THAT'S IT! - Turn out the lights, the party's over. They say that all good things must end. Call it a night, the party's over, and tomorrow starts the same old thing again. The words from former Monday Night Football announcer Don Meredith rang true early Saturday night at Mosaic Stadium as the UBC Thunderbirds beat the Regina Rams 40-30 to close out football at the grand old lady.
The stark reality of that didn't really hit until late in the 3rd quarter with the Thunderbirds up big that we were truly seeing the last football played on a place where so many greats, and not-so greats have done their thing whether it be CFL, University, Junior or High School. As I sat in the 620 CKRM booth with Marco Ricci and Gary "Chop" Bresch calling that final quarter, the memories started coming out from two guys who had played on that turf and sat in those stands. While they did that, I couldn't help but think I would be the on to say goodbye from a radio booth where some greats like Ron Barnet, John Lynch, Geoff Currier and Rod Pedersen have called so many games good and bad to a province of crazed football fans.
Truthfully, it was an honour I would have gladly given to Michael Ball in either the Hardy Bowl or the Mitchell (Scruffy) Bowl as it would have meant a Rams win Saturday night, but that didn't happen.
Yes, it did take a while to leave the facility. I had to walk back on the field one last time and get a picture, and after years of watching football from the same spot in the pressbox, I had to get out a Sharpie before leaving that place and write thank you on the window I peered out of so many times.
Walking out for the last time wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I think the fact the Rams lost had a lot to do with that. I don't know when the place starts getting torn apart, but when it does, I think it is something that will strike a chord in many football fans in this province. What is the plan now anyways? I am guessing the wrecking ball isn't coming in this week, but I imagine the facility will start getting gutted this morning if it hasn't already.
LESSON TAUGHT - As I drove to Mosaic for Saturday's Rams game, I had the feeling that whoever won this game would go on to the Vanier Cup,. I still feel that way today. Dreams of a Huskies-Rams Hardy Cup at Mosaic went up in smoke when the Calgary Dinos beat up the Huskies by a score of 47-17. Despite the fact the Rams finished 6-2, they had not been playoff tested. Steve Bryce was coaching his first playoff game. On the other sideline were many players who won the Vanier Cup last year with their coach Blake Nill being a guy who had been to eight Vaniers with three different teams. At playoff time, experience shows and it did.
Yes, UBC quarterback Michael O'Connor was surgical in picking apart the Regina defence, but this team walked on to the turf looking like the more confident group. Defensively, the T-Birds rushed 3 most of the afternoon and dropped 9 back daring Noah Picton to find receivers. By the time Picton started doing that, it was too late.
One player who won't be back is receiver Riley Wilson. He went out with a bang catching 9 passes for almost 200 yards. I don't know what his future in the game is, but if he is not at a CFL training camp next season, he will have been wronged. That kid can play at the next level and succeed at the next level. He isn't flashy, but he gets the job done. I could see him being a guy that will make a lot of tough 2nd down catches in the pro game if he is given a chance. He may not go until late, but if he does get picked, it will be a solid selection and a beneficial one down the road.
By the way, Rams receiver Ryan Schienbein gets the distinction of scoring the first touchdown at new Mosaic and the last one at old Mosaic. I wonder what one means more. I am guessing the first one because it came in a win while the other didn't. It's still something to chirp about as he gets older.
THAT'S IT--PART 2 - As I got in my car to drive home after the Rams game, the 2nd half of the Riders-Lions game was on. I only had to hear the 8-10 minutes of Rod and Carm's call to give me all I needed to know as there were two turnovers on two successive drives. I didn't even turn the game on when I walked in the door opting to watch the Oilers-Islanders instead which was a good choice. Was it that bad? The answer was apparently yes. As one person told me Sunday, Darian Durant might have been the happiest guy of all as his price-tag went up after that one.
The season ends with a record of 5-13. That isn't much of an improvement from 2015, but at least we can see a future with younger players. Chris Jones has a nucleus to work with. Yes, he needs Durant's name on a new contract sooner than later, but he has found players that will be back and will be better after a season of experience under their belt. There won't be wholesale changes this off-season like we saw last.
I think Jones and his staff thought it would be better than what it was, but free agent flops, injuries and inexperience were big factors in what happened this year. The free agent flops can be blamed on the HC/GM, but the injuries can't be and the inexperience had to be expected.
That being said, the fanbase is not happy after seeing this team do what it has for the last 2 1/2 years. As they get set to move into the new Mosaic, the record must change. I think it is imperative this team be competitive right from Game 1 and that they are a playoff team. It may be too bold to expect them to be 1st or 2nd in the West and get a home playoff game, but they need to be a playoff team. I somehow think that message will be conveyed if it already hasn't to Jones from Craig Reynolds. Another long off-season is here.
DARIAN'S FUTURE - As I just said, the Riders need to get Darian's signature on a new contract sooner than later, but it would appear as if it won't be happening anytime soon. Durant told reporters on Sunday everything is at a standstill and that they have presented an offer to the team they feel is reasonable. I'm hearing that all is not rosy between the two sides at all, and this could have an ugly ending to it. Let's hope it doesn't come to that. If it does, the firestorm Jones received for releasing Chick and Dressler won't even compare to what it will be like for him if DD signs with another team.
FUN TIMES AT THE BRANDT CENTRE - The 16/17 Regina Pats are starting to remind some of the 80's Oilers who revolutionized offensive hockey. Does this mean Sam Steel is playing the role of Gretzky? Does it mean Adam Brooks is Mark Messier? Does it mean Tyler Brown is Grant Fuhr and who in the love of god is playing the role of Dave Lumley? They are skating circles around the opposition and depositing the puck in the net with great regularity. On Friday, I got a text asking if this was the best team ever. WHOA WHOA WHOA!!! Pull back the reins a little. Yes, this team is good and shows no signs of slowing down, but we haven't even played a quarter of a season. That statement is way to premature to make. Let's start having that conversation when and if they win the Ed Chynoweth Cup. As for the question is this the best team ever. The answer is no and will stay that way until a Memorial Cup is won. Until then, that team with Greg Joly, Dennis Sobchuk, Ed Staniowski and Clark Gillies to name four will be the best squad in Pats history.
ONE MAN TEAM? - How important is Carey Price to the Montreal Canadiens? The Habs are 10-1-1 on the season with that lone loss coming in Columbus Friday as Al Montoya surrendered all 10 in a loss to the Blue Jackets. The Habs have given up 28 goals in those 12 games. Price has played in 7 games and allowed 11 goals. Its not hard to see why the Habs are the top team in the NHL this season. Remember where they were last year when Price got hurt. It is up to GM Marc Bergevin to get a solid 3 or 4 d-man behind Shea Weber and Andrei Markov. Petry, Emelin and Beaulieu aren't the answer. Should they try and get involved in the Jacob Trouba sweepstakes? Hmmmmmmmm!!!
WAS IT OR WASN'T IT - The NHL is buzzing about Nazem Kadri's hit on Daniel Sedin Saturday night. Was it a headshot or not? I've seen the hit a few times and from some angles it is, but others it isn't. The Canucks feel Kadri should be suspended, and they have good reason to be. The question I ask is headshot or not, hasn't the NHL said this is the type of hit they don't want in the game anymore. If that is truly the case, Kadri needs to sit for one game.
OOPS - Vikings fans ( and I know plenty of them ) have gone from ecstatic to downright surly as the team has lost three in a row. The question I have when watching that team is "What has happened to Blair Walsh?". The usually reliable placekicker has seemingly not recovered from his gaffe in last year's playoffs. A missed convert and field goal hurt the Vikings yesterday in a loss to Detroit. When the confidence goes for a kicker, its hard to get back. This won't be a quick fix for Walsh to get back to normal. In the meantime, and in between time, Viking fans are in a rotten mood.
That's all I got. Have a great week!