Canada West which I am quite familiar of, I may have to do some homework to find out who he is.
--Calgary is going to host the 2019 Grey Cup in a move that surprises no one. What will be interesting now is how much we hear about the Stampeders needing a new football stadium and how much will Randy Ambrosie champion that cause. If the Flames aren't getting a new rink, there is no way the Stampeders are getting a new stadium as Sportscage's Arash Madani said this week. He's right. If Naheed Nenshi is willing to stand up to Gary Bettman on a new rink, Ambrosie has no chance in leveraging a role to get a new home for the Stampeders built. None! Especially when the same group owns both teams. The Stamps would be wise to find new owners because maybe, just maybe something could get done, but in the current environment, its not happening. This all likely changes if Calgary gets the Olympics, but if there is only room for one team to get new digs, it won't be the Stampeders.
--Speaking of stadiums, remember when everyone marvelled at the Skydome. It was the stadium of stadiums. 30 years later, it apparently is outdated according to MLB commissioner Rob Manfred. He says it is a building in need of renovations. What are you going to do? You can't knock out a wall to make it more appealing to fans. Is this going to spark a "Toronto needs a new baseball stadium" movement. If places like the Saddledome and Rogers Centre are now considered obsolete after 30 years of service, does this mean there will be a cry for Mosaic Stadium 3.0 in 2048? One would think the answer is yes! How sad is that!
--So on Monday, I talk about the Rider depth chart and then they go out and release two big veterans in Peter Dyakowski and Jeff Hecht. I guess that means Dariusz Bladek is now the starting right guard. All of a sudden, you have 2/5 of your starting o-line from last year no longer there. Chris Jones will find a way (at least I hope he does) to fix that problem, but right now there is some concern there. Nothing against Bladek who had a great rookie season and continues to develop, but is he ready to assume a starters role. We may see just how much growth there was during training camp.
--We could only go off what Rod Pedersen and Luc Mullinder were saying when it came to the Riders mini-camp and as expected, the team is saying it went well. I was surprised to hear Chris Jones say they were going to make offers for about 12-15 players to come to training camp. With only 32 taking part, it is obvious some homework was done on what players were at this event knowing they had a chance to continue their football dream. When you consider only 32 took part, around half are getting an opportunity to come to Saskatoon.
--We might not see a better playoff series than what Nashville and Winnipeg will give us. It should be a ring-a-ding-dong dandy!
--Leaf fans can blame Jake Gardiner all they want, but the bottom line is Fredrik Andersen soiled the linen in the 3rd period when Toronto needed him. You have to make that save off of Jake DeBrusk in a 4-4 game. If you make that save, you might be moving on and you certainly aren't ripping on Gardiner today.
--Who is under more pressure to win. Is it Connor McDavid in Edmonton as he tries to bring the Oilers back to a level not seen since Gretzky, Messier, Fuhr et al or is it Auston Matthews in Toronto as he tries to end a drought that has been how long now?
--Congratulations to Doug Johnson and the Nipawin Hawks for winning the SJHL title. When I worked in the league, the Hawks were one of the worst and now they are the best. Give a lot of credit to that to Johnson. Talk about a complete 180, when I was in the league the Hawks were one of the worst and the best were La Ronge and Yorkton and now the Ice Wolves and Terriers were the two teams that didn't make the playoffs this year.
--In a season where all the talk was on the Warriors, Broncos and Pats, are the Lethbridge Hurricanes going to win the Eastern Conference especially after selling off assets? They just might. Those who thought Swift Current would breeze through to the league final seemed to have disrespected the Hurricanes and that was a huge mistake. Yes, not having Glenn Gawdin and Artyom Minulin in the lineup hurts Swift, but no one on the Lethbridge side is apologizing much like no one in Seattle was apologizing for Regina not having Adam Brooks and Austin Wagner along with an injured Nick Henry last year. It's part of the game. One would think if the Broncos go 7 to win this series they might be easy pickings in the league final, but as we've seen in the Eastern Conference final, making that assumption could be costly.
--We all knew Cleveland would screw it up at the NFL draft didn't we? The best moment of Round 1 was seeing Ryan Shazier walk out to announce Pittsburgh's pick. There is no argument on that I don't think.
--Had a chance to speak with former Blue Jays pitcher Todd Stottlemyre on Thursday's Sportscage. I'm really looking forward to sharing the stage with him Saturday night at the Regina Red Sox dinner as Red Sox p x p man Brendan McGuire and I will grill him in the annual question and answer part of the dinner. It sounds as if he could go for a while on some topics. I'm OK with that.