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Thursday, November 26, 2015



1. WINNIPEG -- 2015 Grey Cup festivities officially got underway in the Manitoba capital Wednesday morning with the annual Coaches News Conference featuring Edmonton's Chris Jones and Ottawa's Rick Campbell.  We were making the five hour drive from Regina during the gathering so we had to miss it, but it seemed like there were a lot of laughs to be had.  Many came from the traditional question from the Edmonton Sun's Terry Jones regarding whether the coaches will allow their players to have sex during Grey Cup Week.  The quotes are contained in a post below but, honestly, many feel it's time to shelve that time-honoured quiry.  It definitely makes everyone uncomfortable however in the 14 Grey Cups I've been lucky enough to cover and attend, Rider coach Corey Chamblin's response in 2013 is still by far the best.  "I told them if they win the Grey Cup, they'll have lots of sex," Chamblin quipped two years ago.  "Yep."  I'm sure he was right.

2. GETTING IN THE SWING OF THINGS:  It seems as though when we get to Grey Cup on Thursday it feels like we've missed something however when he hit town on the Wednesday, it's too soon.  That appeared to be the case this time around as the Winnipeg Convention Centre - the hub of the week's activities - was virtually a ghost town yesterday other than facility staff setting up for the various parties, souvenir booths and the TSN set.  However Wednesday's SportsCage was a roaring success on 620 CKRM as we were joined by former Roughriders defensive back Jeff Treftlin (1989 Grey Cup champ), Ottawa RedBlacks colour commentator Jeff Avery (1976 Grey Cup champ), and our regular Wednesday guests in Paul Lapolice and Jim Lang.  We'll be situated on "Radio Row" alongside all TSN Radio affiliate stations through Friday and I'll take this time to thank TSN for extending the invitation to be part of their impressive group.

3. THE RADIO BROADCAST:  620 CKRM is the official Voice of the Grey Cup and we'll be carrying Sunday's proceedings beginning with the pregame show at 1:00 pm followed by kickoff from Investors Group Field at 6:00 pm.  Rod Black will call the play-by-play on radio alongside colour man Giulio Caravatta of the B.C. Lions while Chris Cuthbert and Glen Suitor will have the call on television.  The pregame show will consist of various TSN Radio personalities from across the CFL.

Lawless & Odell Willis at the WBB Media Party
4. KICKING THINGS OFF:  In what will hopefully become a Grey Cup tradition, Winnipeg Blue Bombers President Wade Miller hosted a party for the CFL media on Wednesday at the Shark Club downtown.  It was attended by virtually all team beat writers along with club broadcast personnel and TSN personalities such as Rod Smith, Jock Climie, Chris Cuthbert, Farhan Lalji and Gary Lawless to name a few.  There were several CFL players on hand including the Riders' Paul Woldu.  Lawless was nice enough to extend an invite for the CKRM crew to attend so Luc Mullinder and I took him up on it while Carm Carteri begged off in favour of CFL great Miles Gorrell's 60th birthday party at the St. Norbert Hotel.  We give Gary Lawless a hard time but he truly has a heart of gold!

I'm not sure how many attendees thanked Wade Miller for the bash but I was sure to shake his hand before leaving at 10:00 pm along with Stampeders play-by-play man Mark Stephen and Luc.  Hopefully at 2016 Grey Cup in Toronto, Argonauts President Michael Copeland continues the tradition.

5. THE RUMOURS:  The rumours were flying fast and furious at Wednesday night's party, as you can well imagine when the CFL media gets together.  The Roughriders' General Manager search was certainly the #1 topic however I discovered the origin of the Chris Jones-to-Saskatchewan gossip and let me just say it's baseless.  I'd be SHOCKED if Jones winds up in Saskatchewan, and equally surprised if he's interviewed.  It's generally agreed upon by reporters that current interim GM Jeremy O'Day has the inside track however John Hunfagel's name was on most everyone's lips.  The Stampeders' Mark Stephen is adamant Hufnagel isn't going anywhere, citing the fact "Huf gave his word" twice that he's under contract in Calgary and plans to honour it through 2016.  However I don't feel it's been put to bed yet but if the Stampeders President refuses to grant permission for the Riders to even talk to Hufnagel, the whole idea could be dead in the water.

The juiciest rumour I heard was that former Rougrhriders coach Corey Chamblin could be in line to replace Casey Creehan as defensive coordinator of the Toronto Argonauts.

Head coach Jeff Tedford's status with the B.C. Lions is very much up in the air, and not just because news broke this week he's been contacted by NCAA teams about returning Stateside.  Apparently Tedford's first season in Vancouver was a rocky one and he wasn't given a ringing endorsement by GM Wally Buono at the year-end news conference.

And one of the most popular questions at Grey Cup is: will TSN's Paul Lapolice be coaching anywhere in 2016?  There could be an opening in B.C., we know there's one in Saskatchewan, or he may even find himself as offensive coordinator where he lives, right here in Winnipeg.  Many feel Lapolice is content being a star on TSN's CFL coverage but in every discussion I've had with the New Hampshire product, he wants to be back on the sidelines.

Jutras posing with her book Wednesday night
6. OUR LEAGUE, OUR COUNTRY:  CFL photographer extraordinaire Johany Jutras was hawking her new book Our League, Our Country at Wednesday's media party.  It's a photo expose consisting of images the Quebecer took while travelling across the CFL this summer and fall and is on sale at Grey Cup and all Rider Store locations for $40.  And she's no dummy -- the front of the hardcover book depicts the Riders' famous card stunt from the 2015 Labour Day Classic.  If you're coming to Winnipeg this week, it won't be hard to find the books on sale.

7. THE WEATHER:  So far most everyone is complaining about the weather but the windy, minus-5 conditions are nothing compared to what we endured at the 2013 Grey Cup in Regina.  B.C. Lions fullback Rolly Lumbala Tweeted on Wednesday: "Just landed in Winnipeg for Grey Cup!! Bitter sweet and bitter COLD!!!!! #LOVETHE CFL"  In truth, it's not bitter at all.  You can get around in a sportscoat whereas in Regina you'd have died, literally, without a parka.  Thursday is forecast to be the coldest day of the week at minus-9 while game day on Sunday figures to be partly cloudy and minus-5.  That's balmy compared to what Bomber President Wade Miller feared.

8. OH YEAH, THE GAME:  While all this was going on, both the Eskimos and RedBlacks practiced outdoors at Investors Group Field on Wednesday.  I'm told many of the reporters watched the workouts from the heated press box.  It may be unfair to say this, because I haven't spent enough time around either team, but it appears the Eskimos have an edge in attitude this week.  From all the quotes and video I've seen, the Edmonton team has shown up with a very determined focus.  Their long-time equipment manager Duane Mandrusiak even hung all 13 of the franchise's Grey Cup banners on the ceiling of their locker room to provide added motivation.

As for the Ottawa players, they truly seem just glad to be here (but again, I haven't spent a ton of time around them).  RedBlacks colour man Jeff Avery admitted this Grey Cup appearance in just their second season of existence is well ahead of the plan.  I likened it to giving a two-year old a driver's license.  Maybe that particular two-year old is qualified, but it's "just not ready".

9. THURSDAY'S SCHEDULE:  Keeping with tradition, the teams will break bread with the media on Thursday.  The East Division champions will hold a media breakfast followed by a media lunch with the West Division champs.  Traditionally the CFL Commissioner addresses both teams and then it turns into a free-for-all with reporters scrambling to collect as many interviews as they can in the allotted time.  Then, each squad will hold its lone closed practice of the week.  Also on Thursday, Riderville opens at 5:00 pm at the Winnipeg Convention Centre.

10. OUR GAME:  Finally, a word on the atmosphere at the 103rd Grey Cup in Winnipeg.  The Convention Centre was bustling with staff and Grey Cup volunteers who've flown in from across the country and every single person had a smile on their face.  Many of them, displaced Saskatchewanians, stopped by our broadcast booth and just wanted to chat about their beloved Roughriders.  Others, not so much.  I asked if I could fill up my travel coffee mug in the volunteers' lounge and a lady, a Winnipegger, said, "I suppose so even if I don't like that jacket you're wearing".  Then she smiled and waved me in.  That Rider track jacket has truly been quite an ice-breaker over the years.

You won't hear any talk about the NFL around here this week, or the NHL for that matter.  The Grey Cup truly is a celebration of Canadian football and it's a wonderful chance for all of us who love the game to get together and show our pride.  It's a very rewarding week.




EDMONTON -- The Edmonton Oil Kings returned home looking to bounce back from a disappointing end to their recent road trip, and managed to do just that as they powered their way to a 6-4 win over the Regina Pats in a high-scoring affair Wednesday night at Rexall Place.

Edmonton (9-14-3-0) came out firing with an early tally courtesy of Kole Gable at 6:43 of the 1st period. Regina (11-10-2-0) answered back immediately with one of their own from Connor Hobbs, but the Oil Kings wasted no time getting back on top as d-man Jordan Dawson scored his first WHL goal to put the home side up 2-1 less than a minute later. Another off the stick of Hobbs moments after that would knot it up at 2-2 after 20 minutes.

The track meet continued in the 2nd with 2 goals from Oil Kings centre Lane Bauer, his team-leading 27th & 28th points on the year, to give the home side the 4-2 cushion heading into 3rd period.

“A couple of really nice plays,” Oil Kings head coach Steve Hamilton said of Bauer’s two tallies. “Puck movement found him open and I liked how he was patient and picked his spot. Those were a couple goals that took some skill & poise. It was critical to set us up for the 3rd like that.”

The 3rd period saw the scoring open up even more as Oil Kings winger Tyler Robertson potted his 11th of the year just 2:25 in to make it 5-2. But after the goal some rough stuff ensued. Two roughing penalties & two fighting majors, including one to the goal-scorer Robertson, were handed out and when the dust settled the Oil Kings somehow found themselves on the power play. But the Pats would manage to score on their ensuing penalty kill (Austin Wagner's 8th of the year) to narrow the lead to 5-3 early in the 3rd period.

“I really disliked what went on after (Robertson’s) goal. I think that led us down a path, and we followed up with a lot of stupid penalties,” said Hamilton. “That stuff was initiated unnecessarily… How we came out of that with a power play is fortunate.”

Despite lacking some discipline in the final frame, the Oil Kings would add one more courtesy of Brett Pollock en route to the 6-4 victory over the visiting Pats.

NOTES:  The Pats were 1/7 on the powerplay and 6/6 on the penalty kill ... Edmonton outshot Regina 30-24 ... Tyler Brown and Jordan Hollett split time in the Pats'goal with Brown allowing five of Edmonton's goals ... The attendance was 4825 ... The Pats visit the Calgary Hitmen Friday at 8:00 pm on 620 CKRM.

(With files from OilKings.ca)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


WINNIPEG - Only Henry Burris can arrive at the Grey Cup with a chip on his shoulder and a megawatt smile.

The 40-year-old Ottawa Redblacks quarterback comes to the CFL championship game having thrown for 361 touchdowns and more than 60,000 yards in his 16 years in the league. He was MVP of the 2008 Grey Cup, when he led Calgary past Montreal. And on Thursday, he can collect his second Most Outstanding Player Award in the leadup to Sunday's showdown with the Edmonton Eskimos.

But his drive for success is partially fuelled by his doubters after being released by both Calgary and Hamilton in recent years.

"It is very personal to me,'' he told reporters Wednesday after a brisk morning workout at Investors Group Field. "So many people always say you can let it go, let it go. But I think that's what motivates some of the best athletes ever.

"You have to play with a chip on your shoulder. When people say certain things that in your heart matter to you as an athlete. When they say certain things to doubt you.''

Burris acknowledges there will always be naysayers. But to him it matters when it comes from people "that matter to you, that played a role in your life.''

As tough as nails on the field, the charismatic Burris bruises easily off it. He can't understand why he is "Good Hank, Bad Hank'' to some and a possible Hall of Famer to others.

And Burris, also known as "Smiling Hank,'' has a long memory.

"The bottom line is what motivates you every day,'' he said. "And for me the fact I was sent packing after I helped turn organizations around and doing my job both on and off the field, being an ambassador not only for the community but for the team and also for the league - just to be sent packing the way that it occurred.''

Ending Hamilton's season last weekend was something to savour for Burris, who recalled being on the phone learning that the Ticats no longer wanted him as his wife read on her iPad that the Ticats had signed Zach Collaros.

"It's little things like that than I hold on,'' Burris said. "Of course, when I'm training, it gets me to an emotional point sometimes. I'm not saying I want revenge but to be able to go out and achieve what we did was the easiest way to get revenge. And I know that cuts deep.''

Defeating the Ticats three times at the end of this season was sweet, sweeter and even sweeter.

Burris' joy was plain to see after the Redblacks' dramatic 35-28 Eastern semifinal win over Hamilton last weekend. Swarmed by fans in the aftermath, he celebrated with his family.

Ultimately it became a teachable moment for Burris and his two young sons. The celebration showed them why their father gets up at the crack of dawn during the season or takes up gymnastics in the off-season to improve his core strength.

"Hopefully they understand the premise of hard work,'' he said.

Bottom line, it appears that while you can part ways with Burris, you can't escape him.

"No matter what you say, you can't rule me out,'' said Burris, before turning the spotlight back to his fellow Redblacks, who are one victory from winning it all after going 2-16 in their inaugural season.

"I'm nothing without my teammates,'' he added. "And I've said that time in, time out, wherever I've played, I'm nothing without my teammates. And hopefully my teammates feel they're the same without me.''

Receiver Brad Sinopoli said the Redblacks share that chip.

"I think we also feel like a lot of us have something to prove as well along with him. So I think collectively when he starts feeling like that, we kind of relate to it as well. And now as a group now we feel we all have something to prove.''

Burris admits he plays better when he's angry.

"And I'm angry this week because I felt like I played like crap last week.''

(Canadian Press)


WINNIPEG - Edmonton Eskimos head coach Chris Jones knows all too well how good Ottawa Redblacks veteran quarterback Henry Burris can be in a Grey Cup game.

Jones was the Calgary Stampeders' defensive co-ordinator in 2008 when they won the Grey Cup with a 22-14 victory over the Montreal Alouettes at Olympic Stadium. Burris was named the game MVP after throwing for 328 yards and a TD and rushing for a team-high 79 yards on nine carries.

Jones and Burris find themselves back in the Grey Cup, although on opposite sides of the field.

Under Jones, Edmonton finished tied with Calgary for the CFL's best record at 14-4 but secured top spot in the West Division standings by winning the season series. The Eskimos then beat the defending league champions 45-31 in the West Division final.

Burris was a big reason for the huge turnaround in Ottawa. After posting a 2-16 record in their inaugural season, the Redblacks finished atop the East Division with a 12-6 record, then secured the city's first Grey Cup appearance since 1981 with a thrilling 35-28 win over Hamilton in the conference final.

Burris's 93-yard TD strike to Greg Ellingson with just over a minute remaining earned Ottawa its winning margin.

The 40-year-old quarterback has been sensational this season, registering a CFL-record 481 completions and league-leading 5,703 passing yards. And Burris has been terrific in spreading the wealth as Ottawa finished the regular season with four 1,000-yard receivers, something that creates matchup difficulties for opposing defences.

What's more, Ottawa comes into the Grey Cup on a nice roll, having won five straight games. But the Redblacks were 0-2 versus Edmonton this season and have yet to see Eskimos starter Mike Reilly up close and personal.

Reilly was hurt for both previous matchups with Ottawa after sustaining knee injury in Edmonton's season-opening loss to Toronto. Since Reilly returned as the starter, the Eskimos have reeled off nine straight victories. And that includes three against Calgary after going 0-4 to the Stampeders in 2014.

A constant for Edmonton this year has been a staunch defence, one that allowed a league-low 18.9 points per game. Ottawa counters with a solid unit _ one that was ranked first in fewest yards allowed (297.6 per game), rushing yards (70.8) and most sacks (62) _ but Jones is the difference-maker.

The former long-time defensive co-ordinator has a well deserved reputation for being innovative and unpredictable in his play calls. Jones is an aggressive coach who's not afraid to bring pressure from anywhere on the field. He'll drop defensive linemen into coverage and bring defensive backs on blitzes in order to pressure the passer and generally wreak havoc.

Burris was 20-of-36 passing for 162 yards and an interception in Ottawa's first meeting with Edmonton, a 46-17 loss at Commonwealth Stadium on July 10. He finished 29-of-39 for 252 yards and an interception the following week but the Eskimos left TD Place with a 23-12 victory.

The Eskimos have shown they can play defence against Ottawa and have the talent in the secondary to handle the East squad's four 1,000-yard receivers. Edmonton does boast two 1,000-yard receivers but it's Reilly who makes that offence go and the Redblacks' defence will get its first look at him Sunday.

And the combination of Jones, Reilly and nine straight wins make it hard to go against the West Division champions.

Pick _ Edmonton.

Last week: 2-0.

Overall record: 49-32.

(Canadian Press/Dan Ralph)


WINNIPEG - They're different personalities, but Rick Campbell and Chris Jones are taking similar approaches to preparing their teams for the Grey Cup game.

The two will make their Grey Cup head coaching debuts Sunday when the Ottawa Redblacks meet the Edmonton Eskimos at Investors Group Field. On Wednesday at the annual Grey Cup coaches news conference, Campbell and Jones said they've told their players to enjoy this week but not lose sight of why they're here.

"If you win the Grey Cup, you're a Grey Cup champion forever and you'll remember it forever so that's where you want to focus to be,'' said Campbell, in his second season at Ottawa's head coach. "We're not going to discourage our guys from interacting with fans and enjoying the process but it's got to be about football.''

Jones's message was much more direct.

"You assume when you're young that a lot of things are going to happen over and over and over,'' the Tennessee native said with a noticeable southern drawl. "There's no guarantee that you'll ever be back.

"We flew in on a plane and that plane's going out so if you act the wrong way (you'll be on that flight out of Winnipeg).''

It's no accident Edmonton and Ottawa are in the CFL title game. Both teams finished atop their respective divisions under their second-year head coaches.

After winning just two games in its inaugural season, the Redblacks topped the East Division with a 12-6 season and put an Ottawa-based team into the Grey Cup for the first time since '81 with a thrilling 35-28 conference final win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Sunday. Edmonton finished tied with Calgary for the CFL's best record at 14-4 but got first by winning the season series with the Stampeders, then dispatched the defending league champion 45-31 in the West conference finale.

Appropriately, Campbell and Jones are finalists for the CFL's coach-of-the-year honour, which will be handed out Thursday night at the league's awards banquet rather than after the Grey Cup.

While Campbell, 44, and Jones, 49, are in their first Grey Cup game as head coaches, both have been here before as assistants. Campbell is making his fourth appearance - winning in 2003 and '05 with Edmonton - while Jones is in his sixth CFL championship contest, winning previously with Montreal (2002), Calgary (2008) and Toronto (2012).

Interestingly, Jones didn't speak with reporters as Toronto's defensive co-ordinator in 2012 but showed a charismatic, sometimes funny side Wednesday.

"I used to not care what time meetings were and what time the bus left, and now those questions come to me,'' he said when asked how being a Grey Cup head coach differs from being an assistant. "It's kind of a little bit of a headache.''

The Grey Cup has also been quite prominent in Campbell's life. His father, Hugh, led Edmonton to five straight CFL titles (1978-82).

"I'm proud of who my dad is, he's a CFL lifer,'' Campbell said. "He's been around the league a long time in a lot of roles, and obviously is a good guy you can learn from.

"But at the same time I'm just trying to be my own guy and my own coach.''

Campbell and Jones will also field very similar teams Sunday: strong offences anchored by veteran quarterbacks and rugged, pressure defences. Ottawa quarterback Henry Burris, 40, is a finalist for the CFL's outstanding player award after passing for a league-high 5,703 yards while Edmonton is a stellar 9-0 since starter Mike Reilly returned under centre.

"We took some flak last year and when you win two games you should, that's part of pro football,'' Campbell said. "I'm happy for Henry that he weathered the storms we had to go through last year so we could have some success this year.''

Reilly missed much of the first half of the year after suffering a knee injury in the season-opening loss to Toronto. But Edmonton has been lights out since his return and heads into Sunday's game the decided favourite after sweeping Ottawa 2-0 in July when Reilly was hurt.

"Mike is the engine, he's the guy who makes things run,'' Jones said. "When your quarterback plays well you have success and Mike is playing at a high level right now.''


WINNIPEG - Rick Campbell isn't about to mess with success.

The Ottawa head coach said if scoring off the football field helped his team get to the Grey Cup, he he's fine with his players getting lucky this week as the Redblacks prepare to face the Edmonton Eskimos on Sunday in the CFL title game.

Campbell, in his first CFL championship contest as a head coach, offered a brilliant answer when asked the traditional question about pre-game sex at the annual Grey Cup coaches news conference Wednesday.

"It's my job to put guys in the best position to have success, whether that's on or off the field,'' Campbell said with a straight face. "So I guess I'm going to give advice more than a policy.

"This would probably apply to most of our players and coaches and it mirrors our football team is that the odds aren't good and no one gave you much of a chance but if you pay attention to detail and you execute and you do it with zest and enthusiasm, anything can happen.''

The Redblacks finished atop the East Division with a 12-6 record after winning just two games in their inaugural 2014 campaign. Ottawa is in the Grey Cup for the first time since 1981 when the former Rough Riders lost 26-23 to the Edmonton Eskimos in Montreal.

(The Canadian Press)


WINNIPEG - Players gearing up for Sunday's Grey Cup showdown arrived in Winnipeg Tuesday night, planning to enjoy the festivities - but not too much - while they prepare for the big game.

"Yeah, we do curfew,'' Ottawa Redblacks coach Rick Campbell told reporters shortly after the team's plane landed.

"I think there's a balance you can strike of being able to participate and see some things without being in full party mode''.

Players didn't seem bothered by the idea of a nightly curfew - 11 p.m. in Ottawa's case.

"I don't mind because I'm going to be in my bed,'' said Redblacks fullback Patrick Lavoie. "We know what we have to do.''

Ottawa quarterback Henry Burris is gunning for his third Grey Cup ring. The 40-year-old said the fact the Redblacks are in the championship in the franchise's second year is a tribute to the way the players and coaches have gelled.

"With all the growing pains we had to go through as an organization, as a team last year, it's created a group of guys that never say die in that locker room.''

The Eskimos won both regular-season matchups between the two teams, early in the season in July, but they are not taking anything for granted going into Sunday.

"It was a dogfight,'' defensive lineman Odell Willis said.

"Those guys fought hard. It just so happened we were able to make more plays than they did, and we were able to get the W.''

Quarterback Mike Reilly said Ottawa has come a long way.

"They were a very different team when we played them early in the season and so are we,'' he said.

"It's not a coincidence that they're in the Grey Cup. They've been playing great football and they deserve to be there. So we're going to have to put together a great performance in order to get the win.''

(Canadian Press)


Voice of the Pats Phil Andrews
Happy Wednesday everybody!

- The Pats won a huge game on Tuesday night in Red Deer over the Rebels 3-2. What a hockey game it was. Both teams played extremely well and this is a night where you really have to credit the Pats for the game they played. Their were no passengers in the victory. Adam Brooks, Rykr Cole and Taylor Cooper scored while Tyler Brown had another incredible night stopping 33 of 35 shots faced. The penalty kill was rock solid again going 6 for 7 including down a man for the last 2:50 to hold on for the win. The game was one you want to see every night, fast, physical and exciting. A huge win for the Pats to get two games over the 500 mark with 3 games left on the Alberta road swing.

- Tyler Brown continues to impress since taking over the team's starting duties on November 5th. Since then he has gone 3-3-0-0 with a 2.61 GAA and a .933 save percentage. He has been beyond incredible.

- Adam Brooks is on pace for a career year in points this season. Brooks has 27 points in his first 22 games, projecting an 88 point season. Last year the Winnipeg product finished with 30 goals and 62 points.

- Colton Kroeker set a career high in points last night with an assist against the Rebels. He is up to 3 goals and 7 points in 21 games played. Last season he had 3 goals and 6 assists in 52 games.

- The Pats are in Edmonton tonight looking to start the year three and oh against the Oil Kings. It's the game they have to have on this road swing. Edmonton has lost three in a  row and 5 of their last 6. That being said they play a tough game and are still a tough out no matter what. Should be a good one again tonight.

- Two Regina Pats were among the November Central Scouting Players to watch list for the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. No surprise to see Sam Steel listed as an 'A' skater for a second time as a projected 1st round pick. However there was a bit of a surprise to see Luc Smith get onto the list as a 'C' skater as a projected 4th-6th round selection. Smith says he had no idea it was coming. "To be honest I actually had no idea the list was even out today. Cammy (Jared McAmmond) came up to me and said 'Hey Smitty, you are on the list' I said 'sweet, that's kind of cool'.

Smith was the Pats 3rd round selection in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft, he says while it's an honour, he can't change the way he plays as a result. "It feels good obviously, the hard work is starting to pay off here but at the same time it's something that you can't let get in your head and you just got to keep going out there and working hard every day... It doesn't really man anything in the big picture right, you have to focus on the team things first and that is going to lead to success."

Smith has a goal and 2 assists to go along with 46 penalty minutes so far this year and he says it's all about winning as a team going forward. "If the team is having success, obviously I am going to have some personal success. That's something that I really like to focus my play on, everything for the team, for the guys, battling for the guys sitting next to me and they are doing the same for me."

Sam Steel is an 'A' skater for the second time in as many players to watch lists from Central Scouting. Steel has 7 goals and 21 points in 21 games played this season.

- What a weekend in the CFL. The Division Finals were just incredible to watch. Ottawa's win over Hamilton was so full of drama it had me on the edge of my seat. You have to credit Kent Austin and his game plan with Jeremiah Masoli who came so close to getting into the Grey Cup for a 3rd straight year. I was pulling for the RedBlacks however and am glad to see them make the championship game.

The Stamps and Eskimos game was not as nail bitting but still entertaining. Calgary made a game of it late and provided a great game to watch. I think Edmonton is going to win it all but hoping Ottawa can pull it out.

- Be sure to catch tonight's episode of Pats TV on Access 7 starting at 6:30. My guests this week are forwards Austin Wagner and Sean Richards as well as goaltender Jordan Hollett.

That's all I have for today, have a great rest of your week! I'll talk to you from Rexall Place tonight.


Tuesday, November 24, 2015


Photo by @RebelsHockey
Taylor Cooper's even strength goal at 5:12 of the second period was the winner as the Regina Pats knocked off the Rebels 3-2 in the Centrium Tuesday evening.  With the win, the Pats avoided a three-game losing streak as they played the third of nine straight on the road.

The game was tied 1-1 after the first period as Regina's Adam Brooks opened the scoring at the 12:00 mark.  The Rebels' Ivan Niloshin tied it before the period was out.  Regina struck twice in the middle frame with goals from Rykr Cole and Cooper to give them a 3-2 lead after 40 and the teams kept it clean in the third.  Connor Bleakley scored the Rebels' other goal in a losing cause.

Pats netminder Tyler Brown collected the win making 33 saves while Rebels goalie Rylan Toth took the loss, also making 33 stops.

Regina was 0/4 on the powerplay and 6/7 killing penalties.  They outshot the 2016 Memorial Cup hosts 36-35.  The attendance at the Centrium was 4608.

The Pats (11-9-2) play the fourth of nine straight road games on their rodeo trip Wednesday evening at Edmonton in an 8:00 faceoff on 620 CKRM.


OTTAWA - Many of Rick Campbell's childhood memories include the Edmonton Eskimos.

The Ottawa Redblacks head coach was a young boy when he watched his father Hugh - the Eskimos head coach at the time - lead Edmonton to five consecutive Grey Cup victories from 1978-'82. Now Campbell is looking to make his own mark as a CFL head coach as he guides the Redblacks to their first Grey Cup appearance.

Perhaps fittingly, the Redblacks will play Edmonton on Sunday in Winnipeg. Campbell, who spent almost a decade on the Eskimos' coaching staff earlier in his career, is doing his best to downplay the connection and instead keep the focus on the big game.

"I'm just really trying to live in the moment and making sure we get our football team ready to play,'' Campbell said Tuesday before the team departed for Winnipeg. "I obviously do have a history with Edmonton with me working there and my family. I also got used to it as I've played against Edmonton over the years when I worked in different cities.''

Campbell made his CFL coaching debut with the Eskimos in 1999 as a defensive backs/special teams co-ordinator. He spent six seasons in the role before being promoted to defensive co-ordinator (2005-'08).

Campbell also worked in various coaching roles with Winnipeg (2009), Calgary (2010), Edmonton (2011) Calgary again (2012-'13), before heading to Ottawa last year for the Redblacks' debut season. When the 44-year-old native of Spokane, Wash., originally interviewed for the Redblacks' coaching position, part of the appeal was his desire to build something from the ground up.

"I wanted to come here to be a part of something new,'' he said. "It wasn't about me putting my name on the franchise, but it was about all of us putting our name on a new franchise in a new city. I had observed Ottawa from the outside and just had a really strong suspicion this could be a really great thing to be a part of.

"We're trying to make this a place where we have high expectations and we want to be a winning program over the years.''

In many ways Campbell, the East nominee for the CFL coach of the year award, has already surpassed expectations by taking his team to the Grey Cup after winning just two games last year.

The elder Campbell, meanwhile, will not be in Winnipeg for the Grey Cup. He'll be cheering the Redblacks on from San Diego, but has provided some advice for his son.

"He told me we've got to do the things that got you there,'' said Campbell. "It's a bigger stage, but as far as how you win football games doesn't change. You've got to make sure you do the right things and get prepared and do all those things and keep your head about you. Do the things to win football games.''

This will be his first Grey Cup appearance as a head coach. While his focus is on the game, he admits that he plans to enjoy the experience as well.

"I think you can definitely work hard and do all the things that you need to do and at the same time be there and be a part of the experiences that go on during the Grey Cup week,'' he said.

Campbell is not the only one with ties to the Eskimos. Redblacks offensive co-ordinator Jason Maas had two stints with the Eskimos as quarterback and spent a total of eight seasons with the organization.

"I'm not going to shy away from saying it's special,'' said Maas. "I'm just excited to be a part of this journey with Ottawa. I've got a lot of friends over there and a lot of people I care about are from Edmonton and they're excited about it as well, but I just want to come out of it on the better end on Sunday.''

(Canadian Press)


CALGARY - Aside from the wins, John Hufnagel's legacy as head coach of the Calgary Stampeders will be seen on the sidelines of Sunday's Grey Cup in Winnipeg.

Edmonton Eskimos head coach Chris Jones was Hufnagel's defensive co-ordinator from 2008 to 2011.

Ottawa Redblacks coach Rick Campbell was Jones's successor in Calgary in 2012 and 2013. Campbell also coached the Stampeders' running backs in 2010.

The CFL is sprinkled with men mentored by Hufnagel. He is stepping aside after eight years as head coach of the Stampeders, but will continue as general manager in 2016.

B.C. Lions offensive co-ordinator George Cortez filled the same role for Hufnagel in 2008 and 2009. Cortez was head coach of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2012.

Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive backs coach Tony Missick spent four seasons in that job in Calgary. Jones, Cortez and Missick won Grey Cups with Hufnagel.

"You look at all the guys who have coached under Huf, they're all very good coaches and for good reason because they've learned from him how to be professionals, how to handle the role and how to handle your players professionally and with respect,'' Stampeder quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell said Monday at McMahon Stadium.

Sunday's 45-31 loss to Jones and the Eskimos in the West Division final marked the end of Hufnagel's coaching tenure in Calgary.

His successor is another disciple. Dave Dickenson, Hufnagel's offensive co-ordinator for the last five seasons, takes over in 2016.

Hufnagel steps away from the Stampeder sideline with a 102-41-1 regular-season record. This season, the 64-year-old from Coraopolis, Pa., became the second-fastest coach in CFL history to 100 career wins behind Wally Buono.

Hufnagel coached the Stampeders to Grey Cups in 2008 and 2014 and another appearance in 2012, as well as seven appearances in the division final.

The Stampeders played 69 regular-season games under Hufnagel without suffering back-to-back losses, which is a Canadian pro football record.

"I had a blast for eight years,'' Hufnagel said. "Especially the last four, the professionalism that the players brought to work each and every week was such a big part of them being able to win a lot of games.

"I'm sure there will be things that I miss, but there's going to be a lot of things I enjoy in the realm of the general manager job. I'm still going to be here on game day. The adrenalin flow, I'll still have on game day. Hopefully I can help prepare the team as best I can sitting in the general manager chair.''

Dickenson did not speak to reporters Monday. A Calgary Stampeder spokesman said the team's position was Hufnagel is still head coach and GM until after Sunday's Grey Cup.

But Dickenson addressed the Stampeders as head coach for the first time during Monday's locker cleanout.

Dickenson was given the awkward title of assistant head coach to start the 2014 season, which was an indicator of Calgary's succession plan. Hufnagel said the time was right to make the transition.

"Continuity is important,'' Hufnagel said. "Dave is an excellent football coach. He's a very smart man, a smart football coach. He just needs to have some good luck, good fortune and hopefully I can help him.''

The Stampeders gave the Roughriders permission to speak to assistant general manager and director of player personnel John Murphy for the 'Riders vacant GM position.

Murphy is under contract in Calgary until Dec. 31. His skills in talent identification and recruitment helped the Stampeders stay deep positionally and resilient enough to win games when hit by significant injuries.

"I think myself and 250,000 other people that live out there are probably interested in that job,'' Murphy said. "From a professional standpoint, it's time to take a look. The Stampeder organization has been great to me.

"I'm not actively pursuing anything. If somebody wants to speak to me about something, they're more than welcome to contact Huf. I have no reason to be anything but pleased with the position I have other than the latest result.''

Hufnagel said he'll meet with Dickenson and the rest of the coaches Tuesday to evaluate players and consider free-agent needs for 2016.

The fotball future of running back Jon Cornish is murky. The CFL's leading rusher and Most Outstanding Canadian from 2012 to 2014 did not play in Calgary's last five games because of neck pain. Injuries have limited Cornish to nine games each of the last two seasons.

Cornish's situation will influence Calgary's ambition to re-sign running back Jerome Messam, who will be a free agent. Eric Rogers, the CFL's leader in receiving yards this season, and veteran defensive back Keon Raymond will also be among Calgary's prominent free agents.

(Canadian Press)