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Thursday, March 26, 2015

2015 CFL RULE CHANGES

TORONTO -- The convert would be less automatic, receivers would have more space, and the game would speed up.

Those are the projected outcomes if rules changes proposed Thursday by the Canadian Football League's Rules Committee are approved later this Spring by its Board of Governors.

"We have sought to be innovative while protecting the integrity of the game with a focus on player safety," said Glen Johnson, the CFL's Vice-President of Officiating and its representative on the Rules Committee.

"We believe we are recommending to our Board of Governors responsible ways to improve the tempo and flow of the game, reduce the number of stoppages including penalties, increase opportunities for scoring and excitement, and simplify our rules."

The Rules Committee is recommending modifying the convert that follows a touchdown.

A kick for a single point, which now comes from the 12-yard line, would come instead from the 32-yard line.

Last year, 99.4 per cent of kicks for a single point following a touchdown were successful. For field goal attempts from between 31 and 33 yards, 81 per cent were successful.

In fact, there have only been 24 converts missed in 15 seasons, a frequency of just once in every 232 attempts or 47 games.

Under the proposal, a kicked convert that is wide would remain live and can be run back for a two-point score.

If a team opts to run or pass the ball into the end zone for a two point convert following a touchdown, the ball would be scrimmaged from the three-yard line, instead of the current five-yard line, which may entice more coaches to "go for two".

Last year, there were only 23 two-point convert attempts, and seven, or 30 per cent, were successful.

The Governors also have the option of choosing to test a more radical approach during pre-season games: a convert worth three points when a team chooses to run or pass the ball over the goal line from the ten-yard-line.

To open up the passing game, the Rules Committee is suggesting a change designed to create more room for the offence.

It would allow a defensive player to contact a receiver that is in front of him within five yards of the line of scrimmage, but would not allow either player to create or initiate contact that impedes or redirects an opponent beyond five yards.

The Rules Committee recommends that on a punt play, when the ball bounces on the ground and a five yard no yards penalty is called, the penalty will automatically be added to the end of the return, or from the point the ball was first touched by the return team, whichever is better.

Currently, the receiving team has to choose between the five-yard penalty or the yards gained on the return.
It is believed that making the penalty more punitive may reduce the number of no yards penalties.

To increase the tempo of the game, the Rules Committee suggests that at any time in the game the offence be allowed to signal to the Referee that it doesn't want to substitute and it wants to use a tempo offence.

The officials would then blow the play in immediately upon the ball and yardsticks being set for play.

This new protocol will be combined with a rule change made last year - which meant the offence no longer had to wait for the defense to substitute before initiating a play if the offence had not substituted.

Together, the changes create an opportunity for the offence to dictate the pace of the game.

On punts, the Rules Committee recommends prohibiting the five interior linemen on the kicking team from leaving the line of scrimmage until the ball is kicked.

This should reduce the number of illegal blocking and perhaps no yards penalties, while increasing the amount of room the receiving team has to set up a return.

There would be a ten-yard penalty for violating this proposed new rule.

Also to improve game flow, the Rules Committee wants to remove the ability of a coach to request a measurement, leaving it to the Referee to measure when he is unsure if a first down has been made or not.

The Rules Committee recommends maintaining the ability for a coach to challenge Defensive Pass Interference, an innovation introduced last year. But it goes one step further this year, suggesting that Offensive Pass Interference also be made subject to video review.

It also recommends no longer giving the receiving team the option of demanding that a team kick again after one of its kick offs goes out of bounds. The receiving team will either take the ball where it went out of bounds, or at a point 30 yards in advance of where the ball was kicked off, whichever is better.

"Our governors are charged with the special responsibility of ensuring our product is fast and exciting for our fans and we treat our great game and players with the utmost respect," Johnson said.

"The changes we're putting forward for their consideration represent our best advice in meeting these objectives."

The Rules Committee includes several CFL coaches and general managers as well as representatives of the CFL, CFL Players' Association and CFL Officials.

All of its recommendations are subject to review and approval by the CFL's Board of Governors.

PATS VS BRONCOS SERIES PREVIEW

Keith Hershmiller Photography
REGINA PATS vs SWIFT CURRENT BRONCOS
2014-15 regular season record 
Regina: 37-24-5-6, 85pts (L10: 4-4-0-2)
Swift Current: 34-33-1-4, 73pts (L10: 4-6-0-0)

2014-15 head-to-head record
Regina: 3-5-0-0, 6pts
Swift Current: 5-2-0-1, 11pts

2014-15 head-to-head top scorers
Regina:
Jesse Gabrielle 7gp-3g-4a-7pts
Adam Brooks 7gp-3g-1a-4pts

Swift Current: 
Jake DeBrusk 8gp-5g-7a-12pts
Colby Cave 8gp-7g-3a-10pts

The Regina Pats come into the WHL Playoffs as the second seed in the East Division and finished with 85 points for the second straight year. Led by Adam Brooks’ 30 goals, the Pats boasted four players who topped the 25-goal mark and another four who hit the 20-goal plateau. Pats’ defenceman Colby Williams is coming off a productive season that saw him collect 41 points (11g-30a) to go along with a team-best plus-45 rating. Rookie Sam Steel enjoyed a fine season with the Pats scoring 54 points (17g-37a) in 61 games to finish fourth in WHL scoring amongst rookies. Goaltender Daniel Wapple collected 29 wins, posted a 3.03 goals against average along with a .906 save percentage and will likely get the start in the post-season.

The Swift Current Broncos battled their way into the 2015 WHL Playoffs after winning their regular season finale. Broncos’ leading scorer, and NHL draft-eligible forward, Jake DeBrusk scored a team-leading 42 goals along with 39 assists for 81 points while playing in all 72 games this season. Colby Cave is the only Broncos skater who closed out the 2014-15 regular season with a plus rating in the plus-minus category. The Swift Current Broncos have an outstanding ability in closing out games as they posted a record of 25-0-0-1 when leading after two periods of play this season. Expect Team Canada gold medalist Dillon Heatherington to play the lead role on the Broncos blueline. Goaltender Landon Bow had a strong season, but will get his first taste of playoff hockey.

(WHL.ca)

PADDOCK NAMED EAST CONFERENCE COACH OF THE YEAR

The Western Hockey League announced its award nominees and conference all-star teams Wednesday afternoon.

Regina Pats Sr. VP of Hockey Operations and Head Coach John Paddock is the Eastern Conference nominee for the Dunc McCallum Memorial Trophy as the Coach of the Year.  Coach Paddock is up against Western Conference nominee Dan Lambert of the Kelowna Rockets for the award.  The winner will be announced May 6, 2015 at the WHL Awards Luncheon in Calgary, AB.

“I think (the nomination) means you have really good support around you,” said Paddock.  “I obviously have that in Dave (Struch) as far as knowledge, an excellent coach and expertise.  Everything we tried to sell the players was accepted willingly.  I think they were searching for that.”

John Paddock was hired by the team August 6, 2014 and guided the Blue and White to a 37-24-5-6 record on the season.  The 2014-15 regular season was Paddock’s first in junior hockey since he played for the Brandon Wheat Kings in 1973-74.

“As an organization, we are very pleased to see John receive this much deserved nomination,” commented Regina Pats President Todd Lumbard.  “He combines his vast experience with an open minded, modern day approach that translates into great leadership for our team!”

The Queen City Kids were represented on the Eastern Conference Second All-Star Team by defenceman Colby Williams.  The Regina native led Pats blue-liners with 41 points (11G, 30A) and finished second in the WHL with a +45 plus/minus rating.  Williams was named the Pats Player of the Year.

“We also congratulate Colby on a great season, both on and off the ice.  Colby took his game to another level and is a real force for our hockey club,” continued Lumbard.

The Pats open the WHL Playoffs on Friday, March 27 against the Swift Current Broncos at the Brandt Centre in a 7 p.m. puck drop.  Tickets are available at Ticketmaster.ca, the Brandt Centre Box Office and Regina Safeway locations.

PAT C'S UP 2-1

REGINA -- The Regina Pat Canadians are one win away from the Telus Cup Regionals.  Wednesday night at a soldout Cooperators Arena, Riley Woods scored twice including an empty-netter as the Pat C's defeated the Battlefords Stars 3-0.

In front of the stellar goaltending of Clarke Flegel who turned aside 29 shots to record the shutout, Regina led 1-0 after the first period on Woods' powerplay goal.  The teams blanked the second period but Regina's Arthur Miller gave his club some breathing room making it 2-0 with 3:51 remaining in the third when he converted a goal-mouth feed from linemate Bryce Platt.  Woods sealed the game into an empty net with less than a minute to go.

Regina can close out the best-of-five series with a win in North Battleford on Saturday night.  Game 5, if necessary, would go Sunday in the Cooperators Arena at 7:30 pm.

LIGHTNING SIGN WARRIORS' POINT

Moose Jaw Warriors Captain Brayden Point has signed a three year NHL entry-level contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning who selected him in the third round, 79th overall, in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.

Point completed his third WHL season with the Warriors, he scored a career high 38 goals and finished ninth in the WHL in scoring with 87 points.  
The Calgary product was selected 14thoverall by the Warriors in the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft, in three years in Moose Jaw he has played in 204 regular season games and has 99 goal and 236 points, and ranks 10th all-time in team scoring.

This season Point played in both games for Team WHL in the Subway Super Series and went on to capture gold with Canada at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships.

Additionally, Point has signed an AHL amateur tryout contract to play the remainder of the season with the Syracuse Crunch.

THURSDAY EYE-OPENER

Tyler Seguin scored the only goal of a shootout to lift the Dallas Stars to a 4-3 win over Calgary. Ales Hemsky scored twice in regulation for Stars, who won for the seventh time in eight games.

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The Edmonton Oilers beat Colorado 4-3 but they made things a lot harder than they had to be. Derek Roy scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period and Edmonton recovered the victory after giving up a three-goal lead. The Avalanche have lost three straight and are 10 points out of a playoff spot with nine games left.

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The Toronto Raptors continue to struggle, but they didn't need a win to clinch a playoff spot. Jimmy Butler led a Chicago comeback with 23 points as the Bulls handed the Raptors a 116-103 loss at Air Canada Centre. Toronto earned a spot in the post-season after Boston and Charlotte lost their respective games later in the night.

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Tony Parker had 21 points and six assists, and the San Antonio Spurs stopped Oklahoma City's four-game winning streak with a runaway 130-91 victory over the Thunder. Boris Diaw scored 19 points and Tim Duncan had 16 for San Antonio, which has won 11 of 13. Kawhi Leonard finished with 14 points in the Spurs' highest scoring game of the season.

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The Cleveland Cavaliers' recent dominance carried over to a trouncing of one of the best teams in the Western Conference. Kyrie Irving scored 24 points and Kevin Love added 22 points and 10 rebounds as Cleveland downed Memphis 111-89 for its fourth straight victory.

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Looking to cement a spot in the Toronto rotation, Daniel Norris allowed one run in six impressive innings as the Blue Jays beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-2 on Wednesday.

Norris gave up three hits and struck out seven without walking a batter. It was Norris' second start against Baltimore. In his first, he allowed one hit in 1 2-3 innings.

The Orioles' run scored in the third when Norris hit Nolan Reimould with a pitch, and Caleb Joseph doubled.

Kevin Pillar, who missed 10 days with an oblique strain caused by sneezing, returned to the lineup, and hit a two-run homer for Toronto.

Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen gave up two runs, one of them earned, in five innings. He allowed four hits, struck out one and didn't walk a batter.

Delmon Young homered for Baltimore in the seventh.

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Third baseman Anthony Rendon may miss the Washington Nationals' opener against the New York Mets on April 6th because of a sprained left knee. Rendon hasn't played since March 9th. He hit .287 with 21 homers last year, when he led the National League with 111 runs and finished fifth in M-V-P voting.

(CP)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

SCHEPER JOINS ESKIMOS

The Edmonton Eskimo Football Club announces Mike Scheper has joined the coaching staff as the offensive line coach.

Scheper enters his 13th season as a coach and his seventh as an offensive line coach. Having served on both sides of the ball, he spent last season as the defensive line coach with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. In 2009, he began his Canadian Football League career as the defensive line coach for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

His experience on the offensive line includes coaching at St. Francis High School, Glendale Community College and Fresno State. He also served as the cornerbacks coach at College of the Canyons and as the defensive line coach at Portland State.

A native of Pasadena, CA, Scheper played centre on Utah State's offensive line, graduating in 2002.

THE WEDNESDAY THRILLER ... WITH PHIL ANDREWS

Voice of the Pats Phil Andrews
It's playoff time!

-The 72 game regular season is over and now the fun really starts on Friday when the 2nd place Regina Pats host the 3rd place Swift Current Broncos at the Brandt Centre in Game 1.  I think most would agree that this is going to be a tightly contested first round matchup.

-The Pats went 3-5-0-0 against the Broncos this season and won two of the final three matchups of the season. However the Blue and White finished 12 points up in the standings. The Pats were 2 and 2 at home to Swift and 1 and 3 on the road. Only one game went past regulation and was decided in a shootout.

-Adam Brooks picked up his 30th goal of the year on Saturday and finished the season leading the team in scoring with 62 points. The Pats finished the year with 6 players with 20 plus goals and 6 with 50 plus points.

-The Broncos are led by Jake DeBrusk who finished the year with 42 goals and 81 points. There are two other Broncos with 20 plus goals and 3 others with 50 plus points.

-Colby Williams is the Pats best defenceman having finished the year with 11 goals and 41 points and was a plus 45. That was good for 2nd in the league. He will be a huge part of any of the success Regina has in the post season.

-Dillon Heatherington, the Columbus Blue Jackets prospect, is one of the best shut down d-men in the league. He won a gold medal at the World Juniors this year and leads a great d-core in Swift.  Brett Lernout, the Habs prospect had a great season with 42 points but was a minus 12.

-As for goaltending, Daniel Wapple finished the year with 29 wins, a 3.03 GAA and a .906 save percentage. He was 2-3-0-0 against the Broncos in the regular season with a 2.91 GAA and a .909 save percentage.

-Landon Bow played in 66 of the Broncos 72 games and won 31 of them. He finished with a 3.14 GAA and a .911 save percentage. Against the Pats Bow was 5-2-0-0 with a 2.37 GAA and a .937 save percentage. He has never played in a playoff game in his career so Friday will be his first ever start in the post season.

-Special teams is always huge in the post season, the Pats powerplay finished 21st in the WHL at 15.3 percent while the Broncos were 7th at 21.9 percent. The Regina penalty kill was 9th at 80.3 percent while Swift was 8th at 81.2 percent. The Pats PK gave up just 24 goals in 39 games since Christmas.

-The Broncos stumbled down the stretch but got things together winning 4 of 5 to end the season to secure a playoff spot.

-It's truly a match-up of youth against experience between the two clubs 11 Regina players have a combined 62 games of playoff experience while the Broncos have 150 games played between 16 skaters. 14 players with the Pats have yet to taste the post season compared to 10 with Swift Current.

-Pats forward Colton Kroeker will play in his first playoff games this weekend and he says he feels ready. "I thought my last couple weeks have been a lot better than usual. Getting more ice time, getting the feel of the ice, the feel of the puck and getting more opportunities. It's been a lot better for me."

-The average age of the Pats roster as 17.5 years while the Broncos are almost a full year older on average at 18.2.

Can't wait until Friday night!

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-Elsewhere in the Eastern Conference the Scotty Monroe Memorial Trophy winners the Brandon Wheat Kings will take on the defending champion Edmonton Oil Kings in round 1. It will be a 2-3-2 format because of the lengthy travel. The Wheat Kings won 53 games this year to Edmonton's 34. The Wheat Kings scored an unbelievable 340 goals this year and were a plus 121 in goal differential. Pittsburgh Penguins prospect goaltender Tristan Jarry gives Edmonton a chance in every game and considering the travel and format of the series the Oil Kings have a chance. However I think Brandon prevails in 5.

-We have a re-match of Calgary and Kootenay from last year in round 1. The Ice won that crazy series against the heavily favored Hitmen. That will be a fun one to watch. The Hitmen once again are the favorites having won the Central Division for the 7th time in their history. The Ice took the first wild card spot this season and have the goaltender and the scoring to make a splash. The Hitmen finished 6 and 3 against Kootenay this season and I will take Calgary to win in 6 games.

-The Medicine Hat Tigers will play the Red Deer Rebels in the Central Division 2 vs 3 series. The Tigers ended the season with 94 points to the Rebels 87. Med Hat won the season series 4-2-0-0. These are two very different teams, the Tigers a smaller skilled team while the Rebels are bigger and tougher. Can Red Deer shut down the Tigers scoring? it's certainly possible but I'm taking the Tigers in 6.

-Out West, 1st place Kelowna takes on Tri-City. The Rockets finished just 2 points back of Brandon for top in the league while the Americans finished 7 games under .500. The Americans have Eric Comrie in goal and Beau McCue and Richard Nejezchleb who can provide some offense but I don't see the m putting up much of a fight. Rockets in 4.

-The Victoria Royals play the Prince George Cougars in the 2 vs 3 B.C. Division series. The Cougars went 6-3-0-1 in their last 10 to secure a spot in the post season while the Royals finished 15 points up in the standings. Jensen Harkins and Chase Witala provide the offense for P.G. and have had great seasons but the Royals are a skilled, physical and deep club. I'll take Victoria in 6.

-The U.S. Division champion Everett Silvertips will play the Spokane Chiefs in round one. The Tips won 43 games during the regular season while the often injured Chiefs lost 5 in a row to close the year. Only Kelowna gave up less goals than Everett in the Western Conference this year and I think the Silvertips will move on to round two to take on the Rockets after 5 games.

-In the 2 vs 3 series in the U.S. Oliver Bjorkstrand and the Portland Winterhawks take on Shea Theodore and the Seattle Thunderbirds. Seattle, was a great defensive team during the regular season giving up the third least goals in the conference but the Winterhawks boast the leagues leading scorer in Bjorkstrand plus Nic Petan, Chase De Leo and Paul Bitner who all had 70 plus point seasons. Adin Hill has been great in goal for Portland while Taran Kozun was among the best goalies in the league for Seattle. Should be a fun series and I'm taking the Hawks in 6.

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-Victoria Royals Head Coach Dave Lowry has been named the bench boss for Team Canada at the 2016 World Junior Hockey Championship. The Wheat Kings Kelly McCrimmon was named coach of the Canadian U18 squad as well. Pats Head Coach and Senior VP of Hockey Operations John Paddock was the third coach that interviewed for those positions.

- Tonight's episode of Pats TV on Access 7 starts at 6:30 PM. My guests tonight are Assistant Coach Dave Struch and forwards Adam Brooks and Braden Christoffer.

That's it for me today, have a great week and talk to you from the Brandt Centre on Friday!

Phil
@PhilTheThrill18

CFL GM MEETINGS NEWS

Sportsnet/CKRM's Arash Madani
CFL GMs are meeting in Toronto this week in advance of this weekend's annual Evaluation Camp presented by Reebok.  Among their discussions are possible rule changes for the 2015 season and Sportsnet CFL insider Arash Madani discussed some of them on CKRM's SportsCage on Tuesday.

"They're trying to do something to fix things because ratings are down, scoring is down, attendance is down and there's been a number of things out there in terms of 'do we modify or just nullify the no yards?'" Madani reported.  "That's something that's been discussed.  They've been talking about going from a 20-second play clock to a 30-second play clock but when will that start to wind?  That's to speed things up.

"There are a number of things being thrown around and they're doing what some people are calling 'radical changes'.  They're talking about, on punts, the punt cover team is gonna stay on the line of scrimmage until the receiver catches it.  My solution there is how about how finding some healthy quarterbacks?  How about you find some back-up quarterbacks who can play when somebody gets injured?  That'll help you too.

NFL owners and GMs are also meeting in Phoenix this week and many of the same topics are on the table.  However almost all of the proposals were thrown out on Tuesday.

"The CFL's also talking about challenging offensive pass interference," Madani continued.  "Bill Belichik at the NFL meetings this week submitted a number of different things.  You know what the fans don't like?  The fans want the call right, yes.  But they don't want to sit there all day and have every other call go under review.  You need to have a pace to the game too and my only thing about all this is you can't eliminate the pace to the game and have too many needless stoppages."

What's being discussed in Toronto are only initial rule change proposals and if there's enough support, they'll go to the league's Board of Governors for a ratification vote in a month's time.

"Yes and that to me is a little late," Madani observed.  "We're talking about the end of April.  Rookie camps start three or four weeks later and do you want to teach something all-together new?  I don't know if that's the ideal scenario but maybe that's something they're going to have to end up doing."

FIRE STILL BURNS IN DALEY

TORONTO (CP) - Jim Daley has received the green light to cut loose.

In January, Daley had to turn down an offer to return as the Toronto Argonauts' special-teams co-ordinator for personal and health reasons. Two months later, Daley has received a clean bill of health following some heart issues and although he still doesn't have a coaching position for 2015, he's anxious to return to the sidelines.

"If the players I coached in Hamilton and Toronto thought I was wired before, they haven't see the new me yet,'' Daley said with a chuckle recently in a telephone interview from his off-season home in Calgary. "I am raring to go.''

The 63-year-old Ottawa native, who served as Hamilton's special-teams co-ordinator in 2012, said Toronto head coach Scott Milanovich's offer came at a time when he was having issues with his heart. Although Daley wanted to return, he couldn't make the commitment in January and understands Milanovich ultimately hiring Scott Downing as the club's special-teams coach.

"When I got the offer from Scott to return, I was unable to make a commitment for personal and health reasons,'' Daley said. "Those reasons have now been addressed but the timing wasn't good because now everybody has filled their jobs.

"But I had to take care of those issues first. I loved it in Toronto but I wasn't going to be unfair to them. I am high energy and full motor ... I want to be able to do that job with the intensity I feel it needs. I want to do it that way.''

Daley has spent 38 years coaching football and has spent time as a head coach, defensive and offensive co-ordinator as well as special-teams co-ordinator in both the Canadian university and pro ranks. The former Ottawa Gee Gees head coach has worked in the CFL since '91 as a coach as well as the league's senior adviser of football operations and officiating.

Daley served as CFL head coach with Winnipeg (2004-'05) and Saskatchewan ('96-'98), guiding the Riders to the '97 Grey Cup game. Daley earned a championship ring in '01 as a member of Calgary's coaching staff.

As Daley waits for the phone to ring, he's revamping his special-teams playbook.

"I'm going to coach for many more years,'' he said. "I've coached on all three sides of the ball so if a (CFL) job opened that I was a fit for, I'd be very interested in it.

"Sometimes CIS coaches bring guys in just for the season so that might even be of interest ... whether it's this year or next, I am coaching.''

And that's in large part, Daley said, because of his two previous stints with Hamilton (2012) and Toronto (last year).

"My last two years of coaching in Hamilton and Toronto have rejuvenated me as a coach,'' Daley said. "When you work with guys like (returner) Chris Williams and (linebacker) Marc Beswick in Hamilton and (returner) Chad Owens, (linebacker) James Yurichuk and (kicker-punter) Swayze Waters in Toronto, I really, really loved it.

"In both situations we had the (special-teams) player of the year in Chris Williams (2012) and Swayze Waters (2014). I'm like a 30-year-old again.''

GIANTS, NOEL PART WAYS


The Vancouver Giants announced on Wednesday that the club has mutually parted ways with Head Coach Claude Noel. The search for a new bench boss will begin immediately.

“We’d like to thank Claude for his time with our club,” said Giants majority owner Ron Toigo. “Claude would like to pursue pro opportunities, and we need to move forward. We really appreciate him stepping into this role mid-season; we’re ending our time together on really good terms, and we wish him all the best in the future.”

Noel, a Kirkland Lake, Ontario native, took over behind the Giants’ bench on November 30, 2014. Under his watch, the G-Men posted a record of 17-25-2-2. Prior to his time with the Giants, Noel coached the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets from 2011-2014.

CAPITALS, STORM GOING TO GAME 7

It all started with a hit at 7:33 of the second period when Dillon Frater separated the Storm player from the puck and scored the first goal of the game for the Capitals at 7:36.  It sparked the Extreme Hockey Regina Capitals to a 3-1 victory in game 6 of the best of 7 PJHL South Division Final against the Traveland RV Storm at the Al Ritchie Arena Tuesday night.  Eric Duran scored the game winner at 7:18 of the final frame and added the empty net goal with 50 seconds remaining.

Carson Bogdan faced 34 shots in the Capitals net for his third victory of the series, while Shane Blomquist faced 26 shots for the Storm in the loss.

One team will play their final game of the season Wednesday night in Pilot Butte at 8pm, while the other advances to face the Saskatoon Quakers for the President’s Cup and Athol Murray Trophy in the PJHL Final.

(Courtesy Regina Capitals)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A DIFFERENT KIND OF EVALUATION

Washington scout Darrell Baumgartner of Regina
By: Colton Hordichuk
U of R Journalism Student

Sitting in section 221, row eight, seat 17 during most Regina Pats games at the Brandt Centre is Darrell Baumgartner.

When play is on, his black winter coat remains buttoned up. His notebook rests on his lap, and occasionally, his cell phone will go off, showcasing a red background with a familiar hockey logo. While many consider the nosebleed section the least desired seat in the house, it’s the perfect vantage point for the Washington Capitals scout.

Since 2007, Baumgartner has been scouting amateur players part-time throughout western Canada on behalf of the pro organization. The 55-year-old Regina product got involved with the team courtesy of a longtime friendship with the Capital's current assistant general Manager Ross Mahoney, a fellow Queen City local, who spent 16 seasons as the Caps’ director of amateur scouting.

“It’s a great opportunity, I think, to be a part of the National Hockey League, which any young kid growing up in Saskatchewan would always want to be [a part of],” says Baumgartner.

Originally, he didn’t envision his stint in the bigs would be up in the stands.

Growing up, Baumgartner played between the pipes. He idolized former Philadelphia Flyers netminder, Ron Hextall.

“He liked to play the puck, and he was one of those goaltenders that challenged the shooters and was a stand-up style,” he explains.

“But that was the style back then and I kind of would like to think I modelled myself after his gameplay, not what he would do in terms of his antics.”

When his junior days were up, he wanted to continue his playing career. So, he sought an opportunity at the University of Regina, but his plans took a turn.

“I went to school for the hockey and four years later, I ended up with a teaching degree,” he says.

Baumgartner graduated at 25 years old, then spent 30 years as an educator with the Regina Catholic School system before retiring on Feb. 1, 2015.

Throughout his career as a teacher and administrator, he always made time for hockey.

On top of his classroom commitments, he spent six seasons with the Cougars as a goaltending and assistant coach. In the mid-1990s, he also led Team Saskatchewan, alongside Mahoney, to a gold medal at the Canadian Winter Games.

Baumgartner’s teaching skills carried over to coaching.

“I just remember Baumer being there to help with a lot of the problems you’d normally have whether it be through university, trying to adjust for time, relationships, and stuff like that off-ice,” says current Regina Pats assistant coach Darrin McKechnie, who worked with Baumgartner at the CIS level.

Later in his career, Baumgartner joined the Regina Pat Canadians behind the bench. There, he met current Caps prospect, Garrett Mitchell.

“Just having him around the dressing room kind of lightened stuff up when sometimes things aren’t going right,” says Mitchell, who is now with the Hershey Bears, the Caps’ affiliate in the American Hockey League.

“He’s a great guy, an awesome guy to talk with, and just sit down and make sure everything is going good with you.”

Their relationship transitioned into Mitchell’s five year stint with the Pats from 2006-2011, and continued after he was drafted by Caps, 175th overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

“I remember him telling me, for me to play at the pro level, I can’t change the way I play. I’ve had lots of guys tell me that, but at the same time, it’s definitely something that’s helped me out in the pro game,” Mitchell says about his former coach’s advice.

“Obviously I am where I am today, and he was a part of that.”

Player relationships are one of many ways Baumgartner’s teaching and scouting career interconnected.

After the scout watches a game, he writes up reports on the draft eligible players. Some of the primary attributes he looks for are skating, hockey sense, character, and physical play. Similarly, in teaching, he would write up report cards. As well, player interviews are a crucial part of the scouting process, like parent-teacher interviews were in school.

The big difference between the two professions is the travel.

As a teacher and administrator, his career included travelling around the Queen City’s catholic school neighbourhoods from St. Theresa, to St. Dominic, to St. Jerome, to St. Margeurite, to St. Angela, back to St. Jerome, back to St. Dominic, and finally, St. Francis.

As a scout, the travel is a little more intense.

“I haven’t travelled as much as the other scouts have, but a lot of times it’s not that you’re out for months at a time. It’s usually anywhere from five to 10 days on a given trip,” says Baumgartner.

“You’re having to book the flights, you’re having to book your hotel rooms - that part of it. There’s nuances with that, that you need to get some help sometimes,” he adds, saying he’s lucky the organization books many accommodations for him.

Baumgartner covers more than the western half of Canada, though. He also ventures overseas. Most recently, he caught the Five Nations Tournament in the Czech Republic, which features some of the best under 18-year-old players in the world.

“You get that chance to see the best players that they have to offer and you evaluate them. You bring that knowledge back to the Western Hockey League, and you can compare and contrast with the draft eligible players that are here,” he says.

The scout’s job is to identify young talent, but he will never take credit for drafting a skater.

“Hockey is a team sport and the scouting profession is no different where we work as a team to find the best possible players for our organization,” he humbly explains.

He adds that himself, along with up to four other scouts, have helped identify many notable Caps draftees including Cody Eakin (Dallas Stars, NHL), Braden Holtby (Washington Capitals, NHL), Madison Bowey (Kelowna Rockets, WHL), and Chandler Stephenson (Hershey Bears, AHL).

Baumgartner continues to substitute teach. Despite his busy schedule, he’ll take the next step in his career in the coming months when he begins a two-year contract, which promotes him to a full-time scout. Instead of watching about 125 games per season, he’ll be able to double that amount until at least 2017.

“When I look at the big picture, the 30 years that I was an educator was very rewarding for me. I forged many friendships with the teachers that I work with,” he says.

“I’m not saying that I have it all figured out because that’s certainly wouldn’t be the case. I would believe that I’m a little bit ahead of the game in terms of understanding the role and the expectations within the full-time scout [position]. I look forward to those opportunities and I certainly hope that I will to continue to do the job that’s expected of me.”

http://www.jschool.ca/newswire/1329-a-different-kind-of-evaluation#!/ccomment-page=1

ONE RAM INVITED TO E-CAMP, PHILLIPS, MCCALLUM AND GRANT EXTENDED

EDMONTON – The Canadian Football League held its first of three regional combines Monday in Edmonton, resulting in four players being invited to the CFL National Combine presented by Reebok in Toronto this coming weekend.

Kahlen Branning, Dexter Janke, Auston Johnson, and Quinn Lawlor were extended an invitation to display their athletic abilities once again in front of CFL scouts, coaches, and management at the National Combine in Toronto, March 27-29.

Branning, a native of Moose Jaw, SK and a defensive back for the Regina Rams, ran the fastest 40-yard dash with a time of 4.55 seconds and the second highest vertical jump of 38”.

Overall, 43 players attended today’s combine in Edmonton and each athlete worked out in front of scouts from all CFL Teams.

The other regional combines will take place this week in Montreal (March 25) and in Toronto (March 26).

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The BC Lions Football Club announced Monday morning that defensive back Ryan Phillips has agreed to a contract extension through the 2016 season and kicker Paul McCallum will return in 2015.

“Both Paul and Ryan remain integral parts of our team as they continue to perform at a high level on the field and play a vital role as respected leaders in the dressing room,” said VP of football operations and GM Wally Buono.

Phillips enters his 11th CFL season and has made 180 consecutive appearances for the club since signing as a free agent in 2005. The Seattle native and four-time CFL All-Star notched a team-high three interceptions last year along with 39 defensive tackles. Ryan’s incredible run of consecutive games is the longest among all active CFL players and his 40 career interceptions place him second in club history behind the great Larry Crawford.

Only the second player in the history of professional football to reach the 3,000-point plateau, kicker Paul McCallum prepares for his 23rd CFL campaign and his 12th as a Lion in 2015. Earning his sixth nod as a West Division All-Star, Paul was good on 38 of 42 field goal attempts in 2014 for a CFL-best 90.5% success rate.

His remarkable career has seen the 45 year-old McCallum appear in 325 regular season games, 151 as a Lion, and establish a success rate of 80.6% on field goals, tops among all kickers with at least 400 attempts along with 18 seasons with at least 100 or more points.

Season tickets for 2015 are on sale now as are flex-packs and 3-game packages with single game tickets going on sale Monday, June 1. BC Lions season ticket holders enjoy savings up to 28% on the price of single game tickets. Click here for the 2015 schedule.

Join the Lions and keynote speaker Jeff Garcia at the 2015 Orange Helmet Awards slated for Wednesday, April 15 at the Westin Bayshore. Now in its 12th year, the Orange Helmet Awards celebrate last season’s championship teams at all levels of amateur football in British Columbia and recognize outstanding coaches and pioneers of the sport in our province. For tickets, click here or call 604.634.1178.

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HAMILTON - The Hamilton Tiger-Cats announced today that the team has re-signed international receiver Bakari Grant.

Grant, a 6-4, 195-pound native of Oakland, California, returns to Hamilton for his fifth season with the Black and Gold in 2015. In 59 games over four seasons with the Ticats, Grant has compiled 207 receptions for 2,535 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Last season, he ranked third among Ticats pass catchers in receiving, hauling in 58 passes for 529 yards and one touchdown, the first-ever touchdown scored at Tim Hortons Field.

"Bakari is a true professional demonstrated by his dedication to hard work and preparation," said Ticats general manager and head coach Kent Austin. "We are excited to have his physicality and veteran leadership back with our team."

The former UC-Davis alum saw his best season as a Tiger-Cat during the 2013 campaign when he led the team and set career highs in receptions (69) and receiving yards (947) en route to being named an East Division All-Star.

During his time in Hamilton, Grant has also been highly involved with the Tiger-Cats community initiatives, specifically BeFit, Cops and Cats basketball, Hearts in the Huddle and high school mentorship programs.

TUESDAY EYE-OPENER

The Winnipeg Jets are soaring. Lee Stempniak scored the eventual winner, and Winnipeg kept pace in the Western Conference playoff chase with a 4-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers. Drew Stafford, Tyler Myers and Michael Frolik also scored for the Jets, who have won five in a row. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was the lone scorer for Edmonton.

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Lance Bouma and David Jones kept the Calgary Flames afloat in the competitive Pacific Division. Both had a goal and an assist to lead the Flames to a 3-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche. Calgary held onto third place in the Pacific, ahead of the Los Angeles Kings, who won at New Jersey earlier tonight.

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Earlier in the NHL, Mika Zibanejad scored twice as the Ottawa Senators defeated the San Jose Sharks 5-2. The win puts the Senators one point ahead of Boston for the final wild card spot in the East. Also, Jake Gardiner was the lone Toronto scorer as the struggling Maple Leafs fell to the Minnesota Wild 2-1. Toronto has lost six straight.

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Stephen Peat, a former player with the Washington Capitals, faces two arson charges in connection to a fire at his father's home last week. The 35 year old turned himself into Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Langley, BC, on Thursday and was charged with arson with disregard for human life and arson causing property damage. A police spokesperson says the fire started after a domestic dispute between a father and son.

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Steph Curry had 24 points, and the Golden State Warriors used a smothering defensive effort in the third quarter to pound the Washington Wizards 107-76. Curry also had six assists and five rebounds as the NBA-leading Warriors moved closer to securing the league's top playoff seed.

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Rookie guard Zach LaVine scored 27 points, including two three-pointers to force overtime, and the Minnesota Timberwolves rallied past the Utah Jazz 106-104. LaVine's clutch shots in the fourth quarter set up a 6-1 Minnesota run to start overtime that the Jazz couldn't overcome. Canadian Andrew Wiggins scored 22 points for Minnesota.

(CP)