Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Manziel Experiment Over As Alouettes Release Him

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The Montreal Alouettes released quarterback Johnny Manziel on Wednesday, saying he "contravened the agreement which made him eligible to play" in the Canadian Football League.

The CFL effectively said the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner is terminated. The league informed the eight other teams that it wouldn't register a contract for Manziel if any tried to sign him. Montreal had his full rights for two seasons.

"We advised Montreal that Johnny had violated one of the conditions we had set for him to be in our league. And Montreal announced his release today," CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie said in Vancouver. "We didn't release the terms of those conditions then and we're not going to do that now.

"We're trying to do what we believe is in the best interests of the entire league. The conditions we set, we thought were the right ones. Those conditions have been violated and we feel it's best, and Montreal feels its best, to let Johnny move on. And we think it's best for our league that he do the same. And we wish him well.''

Alouettes general manager Kavis Reed told reporters that Montreal would not have released Manziel if the CFL did not mandate the move.

"No, sir. Mr. Manziel's performance on the field showed that he had a very good upside, but Mr. Manziel violated the terms and we all understood those terms and we have to be compliant with them," Reed said.

Reed wouldn't give specifics about how Manziel violated the conditions of his agreement with the league.

"We are disappointed by this turn of events. Johnny was provided a great deal of support by our organization, in collaboration with the CFL, but he has been unable to abide by the terms of his agreement," Reed said in a statement. "We worked with the league and presented alternatives to Johnny, who was unwilling to proceed."

The quarterback posted on social media that he looks forward "to exploring new options."

A source says  Manziel violated a set of conditions set forth by the CFL when he originally signed in May 2018. Although the league never specified the terms, it said in a statement that they were "extensive and exacting" and were generated after an assessment from an independent expert on domestic violence.

The source did not believe that the release was a result of Manziel attempting to break his contract to play in an American developmental league.

Manziel, 26, played for the Alouettes last season in an attempt to resurrect his career. In eight games, he completed 106 passes in 165 attempts for 1,290 yards, with five touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Montreal traded two players and two first-round picks to Hamilton last July for Manziel's rights.

Monday, February 25, 2019

NHL Three Stars Of Week

Colorado Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov, Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov and Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky have been named the NHL’s “Three Stars” for the week ending Feb. 24.


Varlamov went 3-0-0 with a 1.34 goals-against average, .964 save percentage and one shutout to help the Avalanche (27-24-11, 65 points) post four straight wins and move within one point of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Varlamov turned aside all 40 shots he faced in a 3-0 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights Feb. 18, his fifth career shutout with at least 40 saves (and first since Feb. 14, 2018 at MTL: 44 SV). He then made 26 saves in a 7-1 triumph against the Winnipeg Jets Feb. 20. Varlamov capped the week with 41 stops, his 33rd career 40‑save performance and third of 2018-19, in a 5-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks Feb. 22. The 30-year-old Samara, Russia, native has appeared in 41 total games this season, compiling a 17-15-8 record along with a 2.79 goals-against average, .911 save percentage and two shutouts.


Barkov registered multiple points in all three of his games, totaling 3-4—7 (including 2‑2—4 on the power play) to propel the Panthers (27-25-8, 62 points) to a pair of wins. He collected 1-2—3, including his second straight decisive goal, in a 4-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres Feb. 19. Barkov then posted 1-1—2 in each of his next two outings, a 4-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes Feb. 21 and a 6-1 triumph against the Los Angeles Kings Feb. 23. The 23-year-old Tampere, Finland, native – who was a finalist for the 2017-18 Lady Byng Memorial Trophy – tops Florida with 25-39—64 in 60 contests this season. Barkov’s 25 goals are three shy of his career high set in 2015-16 (66 GP), while his 11 power-play goals and 24 power-play points both are personal bests during his six NHL seasons.


Bobrovsky (2-1-0, 1.01 GAA, .963 SV%, 2 SO) stopped 77 of the 80 shots he faced, including all 48 he saw over his final two starts, to help the Blue Jackets (35-23-3, 73 points) split their four games and maintain third place in the Metropolitan Division. He opened the week with 29 saves in a 3-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens Feb. 19. Bobrovsky then became the first goaltender in Columbus history to earn shutouts on consecutive days, turning aside 22 shots in a 3-0 win over the Ottawa Senators Feb. 22 and 26 attempts in a 4-0 victory against the San Jose Sharks Feb. 23. The 30-year-old Novokuznetsk, Russia, native and two-time Vezina Trophy winner ranks third in the NHL with five shutouts and sixth with 26 victories in 45 total outings this season (26-18-1, 2.75 GAA, .908 SV%, 5 SO).

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Something To "Mitch" About

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--My good friend Rob Vanstone ( he of the vanishing waistline) penned a column in Saturday's Leader-Post saying the heat is on following the team's successful bid to host the 2020 Grey Cup.   This just in, it doesn't matter where the Grey Cup is for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, the heat is always on.

Like him or hate him, Chris Jones took this team to a level where you wanted it.  He got his group to a second-place finish and a much-desired home playoff game that didn't have the desired results because the team's number one quarterback was on the shelf.   Just because Jones is gone doesn't mean the expectation changes.  Fans here want to see improvement in 2019 and yes, they want to see a similar scene play itself out in 2020 as it did the last time the Grey Cup was here in 2013.  Many believe the departure of Jones means the Riders will take a step or two back this year and I understand that sentiment.  The heat is on Craig Dickenson and Jeremy O'Day to keep the winning tradition going.   Are the Riders of 2019 as it stands now as good as the Riders of 2012.  I would say no, but there is time to start making moves to not only keep this year's team as a Grey Cup contender which won't be easy considering what has happened in the past few weeks with free agency, but to have a team that is capable of.

--The Brandon Bridge signing in Toronto brings an end to his Rider days. At this time a year ago, people wanted him to start and now no one thinks he will play another game. There is no doubt Bridge's play took a serious downward turn last season.  If he is going to be successful, he has to learn to put some touch on the ball.  You can't drill it all the time especially those short crossing patterns.

--Randy Ambrosie spent his Sunday afternoon at Mosaic speaking with Rider fans.  I understand his vision for the league when it comes to globalizing it, but when he says doing that will help get butts in the seats in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal,  I question it.  Ambrosie says many Canadians now aren't familiar with the game because of their birthplace and that having leagues in Germany, Mexico, Italy etc etc will help with that.   While I don't disagree with that, I feel what is needed is for this league to somehow find a footprint and work with it.  Getting "new" Canadians exposed to the game is key, but so much more needs to be done.  The million dollar question is how.  We know that success is not going to come overnight, but I just feel more needs to be done.  What I don't know is if the  onus on that is on the league or the teams affected.  Its probably a little of both.  If you were there, what did you think?

--I think the country found out a little about Robyn Silvernagle this week.  In speaking with the North Battleford skip who finished 3rd at the Scotties, she thinks so too and says now that people know who they are, they won't hopefully be a flash in the pan. Finishing 3rd in her first-ever Scotties is a huge accomplishment for the rink.  Saskatchewan curling fans should be very proud of the week she had.

It has been a nice year at nationals with a 3rd in the junior mens thanks to Rylan Kleiter and a 3rd at the Scotties.  The pressure is on Kirk Muyres.  Can hw raise the bar?

--If a panel of 31 wasn't going to name Sandra Schmirler as the best skip of all time when it comes to women's curling in Canada, they at least got it right with the best team.  There is no doubt despite all that the Jennifer Jones rink has done that there is no better rink and will be no better rink than Sandra, Jan, Joan and Marcia. I think many of us in the wheat province wonder how much more that team would have done had Sandra not come down with cancer. It is hard to believe just how long ago that was.

--Did Chelsea Carey win the Scotties or did Rachel Homan lose it? I thought Ontario had that game in the bag.  To see Homan lose it the way she did was shocking.  She is usually money when the game is on the line.

--The Columbus Blue Jackets have taken Ryan Dzingel and Matt Duchene off of Ottawa's hands and they didn't give a lot of immediate assets back.  The Jackets now have 4 huge UFA's to deal with at the end of the year.  A long playoff run is what they are shooting for.  A short playoff run and questions will be asked if they can't re-sign all four.  That's the joy of being a general manager.

--Connor McDavid's two-game suspension is being debated. Yes, he was guilty of a high hit on the Islanders Nick Leddy, but it certainly wasn't vicious in nature.  What bothers me is the consistency on these calls. How many times has McDavid taken a cheap shot where nothing gets called.  I can think of one in Anaheim where Hampus Lindholm gave him a brutal check from behind that didn't get penalized even though the ref was right there.  While the McDavid hit was found by the NHL Department of Player Safety to be suspendable, we saw two incidents on Saturday night where Corey Perry delivered a forearm shiver to Darnell Nurse and Wayne Simmonds deliver a head shot to a Pittsburgh Penguin that to the time of this writing has not resulted in a hearing if one will even be held.  You can't just pick and choose when it comes to this stuff.  If you are trying to send a message by saying no one is exempt by suspending McDavid, you have to make everyone guilty when a head shot is issued.  Perry and Simmonds should both be missing at least two games as well.

--One thing I have always wanted is for refs to be held accountable after a game.  When a controversial call is made or not made, I feel they should have to answer questions after a game so we know what they did or didn't see.  I would have been inquiring about a play in the 3rd period of Saturday's WHL game between Moose Jaw and Regina.  Duncan Pierce deservedly got a two minute goalie interference call when he ran into the Warriors goalie.  Pierce was then jumped by Warriors defenceman Josh Brook who delivered at least three punches to Pierce's face before being separated.  Brook was given two for roughing as was Pierce, but how does Brook not get an instigator or fighting. He threw punches!  It is plays like this that deserve an explanation from the stripes.

--Here is an idea for instant replay.  When the call is made for instant replay and the officials go under the hood or wherever, a clock comes up,  They have 60 seconds to make the call. If they can't see that the call should be changed within that time frame than the play stands.  Having officials sit there for minutes on end to determine the result of a play does nothing.  Put them on the clock.

--Congrats to the Cougar womens basketball team. They went into Calgary and destroyed the Dinos in their Canada West semi-final.  In the 18 years they have been in Canada West, they will play in their 13th championship game and they have already scanned their barcode for the Nationals.  They will meet the Huskies Friday for the conference banner and they could very well meet again in a national semi if not final.  We remember how that turned out last year.  I may have to make a roadie to Saskatoon for Friday''s tilt.

--Its not a popular take, but I can watch golf when Tiger isn't close to or atop the leaderboard.  Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and others are guys I can sit and watch battle it out. Tiger is just one of a group now.   By the way, is Weyburn's Graham DeLaet going to get back on tour this year or is that back injury going to sideline him for all of 2019?

--I am sick of the phrases "Extreme Cold Warning" and "Polar Vortex".  I am guessing most of you are as well.

--Is NHL trade deadline day going to be a dud? Can't wait to see what James Duthie and Jay and Dan have planned!

--That's all I got.  Stay warm and have a great week!

CFL 2.0 Is Explained To Rider Nation by Commissioner Ambrosie

Randy Ambrosie brought "Randy's Road Trip 2.0" to Regina on Sunday afternoon.   The CBA, his vision for the league and other topics were brought up as he chatted with fans at the Harvard 620 Lounge at Mosaic Stadium.

My story on that and a scrum he did with myself and other reporters can be found right here

Argos Sign Brandon Bridge

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The Toronto Argonauts announced today the club has signed Canadian QB Brandon Bridge.

Bridge, a Toronto native, comes home after playing eight games for Saskatchewan last season, throwing for 804 yards and a touchdown. The 6’5, 235-pound QB was selected in the fourth round of the 2015 CFL Draft by Montreal getting in two games as a rookie for the Als. The 26-year-old signed with the Roughriders in 2016 and a year later became the first Canadian QB to throw for at least three touchdowns in a game in over 30 years when he led the Riders to a road win road over Hamilton. In 25 career games, Bridge has thrown for 2,485 yards and 13 touchdowns while adding 321 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.

‘Air Canada’ played two seasons at Alcorn State University in Mississippi (2010-2011), starting as a freshman for the Braves and throwing for over 2,000 yards and 19 touchdowns with 601 yards rushing and eight scores on the ground that season. After his sophomore season, Bridge transferred to the University of South Alabama to finish his college football career for the Jaguars (2013-2014).

Saturday, February 23, 2019

2021 Olympic Curling Trials Coming To Saskatoon

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Rachel Homan and Kevin Koe earned the right to represent Canada at the 2018 Winter Olympics after winning the Roar of the Rings Olympic trials in Ottawa in 2017

Canada's representatives in four-player curling for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing will be determined in Saskatoon

Curling Canada made it official on Saturday. SaskTel Centre will play host to the 2021 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings — from Nov. 27-Dec. 5.

“The Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings is the most intense, highest-stakes event in Canadian curling, and the SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon will be a superb showcase,” said Maureen Miller, Chair of Curling Canada’s Board of Governors. “Saskatoon has proven time and time again that it is a curling hotbed, with fans and volunteer who make every event in that city special, and I know that will be the case in 2021.”

The process for determining the competing teams for the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings will be announced later this season, as will the Trials competition format itself.

It will be the second time the Canadian Curling Trials have been held in Saskatchewan. Since curling rejoined the Olympics as a medal sport in 1998 at Nagano, Japan, the Trials have been staged in Brandon, Man., in 1997 (won by Mike Harris and Sandra Schmirler), in Regina in 2001 (won by Kevin Martin and Kelley Law), in Halifax in 2005 (won by Brad Gushue and Shannon Kleibrink), in Edmonton in 2009 (won by Kevin Martin and Cheryl Bernard), in Winnipeg in 2013 (won by Brad Jacobs and Jennifer Jones) and in Ottawa in 2017 (won by Kevin Koe and Rachel Homan).
SaskTel Centre has a rich history with curling events, including two of the best-attended Tim Hortons Briers of all time — the 2000 event attracted 248,793 fans (second all time), while four years later, the total attendance was 238,129 (sixth all time).

The venue  has also played host to the 1989 and 2012 Briers, as well as the 1991 Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

“We are thrilled that Curling Canada has selected us to host the 2021 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings here in Saskatoon,” said Michael Leier, President of Curl Saskatoon and Vice-Chair of the Saskatoon Host Committee. “Saskatoon has a vibrant curling community, which will be very excited to get to work to make the 2021 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings a great success for both the athletes and fans.”

(Curling Canada)

Friday, February 22, 2019

This And That

--Welcome to Friday and the usual thoughts running through my muddled mind.  As always, they come in no particular order. 

--Nailed it!  As so many including myself had predicted, Randy Ambrosie made fans in Saskatchewan and Hamilton happy yesterday as the CFL decided to "go for two" and announce the 2020 and 2021 Grey Cup hosts.  It was just a matter of who gets what game and almost right up until the announcement was made, it wasn't really clear.  It became a little murkier when a text from someone in Hamilton said it was us in 21 and them in 20 about 15 minutes before the actual announcement. That was quickly followed by a "I guess not".

It doesn't matter when the game is coming, but that the game is coming and football fans now can't wait for November 22, 2020 when the 108th Grey Cup will be the first Grey Cup at Mosaic Stadium.  What a show it will be. With everyone gathering at Evraz Place for what should be an outstanding festival leading up to the game, it will show everyone again what Regina can do when the big events come to town.  We did it for the Brier and we did it for Memorial Cup.  When Regina is called to shine, we do.  Its the way we roll!   It is going to be a great few months in YQR getting ready for the game.  It will also be up for Jeremy O'Day and Craig Dickenson to have a team that can be in that game. What do they have up their sleeve moving forward.  Yes, the talk goes right back to the quarterback.

Perhaps it is time for O'Day to make a splash and get a quarterback that is here for this year and beyond.  It is time to get that guy.  It won't be Reilly and Mitchell.  Forget about Nichols and forget about Harris too. Streveler isn't your guy and let's not even bring up Manziel. See what the asking price is for James Franklin and give Hamilton a call and see what they would give up for Jeremiah Masoli.  Masoli just might be the guy the Riders need.  What's it worth? A call needs to be made.

--Randy Ambrosie will be at Mosaic Stadium for Randy's Road Trip 2.0 on Sunday afternoon.  I will be interested in seeing where Rider Nation goes with the questions he is asked and what is front and center on their minds.  Is it the schedule? Is it CFL 2.0? Is it officiating? Is it the CBA?  What will be main topic of discussion be?.  Ambrosie will be ready for all of it so for those who are going bring it on!

I would think the CBA is the most pressing issue, but fans don't want to know about what goes on behind the scenes, they want to talk about the product they see with their own two eyes. I am guessing we will get more people interested in things like officiating, player safety and possible rule changes ahead of whether or not we will play on time.  I guess we'll know on Sunday.

--Has anyone noticed we haven't been inundated with the Ford HotShots commercials during the Scotties?  It took me a couple of days to realize that.  Going back, I see Ford is no longer a major sponsor so that would explain it.  The question I have is why?  I am also hearing rumblings TSN may be wanting to get out of the curling game altogether and that Sportsnet is ready to jump in.  I don't know if I would be OK with that considering how much of a staple Vic Rauter has become to the game. As I have said many times, if it weren't for Vic Rauter, Ray Turnbull and Linda Moore, the sport in this country would not have the exposure it does.  Russ Howard and Cheryl Bernard have taken the torch left them and they've run with it.  Sportsnet does a great job and I like their personalities, but its not what TSN gives me.

--Jennifer Jones ahead of Sandra Schmirler when it comes to the all-time skip in Canadian women's curling. Puh-leeze!  The fact a member of the Jones rink took three of the four spots makes me wonder how many of the 31 who voted come from Manitoba.  Most of us in Saskatchewan know Sandra is the best all-time skip and we don't need verification of that.   I would love to see a best of seven between Sandra's squad and Jennifer's squad.  I think those of us in the 306 know who would take that and it wouldn't go seven!

--If the Canadian curling fraternity didn't know who Robyn Silvernagle was before, they do now.  She goes into the last day tied for first.  I think a lot of us knew she had a playoff-capable team,but I don't know if we thought her and her team would be as good as what they have been in their first Scotties.  She was understandably nervous in her first game and it showed against Jones.  She's not nervous now, but she is making other teams feel that way.  She should have a spot in the Page Playoffs.

--Yes, when I saw the Montreal Canadiens beat Philadelphia 5-0, I automatically thought Cam Talbot had made his debut in Philly orange.  While I didn't address the topic in Monday's column, I couldn't have been happier to see Talbot leave Edmonton.  Many praised him for his community work and that he was a nice guy.  Nice guys work for the Kinsmen Club!!  Cam Talbot needed to make some saves and he didn't make them. He had to be sent packing and he was.  While goaltending wasn't the number one issue plaguing the Oilers, there were games they could have won but didn't because he just didn't make the save.  Some might miss him, I won't.

--Dave Taylor's Cougar women's basketball team went into Calgary Thursday night and punched the Dinos right in the mouth.  So much for Calgary's 17-game win streak.  There is still a long ways to go in this best of three matchup, but one has to like Regina's chances after what happened Thursday with Regina's top player--Kyanna Giles, not having a big impact.  Michaela Kleisinger more than made up with that with four three-pointers which this blogger has no complaints about.

--On paper, it will go down as a 5-4 shootout win, but that win might have been the biggest of the year for the Regina Pats because of how it was achieved.  They were down 4-0 until the final couple of minutes in the second before storming back to tie it and win it in the shootout.  It is victories like that that can be huge moving forward for this team as they prepare for next season.  While the win-loss record isn't pretty this year, one has to see what this team is developing and think better times are ready to return.  I don't know if Regina is a playoff team next year, but they will be a lot closer to that than this year.

--The city of Regina has installed red-light cameras at Albert and Sask Drive, the Lewvan and Dewdney and Albert and Parliament.  May I request them to put one up at Fleet and Victoria? The amount of people that run the red on Vic going both east and westbound at that intersection is amazing. Is that intersection still one of the most dangerous in the city?

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

Thursday, February 21, 2019

GC 2020 Coming To Regina; 2021 To Hamilton

The Grey Cup has been awarded to the Saskatchewan Roughriders, the City of Regina and the Province of Saskatchewan for 2020 and to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, the City of Hamilton and the Province of Ontario for 2021, the Canadian Football League announced today.

“Congratulations to Saskatchewan on winning the bid for the 2020 Grey Cup. It’s exciting the Roughriders and their legion of fans, among the most passionate in all of sport, will cap the club’s 110th anniversary by welcoming the biggest event in Canadian sport,” said Randy Ambrosie, Commissioner of the CFL.

“We’re thrilled that Hamilton, which boasts a football tradition second to none, will welcome the Grey Cup in 2021, its first opportunity to host in 25 years. I know the Tiger-Cats look forward to showcasing the renaissance underway in the City of Hamilton, which will celebrate its 175th anniversary that year,” he said.

“Our Governors want to thank the Montreal Alouettes for a first-class bid. Unfortunately, 2021 was not an option for them because of expected renovations at Olympic Stadium. We certainly anticipate returning the Grey Cup in the future to the dynamic city that is Montreal and the welcoming province that is Quebec.”

The Canadian Football League’s new Grey Cup bidding system requires interested CFL teams and their partners to present their plans to the league’s Grey Cup Committee with the final choice resting with its Board of Governors. This is believed to be the first time in history that the league has awarded two Grey Cups at the same time.

“The Saskatchewan Roughriders are thrilled to host the 2020 Grey Cup in Canada’s newest outdoor stadium. We are excited to welcome the entire country to share in the culmination of our 110th anniversary and experience Saskatchewan’s legendary hospitality”, said Craig Reynolds, President and CEO of the community-owned Roughriders.

Saskatchewan last hosted the Grey Cup in 2013, with the Riders capturing the most prized trophy in Canadian sport on home soil in what may have been the most memorable day ever for Rider Nation.

“The 2021 Grey Cup will be a time to celebrate all that the Tiger-Cats and Canadian football mean to Tigertown,” said Bob Young, Caretaker of the Tiger-Cats since 2003. “But it’s also an opportunity for us to work with the City of Hamilton to showcase this community’s amazing growth and renaissance.”

Hamilton last hosted the Grey Cup in 1996, when the Toronto Argonauts captured the Cup in thrilling fashion in what is often described as the ‘Snow Bowl’, one of the most entertaining Grey Cup games ever.

Both Saskatchewan and Hamilton have moved into modern new venues since those Grey Cups: The Tiger-Cats have played at Tim Hortons Field since 2014 and the Roughriders moved into new Mosaic Stadium in 2017.

“We know both of these cities will build on the momentum that is sure to be created this November when Calgary hosts the 107th Grey Cup. Calgarians were the first to turn Canada’s championship game into a party that celebrates our game, our country and we know they’ll do a great job this year,” Ambrosie said.

“We have challenged our teams and their communities to raise the bar by making each Grey Cup the best ever. Edmonton took it to a new level last year and Calgary, Saskatchewan and Hamilton have put together plans that will continue to take the Grey Cup game and festival to new heights.”

Today’s announcement was made live on select TSN platforms as fans watched at special viewing parties across Saskatchewan and in Hamilton.

The 107th Grey Cup game will be played November 24, 2019 at McMahon Stadium in Calgary, Alberta. The 108th Grey Cup game will be played Sunday, November 22, 2020 at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, Saskatchewan. The 109th Grey Cup will be played at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, Ontario on November 21, 2021.

The Grey Cup, traditionally played on the last Sunday in November, will be played on the second last Sunday in November starting in 2020, the result of the CFL moving its season up.

Riders Sign Kienan Lafrance

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The Saskatchewan Roughriders have signed national free-agent running back Kienan Lafrance to a one-year contract.             

Lafrance (5’10 – 214) joins the Riders after spending last season with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, where he registered 36 carries for 137 yards and two touchdowns in 16 regular-season games. He also played in the Western Semi-Final and Western Final.   

This will be Lafrance’s second stint with the Riders after spending the 2017 season with the team. The 27-year-old Winnipeg native was originally selected by the Ottawa Redblacks in the 6th round (45th overall) of the 2015 CFL Draft.

In 61 career regular-season games through four seasons, Lafrance has totaled 147 carries for 590 yards and four touchdowns and 36 receptions for 264 yards and two touchdowns. He’s added six career playoff games and two Grey Cup games – winning with the Redblacks in 2016. 

(Ryan Pollock/Riders PR)

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Riders Announce Football Operations and 2019 Coaching Staff

The Saskatchewan Roughriders have announced their football operations and coaching staff for the 2019 season:     

Vice President, Football Operations & General Manager: Jeremy O’Day
Assistant General Manager: Paul Jones
Director, Football Operations: Ryan Pollock
Manager, Player Personnel: Mike Davis
Coordinator, Football Operations: Jordan Greenly

Coaching Staff 
Head Coach & Special Teams Coordinator: Craig Dickenson
Offensive Coordinator & Assistant Head Coach: Stephen McAdoo
Defensive Coordinator & Defensive Backs: Jason Shivers
Quarterbacks: Steve Walsh
Running Backs:  Kent Maugeri
Receivers: Travis Moore
Offensive Line: Stephen Sorrells
Linebackers:  Chris Tormey
Defensive Line:  Mike Scheper
Special Teams: Merritt Bowden
Defensive Assistant & Assistant Defensive Backs:. Richard Kent

Equipment Staff 
Equipment Manager; Gordon Gilroy
Assistant Equipment Manager: Mike MacNeil
Video Staff
Manager, Football Analytics and Scouting:  Chad Hudson
Football Video & Research and Development : Alex Smith Jr.
Football Video & Research and Development: Nick Bowley

Health & Fitness 

Head Athletic Therapist: Ryan Raftis
Assistant Athletic Therapist: Trevor Len
Strength and Conditioning Trainer:  Clinton Spencer

This Week In Cougar Athletics

Thursday (all times CST)
Women’s Volleyball – vs. UBC, 7:00 PM (CKHS)
Women’s Basketball – at Calgary, 7:00 PM (Calgary, Alta.)
Swimming – at U SPORTS Championships, Day 1 (Vancouver, B.C.)

Friday (all times CST)
Women’s Volleyball – vs. UBC, 7:00 PM (CKHS)
Women’s Basketball – at Calgary, 7:00 PM (Calgary, Alta.)
Swimming – at U SPORTS Championships, Day 2 (Vancouver, B.C.)
Track & Field – at Canada West Championships, Day 1 (Edmonton, Alta.)

Saturday (all times CST)
Women’s Volleyball – vs. UBC, 7:00 PM (CKHS) – if necessary
Women’s Basketball – at Calgary, 7:00 PM (Calgary, Alta.) – if necessary
Swimming – at U SPORTS Championships, Day 3 (Vancouver, B.C.)
Track & Field – at Canada West Championships, Day 2 (Edmonton, Alta.)

Women’s Volleyball (U SPORTS Ranking: No. 10) – The Cougars needed a Calgary sweep over UBC last weekend to hang on to the No. 4 spot in the Canada West standings and that’s exactly what happened. The Dinos’ two wins over the Thunderbirds ensured the Cougars would host a home playoff series for the third time in history and for the first time since 2010, as they’ll host a best-of-three quarterfinal against UBC starting on Thursday night (7:00). The second match is set for Friday night (7:00) with a third match – if it’s needed – to be played on Saturday night with a slightly earlier start time of 6:00.

Women’s Basketball (U SPORTS Ranking: No. 5) – The Cougars shook off the rust from their first-round bye to defeat Victoria in two straight games in a quarterfinal series at the CKHS, winning 71-51 over the Vikes on Thursday and closing out the series with an 81-60 victory on Friday. The series win moves the No. 3-seeded Cougars into this weekend’s Canada West semifinals, and they’ll travel to Calgary to square off with the Dinos in a best-of-three series that begins Thursday. The winner of that series not only will meet the winner of the Saskatchewan/Lethbridge series to decide the conference championship, but will also get an automatic berth to the 2019 U SPORTS Championship in Toronto.

Swimming – The Cougars finish off their 2018-19 season this weekend at the U SPORTS Championships, which will be hosted by the University of British Columbia from Thursday through Saturday. A total of eight swimmers will represent the U of R at the U SPORTS meet, including Ryan Jensen, Brian Palaschuk, Etienne Paquin-Foisy, Kareem Tarek Mohammed, Brendan Van Herk, and Noah Wasyliw on the men’s side and Bree Crookshanks and McKinley Penner on the women’s side.

Track & Field – The men’s and women’s teams will head up to Edmonton this weekend for the Canada West Championships on Friday and Saturday. A number of U of R athletes come into the meet ranked highly in the conference including Joely Welburn in both the high jump and long jump, Reagan Fedak in the weight throw, Greg Hetterley in both the 1000 and 1500, Shane Patmore in the long jump, and the men’s 4x400 and 4x800 relay teams.

Men’s Basketball – The Cougars’ season ended in Saskatoon on Friday after a loss to the Saskatchewan Huskies in the Canada West quarterfinals. They were defeated 99-68 in Game 1 on Thursday, and Saskatchewan took a 97-77 win the following night to advance to the conference semifinals. The Cougars could return almost everyone from this season’s team that was 14-6 in Canada West play with the exception of forward Kornel Tokolyi, the U of R’s lone graduating player.

Women’s Hockey – The Cougars travelled to the West Coast for a best-of-three quarterfinal series against UBC but lost in two straight games, falling 5-0 and 5-1 to the Thunderbirds on Friday and Saturday. The series marked the final two games for veterans Emma Waldenberger and Nikki Watters-Matthes, who both graduate after five full years with the program.

Monday, February 18, 2019

NHL Three Stars Of Week

Stars of the Week, Kucherov, Tarasenko, Crosby

Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov, St. Louis Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko and Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby have been named the NHL’s “Three Stars” for the week ending Feb. 17.


Kucherov recorded multiple points in all three of his appearances, totaling 3-7—10 to propel the League-leading Lightning (44-11-4, 92 points) to a perfect week and their fifth straight win overall. Kucherov opened the week with consecutive four-point performances, collecting 1‑3—4 in both a 6-3 triumph against the Calgary Flames Feb. 12 and a 6-0 victory over the Dallas Stars Feb. 14. That marked the second time this season that Kucherov has posted four-plus points in consecutive team games (also Dec. 22-27: 2-7—9 in 2 GP) – the only two such instances in franchise history. He added 1-1—2 (including the winning goal) in a 3-0 victory against the Montreal Canadiens Feb. 16, Kucherov’s fourth straight multi-point outing overall (5‑8—13). The 25-year-old Maykop, Russia, native owns a seven-point lead atop this season’s Art Ross Trophy Race, pacing the NHL with 27-67—94 in 59 games. Kucherov, who led the League with five power-play points last week (1‑4—5), also has an NHL-best 37 power-play points in 2018-19 (11-26—37).


Tarasenko also registered multiple points in each of his contests, compiling 4-6—10 in four games to help the Blues (31-22-5, 67 points) match a franchise record with their 10th straight victory overall. Tarasenko posted his fourth career three-assist performance – and first since Dec. 9, 2016 (0-3—3 at NJD) – in an 8-3 win against the New Jersey Devils Feb. 12. He then scored twice, his fifth multi-goal outing of the season, in a 4-0 triumph over the Arizona Coyotes Feb. 14. Tarasenko capped the week with the winning goal in each of his final two contests, posting 1-1—2 in a 3-0 victory against the Colorado Avalanche Feb. 16 and 1-2—3 in a 4-0 win over the Minnesota Wild Feb. 17. In doing so, the 27-year-old Yaroslavl, Russia, native eclipsed the 400-point milestone (204-197—401 in 478 GP), requiring the fifth-fewest games in franchise history to achieve the feat. Tarasenko ranks second on St. Louis with 26-25—51 overall this season (57 GP), highlighted by 11-11—22 during a career-high 12-game point streak.


Crosby notched 2-8—10 in four outings to lift the Penguins (31-21-7, 69 points) to a trio of wins and into the first Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. He recorded 1-2—3 in a 4-1 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers Feb. 11, upping his totals to 40-57—97 in 65 career contests against Pittsburgh’s intrastate rival. Crosby then picked up one assist in a 3-1 triumph over the Edmonton Oilers Feb. 13. He finished the week with back-to-back three-point performances, registering 1-2—3 in a 5-4 loss to the Calgary Flames Feb. 16 and 0-3—3 in a 6-5 win over the New York Rangers Feb. 17. The 31-year-old Cole Harbour, N.S., native and two-time Art Ross Trophy winner ranks eighth in the NHL with 25-47—72 in 56 total games this season, his sixth straight 70-point campaign.

Something To "Mitch" About

--Yeah, it's late, but it's a holiday Monday, I'm under the weather and there was curling on this morning, but here is the Monday column.

--Rider Nation is on pins and needles wondering if the 2020 Grey Cup game is coming to Mosaic Stadium.  At first, I thought it was a slamdunk when the Riders said there would be viewing parties set up Thursday afternoon, but then I found out Hamilton was doing the same thing.  One would think you wouldn't hold a party unless you knew what the verdict was going to be, but someone is going to be disappointed. 

I have heard from a couple of people that Commissioner Randy Ambrosie will announce both the 2020 game and 2021 game for Saskatchewan and Hamilton or vice-versa so maybe that will be the case.  I guess we will have to wait.   Hamilton hasn't had the game in over two decades so they do deserve to showcase Tim Hortons Field and have the game back here, but everyone knows what a Grey Cup in Regina will be like.  As for Montreal, they seem to have been shut out of the picture altogether.

--The first wave of CFL free agency is over.  The news of free agent signings has started to trickle to a slowdown with announcements here and there.  Looking over what is left, there is still some value out there.

Names like Vidal Hazelton, Terrence Toliver, Weston Dressler, Jon Gott, Tristan Okpaulougo, Marcus Ball and Ciante Evans are still out there.  They can help someone.  I would have to think the Riders would like to add another receiver and then some depth in certain areas.

--How can you not like the Brett Lauther story?  When Tyler Crapigna went down last year, many wondered if Lauther could come in here after being out of the game for so-long and contribute.  We got our answer to that question early on.  As we found out, he ended up being quite the weapon for the green-and-white.  Where would they have been had it not been for him? I am guessing they aren't 12-6 and hosting a home playoff game.   If Lauther can even come close to duplicating what he did in 18, both this season and in 2020, he can look forward to what I'm sure will be another nice payday.

--I can't be the only one who isn't surprised that Ricky Ray hasn't announced his retirement yet.  I just can't see him coming back after last year's neck injury. He isn't really thinking about coming back to play is he?  If so why?  He has done everything you would want and a call from the CFL Hall of Fame will come..

--People in this country were quick to pounce on the fact that there was hardly anyone in the stands at the AAF game in Memphis this weekend.  620 CKRM Rider football analyst Luc Mullinder was quick to point out CFL fans shouldn't be gloating at that when there are attendance issues in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.  He is right!

--How can people in Ontario bitch and moan about the fact they were woken up because of an Amber Alert? There is no debating it, if you were one of those people, you are a horrible human being. You can't defend yourself on that one and it looks even worse because tragically the girl the Amber Alert was put on ended up dead.  Be proud!

--Regina mayor Michael Fougere, Chamber CEO John Hopkins, AGT Foods founder Murad al-Katib and another gentleman played some songs together at the Mayor's state of the city address last week.  I wish I would have seen that.  I now have to ask if this group can sit down and play "Experience Regina".  That needs to happen.  Yes it does!!

--Don Cherry certainly opened up a hornet's nest with his thoughts on the Carolina Hurricanes post-game celebrations.   I agree with some of what Cherry says, but on this one I am firmly on the other side.  There is no harm in what the Hurricanes are doing at all.  Cherry thinks the "schtick" is dumb, but has no problem with the "schtick" that is his wardrobe.  Cmon Don!  It's called having fun and professional sport needs more of that.

--I watched 5 minutes of the NBA all-star game on Sunday.  In honesty, it was 4 minutes more than I thought I would.  The 5 minutes I saw certainly wasn't basketball.  Can we please just get rid of all-star games and continue the season  I don't see the need for them anymore.

--Robyn Silvernagle has had a nice start at the Scotties, She is an inch or two from being 3-0 as she came oh so close to beating Jennifer Jones in her opener on Saturday.  There is still a long ways to go, but Silvernagle could so some damage in Sydney before all is said and done.  Everyone expects Jones and Rachel Homan to battle in the final and I understand that, but if any rink is going to throw a monkeywrench into that plan, it could be Silvernagle and her North Battleford gang.

--When you look outside and see what it is like and then you turn the channel on Sunday afternoon and see the PGA's Genesis Open being played, it makes your heart sink just a little.  Spring is coming right?

--It has probably taken you longer to read this than Cain Velasquez's effort in the octagon on Sunday, All it took was 26 seconds for Yannick Ngannout to turn out Velasquez's lights  The man is a bonafide monster!

--Happy Family Day everyone!   Enjoy the week!

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Jefferson Ready For Life As A Bomber

Willie Jefferson had options, the way you’d think a two-time CFL all-star with freakish athletic ability would have.

The quarterback’s worst nightmare landed in Winnipeg, Friday, saying it was pretty hairy acting as his own agent in free agency, there were so many teams that wanted him.

“Pretty much everybody,” the 28-year-old former Rider said. “Doing the things I’ve been doing the last two years, a couple of teams were really hot on my line, Winnipeg being one of them.”

Some current Bombers helped bring Jefferson to Winnipeg: O-lineman Stanley Bryant, whom he’s knocked heads with, receiver Darvin Adams and former teammates like Nic Demski (Saskatchewan) and Matt Nichols (Edmonton).

“Matt was on my phone, heavy,” Jefferson said.

Little wonder, as the 6-foot-6, 245-pounder gave the Bomber quarterback fits last season, most notably with a 97-yard interception return for a touchdown in the Banjo Bowl.

“He almost single-handedly beat us,” Bomber GM Kyle Walters recalled.

Nichols convinced Jefferson this is a good place to live and work, a nice contract from Walters worth some $200,000 did the rest.

Even if trading green-and-white for blue-and-gold doesn’t come easy.

“When the conversations first did start, I was kind of hesitant to come this way,” Jefferson said, noting the rivalry. “But it’s a business. And then once I looked at their side of things, it really became clear which organization really was going after me the most.”

There’s also the fact Winnipeg is a contender, with another of the CFL’s top defenders at linebacker, in Adam Bighill.

Signed for one year, Jefferson says if he likes it, he’ll stay.

But first things first.

“Hopefully we can make something big happen.”

(Winnipeg Sun)

Jones Looks To Make History In Sydney

Jennifer Jones will begin her quest for history on Saturday when the 2019 Scotties Tournament of Hearts gets underway at Centre 200 in Sydney, N.S.

Jones heads into the 2019 Scotties with six past victories, including last year at Penticton, B.C., at the Canadian Women’s Curling Championship, tying her with her longtime teammate Jill Officer and Nova Scotia’s legendary skip Colleen Jones.

Officer, who has stepped away from competitive curling this season, will be the alternate for Jennifer Jones’s Team Canada lineup in Sydney.

Jones, with her current Winnipeg team of vice-skip Kaitlyn Lawes, new second Jocelyn Peterman, lead Dawn McEwen, Officer at alternate will open play on Saturday night (5:30 p.m. Saskatchewan time) against Saskatchewan’s Robyn Silvernagle 

The first draw of the 2019 Scotties will be Saturday at  12:30 p.m., which is when home-province hopeful Jill Brothers and her Nova Scotia team from Halifax hits the ice for the first time, taking on B.C.’s Sarah Wark (Abbotsford).

Also in that first draw will be 2017 Scotties champ Ontario’s Rachel Homan (Ottawa), who is pursuing her fourth Canadian title in the past seven years, and will be taking on 2016 Scotties silver-medallist Krista McCarville of Northern Ontario (Thunder Bay), while 2016 Scotties champ Chelsea Carey of Alberta (Calgary) is up against Manitoba’s Tracy Fleury (East St. Paul).

On Friday night, Casey Schiedigger of Lethbridge became the wild-card team with a victory over Kerri Einarsson of Winnipeg. as she is the 16th and final entry at the Scotties. 

he 16 teams are split into two pools of eight, based on their Canadian Team Ranking System standing as of Dec. 31; the Wild Card winner will be the No. 3 seed.

They will play seven round-robin games within their pool, with the top four teams in each pool moving into the Championship Pool. The four teams from Pool A will play the four teams from Pool B Thursday and Friday, and then the top four win-loss records (including the preliminary round) will move into the traditional Page playoffs beginning Saturday.

The gold-medal game is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 24; the winner will represent Canada at the 2019 LGT World Women’s Curling Championship, presented by Pioneer Hi-Bred, March 16-24 in Silkeborg, Denmark, and also will return as Team Canada to the 2020 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Moose Jaw, Sask.

Teams listed according to seeding, and listed in order of skip, vice-skip, second, lead, alternate, coach; hometown and CTRS ranking as of Dec. 31)


1. Ontario, Rachel Homan (Emma Miskew, Joanne Courtney, Lisa Weagle, Marcel Rocque; Ottawa, 1)
4.  Manitoba, Tracy Fleury (Selena Njegovan, Liz Fyfe, Kristin MacCuish, Taylor McDonald, Andrea Ronnebeck; East St. Paul, 4)
5. Alberta, Chelsea Carey (Sarah Wilkes, Dana Ferguson, Rachel Brown, Dan Carey; Calgary, 6)
8. British Columbia, Sarah Wark (Kristen Pilote, Carley Sandwith, Jen Rusnell, Michelle Dunn, Rick Fewster; Abbotsford, 26)
9. Northern Ontario, Krista McCarville (Kendra Lilly, Jen Gates, Sarah Potts, Lorraine Lang, Rick Lang; Thunder Bay, 30)
12. Nova Scotia, Jill Brothers (Erin Carmody, Sarah Murphy, Jenn Brine, Kim Kelly, Taylor Ardiel; Halifax, 53)
13. Quebec, Gabrielle Lavoie (Patricia Boudreault, Anna Munroe, Julie Daigle, Marie-France Larouche, Daniel Charette; Quebec City/Saint-Romuald, NR)

16. Nunavut, Jenine Bodner [throws second] (Jennifer Blaney [throws fourth], Alison Griffin [throws third], Megan Ingram, Sadie Pinksen, Susanne Martin; Iqaluit, NR)


2. Team Canada, Jennifer Jones (Kaitlyn Lawes, Jocelyn Peterman, Dawn McEwen, Jill Officer, Viktor Kjäll; Winnipeg, 
3. Wild Card:  Casey Schiedigger (Carrie-Anne McTaggart, Jessie Haughian, Kristie Moore)
6. Saskatchewan, Robyn Silvernagle (Stefanie Lawton, Jessie Hunkin, Kara Thevenot, Marliese Kasner, Lesley McEwan; North Battleford, 8)
7. Prince Edward Island, Suzanne Birt (Marie Christianson, Meaghan Hughes, Michelle McQuaid, Mitch O’Shea; Charlottetown, 22)
10. Northwest Territories, Kerry Galusha (Sarah Koltun, Brittany Tran, Shona Barbour, John Epping; Yellowknife, 31)
11. New Brunswick, Andrea Crawford (Jillian Babin, Jennifer Armstrong, Katie Forward, Charlie Sullivan; Saint John, 44)
14. Yukon, Nicole Baldwin (Hailey Birnie, Ladene Shaw, Helen Strong, Wade Scoffin; Whitehorse, NR)

15. Newfoundland/Labrador, Kelli Sharpe (Stephanie Guzzwell, Beth Hamilton, Carrie Vautour, Michelle Jewer, Leslie Anne Walsh; St. John’s, NR)

(Curling Canada) 

Friday, February 15, 2019

Who Hosts GC 2020? The Answer Comes Thursday

Image result for grey cup

The Canadian Football League (CFL) is set to award the 2020 Grey Cup on Thursday, February 21 at 6:30 p.m. ET which will be carried live on select TSN platforms.

The League’s Grey Cup Committee has reviewed bids for what will be the 108th Grey Cup from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Montreal Alouettes and Saskatchewan Roughriders, and their respective partners, with the final decision resting with the CFL Board of Governors.

“We want to thank all three organizations for first-class bids, any one of which would continue to take the Grey Cup game and festival to new heights,” said Randy Ambrosie, Commissioner of the CFL.

“We look forward to next Thursday and the excitement it will generate at the same time we plan to ‘Experience The Energy’ at what we know will be a great 107th Grey Cup presented by Shaw this November in Calgary.”

Saskatchewan Roughriders President & CEO Craig Reynolds:

"We want to thank the CFL and the Grey Cup committee for their diligence throughout the bid process. 

We feel like we put forth a strong and compelling bid to host the 2020 Grey Cup in our 110th anniversary year where we will be able to showcase Mosaic Stadium and Saskatchewan's incredible hospitality. 

We encourage our fans to come together on February 21st as we anxiously await the announcement.”

The 2020 Grey Cup  announcement can be watched live on TSN at 5:30pm Thursday, February 21.

Three Canadian Brewhouse locations will be hosting Grey Cup announcement watch parties – Regina Grasslands, Regina Eastgate, Stonebridge Saskatoon. Roughrider players are scheduled to be in attendance at each location.

Riders Re-Sign Roosevelt, Sign Arceneaux and Extend Lauther

Picture: Courtesy Saskatchewan Roughriders 

The Saskatchewan Roughriders have re-signed international receiver Naaman Roosevelt to a one-year contract.

Roosevelt (6’1 – 195) will remain with the Riders after spending the previous four seasons with the Green and White.

Last season, the 31-year-old Buffalo native registered 48 receptions for 570 yards and four touchdowns in 14 regular-season appearances. He added seven receptions for 79 yards in the Western Semi-Final.

Through four CFL seasons with the Riders, Roosevelt has totaled 224 catches for 3,188 yards and 19 touchdowns. He surpassed the 1,000-yard mark during the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

Roosevelt was named a West Division All-Star in 2017 and nominated as the Riders’ Most Outstanding Player in 2016.


The Saskatchewan Roughriders have signed international free-agent receiver Emmanuel Arceneaux to a one-year contract.

Arceneaux (6’2 – 210) has signed with the Riders after eight CFL seasons with the B.C. Lions.

Through 129 career regular-season games, Arceneaux has registered 556 receptions for 8,169 yards and 55 touchdowns. He has surpassed the 1,000-yard mark four times (2010, 15-17) including a career-high 1,566 yards in 2016.

Last season, the 31-year-old Alcorn State product had 32 catches for 553 yards and one touchdown in nine regular-season games.

Arceneaux was named a CFL All-Star in 2015 and 2016, and a West Division All-Star in 2015, 2016 and 2017.


The Saskatchewan Roughriders have signed national kicker Brett Lauther to a one-year contract extension, keeping him with the club through 2020.

Lauther (6’1 – 195) spent 2018 with the Riders after signing with the team last March.

The 28-year-old Saint Mary’s product connected on 54 of 60 field-goal attempts (90%) including a 56-yard long. The 90% success rate was the second-best in franchise history and the 56-yarder is the seventh-longest successful kick.

Lauther had two games going a perfect 6-for-6 and another two connecting on all five field-goal attempts.

At the end of the season Lauther was selected as a West Division All-Star. He was also named the Riders’ 2018 Most Outstanding Special-Teams Player and Most Outstanding Canadian.

(Ryan Pollock/Riders PR)

This And That

--Welcome to Friday  and the usual thoughts running through my muddled mind. As always, they are in no particular order.

--Rider Nation isn't exactly the happiest fan-base right now after the early days of CFL free agency.  The wishes they had weren't exactly answered.  The news Zach Collaros was coming back was met with a hard resounding "thud" by many.   I think we all knew Mike Reilly wasn't coming here and despite the fact the team did make a solid offer to Bo Levi Mitchell, there shouldn't be anyone surprised that he is back in Calgary.  He says he left more money on the table, but a part of me thinks he was  trolling the Riders and Toronto as there was no way he was leaving Calgary after failing to find work in the NFL.

Yes, I am surprised Collaros is back.  Despite what he said on Wednesday, I don't think he liked his time very much in Riderville last year because of the way things went.  I am also surprised that considering his health that the Riders reached out to him. No matter where Collaros would have played this year, there is a fear that we are going to see his brains get scrambled again and it won't be good.  Collaros has become a modern-day Buck Pierce.  Pierce was smart enough to get out as was Dave Dickenson back in the day.  I am sure the team knows where he stands health-wise, but I am also guessing that health status takes a dramatic turn downwards once he takes that first big hit.

This may sound like I'm not a Collaros fan, but I am.  I just want to see him play the game to his best abilities and not have another concussion derail his future.  I'd be saying the same thing if he had employment with any other team.  We didn't see the real Collaros last year because of the concussion he suffered in the pre-season when he was folded up in what I think was his second series of the pre-season.  A healthy Zach Collaros can be a very good Zach Collaros. In fact, I am on record as saying a healthy Zach Collaros is better than Trevor Harris.  The move doesn't excite me, but I'm not disappointed either.  Keeping Zach healthy is priority #1.

--Collaros also talked about player safety and how the league isn't doing enough.  Rider fans are still upset seeing their number one and two quarterbacks get clocked with vicious head shots.  Collaros isn't the happiest of campers.  I asked Zach if he thought the CFL should adopt a targetting rule like they have in the NCAA and he said he would be in favour of it.  I think a lot of quarterbacks would be as well.

“I think it would be a good step moving forward, but again I don’t make the decisions,” Collaros said. “I don’t know if it’s helped the play down there but it’s helped player safety. It’s made defenders or even offensive guys more cautious about taking that cheap shot.”  Odell Willis and Jackson Jeffcoat knew the most they would get if the penalty was called was 15 yards.  An ejection and a fine with possibly a suspension for repeat violators would quiet this issue down.

--I am trying to figure out if BC or Edmonton won the day when it comes to free agency.  BC got the biggest player in Mike Reilly, but what a Plan B by Brock Sunderland.  Trevor Harris, Greg Ellingson and Sir Vincent Rogers should more than appease Eskimo supporters who weren't happy with the loss of Reilly.  You know Sunderland's time in Ottawa played a big part in getting the three former REDBLACKS to reunite with him in Edmonton.    Meanwhile, Ed Hervey took some nice pieces from around the league to build around Reilly.  Do these guys know in advance what the salary cap is going to be this year?  They both seemed to spend as if money was no option.

At the end of the day, the teams in the West took a big step up while the Riders didn't.  William Powell and Micah Johnson are solid additions, but when you look at what the other teams did, the green-and-white has some work to do if they don't want to be left behind.  Some might think its too late as it is.  One also must remember as Jeremy O'Day said Wednesday, Grey Cups are not won in February.  Some might not have faith in J-O, but I don't think he is done tweaking this team as he tries to make it better.  Training camp is a ways away yet and O'Day has time to continue working on things.

--I like the Naaman Roosevelt signing.  He brings something to the field and to the room.  He is a quiet leader.  All rooms need guys like him.  Like Collaros, he needs to stay healthy.  When he is, he is a big weapon as Rider Nation knows.

--Would the Riders make an offer to Weston Dressler?  Should they make an offer to Weston Dressler? There is no doubt he is still beloved by Rider Nation and he was the one mistake player-wise Chris Jones made when he cleaned house.  I think a lot of people would like to see WD7 finish his career with the same team he started it with.

--Why is it when someone leaves a franchise in free agency, the hate starts?  It happened again on Tuesday with a lot of negative comments being thrown at Mike Reilly, Greg Ellingson and apparently Willie Jefferson.  This just in, YOU DON"T MATTER!!  Guys are making decisions based on what is best for them.  Are you going to tell me if you had an opportunity to make things better for yourself that you wouldn't take it?  It's not just Rider fans, its fans of all teams.  It's a really bad look.

--It was reported the Denver Broncos were interested in signing Bo Levi Mitchell.  That obviously didn't happen. BLM had stated he wanted an opportunity to compete for a job and be a backup.  The Broncos didn't take a guy who has been the CFL MOP twice and still has a lot to give opting instead to make a trade for an aging Joe Flacco.  I'd rather have BLM if I were the Broncos.  This just shows you that it is very tough for CFL guys to make it south of the border especially at the marquee positions.  When a two time MOP can't make the NFL, it says something.  The same could be said for guys like Adam Bighill and Solomon Elimimian who have gone down and failed.  It just makes what guys like Brett Jones have done that much greater.

By the way, Joe Flacco?  Like Chris Jones, it would seem as if John Elway can't find a young quarterback to develop.  Unlike Chris Jones, Elway should know what a young quarterback needs to have and he obviously doesn't by looking at the flotsam he has brought in over the years.  Tim Tebow, Paxton Lynch, Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler, Case Keenum.  That's not exactly a murderers row is it!

--The Anaheim Ducks aren't making the playoffs.  Here's hoping once the trade deadline hits that Sam Steel is called up from San Diego. Steel is obviously a big part of Anaheim's future so you might as well get him some meaningful minutes now.

--Is Brayden Point the second best Moose Jaw Warrior behind Theoren Fleury.  A solid argument could be made for Ryan Smyth, but one has to think if Point continues doing what he is and gets his name scrawled on the Stanley Cup that it will be him.  Feel free to weigh in Warriors fans!

--It wasn't surprising, but it is disappointing to see the Chicago Cubs are leaving WGN TV after more than 70 years.  People in Chicago and around North America won't be able to watch the team on free TV anymore as the Cubs get set to launch their own channel which is something other teams have done.  It sucks for the fans, but its the next wave when it comes to what teams are doing these days.   If it weren't for WGN in the early 80's and daytime baseball at Wrigley Field, I might never have fallen in love with that team the way I have.  WGN is the Cubs to me and vice-versa.  Before becoming a subscriber to MLBTV,  WGN was my outlet for Cubs baseball.  It won't be the same not watching them on Channel 9, but as mentioned, it is the way the business is going these days.

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

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Randy's RoadTrip 2.0 Coming To A CFL City Near You

Throughout the 2019 offseason, Commissioner Randy Ambrosie will travel across Canada to meet with fans in every Canadian Football League (CFL) market in a series of town halls.‘Randy’s Road Trip’ will kick off on February 19 in Calgary and conclude March 30 in Atlantic Canada.

 This marks the second year in a row that Ambrosie has gone coast-to-coast to interact with fans.
“I very much enjoyed my last Road Trip, which was full of great conversations and important opportunities to answer questions,” said Ambrosie. “I know how knowledgeable and passionate our fans are, and I think we have a lot to learn from each other. I’m excited to ask for their feedback on some big new ideas.”

At each stop on his tour, Ambrosie will connect with fans in public forums that give them the opportunity to ask their questions and have their say.

Exact times and locations will be announced to participants at a later date. Below is the schedule:

Feb 19: Calgary
Feb 24: Saskatchewan (Regina)
Feb 27: BC (Vancouver)
March 1: Winnipeg
March 7: Hamilton
March 8: Toronto
March 9: Ottawa
March 13: Montreal
March 14: Edmonton
March 30: Atlantic Canada

Chris Kunitz Hits the 1000 Game Mark

 When Chris Kunitz signed a one-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks on July 1, he joined a team that already had its share of Stanley Cup winners.

But Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane said the 39-year-old forward, who has won the Cup four times (with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007 and the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009, 2016 and 2017), brought a different voice and perspective that was immediately welcomed.

"It's nice to have someone like that, that you can talk to about their different experiences, and not just for us but for the young guys, as well," Kane said. "There's a lot of talk about the success the Blackhawks have had in the past, but he's won four Stanley Cups, none of them with the Blackhawks. He knows what it takes to win, so it's good to lean on someone like that."

 Kunitz will play in his 1,000th NHL game when the Blackhawks host the New Jersey Devils at United Center on Thursday.  He has had a tremendous career, with 613 points (264 goals, 349 assists) in 999 NHL games with the Ducks, Atlanta Thrashers, Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning and Blackhawks.

"Obviously, I've had a lot of great teammates and coaches and great opportunities to be part of this League for so long, so those are the first things that cross your mind," said Kunitz, who has four points (one goal, three assists) in 33 games with Chicago. "Just how your career evolves and all the people you've come across, how your own family gets to be part of different things. I'm very fortunate to be in this League a long time and have some successful years that make those memories a lot more vivid.

"So it's just creating those relationships, but also being part of some special organizations and people who gave you opportunities to make a life-long dream of doing a kid's job."

Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton called Kunitz "a great person, a great teammate."

"His career has been fantastic, and I think he's been playing pretty well lately, giving us professional shifts," Colliton said. "He does a lot of little things away from the puck. There's a reason why he's had so much success as a player and played on championship teams over and over again. To have that presence on the team, certainly we have a few guys like that, but the more the merrier."

Kunitz was an undrafted free agent out of Ferris State when the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim signed him in 2003. On teams that included forward Teemu Selanne and defensemen Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger, each now in the Hockey Hall of Fame, Kunitz found his niche as a net-front presence.

"Once you get [to the NHL], you realize you have to do something to create a different outcome in the game and when you can do that, someone will rely upon you and put you out there consistently," he said. "For me, it worked to go to the net front on the power play and play with some good players.

"I didn't have to beat too many people at skill, I just had to get to the right spot for a lot of those guys."

On the way to scoring 192 points (81 goals, 111 assists) in 397 games with the Ducks, Kunitz also took leadership aspects from some of those veterans.

"Learning from [Selanne] and seeing how much he worked at his craft and how much he enjoyed the game every single day, even into his later years, the calm presence that [Niedermayer] always brought and the fieriness of [defenseman] Chris Pronger," Kunitz said. "A lot of great players that you've come across, you just kind of take bits and pieces of their energy, try to mold that into yourself, try to keep doing it every day as long as you can."

When the Ducks traded Kunitz and center Eric Tangradi to the Pittsburgh Penguins for defenseman Ryan Whitney on Feb. 26, 2009, Kunitz bolstered Pittsburgh's secondary scoring. He had 388 points (169 goals, 219 assists) in 569 games with Pittsburgh, setting NHL career highs in points (68) and goals (35) in 2013-14. He usually played on a line with center Sidney Crosby, who said Kunitz brought the same reliable game every night.

"He played on both sides of the puck really well," Crosby said. "Competed offensively, but then he could block a shot with a big play defensively as well. He scored timely goals and he read the play well. I mean, I think he's a guy that, over the years, we talked a lot in practice and in games. It felt like we were always able to adjust and that's something that, to his credit too, he's able to find different ways to be productive."

Penguins goalie Matt Murray compared Kunitz to center Matt Cullen, who also won the Cup with Pittsburgh in 2016 and 2017. Murray said each player had a big impact on him.

"As a young guy, you can be pretty apprehensive coming into a league with such good players and playing with grown men for the first time. They really helped me settle in, and I know they did for a lot of the young guys," the 24-year-old said. "So, I know [Kunitz] was a big factor in obviously us winning the Cup. He's been through it all, he's seen a lot of different scenarios. I mean, he has four Cups, right? So, four Cups speaks for itself."

Kunitz signed a one-year contract with the Lightning on July 1, 2017, and had 29 points (13 goals, 16 assists) in 82 games with Tampa Bay last season before joining the Blackhawks.

Kunitz doesn't know how much longer he'll play. With that in mind, he has been more reflective lately, and he has a tremendous career on which to look back.

"You remember a lot of the different people you've come across, look at some of the rosters of players who had those little moments, who took you out to dinners in your first days," Kunitz said. "You take that into perspective now and how much it means at the moment to be part of something bigger than just being in the League."

This Week In Cougar Athletics

Thursday (all times CST)
Women’s Basketball – vs. Victoria, 7:00 PM (Centre for Kinesiology, Health & Sport)
Men’s Basketball – at Saskatchewan, 8:00 PM (Saskatoon, Sask.)

Friday (all times CST)
Women’s Hockey – at UBC, 6:00 PM (Vancouver, B.C.)
Women’s Basketball – vs. Victoria, 7:00 PM (Centre for Kinesiology, Health & Sport)
Men’s Basketball – at Saskatchewan, 8:00 PM (Saskatoon, Sask.)

Saturday (all times CST)
Women’s Hockey – at UBC, 6:00 PM (Vancouver, B.C.)
Women’s Basketball – vs. Victoria, 7:00 PM (Centre for Kinesiology, Health & Sport) – if necessary
Men’s Basketball – at Saskatchewan, 8:00 PM (Saskatoon, Sask.) – if necessary

Sunday (all times CST)
Women’s Hockey – at UBC, 4:00 PM (Vancouver, B.C.) – if necessary

Women’s Basketball (U SPORTS Ranking: No. 6) – After a bye through the first round of the Canada West postseason, the No. 3-seeded Cougars host a best-of-three quarterfinal series against No. 7 seed Victoria at the Centre for Kinesiology, Health & Sport. The teams played earlier this year in Victoria, with the Cougars winning 85-50 in the first game of the weekend doubleheader but falling 70-69 to the Vikes the next night. Game 1 and Game 2 are set for Thursday and Friday, respectively, with a third game set for Saturday if it’s needed. All games will tip off at 7:00 PM at the CKHS.

Men’s Basketball – Myles Hamilton scored 29 points and added 12 rebounds to lead the Cougars to a 106-83 home win over Mount Royal in a Canada West play-in game on Friday. That sets up a showdown against Saskatchewan in the conference quarterfinals in Saskatoon, with the best-of-three series set to go Thursday through Saturday. All games will tip off at 8:00 PM at the Physical Activity Complex on the U of S campus.

Women’s Hockey – The Cougars were topped 6-1 and 1-0 on the road by UBC last weekend in what was their final two games of the Canada West schedule. They finish with 34 points in 28 Canada West games, which puts them at sixth in the conference standings and sets up a rematch with the Thunderbirds in a best-of-three quarterfinal series at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre in Vancouver that starts Friday.

Women’s Volleyball – The surging Cougars capped their conference schedule with a pair of road wins over Manitoba, winning in three sets on Friday and in four sets on Saturday to finish with a 16-8 Canada West record. It’s been a monumental season for the U of R – the Cougars set a program record for wins (16), finished with the second best winning percentage (.667) in program history, and head into the postseason riding a school-record 10-match winning streak. They have this weekend off, and will know by Saturday whether they finish fourth or fifth in the Canada West standings.

Track & Field – Greg Hetterley won the 1000-metre run at the David Hemery Valentine Invitational in Boston on Saturday and set a pair of records in the process. His time of 2:24.84 is not only a University of Regina record, but also breaks a mark of 2:25.91 that had stood since 1990 as the fastest time ever by a Saskatchewan resident. The rest of the Cougars competed at the Pandas Open in Edmonton and the Regina Indoor Games as the teams had their final tune-up meets leading up to the Canada West Championships, which will be held in Edmonton on Feb. 22 and Feb. 23.

Swimming – The Cougars had their final tune-up competition before the U SPORTS meet this past weekend, as the teams headed up to Saskatoon to participate in the Goldfins Brainsport Winter Classic. Bree Crookshanks highlighted the meet with a stellar win in the 100-metre breaststroke, with her time of 1:11.84 standing as her long-course personal best and lifting her into the No. 6 ranking nationally in the event. The Cougars will have next weekend away from competition before competing at the U SPORTS Championships from Feb. 21 to Feb. 23 in Vancouver.

Men’s Hockey – The Cougars bid farewell to fifth-year forwards Corey Kosloski and Zach McPhee on Saturday as both players appeared in the final game of their U SPORTS careers. Regina closed out the 2018-19 season with a pair of home losses to UBC, falling 5-1 to the Thunderbirds on Friday and 2-0 the next day.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Collaros Says He is Healthy and Ready To Make Amends For 2018 Season

Picture: Saskatchewan Roughriders

The last time Rider fans saw Zach Collaros he was walking off the field after absorbing his third concussion of the 2018 season in a game against the B.C Lions.   Many thought Collaros’ days in green-and-white were over and maybe his CFL career was as well.

That isn’t the case though as Collaros is back with the football team having signed a one-year deal with them on Tuesday.  He was back at Mosaic Stadium Wednesday saying its time to get back to work and he is excited about it.

“I feel great!” Collaros proclaimed. “I’m not surprised to be back.  I spoke with Coach Dickenson several times after he got the job and he mentioned how he felt about me, Regardless of some of the things that happened, I had a blast and I’m looking forward to being back here.”

Collaros admits his touchdown to interception ratio was not ideal last season, but he did say they won a lot of games last year and he intends to win a lot more this year as well.

When asked about retirement, Collaros said it was something he never thought about.

“Retirement didn’t really cross my mind in the off-season.” Collaros said. “About a week after that final game, I was feeling pretty good and I haven’t had any issues sent.  I love this game, I’m a competitive person and I just want to get out there and play so no, retirement wasn’t on my mind.”

General Manager Jeremy O’Day, who announced Collaros will go into the season as the number one quarterback on the depth chart, admits the health status of Collaros is a concern and the team is speaking with some veteran quarterbacks about coming in.  While O’Day would not say who those quarterbacks are, it is thought he was speaking about Travis Lulay and Kevin Glenn.

O’Day also spoke about what the team has done in the first two days of free agency saying he feels like the squad is better than what it was when free agency started with the additions of running back William Powell, defensive lineman Micah Johnson, linebacker Dyshawn Davis and receiver Cory Watson.

He added several other offers were made, but the interest in player was not reciprocated by that player having interest in the team for whatever reason.  When it came to Willie Jefferson, O’Day said they did their best to try and keep the team’s nominee for most outstanding player and top defensive player around, but Jefferson had a desire to change addresses.

“We were having discussions with Willie before free agency. I won’t speak to the reasons as to why he didn’t come back, but we made him a fair offer.  He decided to enter free agency and we asked him to keep us in the loop with an invite to come back if he desired.” O’Day explained. “In the end, he decided to go elsewhere. ”

O’Day also said the team is speaking with Naaman Roosevelt about coming back and that the team still has its targets on some players  with offers out there.  He would not say how many players they are speaking with though.

Riders Sign WR Cory Watson

Image result for saskatchewan roughriders helmet

The Saskatchewan Roughriders have signed national free-agent receiver Cory Watson to a one-year contract.             

Watson (6’3 – 211) joins the Riders after spending last season with the B.C. Lions where he picked up 406 yards and three touchdowns in 18 regular-season games.

The 34-year-old Watson is a veteran of eight CFL seasons after originally being selected by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the 2nd round (9th overall) of the 2010 CFL Draft. Watson spent five seasons in Winnipeg before joining the Edmonton Eskimos in 2015 where he spent three seasons.

In 133 regular-season games Watson has collected 328 receptions for 3,737 yards and 16 touchdowns. He’s also played six career playoff games and two Grey Cup games.     

He won his first career Grey Cup in 2015 with the Edmonton Eskimos. 

(Ryan Pollock/Riders PR) 

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

CFL Free Agent Moves

CFL free agency is underway.   Here are some of the moves

  • Eskimos sign former Hamilton LB Larry Dean
  • Lions sign former Edmonton QB Mike Reilly 
  • Montreal extends WR BJ Cunningham
  • Calgary extends WR Eric Rogers
  • Edmonton signs former Ottawa OL Sir Vincent Rogers 
  • Saskatchewan signs former Ottawa RB William Powell 
  • Hamilton re-signs DL Adrian Tracy & WR Mike Jones 
  • BC signs former Winnipeg OL Sukh Chungh 
  • Edmonton signs former Ottawa WR & QB Greg Ellingson and Trevor Harris
  • Edmonton signs former Calgary WR Davaris Daniels 
  • Edmonton signs former Winnipeg LB Jovan Santos-Knox 
  • MTL re-signs DL John Bowman 
  • Calgary re-signs QB Bo Levi Mitchell 
  • Saskatchewan signs former Lions LB Dyshawn Davis 
  • Winnipeg re-signs WR Nic Demski 
  • Saskatchewan signs former Calgary DL Micah Johnson 
  • Winnipeg signs former Riders DL Willie Jefferson
  • Edmonton signs receiver Ricky Collins Junior 
  • Montreal signs former BC receiver Devier Posey 
  • Montreal signs former BC linebacker Bo Lokombo
  • Montreal signs former Calgary DB Patrick Levels 
  • Saskatchewan re-signs QB Zach Collaros
  • Hamilton signs former DB Tunde Adelake
  • Edmonton signs former Hamilton LB Don Unamba
  • Toronto signs former BC RB/KR Chris Rainey
  • Toronto signs former Wpg DB Kevin Fogg
  • BC signs former Edm DB Aaron Grymes 
  • BC signs former Calgary WR Lemar Durant
  • BC signs former Edm DB Josh Woodman

Monday, February 11, 2019

Hufnagel Thinks Bo Will Be Coming Back to Calgary

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Calgary Stampeders general manager John Hufnagel feels optimistic he can re-sign quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell.

The CFL star is among several players scheduled to become free agents Tuesday.

"He's not signed yet," Hufnagel said Monday at McMahon Stadium. "We're talking. I'm very optimistic something will get done. I just don't know when."

After leading the Stampeders to a Grey Cup and winning the award for the CFL's most outstanding player for the second time in his career, Mitchell worked out for several NFL teams in the off-season.

No deal was announced south of the border for the 28-year-old from Katy, Texas, contributing to Hufnagel's confidence in bringing Mitchell back in the fold.

"I would expect that if he was going to sign an NFL contract, it would have been done, but what I expect and what's actually going on behind closed doors, I'm not sure," the GM said.

The other hurdle to retaining Mitchell, however, is the price tag.

If Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly can command around $700,000, as he is rumoured to be able to do when he hits the free-agent market Tuesday, the bidding for Mitchell couldn't be far off that number.

"It's quite significant no question about it," Hufnagel said.

"I have a budget with Bo Levi. Now, I said I'm optimistic, but does it fit the budget? We'll have to see. I have a good number. Hopefully that number works."

It will also have to be a competitive number because of the unusual number of established quarterbacks on the market this year.

Ottawa's Trevor Harris joins Mitchell and Reilly as the free-agency headliners, but only Hamilton (Jeremiah Masoli) and Winnipeg (Matt Nichols) have starters under contract.

"I haven't lost any sleep over other people's quarterback situations," Hufnagel stated. "I'm concerned about mine."

Mitchell has thrown for almost 25,000 yards and 150 touchdown passes in his seven seasons with Calgary, including five as starter.

His backup Nick Arbuckle scored five short-yardage touchdowns and threw for 144 yards in 2018. Calgary replaced third-stringer Larry Brihm Jr. with Montell Cozart in August.

"We have two young guys that we like who are very capable and promising," Hufnagel said. "If things went south with Bo, I think we still have the skill at the position to win football games."

Hufnagel signed defensive lineman Junior Turner and Ese Mrabure to extensions on the weekend, bringing the number of potential Stampeder free agents back under contract to 17.

"We have a lot of good depth at most of the positions," Hufnagel said. "Obviously Bo is a cornerstone."

All-star defensive tackle Micah Johnson is putting himself on the market Tuesday.

"Micah's had his offer for a couple of weeks now," the GM said. "He wants to go to free agency so I'm not quite sure how that is going to go. Probably can't use the word 'optimistic' when I'm talking about Micah."