Calgary’s Kevin Koe will be in the spotlight when the 2020 Tim Hortons Brier, presented by AGI, gets underway on Saturday at the Leon’s Centre in Kingston, Ont.
The 45-year-old Koe, skipping the defending champions Team Canada from The Glencoe Club in Calgary, will be trying to win his fifth Tim Hortons Brier title as a skip, which would break the record he currently shares with Randy Ferbey, Kevin Martin and Ernie Richardson.
And Team Canada’s lead, Ben Hebert, also has a chance to win his fifth Tim Hortons Brier title (his first two came with Martin), and with a win, he and Koe would move into second place for most Tim Hortons Brier championships, behind only Ferbey, who also won twice as a vice-skip.
Team Canada — the team is rounded out by vice-skip B.J. Neufeld, second Colton Flasch, alternate Ted Appelman and coach John Dunn — makes its 2020 Tim Hortons Brier debut on Saturday in the opening draw at 2 p.m. (all times Eastern) with a tantalizing matchup against the host Ontario team from Toronto, skipped by 2018 Tim Hortons Brier bronze-medallist John Epping. It’s a rematch of the 2019 Home Hardware Canada Cup men’s final, in which Epping prevailed 7-4.
While Koe’s (and Hebert’s) drive for five is the main storyline in Kingston, it’s hardly the only one.
Brad Gushue, making his 17th Tim Hortons Brier appearance, and his Newfoundland/Labrador team from St. John’s is seeking a third Tim Hortons Brier title in four years after his wins in 2017 and 2018.
Meanwhile, Brad Jacobs’s Northern Ontario team from Sault Ste. Marie enters the 2020 Tim Hortons Brier as the country’s top team on the Canadian Team Ranking System, with ambitions of winning a second Brier title after winning in 2013. Team Epping is No. 2 on the CTRS, followed by Team Gushue at No. 3.
The No. 5 team is Alberta’s Brendan Bottcher, who is looking to ascend to the top step of the Tim Hortons Brier medal podium after silver medals in 2018 and last year.
Sixteen teams, representing the 14 Curling Canada member associations, Team Canada and the winner of the Wild Card Game, have been seeded based on their CTRS ranking as of Dec. 31, 2019, and separated into two pools. The Wild Card Game winner will automatically go in as the No. 3 seed.
They’ll first play a round robin within their pool, after which the top four in each advance to the Championship Pool for four games against teams from the other pool. Upon completion, the top four teams (best overall won-lost records) proceed to the Page Playoffs on Saturday (1 vs. 2, winner to final, loser to semifinal; 3 vs. 4, winner to semifinal, loser eliminated).
The semifinal is Sunday, March 8, at noon, while the gold-medal game is at 7 p.m.
The winning team will represent Canada at the 2020 LGT World Men’s Curling Championship, presented by BKT Tires, March 28-April 5 in Glasgow, Scotland. The winner will also defend its title as Team Canada in the 2021 Tim Hortons Brier, presented by AGI, in Kelowna, B.C., and earn a direct-entry berth into the 2021 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings, presented by AGI, in Saskatoon — the event that will decide Canada’s four-player teams for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
Here’s a look at how the two pools set up:
(teams listed according to seeding, and listed in order of skip, vice-skip, second, lead, alternate, coach/High Performance Consultant; hometown)
1. Northern Ontario, Brad Jacobs (Marc Kennedy, E.J. Harnden, Ryan Harnden, Lee Toner, Rick Lang; Sault Ste. Marie)
4. Alberta, Brendan Bottcher (Darren Moulding, Brad Thiessen, Karrick Martin, Patrick Janssen, Don Bartlett; Edmonton)
5. Newfoundland/Labrador, Brad Gushue (Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant, Geoff Walker, Jeff Thomas, Jules Owchar; St. John’s)
8. Manitoba, Jason Gunnlaugson (Adam Casey [throws second], Alex Forrest [throws third], Connor Njegovan, Garry Van Den Berghe; Morris)
9. Nova Scotia, Jamie Murphy (Paul Flemming, Scott Saccary, Phil Crowell, Kevin Ouellette, Bruce Lohnes; Halifax)
12. Quebec, Alek Bedard (Louis Quevillon, Émile Asselin, Bradley Lequin, Daniel Bedard; Lacolle/Boucherville/Glenmore)
13. Prince Edward Island, Bryan Cochrane (Ian MacAulay, Morgan Currie, Mark O’Rourke, Ken Sullivan; Cornwall)
16. Nunavut, Jake Higgs (Dale Kohlenberg, Christian Smitheram, Ed MacDonald, Sheldon Wettig, Quentin Vanderschaaf; Iqaluit)
2. Ontario, John Epping (Ryan Fry, Mat Camm, Brent Laing, John Morris, Jim Wilson; Toronto)
3. Team Wild Card: Mike McEwen (Reid Carruthers, Derek Samagalski, Colin Hodgson; Winnipeg)
6. Team Canada, Kevin Koe (B.J. Neufeld, Colton Flasch, Ben Hebert, Ted Appelman, John Dunn; Calgary)
7. Saskatchewan, Matt Dunstone (Braeden Moskowy, Catlin Schneider, Dustin Kidby, Adam Kingsbury; Regina)
10. British Columbia, Steve Laycock [throws third] (Jim Cotter [throws last], Andrew Nerpin, Rick Sawatsky, Brad Wood; Vernon/Kelowna)
11. New Brunswick, James Grattan (Paul Dobson, Andy McCann, Jamie Brannen, Chris Jeffrey; Oromocto)
14. Yukon, Thomas Scoffin (Trygg Jensen, Brett Winfield, Joe Wallingham, Wade Scoffin; Whitehorse)
15. Northwest Territories, Jamie Koe (David Aho, Shadrach Mcleod, Cole Parsons, Matthew Ng; Yellowknife)
--Welcome to Friday and the weekly thoughts running through my muddled mind. As always, they come in no particular order
--At what area do the Riders need to upgrade? This is a very solid team and one that shouldn't fall too far from its 13-5 campaign last season in what will be a very competitive Western Conference. Another D-Tackle would be nice with the departure of Micah Johnson, but Mak Henry will have every opportunity to show his time is now. The o-line depth took a hit with the loss of Dariusz Bladek and Philip Blake, but one has to believe the cupboard will get re-stocked at the draft.
--With Toronto and Ottawa not doing enough at this point in time to be considered for a playoff spot in my mind, what Western team will miss the playoffs. I would say with the improvements BC has made that the honour might go to Edmonton. It could be Calgary if BLM's injury woes continues because I don't think they have another Nick Arbuckle ready to go. BC should be a playoff team this year shouldn't they?
--A lot of people I have spoken to aren't happy with the fact Naaman Roosevelt is no longer a Rider. It will be different seeing him in a different uniform this season, but Roosevelt is not the Jenga block that sends this team tumbling. With Shaq Evans, Jordan Williams-Lambert and Kyran Moore, the team is set when it comes to pass-catchers. Add Justin McInnis to that list as well. We'll also see if Paul McRoberts and Carlos Henderson can fit in at a cheaper price. Its not the end of the world. Fan favourites can't play in green forever!
--We have gotten a taste of what CFL Commish Randy Ambrosie is saying in his 3rd "Randy's Road Trip" series, but some Rider fans will get a chance to hear first-hand what his thoughts are on Saturday in Regina. I'm guessing many will have some good questions for the Commish as he outlines his vision for the league.
--Why is Joe Thornton upset with the Sharks for not trading him at the deadline? If Thornton wanted that Cup so bad, why not go somewhere last year in free agency when he had a chance? How long has Thornton been in San Jose and how long have they had good hockey teams? Perhaps Joe should look in the mirror and tell his agent to find him a home with a Cup contender next year!
--The Hurricanes, Oilers and Penguins were the big winners at the NHL trade deadline. Carolina did a great job and will be tough should they get in. The acquisition of Patrick Marleau by Pittsburgh has the potential to be huge while Ken Holland got what the Oilers needed for the stretch drive and beyond. The last few weeks of the NHL season are going to be fun.
--Congrats to U of R Cougar mens hockey coach Todd Johnson for being named the Canada West coach of the year. A strong second half helped Johnson get that honour. I've often said it is hard for the U of R to compete when teams like the U of A, U of S and U of C have many WHL grads on their team, but Johnson still does what he can to find who he can and field the best team he can. He may have gotten a huge committment from Pats captain Austin Pratt. He told me this week that if a pro opportunity doesn't happen, he will likely play at the U of R next year. That would be a big get for the program. That being said, Pratt deserves a shot at the next level as does Robbie Holmes.
--Hey Bobby Ryan! Getting a hat-trick in your first game after being in rehab for alcohol is a pretty solid thing to see.
--Was it really 10 years ago since the Vancouver Olympics? It was 10 years ago today that Sidney Crosby scored what might be the biggest goal in Canadian history. Where were you? FWIW, I say Paul Henderson's goal in 1972 was bigger, but for today's generation, its definitely Sid!
--I just can't see Tom Brady wearing another uniform, but it looks like it may happen. To me, it will take away something from his career if he suits up for another team. I like the guys that did it all for one team. Players playing their whole career for one team is something that is becoming few and far between these days.
--The Brier starts tonight. Matt Dunstone will be in tough to end the Saskatchewan drought, but he is more than up to the challenge. If Dunstone can get into the final four it will be an accomplishment with the likes of Koe, Jacobs, Gushue, Epping and either Howard or McEwen though. All you need is a break or two. At the end of the day, I see Brad Jacobs and his Northern Ontario rink getting their hands on the Brier Tankard.
Las Vegas, NV – During it’s 2020 Annual General Meeting (AGM), the Canadian Football League Players’ Association today elected its new executive team, including a new CFLPA president. The executive team is elected biannually by player representatives.
“On behalf of the CFLPA, I would like to thank our outgoing executive team for their tireless work and commitment toward advancing issues that impact CFL players,” said Brian Ramsay, CFLPA Executive Director. “I would also like to welcome and congratulate the incoming executive team that will lead our Association and serve our members over the next two years. I am confident this team can provide strong leadership and represent the needs of our membership.”
“This new executive is made up of a majority of active players interested in the membership’s input and guidance to work together in moving our agenda forward in a positive way. I am excited for the opportunity to work with this talented group of individuals to work together in adding value to the players and grow the game we all love,” said Solomon Elimimian, CFLPA President.
We would like to additionally thank our outgoing; President Jeff Keeping, and 1st Vice President Marwan Hage, and 3rd Vice President Rolly Lumbala for all of the work they did as longstanding executive members of the CFLPA.
The new CFL Players’ Association Executive Team:
President: SOLOMON ELIMIMIAN
1st Vice President: JOHN BOWMAN
2nd Vice President: CHAD REMPEL
3rd Vice President: RYAN KING
Treasurer: PETER DYAKOWSKI
Executive Director: BRIAN RAMSAY
The Montreal Alouettes announced on Wednesday that it has come to an agreement with four American players, the star receiver Naaman Roosevelt, the defensive back Davante Davis, the defensive lineman Elijah Norris as well as the half Dominick Bragalone.
Roosevelt (5'11 ", 195 lbs.) Spent five seasons in the CFL, all with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. In 2019, the 32-year-old managed 77 catches for 946 yards and a touchdown. In career, the Buffalo, New York, native catcher played 67 games, catching 301 balls for 4134 yards and 20 touchdowns.
The former University of Buffalo Bulls was named to the CFL all-star team in 2017 and has had two seasons of over 1,000 yards on receipt. Before playing in the CFL, Roosevelt fielded for the Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions .
NEW YORK (Feb. 24, 2020) – Colorado Avalanche goaltender Pavel Francouz, New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad and Calgary Flames left wing Andrew Mangiapane have been named the NHL’s “Three Stars” for the week ending Feb. 23.
FIRST STAR – PAVEL FRANCOUZ, G, COLORADO AVALANCHE
Francouz went 3-0-1 with a 1.46 goals-against average, .941 save percentage and one shutout to help the Central Division’s second-place Avalanche (36-18-7, 79 points) gain seven of a possible eight standings points for the week. Francouz opened the week making 23 saves in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning Feb. 17 and followed it up by stopping 27 of 28 shots in a 3-1 victory over the New York Islanders Feb. 19. He closed the week by stopping all 26 shots to earn his first career shutout in a 1-0 win over the Anaheim Ducks Feb. 21 and then one day later registered a 20-save performance in a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings Feb. 22. A 29-year-old native of Plzen, Czech Republic, Francouz is in his first full NHL season with the Avalanche where he has gone 16-5-3 in 26 appearances while ranking in the top five in goals-against average (5th; 2.27) and save percentage (t-4th; .927).
SECOND STAR – MIKA ZIBANEJAD, C, NEW YORK RANGERS
Zibanejad tied for the League lead with eight points in three games (3-5—8) to help the Rangers (33-24-4, 70 points) win all three outings on the week and move within four points of the second Wild Card position in the Eastern Conference. Zibanejad opened the week by matching a career high with four points (1-3—4) in a 6-3 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks Feb. 19 and followed it up with a 1-2—3 performance in a 5-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes Feb. 21. He closed the week by scoring the game-tying goal in an eventual 3-2 triumph over the San Jose Sharks Feb. 22. Zibanejad, a 26-year-old native of Huddinge, Sweden, ranks second on the Rangers with 28-32—60 in 48 games this season – his 1.25 points per game in 2019-20 rank tied for eighth among all skaters with at least 25 appearances.
THIRD STAR – ANDREW MANGIAPANE, LW, CALGARY FLAMES
Mangiapane led all skaters with five goals in three games (5-1—6 in 3 GP) to help the Flames (32-25-6, 70 points), who occupy the first Wild Card position in the Western Conference, earn two wins in three contests. Mangiapane opened the week with a career-high four-point outing (3-1—4), including his first career hat trick, in a 6-4 win over the Anaheim Ducks Feb. 17. He was held off the scoresheet in a 4-3 loss to the Boston Bruins Feb. 21 before closing the week with a pair of goals, including the game-winning tally, in a 4-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings Feb. 23. Mangiapane, a 23-year-old native of Toronto, Ont., has appeared in a career-high 61 games this season ranking fifth on the Flames in goals with 15-12—27.
It went longer than it should have, but Kerri Einarson has won the Canadian women’s curling championship for the first time.
Einarson needed an extra end to beat Rachel Homan’s Ontario team 8-7 in Sunday night’s nail-biting final at Moose Jaw’s Mosaic Place to end nine fantastic days of curling,
Einarson had a chance to win it in the 10th end, but an attempted draw with Homan sitting two was heavy meaning the game had to go to an extra end. In that extra end, Einarson was not going to let a second chance at the title slip through her fingers as her last rock glided to the button sending her and her team consisting of third Val Sweeting, second Shannon Birchard and lead Briane Meilleur into celebration mode.
“What an emotional roller coaster,” Einarson said . “This means absolutely the world to me. I absolutely wanted to do this for myself and my teammates and especially Val. She’s lost two big finals and we really put it together this week. I’m so proud of everyone.”
The win means several things for the rink from Gimli. They will represent Canada at the World Women’s Curling Championship in Prince George, B.C, they will be Team Canada at the 2021 Scotties in Thunder Bay and they will be in Saskatoon for the “Roar of the Rings” Olympic curling trials in 2021. The win was also worth $105,000
Total attendance for this year’s event was 59,298 which is down from the 70,000 that went to the Scotties in 2015 when it was held in Moose Jaw. However, that figure is the highest amount to watch the Scotties since 2015.
A relationship that has thrived for nearly four decades is confirmed to continue for an additional eight years. Curling Canada, TSN, and RDS announced jointly today that Bell Media’s sports networks continue to be the exclusive English and French broadcasters of Curling Canada Season of Champions events.
The agreement, which includes both broadcast and digital media rights, takes effect in the 2020-21 season and will carry through the 2027-28 season. The announcement was made during TSN’s Curling Day in Canada broadcast during the 2020 SCOTTIES TOURNAMENT OF HEARTS, from Moose Jaw, Sask.
Season of Champions curling is available to TSN, RDS, TSN Direct, and RDS Direct subscribers through the networks’ streaming platforms, available at TSN.ca, RDS.ca, and the TSN and RDS apps.
“There are so many exciting aspects to this new agreement, but greatest of which is that curling fans will continue to receive a broadcast package that is unparalleled in Canadian amateur sports,” said Katherine Henderson, Chief Executive Officer of Curling Canada. “No other broadcast platform offers this kind of access to our sport, with TSN and RDS showing more than 300 hours of championship-level curling over the course of the season. As well, we have shared ambitions of continuing to grow our game at all levels, from clubs all the way up to our high-performance events, and reach new audiences that will position curling in a highly visible, innovative, and popular place in the Canadian sports scene, and provide tangible benefits to both Bell Media networks as well as Curling Canada and its stakeholders.”
“We’re thrilled to announce this long-term extension of our great partnership with Curling Canada, through which we will continue working together to showcase the sport of curling to Canadian viewers for many years to come,” said Shawn Redmond, Vice-President, TSN and Discovery. “Season of Champions curling is a cornerstone of our programming strategy, as it shines the spotlight on the most significant events in the sport. With our world-class curling productions showcasing the game’s brightest stars to a national audience, we’re very excited to continue to elevate the game and be Canada’s home for the tournaments that are so beloved by fans across the country.”
Curling Canada’s Season of Champions series includes the SCOTTIES TOURNAMENT OF HEARTS, the TIM HORTONS BRIER, the HOME HARDWARE CANADA CUP, the TIM HORTONS ROAR OF THE RINGS, the ROAD TO THE ROAR PRE-TRIALS, the OK TIRE & BKT TIRES CONTINENTAL CUP, as well as the World Men’s and Women’s Curling Championships.
TSN first began broadcasting curling in 1984, and has been the exclusive broadcaster of Season of Champions events since 2006.
--Welcome to Friday and the weekly thoughts running through my muddled mind. As always, they come in no particular order
--I had no doubts in my mind that Moose Jaw would not deliver as the host venue for the 2020 Scotties Tournament of Hearts. As expected, this year's Canadian women's curling championship has been tremendous both on and off the ice.
The organizing committee has basically done what they did five years ago to make Curling Canada ecstatic over what had gone on at Mosaic Place and that is the story again this year as it has been a first-class show. Robyn Silvernagle will be in tough to get to the playoffs. Having her in the final would be a dream scenario for organizers, but you can't have it all.
--At some point, someone in Moose Jaw has to approach the Canadian Hockey League with a Memorial Cup bid. You can't tell me it couldn't be done here.
--Is the XFL a threat to the CFL? Not in my mind. Yes, some CFL free agents have decided to try the new league out by signing on, but I see the XFL on the same path as the AAF. TV numbers are down from the first week to the second and attendance isn't that great. The XFL will likely get a whole season in unlike the AAF, but I wouldn't be making any plans to go watch the DC Defenders or Seattle Dragons in 2021 if you know what I mean.
--I have no problem with Randy Ambrosie wanting to change the playoff format in the CFL, but having one team choose their opponent is dumb. Why are some leagues advocating for this?
--The Sportscage "Way to Early Power Rankings" have Hamilton atop the ladder followed by the Riders and Winnipeg . I have the Riders at 1 with Hamilton at 2 and Winnipeg at 3. If Winnipeg were to get an established back-up QB, I might have them at the top of the ladder.
--I don't know who Ken Holland is going to get at the trade deadline for an Edmonton Oilers team that is hanging onto first in the Pacific, but guys like Blake Coleman and Tyler Toffoli are gone. Both would have been a good option. Is Andreas Athanasiou the answer? It just may be the default choice. What will the cost be?
--I want the Winnipeg Jets to get in the playoffs. I don't want the Calgary Flames to get in. It's as simple as that.
--Raisins are gross! It had to be said!
--I have to wonder what the football future of Chris Jones will be after this season. He will remain in Cleveland just because he is under contract, but what happens when next season ends. I don't think he'll return to the CFL, but who knows. I seem to think the man in black will have an NCAA job next season with either a Division 1 or 2 school.
--I can understand getting caught with a little bit of weed, but Alouettes receiver Quan Bray got caught with 157 pounds of it in his vehicle. 157 POUNDS!!! That's a whole lotta weed ladies and gents.
--The Kelowna Rockets are the host team for the Memorial Cup. They just fired their head coach and they are 4th in the BC Division with 52 points. If the Rockets have a magical week and win the damn tournament, it is time to either scrap the host team or do a massive revamp. It will be very embarassing for the Canadian Hockey League if the Rockets win. By the way, Kelowna has 52 points while the Pats have 43.
--Deja Vu and the Mad Greek are two must stops in Moose Jaw when wanting food, but there are so many good places one can drop some $$$ down when in the city. The fine people of Moose Jaw are spoiled with all the options they have at their disposal.
NEW YORK (Feb. 17, 2020) – Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl, Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy and Los Angeles Kings right wing Tyler Toffoli have been named the NHL’s “Three Stars” for the week ending Feb. 16.
FIRST STAR – LEON DRAISAITL, C, EDMONTON OILERS
Draisaitl led all skaters in assists and points with 3-7—10 in four games – including three multi-point performances – to lead the Oilers (32-21-6, 70 points) to a 3-1-0 record on the week and propel the club to first place in the Pacific Division standings. He opened the week with 1-3—4 in a 5-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks Feb. 11 and added an assist in a 3-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning Feb. 13. Draisaitl closed the week with his League-leading 28th and 29th multi-point games of the season, notching 1-1—2, including his NHL-best 10th game-winning goal of 2019-20, in a 4-1 victory over the Florida Panthers Feb. 15 and 1-2—3, including an assist in the extra frame, in a 4-3 overtime win over the Carolina Hurricanes Feb. 16. Draisaitl, a 24-year-old native of Cologne, Germany, has opened up a 13-point lead in the Art Ross Trophy race with 34-61—95 in 59 games – the fastest player to 95 points in a season since Sidney Crosby in 2006-07 (56 GP).
SECOND STAR – ANDREI VASILEVSKIY, G, TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
Vasilevskiy recorded a perfect 3-0-0 record with a 1.64 goals-against average and .949 save percentage to help the Lightning (39-15-5, 83 points) earn a victory in all four games on the week and extend the team’s overall winning streak to 10 games. He opened the week by making 35 saves in a tightly-contested 2-1 overtime victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins Feb. 11 and then turned aside 29 shots in a 3-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers Feb. 13. Vasilevskiy closed the week with 30 saves in a 5-3 triumph over the Philadelphia Flyers Feb. 15 to improve to 19-0-2 in his last 21 appearances, including eight straight wins, and become the sixth different goaltender in NHL history to record at least one standings point in 21 or more consecutive appearances within a regular season. A 25-year-old native of Tyumen, Russia, Vasilevskiy leads all goaltenders with 32 wins in 2019-20 – seven more than the next highest total.
THIRD STAR – TYLER TOFFOLI, RW, LOS ANGELES KINGS
Toffoli recorded four goals across two appearances as the Kings (21-33-5, 47 points) earned two victories in two games. He opened the week with one goal in a 5-3 win over the Calgary Flames Feb. 12. Toffoli then notched all three Kings tallies, including the game-winning goal in the final minute, in a 3-1 triumph over the Colorado Avalanche at the 2020 Navy Federal Credit Union NHL Stadium Series Feb. 15 to become the first player in League history to record a hat trick in a regular-season outdoor game. A 27-year-old native of Scarborough, Ont., Toffoli (18-16—34 in 58 GP) leads all Kings skaters with 18 goals in 2019-20 and sits two tallies shy of his fourth career 20-goal campaign.
The CFL’s Man of the People again lifted the cone of silence Saturday to give community leaders and Ottawa Redblacks season-ticket holders a look at what the future may hold for the league.
CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie, in the first stop of his cross-country Randy’s Road Trip that will visit each of the league’s nine cities along with a Feb. 23 stop in Halifax, spoke with passion about the CFL 2.0 initiative, how the CFL hopes to engage fans across the league but especially in Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto, a joint venture with U Sports to have the Vanier Cup and Grey Cup both played in Hamilton on the same weekend in 2021 and how the league may change the way it runs its playoff system.
Here’s how Ambrosie, who loves getting feedback from fans, answered some of the questions from the audience in an hour-and-a-half session at TD Place’s Otto’s Club.
ON CFL 2.0 AND FINDING NEW FANS IN CANADA
“We need to make the CFL more cool, being more international is part of that. You’re going to have, this year, two active (roster) spots for global players. We’re asking community associations to form a welcoming committee for the athletes coming to our training camps? Why? To re-energize the league, we have to get a Canadian but much more international audience to come to our games. At our scouting combine in Japan, our head global scout Greg Quick said there was a running back who looks like he was born to play CFL football. He had staggeringly good results. Let’s use that as an example. There are tens of thousands of Canadians who have Japanese heritage. We can use that to get the Japanese Canadian community to come and watch a kid from Japan play football. It mostly matters in our three biggest cities (Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver). (B.C. Lions owner) David Braley is in the hospital right now and I’ve been spending time visiting with him — we’ve been talking about a strategy to re-energize the Lions. David is really passionate about getting B.C. Place back to where it was. When I played there — 1985 my rookie season and we went there — B.C. was 5-0, we were 0-5 — there were 54,000 people for a regular-season game. I’m not that old, that’s not that long ago. We have a bunch of strategies we’re working on, but it’s got to be about diversifying our fan base. Our international strategy is not just about 100 million watching around the world on TV, it’s about reaching into the communities in Canada that aren’t necessarily familiar with football and welcoming them in through the introduction of athletes they can relate to.”
ON GETTING PLAYERS MORE INVOLVED IN COMMUNITIES
“We need to do more. As much as our coaches and players are among the most active in all of sport in community involvement, I want to create a ten-fold increase. We should be in Grade 4, 5 and 6 classrooms in every school in Canada promoting football and flag football. My wife says, ‘Can’t you just be satisfied with something small?’ I like doing big things. I want to do a 20-fold increase in the number of community visits. Every ethnic community — whether you’re Irish or Scottish or English or French or Italian, whatever it is, there’s probably a community association. We need to go see every one of them. We need to go knock on their doors and welcome them into the CFL community. In the next three years, I want us to do more community outreach than any other sports league in the world. I think that’s going to be a way to energize and re-energize our league and especially in those three biggest cities. They will not come unless we reach out and invite them.”
ON THE GLOBAL PLAYERS NOT BEING UTILIZED
“I think we have to create a roster spot for them. Last year (the CFL’s first year with global roster spots) would have been too early. It would have been too much to ask for those players who were making a pretty big jump from the football they were playing in their world. I think the quality of the international players will rise. The (CFLPA) is excited about it. They see the potential for our game. There are about 457 draft-eligible players from Canadian universities every year. There are about 12,000 U.S. college graduates (football players) every year. There are roughly 8,000 global players who are eligible to play CFL football every year. Put aside your national passions, you’d say there’s a lot of talent out there. We have to try to build our game and make it bigger. How do we do it? We’re going to have scouting combines on four continents this year. We’re already big and we’re getting bigger every day. There’s always, always going to be a big place for Canadians in our league — always. That’s an undeniable truth. But there’s certainly room for international players and U.S. players. Thirty percent of the players in the NHL today are international, they’re not North American. You don’t see Canadians up in arms that 30% of the NHL players are not (North American). I don’t see the villagers with pitchforks and torches burning Lansdowne because there’s an international playing for the 67’s. If we’re going to unlock the potential for a really big CFL, we’re going to have to find a way to get those players on the field. We are the second biggest football league in the world and I believe we’ll be the biggest global football league in the world.”
ON THE XFL AND COMPETING FOOTBALL LEAGUES
“Last year when I was here, it was the Alliance of American Football. I went through several months where the sky was falling, it was, ‘Oh, my gosh, the Alliance is coming and they’re going to eat your lunch.’ They didn’t last half a season. Now I get the same volume of calls that the XFL is coming and they’re going to eat our lunch. Before that, it was the USFL and they were coming. We have to be careful we aren’t spending too much of our time worrying about what somebody else is doing. We need to focus on our own game and build the biggest, strongest CFL we can build together. You can still learn good lessons. When someone else is innovating the game, you can learn good lessons from that.”
ON APRIL MINI CAMPS THAT DON’T HAPPEN ANYMORE
“It was really a discussion among the teams. They didn’t think they were getting as much value from those mini-camps as they wanted to get. So the question was, what was another way of doing it?’ Mini camps used to connect you to your players. If they left your city on Dec. 1, you might not see them again until training camp in May. Today, there’s so much more connection between players and coaches. You’ve got FaceTime. Players and coaches can stay in touch. The coaches and GMs felt it wasn’t a great use of resources and wanted to make that change.”
ON WHETHER THERE WILL BE MORE CFL WEEKS
“We were going to have it last year (in Ottawa), but because we were in CBA negotiations, we weren’t sure the players were going to come to CFL Week. I’m not saying that with any negativity. It was hard to imagine we could do it successfully so we decided to park it while we had the negotiations. It’s back on the docket around something we’re going to talk to the teams about. We had some success with it (in Regina and Winnipeg). One of the things that was really great is it brought a lot of our game’s biggest stars out and TSN did what they call their car wash, where they do all their pre-season video. It’s not dead, it was put into a pause.”
ON COMBINING THE GREY CUP AND VANIER CUP
“We’re going to try and have a combined Vanier Cup and Grey Cup in Hamilton in 2021. Our two biggest national football championships should be on the same weekend. Those kids who are playing great college football, we should give them the best opportunity to play in front of a huge crowd of football fans. U Sports football is very good football, how we help it grow is one of those things we’re talking about. We haven’t finalized it, but we’re getting close. This is an idea I’m passionate about it. Graham Brown from U Sports is passionate about it. Now we just have to iron out the final details. One of the things we’ve promised each other is if we do it, we’ll make at least a few-year commitment. It’s important for us to be leaders in the world of football, in particular football in Canada.”
ON CHANGING HOW THE CFL PLAYOFFS ARE RUN
“Major League Baseball is thinking about changing its playoff format where more teams would be involved. Here’s an idea that’s been floated (in the CFL). The first-place teams in the East and West would win their divisions and would host a playoff game — the same as we currently have. The difference would be that the third-, fourth-, fifth- and sixth-place teams in the league would make the playoffs, regardless of division. Third would play sixth and fourth would play fifth. It makes the late-stage competition for a playoff game more important. Here’s the next change: After the two semi-final games are played on Saturday, Sunday would be decision day for the first-place team. On a nationally broadcast show, the first-place team would pick who they’re playing from the (two semi-final winners). It’s something we’re talking about. If we did this, what we might have to agree on is we would do this for a limited amount of time until we got Halifax into the league — then we might have to make a different decision.”
Away Events – Friday Women’s Hockey – at Mount Royal, 2:30 PM MT (Calgary, Alta.) Women’s Basketball – at Victoria, 6:00 PM PT (Victoria, B.C.) Women’s Volleyball – at Alberta, 7:30 PM MT (Edmonton, Alta.) Men’s Basketball – at Lethbridge, 8:00 PM MT (Lethbridge, Alta.)
Away Events – Saturday Women’s Hockey – at Mount Royal, 2:30 PM MT (Calgary, Alta.) Women’s Volleyball – at Alberta, 6:00 PM MT (Edmonton, Alta.)
Away Events – Sunday Women’s Hockey – at Mount Royal, 2:30 PM MT (Calgary, Alta.) *if necessary
Women’s Hockey – After a weekend split with Saskatchewan, the Cougars head into the Canada West playoffs as the No. 5 seed and will match up against Mount Royal in a best-of-three conference quarterfinal series in Calgary. Friday’s Game 1 will mark the first ever postseason meeting between the two teams, with Game 2 set for Saturday and Game 3 – if it’s needed – will be played on Sunday. All games will start at 2:30 PM at the Flames Community Arenas.
Men’s Basketball – The Cougars scored a nice 87-70 road win on Friday to break up what had been a nine-game winning streak for Fraser Valley, but lost 85-74 to settle for a weekend split and a 10-10 conference record for the year. Regina goes into the Canada West postseason as the No. 9 seed and will hit the road to square off with No. 8-seeded Lethbridge in a conference play-in game on Friday night. The winner advances to the Canada West quarterfinals next weekend, which will be hosted by either top-seeded Alberta or No. 2 seed Calgary.
Women’s Basketball – The Cougars finished off the Canada West schedule with a pair of road losses at Fraser Valley, falling 63-60 to the Cascades on Friday and 74-65 on Saturday. That sends Regina (8-12) into the playoffs as the conference’s No. 10 seed, which will match up the Cougars with No. 7 Victoria in a play-in game on Friday night in Victoria. It’s a familiar situation for both teams as it’s the seventh time in the last 10 seasons that they’ve met in the postseason. Regina has a streak of 10 straight playoff wins over the Vikes, but only one of those games – a U SPORTS consolation semifinal contest in 2017 – was in Victoria.
Track & Field (Women’s U SPORTS Ranking: No. 5) – The Cougars had a brilliant outing at the Windsor Team Challenge on Sunday, setting two new school records (Joely Welburn in the 60-metre hurdles and Ron MacLean in the 1500-metre run) and four U SPORTS standards (Welburn and MacLean’s record-setting performances, Erika Stockhorst in the triple jump, and Welburn in the high jump). The Cougars, who had eight podium finishes at the meet, will have next weekend off from competition before the Canada West Championships are hosted by Saskatchewan on Feb. 21 and Feb. 22.
Swimming (Men’s U SPORTS Ranking: No. 10) – The Cougars got a seventh qualifier for the U SPORTS Championships at the last possible meet as Brenan Alejado travelled up to Saskatoon for the Goldfins Invitational and hit a U SPORTS standard with a long-course time of 56.48 seconds in the 100-metre butterfly. Alejado will join Mitchell Brough, Bree Crookshanks, Brian Palaschuk, Etienne Paquin-Foisy, Kareem Tarek Mohammed, and Brendan Van Herk at the national meet hosted by the University of Victoria later this month.
Women’s Volleyball – The Cougars lost twice to No. 5-ranked Mount Royal in their final two home matches of the season on Friday and Saturday. They’ll head up to Edmonton to finish off the 2019-20 campaign with two matches against No. 6 Alberta in what will be the final time in a U of R uniform for graduating players Diana Lumbala and Kirstin Greve.
Men’s Hockey – The Cougars went into the final weekend of the Canada West schedule knowing they’d likely need at least three points in their last two games to qualify for the postseason, but lost 4-0 and 6-2 in a home-and-home series against a Saskatchewan team that ranks No. 2 in the nation. Regina, which finishes just out of the playoffs despite collecting 13 out of a possible 16 points during one eight-game stretch in January, honoured fifth-year players Dawson MacAuley and Landon Peel and graduating fourth-year player Isaac Schacher prior to Saturday’s game.
--It's not surprising, but some Rider fans are upset because no "star power" has been brought in. One said the team isn't as good as it was without Micah Johnson who is now in BC. What do you want? In a salary cap world, you can't keep everybody and sometimes the player doesn't want to be here as there is a desire to go elsewhere. The almighty $$$$ has a role to play too as many would rather go where they are going to get the biggest paycheque. I'm OK with that and so should you.
GM Jeremy O'Day did a tremendous job in the off-season and getting a majority of the key pending free agents back. When you look at last year's starting 12 on D, 10 will be back. The only two who won't be are the aforementioned Johnson and Derrick Moncrief. Offensively, Fajardo, Powell, Evans and Moore are around. On paper, the Riders have the best team in the West in my opinion right now.
--Having Derek Taylor in the building and yapping with him every day brings a new look to the game and the players that play it---especially at this time of year. Those who know DT or have listened to the Sportscage know he is a numbers nerd (which he is fine with). He brings out some interesting numbers when it comes to certain players that obviously had no idea of. At the end of the day, I think too much emphasis is put on numbers and not enough on actual game play, but there are little nuggets of info I get from him each day on players that are interesting.
--The BC Lions are making sure they aren't bottomfeeders again this year. They have made some substantial upgrades to their squad. It could be said every year, but the Western Conference is going to be a dogfight this year.
--The Argos signed DL Drake Nevis. Toronto finally has a Drake they can be proud of!
--For the second straight year, I question what Ottawa is doing.
--I am shocked guys like Derel Walker, Derek Dennis and Naaman Roosevelt are still without a team. What's the holdup?
--Randy Ambrosie will bring his Randy's Road Trip back to Regina for a 3rd year on February 29. This is Ambrosie's chance to hear from fans and give his state of the league address. What is your number one concern about the league right now?
--Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston had LASIK surgery this week to correct his vision. That one is too easy. Way too easy!
--Looking forward to being at Mosaic Place for the next week for the 2020 Scotties Tournament of Hearts. Rachel Homan and her Ontario team are favoured, but the website Sportsinteraction.com has Robyn Silvernagle at 15-1. It was 19-1 on Thursday afternoon. I'm putting 5 bucks down on her to win. Betting in curling? Love it!
DT and I will be at Mosaic Place to bring you Sportscage. It should be a lot of fun. I did the Cage from there five years ago and it was a blast. I'm just hoping the roads aren't as slick as they were five years ago. There were a couple of interesting drives home that week.
--I'm an Oilers fan, but Zack Kassian needs to sit down for at least five games for his kick on Tampa's Erik Cernak on Thursday. You can't do that Zack. You just can't!
--The Pats had created a lot of good talk before heading to Alberta. The key word being "had". Getting their doors blown off 7-0 and 8-1 by Medicine Hat and Calgary takes the team back to square one after that 5 game win streak they had. Despite the two beatdowns, Regina continues to play much better hockey in the second half of the season. That won't translate to a playoff spot, but it will give them momentum if they finish strong going into next season.
--It's hard to like the Houston Astros these days. What a gong-show their press conference was to talk about the sign-stealing scandal in 2017. It embarrassed not only themselves, but Major League Baseball. The Astros hope this story will go away. Its not!
Canadian Football League Commissioner Randy Ambrosie will travel across Canada to meet with fans in every CFL market. ‘Randy’s Road Trip’ will kick off on February 15 in Ottawa and conclude on March 11 in Toronto, marking the Commissioner’s third annual trek from coast-to-coast to engage fans in a series of town halls.
“It’s so important to truly connect with our incredible supporters and take in their feedback,” said Commissioner Ambrosie. “At the heart of the CFL is our fans. I’m excited to continue building our league together with them as we take our great game to new heights.”
The Regina stop will be on February 29. The time and location of the event has not been released.
Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester is conscious and alert after suffering a "cardiac episode" during St. Louis' matchup against the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday night, the Blues announced. Bouwmeester collapsed on the bench during the first period, causing the game to be stopped and postponed to a later date.
"With the quick response of our medical trainers, Anaheim medical trainers and their team physicians, they were able to stabilize Jay," the Blues said in an announcement. "He was alert and moving all of his extremities as he was transported to UC Irvine Medical Center. Currently, Jay is conscious and alert as he undergoes further testing by Anaheim's physicians. We will update Jay's condition on Wednesday morning."
The television broadcast showed Bouwmeester suddenly collapsing after finishing his shift. Teammates immediately called for medical personnel, who loaded Bouwmeester onto a stretcher and took him out of the Honda Center.
The teams agreed not to continue the game Tuesday, instead resuming it at another date.
The Roughriders have signed American linebacker Solomon Elimimian to a one-year contract extension.
Elimimian (6’0 – 225 lbs) returns to the Roughriders after a strong CFL season that saw him named a West Division All-Star. The 33-year-old middle linebacker played in 15 games earning 88 defensive tackles – the third highest total in the CFL – and also added four sacks and one forced fumble.
The ten-year CFL veteran has had an incredible CFL career so far that includes being awarded the CFL’s Most Outstanding Rookie in 2010, Most Outstanding Defensive Player in 2014 and 2016 and became the first defensive player in the modern era to win Most Outstanding Player in 2014.
Elimimian is a four-time CFL All-Star (2011, 2014, 2016, 2017) and a six-time CFL West Division All-Star (2011, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2019). He is also a Grey Cup Champion winning the trophy with the Lions in 2011.
In 118 career games, Elimimian has collected 833 defensive tackles, 22 sacks, eight interceptions and eight forced fumbles. Additionally, he’s surpassed 100 defensive tackles three times in his career (2014, 2016, 2017) and holds the CFL’s single season record for most tackles in a season (2014).
The Saskatchewan Roughriders have signed American quarterback James Franklin to a one-year contract.
Franklin (6’2 – 235 lbs) joins the Roughriders after spending the previous two seasons with the Toronto Argonauts. The 28-year-old pivot played 27 games for the Double Blue, throwing 2,836 yards on 187 passes and scoring 11 touchdowns. He added 448 rushing yards and 16 rushing touchdowns. As the primary short yardage quarterback in 2018 Franklin scored 14 rushing majors – and led the CFL in that category.
Prior to his trade to Toronto, Franklin spent three seasons in Edmonton – winning the Grey Cup with the team in 2015. Over his time with the Eskimos Franklin completed 116 passes for 1449 yards including 12 touchdowns and just one interception. He also rushed 18 times for 145 yards and an additional TD.
Franklin attended the University of Missouri for four seasons (2010-2014) playing in 42 games and throwing for 6,962 yards and 51 touchdowns. He rushed for an additional 1,729 yards and 21 touchdowns. In 2011, the Texas native was named MVP of the 2011 Independence Bowl. In 2014, he led the Tigers to a win at the Cotton Bowl.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders have signed National defensive lineman Jordan Reaves to a one-year contract extension.
Reaves (6’4-225lbs) returns to the Riders for his third season in Green and White after an injury at training camp sidelined him for the 2019 season.
A gifted special teams player, the 30-year-old played in 17 games for the Club in the 2018 season making 12 special teams tackles. The Winnipegger initially signed with the Riders in 2016 and went on to play in five games that season registering two special-teams tackles. Prior to arriving in Saskatchewan, Reaves spent the 2015 season on the Blue Bombers practice roster.
The well-rounded athlete played five collegiate seasons on the Brandon University Bobcats men’s basketball team before shifting to football. He participated in 2015 Edmonton Regional combine earning the fourth fastest time in the 40-yard dash (4.69 seconds), tied for third in the three-cone drill (7.06 seconds) and had the third longest broad jump (10’0.50”).
Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid will miss two to three weeks with a left quadriceps injury, according to general manager Ken Holland.
McDavid was injured in Saturday's 3-2 win over the Nashville Predators. He practiced Monday but his status for Tuesday's game against the Chicago Blackhawks had been up in the air.
Holland said that they're hoping McDavid is "out less than that," after giving the two- to three-week timeframe.
He said that McDavid's leg was stiff and swollen the past few days, so he underwent an MRI Monday, which showed the quad injury.
"Since we're going on our road trip to Florida tomorrow, Connor has decided to go back to Toronto," Holland said. "He's got his team of people there, the facility. He's going to do his treatment there while we're on the road trip and we expect to see Connor back here when we get back next Monday."
McDavid had said that this ailment isn't related the posterior cruciate ligament injury he suffered last April in the regular-season finale. Holland reiterated that, saying that the MRI also showed that his knee looks good.
The is a big blow for Edmonton. McDavid is second in the league to teammate Leon Draisaitl with 81 points. The Oilers have been a on solid run of late and sit in second place in the Pacific Division, three points behind Vancouver.
Major League Baseball is reportedly "seriously weighing" an overhaul of the league's playoff structure, and it would include some radical October changes. The proposal would expand the field from five to seven teams (three division winners, four wild card teams) in each league. The reported proposal involves a bye for the top team in each league, a three-game wild card round series and the chance for teams to pick their opponents.
Here are the highlights from the proposal laid out in Sherman's report:
Seven teams from each league make postseason
Teams with best record in each league get wild card round byes
Two other division winners and top wild card team host all games of three-game series in wild card round
Two other division winners get to pick their wild card round opponents (during a live broadcast) from three other wild card teams, the top wild card team plays the unpicked team
Three series winners and team with a bye advance to divisional round
This would be a monumental change from the current MLB playoff format (five teams from each league, one-game Wild Card Game), and that the league could implement it starting in the 2022 season.
Here is last season's National League playoff picture to illustrate how it might work.
The Dodgers had the best record, so they'd get the bye to the divisional round. The Braves had the next-best record, followed by the Cardinals. The wild cards, in order, would've been the Nationals, Brewers, Mets and Diamondbacks.
The Braves would then get to choose their opponent from between the bottom three wild cards. Next up, the Cardinals would then choose between whoever the Braves didn't pick among the Brewers, Mets and D-Backs. Whatever team wasn't picked would then face the Nats.
With key players like Shaq Evans, Cam Judge, Charleston Hughes and Ed Gainey already signed to contract extensions, the Saskatchewan Roughriders aren't expecting to be a major player when CFL free agency hits officially Tuesday morning at 11 AM.
GM Jeremy O'Day said as much one day before free agency hit as both he and Head Coach Craig Dickenson answered questions on what the team's approach to free agency would be.
“I would say that we’re probably not going to be very active in free agency." O'Day said. "We’re still talking to a couple of our players but it can change quickly depending on how the next day or two shape up.
While the Riders do appear set at many positions going into camp, one area where they may be looking to upgrade is at linebacker where Derrick Moncrief is trying his luck in the NFL while Solomon Elimimian has not signed a contract extension. While the signing of Otha Foster, which was announced after the availability, will help, O'Day feels he will have a group that will be more than capable once the season starts.
"Jason (defensive co-ordinator Jason Shivers) feels comfortable with some of the guys that are on our roster, but we’re always going to try and create competition for every position." O'Day said.
While many pending free agents were signed to new deals, some weren't including defensive lineman Micah Johnson and receiver Naaman Roosevelt. When it comes to Roosevelt, O'Day won't say for certainty that a return may not happen, but it sounds as if the team is moving on from the sure-handed pass-catcher.
“I don’t want to say 100 per cent that he won’t be back." O'Day said. "It’s going to be a decision that comes down to how we do with the rest of the guys.".
Early Tuesday morning, a report from 3DownNation's Justin Dunk suggested the Riders will upgrade at backup quarterback as they have reportedly signed James Franklin to a deal. Franklin was a quarterback many Rider fans coveted a few years ago as it was thought then Head Coach Chris Jones wanted to get him to Saskatchewan when he was a member of the Edmonton Eskimos.'
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers today announce the team has agreed to terms with all-star defensive end Willie Jefferson on a two-year contract extension.
Jefferson is coming off a 2019 season that was the best of his six-year Canadian Football League career. In his first year as a Blue Bomber, he posted a career-best 12 quarterback sacks, set a new CFL record for pass knockdowns by a defensive lineman with 16 (best in the league), while also leading the CFL with six forced fumbles and adding 24 tackles, an interception and two fumble recoveries.
Jefferson was also dominant in the 107th Grey Cup, registering three sacks and two forced fumbles as the Bombers captured their 11th championship in franchise history. For his efforts, Jefferson was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player for the first time in his career and was also named a CFL All-Star and West Division All-Star for the third consecutive season. Jefferson was also named the Blue Bombers Most Outstanding Player and Most Outstanding Defensive Player in 2019.
“As an organization, we are very excited to have Willie and his family return for another two seasons,” said General Manager Kyle Walters. “The talent he brings to the table and his ability to change football games speaks for itself, but what we have gotten to know over the past season is the person behind the player, and that is just as important to our football operations.”
The 2020 season with be Jefferson’s seventh in the CFL after spending 2014-15 with the Edmonton Eskimos and 2016-18 with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. The veteran lineman has appeared in 94 regular season games, registering 43 sacks, 151 tackles, three career interceptions and touchdowns, and 12 forced fumbles.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders have signed free agent defensive back Otha Foster to a one-year contract.
Foster (6’0 – 205lbs) returns to the Roughriders after a two-year absence, having initially signed with the Club in 2016. Foster most recently spent time with the B.C. Lions in 2018, where he played 18 games and made 58 tackles, one special teams tackle, three sacks and two forced fumbles.
Foster played four preseason games for the Baltimore Ravens in 2017, making three tackles and one sack. He returned to the Roughriders that fall and played in three games for the Green and White making 11 defensive tackles. He had a standout year at linebacker in 2016, where he put up a career-high 71 defensive tackles, two special teams tackles, three sacks, one interception and one forced fumble.
Prior to joining the Roughriders the first time, Foster spent two seasons in Edmonton playing in 33 games and earning 102 defensive tackles, seven special teams tackles three sacks, two interceptions, two touchdowns and two forced fumbles.
NEW YORK (Feb. 10, 2020) – Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins, Winnipeg Jets left wing Kyle Connor and Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy have been named the NHL’s “Three Stars” for the week ending Feb. 9.
FIRST STAR – ELVIS MERZLIKINS, G, COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
Merzlikins went 173:39 before allowing a goal last week, posting a 2-1-0 record, 0.67 goals-against average, .971 save percentage and two shutouts as the Blue Jackets improved to 30-17-9 overall (69 points), third in the Metropolitan Division. Merzlikins began the week by stopping all 32 shots in a 1-0 overtime victory over the Florida Panthers on Feb. 4. Three nights later, he stopped all 16 shots in a 2-0 triumph over the Detroit Red Wings, extending his win streak to eight games (the longest ever by a Columbus rookie) with his League-leading fifth shutout – all in a span of eight games. He closed the week with a 20-save effort Feb. 8 in a 2-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche, stopping each of the first 17 shots he faced. Merzlikins, 25, a native of Riga, Latvia, has a 12-7-4 record through 25 games in his first NHL season (2.19 GAA, .930 SV%, 5 SO). Only three different Blue Jackets goaltenders have recorded more than five shutouts in a single season, with Steve Mason (10 in 2008-09) the only to do so as a rookie.
SECOND STAR – KYLE CONNOR, LW, WINNIPEG JETS
Connor led the League in points with eight (3-5—8) as the Jets (29-23-5, 63 points) gained seven of a possible eight points to move from three points outside the playoff picture into the first Wild Card spot in the Western Conference. Connor was held off the score sheet in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Nashville Predators on Feb. 4 and recorded one assist in a 4-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Feb. 6. Over a weekend back-to-back set Feb. 8-9, Connor recorded 1-3—4 in a 5-2 win over the Ottawa Senators followed by two goals and one assist in a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. In doing so, Connor became the seventh different player in franchise history to record at least three points on consecutive days (and third to do so since the club moved to Winnipeg). Connor, 23, a native of Shelby Township, Mich., is in his fourth NHL season and sits 13th in League scoring with 59 points (28-31—59 in 57 GP). He needs two goals to become the third player in Jets/Thrashers history with at least three consecutive 30-goal seasons.
THIRD STAR – ANDREI VASILEVSKIY, G, TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
Vasilevskiy went 3-0-0 with a 1.67 goals-against average and .936 save percentage to guide the Lightning to a perfect week and an overall record of 35-15-5 (75 points), second in the Atlantic Division and third in the entire NHL. Vasilevskiy led Tampa Bay to 4-2 wins against the Vegas Golden Knights (Feb. 4; 27 saves) and Pittsburgh Penguins (Feb. 6; 29 saves) before closing the week with 17 saves in a 3-1 triumph over the New York Islanders on Feb. 8. All three victories came at AMALIE Arena as Vasilevskiy pushed his home winning streak to eight games, matching the franchise record for the third time in as many seasons. Vasilevskiy, 25, a native of Tyumen, Russia, owns an overall record of 29-9-3 in 41 games this season (2.48 GAA, .918 SV%, 2 SO) as he aims to become the second Lightning goaltender to record three consecutive 30-win seasons. His active 18-game point streak (16-0-2 dating to Dec. 17) is one of 16 in NHL history of at least that length – and the second-longest by any active goaltender.
Veteran Canadian Football League receiver SJ Green will sign with the XFL Monday,
Green, released by the Argos last week, was weighing offers from both the CFL and XFL before deciding to continue his career south of the border with the new league.
With the XFL playing until late May, Green could conceivably return to the CFL if he wantd to.
In 18 games for the Argos last season, Green finished with 85 receptions for 1,039 yards and four touchdowns. The 34-year-old played in the CFL for 13 seasons and has 716 career receptions for 10,222 yards and 60 touchdowns.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers announced on Sunday that the team has agreed to terms with wide receiver Darvin Adams on a three-year contract extension, keeping Adams in Blue and Gold through 2022.
The 2020 campaign will mark the 30-year-old’s sixth with the Blue Bombers since joining the club in 2015 after two years with the Toronto Argonauts.
An injury limited Adams to 13 games in 2019 and he finished the year with 47 catches for 549 yards and five touchdowns, ending a streak of back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2017 and 2018.
The veteran receiver was especially effective in the Bombers’ push to a championship, making some critical catches in three playoff games leading up to and including the Grey Cup. Adams had six catches for 105 yards and a 71-yard touchdown in the Western Semi-Final win over the Calgary Stampeders and a week later, pulled in eight catches for 93 yards in the Western Final victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders. He then had three receptions for 11 yards in the Grey Cup decision over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and even completed a 13-yard pass to quarterback Chris Streveler.
He has 296 receptions for 4,226 yards as a Bomber, ranking him just outside the franchise’s Top 10 in both categories. He also has 34 touchdowns as a Bomber.
(Winnipeg Blue Bombers)
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats announced Sunday the football club has re-signed American defensive back/kick returner Frankie Williams.
Williams, 26, started at defensive back in 16 of his 17 appearances (15 at field corner, one at boundary halfback) for the Tiger-Cats last season, finishing second in the Canadian Football League in pass knock downs with 14, and adding 50 defensive tackles, one interception and one fumble recovery. The 5-9, 190-pound native of Tampa, Florida also won the 2019 John Agro Award as the league’s Most Outstanding Special Teams Player and was named a CFL All-Star after ranking among league leaders in numerous kick return categories, including first in punt return yardage (949), 30+ yard punt returns (10), average yards per kickoff return (24.9) and kickoff return touchdowns (tie-1), second in punt return touchdowns (tie-1) and overall kick return touchdowns (tie-2), and third in average yards per punt return (12.5) and kickoff return yardage (1,071).
Williams has appeared in 31 career CFL games with 22 starts at defensive back over two seasons with the Tiger-Cats (2018-19), registering 67 defensive tackles, 10 special teams tackles, one interception and 15 pass knock downs. The Purdue University product has also served as Hamilton’s primary kick returner the last two seasons, accumulating 116 punt returns for 1,332 yards and two touchdowns, 61 kickoff returns for 1,478 yards and one touchdown, and one missed field goal return for 30 yards.
For the first time this year, the Viterra Scotties and SaskTel Tankard were held in the same venue with one following the other in Melville. The same thing will be done next year in Estevan.
On Friday, CURLSASK announced the town of Tisdale will also be hosting multiple championships in 2021 as they will be the host for five different provincial championships. The provincial seniors, juniors and mixed doubles championship will go at the RecPlex from February 12-20, 2021.
“In our past visits in Tisdale, the support of the community has been second to none and we cannot wait to return for this special event. We know a lot of hard work goes into planning successful Championships and based on the success of the 2014 Viterra Scotties, 2017 SaskTel Tankard, and 2018 Affinity Credit Union Senior Provincials we look forward to watching Tisdale take on this special championship,” said CURLSASK President Christy Walker.
“We are so excited to host these five provincial championships on arena ice for the first time in our history!” said CURLSASK Executive Director Ashley Howard. “We know how important access to arena ice conditions are when preparing our teams for national championships and we are thrilled to provide arena ice access for a record seven of our 15 provincial championships next season.”
The Saskatchewan Roughriders have signed American wide receiver Shaq Evans to a one-year contract extension.
Evans (6’1 – 210lbs) returns to the Roughriders after a breakout 2019 season that saw him named a CFL All-Star. The 28-year-old was fourth in the league in receiving yards catching 72 receptions on 1,334 yards and added five touchdowns. The California native earned more than 100 yards receiving in six games this season including a 193-yard game against Winnipeg. He led the CFL in average yards per catch at 18.6 and in 30+ yard receptions with 15. Evans was named Top Performer in weeks six and 17.
Evans initially signed with the Club in 2018 and put up 785 yards on 50 receptions including 233 yards after catch.
Prior to joining the Riders, Evans was selected by the New York Jets in the 4th round (115th overall) of the 2014 NFL Draft and spent time with the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots and Jacksonville Jaguars.
Evans was eligible to become a free agent on February 11, 2020.
--Welcome to Friday and the usual assortment of things running through my muddled mind. As always, these come in no particular order.
--Are we ready for CFL free agency? We will find out who is going where starting Tuesday. I think one has to credit Riders GM Jeremy O'Day for getting some key names re-signed before free agency---names like Judge, Clark, Ryan, Marshall and Gainey.
Rider fans should be very happy to know that the starting secondary from last year will be back for next season which I think is huge.
One key name that hasn't re-signed is Shaq Evans. Word on the street is he is looking for a deal around 200K a season. Is he worth that in your mind Rider Nation? Does one good year translate into that big of a raise? As I said on the Sportscage Thursday, I would give him 180 or 185 with bonuses. What would you be giving him?
--If anyone is buying the U of R's rationale that Steve Bryce is resigning as head coach of the Rams for personal reasons than think again. If that were the case, the release signifying his departure would have had quotes from several. There was none of that. Bryce was fired and the U of R needs to explain why. I received two texts from people connected with football programs at other Canada West schools. Both basically saying the U of R continues to embarrass itself with the way it treats Cougar athletics.
Bryce had this team on the right path. He managed to find a way to turn the Mike Gibson disaster around and build a team that would have been a playoff team for three years had it not been for a major oops by the University with the academically ineligible player and it might have been four years straight had the team been able to get a break and turn some close losses into wins. Let's see who comes in, but let it be known as it stands right now this team has taken a big step back. The U of R really should do the right thing and let everyone know why this is happening and why they no longer support Bryce or at least let Bryce say why he isn't coming back.
--Super Bowl 54 may go down as one where more people talked about the halftime show than the game. Whether or not you like Shakira or Jennifer Lopez, you had to give it up for what they did. Those who tried to make the "It's too sexy" argument didn't have a problem with a shirtless Adam Levine last year so give it up. It still wasn't Lady Gaga jumping off the roof of the stadium though and the performers weren't brought in on a dogsled or had flying snowmobiles behind them. After going with Keith Urban last year, I am fascinated to see who the CFL gets for Mosaic Stadium and the halftime show at Grey Cup 2020.
--Chris Streveler could be in the NFL and Bo Levi Mitchell isn't. There's something not right with that. Yes, the two have different skill sets and yes, BLM reportedly turned down an offer (which I still don't believe) but you want your best to showcase themselves down south so people can see what type of players are up here. Instead, Americans may see Tim Tebow 2.0. I am guessing Streveler won't stick in Arizona, but who knows.
--Do the Argos go into the season with McLeod Bethel Thompson or Matt Nichols as their starter? With Nichols signing a three-year deal, one has to wonder if he gets the nod.
--Before the month is over, spring training will be underway. That being said after seeing the Mookie Betts to the Dodgers trade, I just wonder if we should have a Dodgers-Yankees World Series now.
--At this time next week Moose Jaw will be getting ready to host their 2nd Scotties Tournament of Hearts. If the first one is any indication, those going to Mosaic Place are in for a treat. Moose Jaw did it right a few years ago and they'll do it right again. Sportscage will be coming from Mosaic Place throughout the event. By the way, congrats to Matt Dunstone and his Regina rink for winning the Tankard last Sunday in Melville. Is this the year the Brier drought ends?
--What will teams in the Pacific Division do at the trade deadline? That division is so topsy-turvy, it will likely go to the last game to determine who finishes where.
--Would the Pats be in a position for a playoff spot had it not been for that brutal 10 game losing streak to start the season. Teams are finding out that Regina is a tough out and Donovan Buskey seems to be doing OK in net having assumed the number 1 spot after the Max Paddock trade.