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Monday, February 27, 2017

POPP, TRESTMAN POISED TO JOIN ARGONAUTS

TORONTO - Jim Popp and Marc Trestman are together again.

Two sources said Monday the Toronto Argonauts have agreements in principle for Popp and Trestman to become the CFL club's GM and head coach, respectively. But only Popp is expected to meet with reporters Tuesday morning at BMO Field.  A news conference has been called for 10:30 am ET and will be streamed live at CFL.ca.

Popp was photographed sitting with Larry Tanenbaum during the Toronto Maple Leafs' 5-4 overtime win over the Winnipeg Jets on Feb. 21 at the Air Canada Centre. Tanenbaum is chairman of Maple Leafs Sports And Entertainment, which owns the Leafs, but he is also the Argos co-owner.

Argos spokesman Jamie Dykstra declined comment Monday. Popp did not immediately respond to a message from The Canadian Press.

Popp spent 21 seasons as the Montreal Alouettes general manager (1996-2016), leading the franchise to eight Grey Cup appearances, winning three. Two of those titles came with Trestman as the club's head coach (2009-10).

Popp hired Trestman as Montreal's head coach in 2008. The move paid off immediately as Trestman led the Alouettes to a Grey Cup appearance in his first season, losing 22-14 to Calgary at Olympic Stadium.

During Trestman's tenure, Montreal finished atop the East Division four times, posting a 59-31 regular-season record and a 5-3 playoff mark. Trestman was hired as the Chicago Bears head coach in 2013, a post he held for two seasons before being fired after compiling a 13-19 overall record.

The Baltimore Ravens hired Trestman to be their offensive co-ordinator but fired him in December after just 21 regular-season games on the job.

Toronto finished last in the East Division last season - their first under new ownership and playing at a revamped BMO Field - with a dismal 5-13 record. However, the club waited until Jan. 24 to fire GM Jim Barker, who still has two years remaining on his CFL contract.

Toronto's off-season plight worsened three days later when head coach Scott Milanovich - who served as Trestman's offensive co-ordinator in Montreal - resigned to become the quarterbacks coach with the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars.

The moves left assistant GM Spencer Zimmerman to lead Toronto into the start of CFL free agency Feb. 14.

While the timing of the moves is hardly ideal, the addition of Popp and Trestman certainly gives the Argos a proven commodity on and off the field.

Popp has established himself as one of the CFL's top GMs, also earning a Grey Cup ring in 1995 as the Baltimore Stallions general manager. In 2011, he was named executive of the year by Sports Media Canada.

But the 52-year-old native of Elkin, N.C., proved ineffective as a head coach, posting a 22-36 regular-season record and 1-4 playoff mark in four separate stints on Montreal's sidelines.

He was fired as coach last September, with Montreal at 3-9. Interim coach Jacques Chapdelaine finished the season 4-2 and was named full-time coach in December by Kavis Reed, Popp's successor as GM.

(Canadian Press)

RIDERS SIGN CANADIAN RECEIVER MITCHELL BAINES

The Saskatchewan Roughriders have signed national receiver Mitchell Baines.      

Baines (6’2 – 215) joins the Green and White after spending the last five seasons at the University of Ottawa. The 25-year-old Ottawa native played 29 career collegiate games with the Gee-Gees, registering 125 receptions for 1,889 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Last season, Baines was named a Second Team U Sports All-Canadian and First Team OUA All-Star after leading the nation with 65 receptions and 984 yards – averaging 123 yards per game – while ranking third with eight touchdown catches.

THE MONDAY MORNING GOALIE


TRUTH & RUMOURS

1 - Regina's Brandt Centre was the place to be on Sunday, as the Queen City Kids again took to the ice literally in the shadow of the glitzy New Mosaic Stadium, the new home of the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

However this time another sellout crowd of 6,484 went home disappointed as the Pats let a late lead slip and wound up losing 5-4 in overtime to the visiting Swift Current Broncos.

The atmosphere wasn't as electric as Friday when the Pats pounded those same Broncos 7-0, but it was exciting nonetheless. Some fans left the arena discouraged, lighting up my phone with messages like, "The Pats are in trouble!" or "Four losses in the last seven games!"

I prefer to put a positive spin on it, pointing to the fact the loss snapped a three-game win streak, and Regina collected three of a possible four points off a division rival this weekend.

Regina has 11 games left to set a franchise record for wins at 50. They're currently at 44.

2 - As Box Office Don said last week, "It's just like the Riders!  The Pats win a few and people go crazy and when they lose a few, people still go crazy."

We're here to fan the flames either way.

I'm sure Pats Head Coach & GM John Paddock would prefer a little downtime for his weary club which last week wrapped up a stretch of six games in six different cities in just nine nights. However now they're in the middle of a 5-game homestand which continues Tuesday when the Lethbridge Hurricanes come to town (7:00 pm on 620 CKRM).

It seems dizzying and a blur from the outside so I can't imagine how it looks from the inside.

As powerful as the Pats have looked all season long, it seems now like they're teetering a bit due to some untimely injuries.  They clinched a playoff spot long ago but any playoff match-up right now would be a knee-knocker.

That's what makes this so exciting! It's impossible to predict how this is all going to turn out.

3 - We found out somewhat by accident that the CFL's Board of Governors convened in Arizona last week for their annual meetings. Since we don't know what was on their agenda, we'll spend some time on Monday's SportsCage on 620 CKRM playing the role of Governors, and examining what pressing issues are currently facing the CFL and how we'd handle them. Fire away in the Comment section with what YOU think should be on their agenda.

4 - Toronto Argonauts fans have to be breathing a sigh of relief that - if what Sportsnet's Arash Madani is saying is true - the Argos will introduce Jim Popp and Marc Trestman as their General Manager and Head Coach respectively on Tuesday.

Just last week I saw Argo fans on Facebook breathing fire, trying to plan a protest out front of the MLSE offices due to a lack of action on the hiring front.

Now, the Argos seem to have knocked it out of the park landing the finest duo imaginable.

The naysayers are saying this could've been done a few months ago but that's a flimsy argument. Who knows what possible roadblacks prevented this from happening earlier?

Frankly, Argos President Michael Copeland should take a bow after facing a barrage of criticism. A few weeks ago I'd written in this space that Copeland's approach was "unorthodox", but I wasn't prepared to pile on like so many were doing.

Tuesday promises to be a very exciting day for football in Toronto, again, if Madani's report is true.

5 - A very interesting report surfaced last week that the Aquilini family - owners of the NHL's Vancouver Canucks - are "kicking tires" on the possible purchase of the B.C. Lions from David Braley.  Vancouver Province columnist Ed Willes points out the Lions brand has deteriorated significantly since the franchise's last Grey Cup title in 2011, and the time is rype for a sale.

This scenario is also worth some discussion on the SportsCage on Monday because I'm not convinced that these huge sports conglomerates (like the Leafs/Raptors/Toronto FC/Argos or Flames/Stampeders/Roughnecks/Hitmen) are the best way to go.

You'd have to ask some of the employees of the Stampeders or Argos how it's worked out for them. I'm sure you'd get varying reports.

Don't forget a few years back the Saskatchewan Roughriders briefly discussed the notion of purchasing the Regina Pats however the $7-million pricetag scared them off.

There's something that just doesn't seem right about one ownership group controlling all of the sports teams in one city.

6 - 10-year Roughrider offensive lineman Chris Best did a real nice job of addressing a throng of reporters and the Rider Nation on Thursday when announcing his retirement. With his wife and young daughter by his side, "Bestie" refrained from shedding tears but he was very close. If he had, could you blame him?

The Calgary product gave absolutely every ounce of what he had during his time with the Roughriders, and emerged with a pair of Grey Cup rings and likely a spot in the Plaza of Honor. Now it's over.

His former teammate Luc Mullinder said on Friday's SportsCage that, "Bestie could've played in any era", referring to his hard-nosed, no-nonsense style. Riders Assistant V.P. of Football Operations Jeremy O'Day said at Thursday's news conference that very early on he could tell, "Chris had the work ethic to be successful at this level."

Talent will get you to the CFL, but your work ethic will keep you there.

I often think that many fans would love to live the rock star life of a Roughriders player, but few would be willing to put in the hours and sweat that's required.

7 - Since Best was a member of both the 2007 and 2013 Grey Cup champion Rider teams, I asked him on Thursday who'd win a game between the two. He'd clearly never been asked that question before, and after thinking for a few seconds, he said the 2013 club had more talent but the 2007 squad was "a team of destiny." He never really answered the question but reading between the lines, I think he was leaning towards the 2007 team.

I'd have to agree. The 2013 Roughriders were a collection of All Stars and they deserve every one of the accolades they've received, but the 2007 Riders had, in my opinion, more heart.

2007 it is, IMO.

8 - As I write this, Ontario's Rachel Homan just won the 2017 Scotties Tournament of Hearts championship, 8-6 in an extra end over Manitoba's Michelle Englot. What a nail-biter! However Michelle did both Manitoba and Saskatchewan proud. Hopefully she's back at the Scotties next year, even if it's by representing the Buffalo.

We didn't see all of the Scotties final because we were busy binge-watching Suits on Netflix.

Why didn't you tell me about this earlier? (shakes fist).

9 - There aren't many Arizona Coyotes fans reading this but any fan of the team had to be disheartened at Sunday's trade which shipped star Martin Hanzal and grinder Ryan White to Minnesota for draft picks (including a 2017 first-rounder). It's clearly the best move for the future of the Coyotes, but Hanzal joins Antoine Vermette and Mikkel Boedker as franchise stars who've left for greener pastures. These perennial rebuilds are tough for any team, but particularly for one which continues to spin its wheels in a worn-out market like Arizona.

Coyotes captain Shane Doan was visibly irritated by the trade in Sunday's postgame interview, and the clip is making the rounds on North American sports TV networks.

10 - Henry Burris will be the keynote speaker at this year's Regina Thunder Dinner of Champions on Friday, May 26 at the Delta Regina. It's going to be great to have Smilin' Hank back in his former home and maybe now that his career is over, he'll open up to some of the many stories he's been mum on for years. (Like the circumstances surrounding his 2005 departure from the Roughriders). For tickets, visit the Thunder website at www.reginathunder.ca.

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THAT'S ALL! SEE YOU ON THE RADIO AT 4
RP
@rodpedersen

Sunday, February 26, 2017

RECAP: BRONCOS 5 PATS 4 OT

Keith Hershmiller Photography
Regina – The Regina Pats dropped a 5-4 overtime decision to the Swift Current Broncos on Sunday before another sellout crowd (6,484) at the Brandt Centre.

The Pats took a 4-2 lead to the third period but Swift Current scored one early and then tied it up with 13 seconds left to force overtime.

In the extra frame, Ryley Lindgren scored at the 3:16 mark to give the Broncos the extra point, 5-4 the final score.

The Pats got three points from Nick Henry, and two from each of Sam Steel, Adam Brooks, Dawson Leedahl and Connor Hobbs in the defeat.

Jordan Hollett made 26 saves in the Regina goal while Taz Burman had 43 for the Broncos. The Regina powerplay was 1/6 while the penalty kill went 2/4.

Quick Hits
- The Pats fell to 5-0-1-0 against Swift Current on the season.
- Nick Henry had three points and leads all WHL rookies with 74 points this season.
- Sam Steel had a goal and an assist and now has 14 points against Swift Current this year.

What’s Next?
The Pats are back in action on Tuesday night against the Lethbridge Hurricanes. Puck drop at the Brandt Centre is at 7 p.m. Tickets are available at reginapats.com or at the Brandt Centre Box Office.

(Courtesy Phil Andrews/ReginaPats.com)

SASKATCHEWAN 12 CALGARY 11

SaskRush.com
SASKATOON - Jeff Cornwall scored his second goal of the game in overtime as the Saskatchewan Rush edged the Calgary Roughnecks 12-11 on Saturday night in National Lacrosse League action.

Ben McIntosh and Robert Church each had hat tricks for the Rush (6-2). Mike Messenger, Adam Jones, Matthew Dinsdale and Mark Matthews supplied the rest of the offence.

Wesley Berg led Calgary (3-5) with four goals while Tyler Digby added a hat trick. Dane Dobbie struck twice with Jeff Shattler and Garrett McIntosh also chipping in.

Aaron Bold made 34 saves for the win in net as Christian Del Bianco stopped 35 shots in defeat.

Saskatchewan scored twice on three power plays and the Roughnecks were 3 for 5.

(CP)

SUNDAY SPORTS

Patrick Marleau scored the winner and Martin Jones made 35 saves as the San Jose Sharks downed the undermanned Vancouver Canucks 4-1. Daniel Sedin replied for Vancouver, which got 22 stops from Ryan Miller. The Canucks were without five players because of the mumps, or symptoms associated with the highly contagious virus.

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Montreal's dominance over the Maple Leafs continues. Andrew Shaw scored the winner in OT as the Canadiens edged Toronto 3-2 for the 14th consecutive time. Auston Matthews scored twice for the Leafs to reach 30 goals on the season. The win puts Montreal up four points on the Ottawa Senators for first place in the Atlantic Division.

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Sidney Crosby scored his NHL-leading 34th goal of the season as the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Philadelphia Flyers 4-2 at blustery Heinz Field. Matt Murray made 35 saves as the Penguins capitalized on some shaky goaltending by Michal Neuvirth at the home of the NFL's Steelers.

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The final of the Canadian women's curling championship is set. It will be Ontario's Rachel Homan taking on Manitoba's Michelle Englot for the title Sunday night. Homan beat Northern Ontario's Krista McCarville in the semifinal. Englot is 2-0 against Homan at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts including a 9-8 win in their playoff game between the top two seeds.

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Canada's Milos Raonic has advanced to his first final of 2017. The Canadian tennis star beat Juan Martin del Potro 6-3, 7-6 in the semifinals of the Delray Beach Open to advance. He'll face American Jack Sock for the championship. Sock never lost his serve all day in a semifinal win over Donald Young.

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James Harden had 24 points and 10 assists to lead the Houston Rockets to a 142-130 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Houston won for the sixth time in seven games. Karl-Anthony Towns had 37 points and 22 rebounds for Minnesota while Canadian Andrew Wiggins added 30 points. It was Minnesota's first road loss in more than three weeks.

(CP)

Saturday, February 25, 2017

RODSERVATIONS

Keith Hershmiller Photography
THE BUZZ IN TOWN

1 - When my head hit the pillow Friday night, I didn't want to go to sleep. I was still on pins and needles from the atmosphere in the Brandt Centre last night where the Pats blew out the Swift Current Broncos 7-0. But it wasn't just about that game in itself.

I'll tell you why ..

2 - Sure, the game was great. All but one or two this year have been very entertaining, which is an amazing feat in itself. However Friday night fans looked at each other in astonishment as 18-year old Pats phenom Sam Steel whizzed around the ice, having his way with the Broncos. If you haven't heard already, the Anaheim first-rounder had a career-high four goals and an assist.

Sam Steel should be an absolute icon in this town - and by the time he's done he will be - but people seem to be slow to catch on. It's the same scenario as when Doug Flutie was with the Toronto Argonauts. He led the team to Grey Cup titles in 1996 and 1997 but Toronto sports fans didn't even realize it until afterwards when he went on to star in the NFL.  It was only then that Toronto people referred to him as, "Our Doug."

That's what could happen here with Sam Steel.

For instance, I was flabbergasted to wake up Saturday morning and see that not one comment had come into this blog about Friday's game and Steel's performance. I guess it was a shutout of the opponent, an offensive explosion, and therefore nothing to complain about.

3 - And back to Friday night's game. There was an electricity in the arena which has been slowly building over the past four or five months. The doors opened at 6:00 and the building was full almost immediately. Many people were in their seats by 6:10, which was a full hour before what would be the eventual opening faceoff.

What was the buzz in the building? Well this was the first home game since last Saturday's CHL announcement that Regina had won the right to host the 2018 Memorial Cup. So the murmur in the seats was about that, and how spine-tingling the next 15 months will be. There was talk of the Brier, this year's Scotties, and a little chatter about the Riders which we'll get to later.  But the main vibe was rightfully about the Regina Pats.

Just before game time, the concourses (which have always been wide enough) were completely clogged.  I had to walk out into the stands and dodge or step over people just to get to my seats.

It was a welcome inconvenience.

Kovacs
4 - I sat only a few rows up from the ice and had to pinch myself a few times to make sure I wasn't dreaming.  Let's see: the game was soldout, the Pats are the #1 team in the WHL and flirt with the #1 ranking in the country, the crowd was a mixture of old and young but more millenials than ever before, and the game itself was fantastic.

This is what we've always wanted. And now it's here.

And as an absolutely extra special bonus, Regina Pats legend Frank Kovacs came onto the ice before the game to help honour Pats forward Adam Brooks for playing his 300th career game. Brooks won't reach Frank's record 352 games played , but it's a tremendous accomplishment.

Bringing back alumni and having them be part of the pregame ceremonies? It's a tactic I've been pleading for this franchise to do for literally decades. This is lump-in-the-throat stuff for me and other fans who remember the good ol' days.

And now QCSEG is actually doing it. Former Pats captain Kyle Deck actually came out after Kovacs to drop the puck. The roof went off the place.

I honestly can't quite get over how utterly sensational this is.

And that's why I didn't want to go to sleep Friday night.

5 - Lastly on that particular point, although it was another sellout of 6,484, the rest of Regina and area has been a tad slow to catch on. It's similar, to me, to the 2013 Rider season when the football team was 8-1 and fans were bitching that receiver Geroy Simon wasn't been used properly enough. Really? Seriously? How insignificant does that detail look now since the club is 10-35 since the Banjo Bowl of 2014?

Stop and smell the roses. Enjoy it. I certainly am and it's like walking on air.

6 - The buzz in the Media/Scouts/VIP room before the game was of the CHL Top 10 rankings and how the Pats have been in them every week all season long while the Moose Jaw Warriors get nary a mention. Former SportsCage co-host Kelly Remple was particularly heated about this. "How can you beat the #1 team in the country three times and not even get an honourable mention?" steamed the Silver Fox.

The Ripplinger brothers - Todd and Jason - were in the room too and they mentioned that the rankings are a subjective thing, similar to college football. "They're designed to get people talking," one of them said. "There's no way to prove they're true."

Warriors GM Al Millar only chuckled about his team's snub and muttered, "I'd rather not be ranked all season long," referring to the fact that it's a great motivator.

It was a great discussion, and it's always nice to be back with the hockey boys.

7 - A very real concern if you're a local Pats fan: how are you going to get into these games come playoff time if they're all soldout? Obviously, you're going to want to purchase your playoff ticket packages well in advance because this is going to be an historic run and this city is going to go nuts.

Fortunately for you, it appears we'll have a lot of the playoff games televised on Access and Shaw.

But there's no substitute for being there in person.

By the way if this team doesn't go all the way, it'll be really hard to take but again, I'm just trying to savour every moment of what they're doing now.  It's great.

8 - The U of R Cougar womens basketball team is off to the Final Four after sweeping Trinity Western in their Best-of-3 conference quarterfinal this week.  On Friday night at the CKHS, Regina won 57-41. We were in attendance on Thursday night and it was a real treat.

When did the U of R add the electronic video screen? It looked big time.

Why do people say there's nothing to do in this town?

It never seems to be a problem for me.

9 - I saw two long-time lady Rider fans at the Pats game last night.  Their names are Leanne and Marlene.  I said, "Are you lost? There's no football game here?"

Marlene said, "We came because you told everybody to on the radio."

10 - While at Thursday's Cougar game and then last night at the Brandt Centre, I was peppered with questions about the Roughriders. The vast, vast majority of them centred around quarterback Vince Young.

In fact the exact line of questioning is, "Is he coming or not? Yes or No?"

It was too pointed of a question for me to give a simple Yes or No to, but CKRM analyst Luc Mullinder offered an emphatic NO on Friday's SportsCage.

Given the fact the Roughriders have refused comment on the entire Young matter, I'd have to lean towards the "No" side too.

So who will start in Week 1 ... Kevin Glenn? Brandon Bridge? Jake Waters? G.J. Kinne? Someone else entirely?

Sorry to say, but no one knows. It's February 25 so there's plenty of time for that scenario to play out.

11 - Another football note: Saskatchewan lost a legend on Thursday when Gord Currie passed away at the age of 93.  No one in Saskatchewan football is spoken of with the reverence that Gord Currie enjoyed during his time on earth. Frankly, it was an honour to know him and have the chance to discuss football with him.

12 - The inaugural Mark's CFL Week is coming in just a matter of weeks. Check out the full schedule of events here: www.markscflweek.ca.

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BIRTHDAYS: Happy Birthday on Friday to Rider alum Jordan Sisco, Wayne Shaw and Andre "Juicy" Monroe ... and Happy 52nd Birthday on Sunday to Rider legend Don Narcisse!

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THAT'S ALL! HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND!
RP
@rodpedersen