Access

Realty One

Smart Investing

Friday, June 24, 2016

FRANKLIN SASKATCHEWAN-BOUND?

CFL reporter Justin Dunk reported at 3DownNation.com on Friday that the Saskatchewan Roughriders are talking trade with the Edmonton Eskimos for the services of back-up quarterback James Franklin.

Dunk wrote: "Edmonton put second-year quarterback James Franklin on the one-game injured list Friday, ramping up speculation that the defending Grey Cup champions could trade the young pivot. That possibility has been discussed with Saskatchewan.

CFL sources say the Eskimos asked for 2016 No. 1 overall pick, offensive lineman Josiah St. John, and a first round selection, but the Riders said no. That does not mean that the deal is completely dead."

However on Friday afternoon the Roughriders told 620 CKRM that the report may be premature at best.  The Riders say they have not inquired into the availablility of Franklin specifically and that the rights to St. John have not been offered in any deals.

The latest hot rumour making the rounds in the CFL is that the Riders aren't enamoured with their quarterback depth behind Darian Durant given the performances of B.J. Coleman and Philip Sims in the preseason.  That, reportedly, opened the door for trade discussions with Edmonton and furthermore Eskimos GM Ed Hervey is intent to put the screws to Roughriders Head Coach & GM Chris Jones given his departure from the City of Champions this off-season.

However the Riders say that rumour is "100 percent inaccurate".

Stay tuned.

RP
@rodpedersen

PATS' SAM STEEL GOES TO ANAHEIM IN RD 1



Buffalo, New York – The Regina Pats congratulate Centre Sam Steel on being drafted by the Anaheim Ducks.  He was taken in the first round, 30th overall during the 2016 NHL Draft in Buffalo, New York.

The Sherwood Park, Alberta native had a strong year for the Regina Pats during the 2015-16 Season.  He played in all 72 games, tallying 70 points (23G, 47A).  Sam added to his totals during a strong playoff performance, averaging more than a point a game.  Over 12 games in the post season he managed 16 points (6G, 10A).

Sam earned a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2015 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament.  He also received a roster spot on Team Cherry for the 2016 CHL Top Prospects game.  

Steel is the first Regina Pats player chosen in the 2016 NHL Draft.  Forward Adam Brooks, the reigning WHL Scoring Champion is the other Pat player hoping to hear his name called.  A total of 210 players are chosen over seven rounds.  

For updates from Buffalo, New York follow along on Facebook, Twitter and www.ReginaPats.com.

ARGOS PROVIDE UPDATE ON JERMAINE GABRIEL

TORONTO - The Toronto Argonauts had some good news Friday regarding defensive back Jermaine Gabriel.

The CFL club said Gabriel was expected to make a full recovery from the scary injury he suffered in Thursday night's season-opening 42-20 home loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Gabriel suffered an apparent neck injury after taking teammate Matt Black's shoulder to the head while making a tackle on punt-returner Brandon Banks in the fourth quarter.

The 26-year-old Toronto native laid motionless on the field for several minutes after the play.

Medical personnel removed Gabriel's jersey, helmet and shoulder pads and he was fitted with a neck brace as a precaution before being placed on a stretcher.

As he was leaving the field, the five-foot-nine 185-pound Gabriel gave the BMO Field gathering of 24,812 the thumbs-up and waved, drawing applause from spectators.

"The Toronto Argonauts Football Club is pleased to inform that safety Jermaine Gabriel is at home resting comfortably and is expected to make a full recovery from an injury he suffered in last night's game,'' the club said in a statement. "Gabriel received precautionary treatment on the field by the Argonauts' medical staff which was followed by treatment and tests at a local hospital.

"Gabriel has been cleared from any major injuries.''

(The Canadian Press)

ALOUETTES-BOMBERS KICKOFF 2016 TONIGHT

@Wpg_BlueBombers
WINNIPEG - Andrew Harris worked a little bit harder than his Blue Bomber teammates on Thursday, but it was worth it.

While they were going through a light walk-through in preparation for hosting the Montreal Alouettes on Friday, the new star running back was testing a "little tweak'' in his leg he suffered late in Tuesday's practice.

"The hardest part of this morning was the actual fitness test that I had to do,'' Harris said. "The actual situation is fine and I'm good to go for Friday.''

That was welcome news for the tailback, and for the fans who want to see the key free-agent signing make his CFL regular-season debut with his hometown club.

"This is an important game on a lot of different levels,'' said the former B.C. Lion. "It's one that I wouldn't want to miss for the world.''

Bombers head coach Mike O'Shea said rookie backup running back Timothy Flanders will also dress.

Winnipeg revamped its roster in the off-season in an effort to reverse last year's 5-13 record. The Alouettes didn't fare much better at 6-12 and have also made changes.

Harris was part of an injection of talent and experience for the Bombers offence that includes ex-Saskatchewan receivers Weston Dressler and Ryan Smith.

Before those signings came another big addition when former Winnipeg head coach Paul La Police returned as offensive co-ordinator. He's put together a playbook aimed at less risk for starting quarterback Drew Willy, who's recovered from last August's season-ending knee injury.

All those changes might have Montreal's defence wondering what the Bombers will throw at them, but veteran rush end John Bowman said in a phone call earlier this week there shouldn't be too many surprises.

"It's a certain kind of league where offences tend to be similar,'' said Bowman, whose team lost 36-13 to Winnipeg in exhibition play.

"What we did kind of was look at a little bit of (LaPolice's) scheme from when he last coached in the league a couple of years ago.''

Bowman led the CFL in quarterback sacks last year with 19 in his 10th season.

Montreal's offence will also have a different look. Quarterback Kevin Glenn will be at the helm for the start of the season after the Als acquired him in a trade last October.

"You knew from the start he had control,'' Als head coach and general manager Jim Popp said of the pivot, who's in his 16th season.

Glenn will be working with a talented receiving corps that includes S.J. Green, Kenny Stafford, returnee Duron Carter, plus the league's top rusher last year in Tyrell Sutton (1,059 yards).

Montreal "blew up'' its offensive playbook from last year and put former Als quarterback Anthony Calvillo in as offensive co-ordinator.

"It's looked good,'' Popp said of the offence. "We've got to do it in games.''

Montreal's defence will feature two rookie cornerbacks in Ethan Davis and Jonathon Mincy, whom Willy may test.

"We'll have to see how the game goes,'' Willy said. "Obviously, they're good enough to be on a good defence.''

Bowman wants that reputation to remain.

"Defensively, we like to hold our own around here,'' he said. "We don't like to ride the offence's coattails or anything like that. We like to make a name for ourselves.''

(Canadian Press)

SCRUFFY'S THIS 'N THAT

Welcome to Friday!  Here are the weekly collection of thoughts running through my muddled mind, and as always, they come in no particular order!

- They're off! The 2016 CFL season started in Toronto last night with another game tonight and two more on Saturday to close out Week 1 of the season. Yes, the Riders are left in the dust until Thursday's Week 2 opener against the Argos at home, but it will be nice to watch some regular-season CFL football as it will lead the way into CIS, NCAA and NFL. Ahhhhhhh----football is back!

As is the case every year, the question is who hoists the Grey Cup high in November.  I see it being a two team race in the West with Calgary battling Edmonton and a two horse race in the East with Hamilton battling Toronto. I see the Stamps and Argos fighting it out at BMO Field in November with the Stampeders coming away with the trophy. As for the Riders, I know they will be better in Chris Jones' first year in charge. In fact, I think they will be the 3rd place team in the West beating out both the Bombers and Lions as they will make a 2nd half charge. Is it too much to ask for a nine win season. I don't think so. If you want predictions, go Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatchewan, Winnipeg and BC in the West with the East standings having Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa and Montreal from to top to bottom.

As the season starts, the focus in Riderville is squarely on this guy and why not?


It has become painfully evident over the last year and a half that the fortunes of the Saskatchewan Roughriders depend on this guy. They have a good chance when he is playing and virtually no chance when he isn't. While some have said "NO WAY", and I understand that, I still believe if Durant is healthy last year, the team would have been fighting for a playoff spot going into that last game in  Montreal. Of course if that were the case, Chris Jones might still be in Edmonton (or maybe Winnipeg) because I don't think he would have been here. That being said, Corey Chamblin would not have been here in 2016 barring some kind of huge playoff run.

Without Durant, the Riders are 5-26 in their last 31 games. In the 31 games before Durant suffered his season-ending elbow injury in 2014, they were 22-9.  It is as simple as the nose on your face that as Doubles goes, the fortunes of the Saskatchewan Roughriders go.  It may be even more magnified if Durant goes down in the wake of the Brett BSmith cut as there is no experience behind Durant right now should he go down.

Offensively, I see Naaman Roosevelt having a monster season and I also see Rob Bagg having a great year. They may not make you go Weston Who?, but they'll try. I am also very intrigued to see what roles Kendial Lawrence and Nic Demski have as they will be asked to do many things. I've already said I see Lawrence having the same type of role here that Corey Holmes used to have.  The running game still is a concern to me as Curtis Steele didn't play a lot in the pre-season and when he did, he wasn;t that effective.

Defensively, this team will be much better than the team that left the field in 2015. Not having Marshay Green and Junior Mertile on the field makes that sentence accurate. Jeff Knox Junior is needed in the linebacking corps, but the additions of Justin Capiccotti, Shawn Lemon, Otha Foster and Greg Jones make that side of the ball much better. Once Jones gets them on the same page, and yes, it will take a couple of weeks, I see some defensive football that Rider Nation is used to seeing.  By the way, where are Marshay Green and Junior Mertile anyhow? Maybe that could be a segment for Ballsy's "Where are they now?" feature. Then again, maybe not.  By the way, has anyone mentioned Josiah St. John lately?

-- The NHL draft goes tonight, and if all goes according to script, the excitement shouldn't start until the #4 pick as it is expected Auston Matthews, Patrick Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi go 1-2-3 to Toronto, Winnipeg and Columbus. The Oilers have the #4 pick and if they keep it, I think they take Matthew Tkachuk. However, I don't think they keep it as they use the pick to trade down and get a defenceman they so desperately need and then perhaps get an Olli Juolevi, Mikhail Sergachev or Jacob Chychrun to help them out on the blueline.

Will the Calgary Flames offer up number 6 to get someone like Marc-Andre Fleury or Ben Bishop? I am guessing Tampa might be willing to move up to number 6 if they are going to lose Steve Stamkos.  Would the Arizona Coyotes offer Toronto a package including Max Domi, Dylan Strome, their first round pick this year and next to land Matthews and give the organization the marquee player it wants? Being from Arizona, you know Matthews would love nothing more than pull a Coyotes jersey over his head tonight. I don't think that happens, but you never know what Lou Lamioriello may do.  Will Jordan Eberle get traded, will Kevin Shattenkirk or PK Subban have a new team by the time Monday hits and will Tyler Bozak, Scott Hartnell or Rick Nash have new homes as some suggest. Draft weekend is always a treat to watch.

Around these parts, there is a lot of interest as the Pats and Warriors will be well represented in Buffalo. Where does Sam Steel go? Where will Adam Brooks end up? Is Brett Howden going to be a first rounder? Is either team holding a draft party tonight? If not, why not? Nothing wrong with talking junior hockey in late June is there? Find a spot, get some current players and alumni out there, do some giveaways and hopefully see one of your players get selected in Round 1. Bada boom, bada bing!  I sometimes think teams are too scared to try something new for fear it will fail. How do you know if you don't try?

-- Two thumbs up to outgoing Swift Current Broncos head coach and general manager Mark Lamb. In his exit news conference, Lamb said the following:

"Social media is a huge problem. I don’t follow it a lot because it can drive a person crazy with the negativity that’s out there. And usually the negative people (who) are out there are the people (who) really don’t know what’s going on anyways. But I’ll tell you one thing — the players, they’re on social media and they read it and they follow it. And when they’re getting criticized on social media for going out and not doing their best and not performing up to the standards of some of the people, I think the fans really have to realize that you’re writing something about these kids — look back and go, ‘Maybe that could be my kid.’ And maybe you change your mind.”"

- Ripping pro athletes is one thing, but rippin young kids is another. Yes, the story may change a little when a pro contract is signed, but when I see people ripping 15, 16 and 17 year old hockey players for their play, it becomes a little tiresome. There is a fine-line between criticizing someone for what they do or don't do on the ice and ripping someone just for the sake of ripping them because they have an axe to grind. I don't think there are many in the hockey world who disagree with what Lamb is saying.

-Congratulations to Dean Brockman. The former head coach of the Humboldt Broncos is the new coach of the Saskatoon Blades. I met many classy individuals during my time with the SJHL and Brockman was right up there. Considering his track record behind the bench, I have no doubt if he is allowed to do his job, he will have the Blades playing good hockey very soon.

-- Congratulations to Regina's Dustin Molleken. As he toiled in the minor leagues, he must have wondered if he would ever get the call to the bigs. 13 years later, he got that call. Molleken is in the bullpen of the Detroit Tigers and while he didn't get a chance to pitch before being sent down Thursday, he still had that chance to wear a big league uniform.

-- The annual "Sticks On Rose" street hockey tournament will go outside the 620 CKRM headquarters today. The work done by Mike Sillinger, Jamie Heward and others on this event is outstanding. I'm sure it will be another great day.


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

TICATS SPOIL ARGOS BMO FIELD DEBUT

CFL Photo/Dave Chidley

TORONTO - Jeremiah Masoli and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats spoiled the party Thursday night.

Masoli threw three touchdown passes as the Ticats crushed Toronto 42-20 in the Argonauts' official BMO Field debut. Masoli finished 27-of-37 passing for 318 yards as Hamilton was an unruly guest at its arch rival's opening-night party.

The Argos relocated to BMO Field after 27 years at Rogers Centre. They moved to the domed Rogers Centre in '89 after 30 years at Exhibition Stadium, where it flourished in the 1960s and '70s.

"It's a rivalry and we gave it some attention before the game,'' Masoli said. "This is their home opener, this is their big party and we'd love nothing more than to spoil it.''

Vidal Hazelton brought the enthusiastic crowd of 24,812 - just short of a sellout - to its feet with two third-quarter TDs that pulled Toronto to within 25-20. He took Ricky Ray's one-yard TD strike at 9:40, then scored from 10 yards out at 10:26 after Cam Walker recovered Brandon Banks' fumble on the ensuing kickoff.

But Masoli - who led the Ticats past Toronto 25-22 in last year's East semifinal - found Banks on a 19-yard TD pass at 14:28 that put Hamilton ahead 32-20. Masoli then connected with former Argo Chad Owens on a 30-yard scoring strike at 7:29 of the fourth.

On those two drives, Masoli was 15-of-15 passing for 176 yards.

"They got a little momentum but learning to be a great team you've just got to be able to respond,'' Masoli said. "I'm so proud of my guys, they did a great job responding.''

Hamilton coach Kent Austin said those two drives were pivotal.

"It was really important we respond,'' he said. "It's a sign of a team that's maturing to be able to do that, especially in tough conditions.''

Toronto defensive back Jeremaine Gabriel left on a stretcher with an apparent neck injury at 9:23 of the fourth, giving the crowd the thumbs up and waving before departing.

Toronto beat Hamilton 25-16 at BMO Field during the pre-season. But the Ticats handed the Argos their first season-opening loss in five seasons.

Toronto's last home-opening victory at Exhibition Place came in 1988, a 34-11 decision over Ottawa.

"It's so exciting,'' CFL commissioner Jeffrey Orridge said. "It's a new era for the Argos.

"A brand new field, new ownership (under MLSE chairman Larry Tanenbaum and Bell), new energy and new excitement and a beautiful place to play. And a place that they can call home for really the first time in a long time.''

Linebacker Simoni Lawrence, the East Division's top defensive player last year, returned a John Chick deflection of Ray's pass for a TD just 1:07 into the third. That gave the Ticats a 25-6 lead after Toronto pulled to within 18-6 on Lirim Hajrullahu's 52-yard boot to end the first half.

Ray finished 26-of-36 passing for 282 yards and two TDs but surrendered an interception and lost fumble to Lawrence. Ray was sacked six times and faced constant pressure from Hamilton's relentless defence.

"Oh for sure they wanted to ruin (Argos' BMO debut),'' Ray said. "They did a great job of batting balls, they were in my face all night.''

The atmosphere at BMO Field was electric on a brilliant summer evening. Ticats supporters wasted little time being heard, chanting "Argos Suck'' well before the opening kickoff but Toronto supporters countered by showering Hamilton players with boos when they came on to the field.

"It was awesome,' Argos defensive end Ricky Foley said. ''This field has every thing we have ever wanted ... and then we came out and crapped the bed.``

Added Argos coach Scott Milanovich: "The atmosphere was going to be great. The thing you hope doesn't happen happened. They got out to a great start and took the crowd out of it.''

Prior to kickoff the Strumbellas and Kardinal Offishall performed at a free concert near the stadium. And 250 spots were sold in two areas where fans were able to tailgate hours before the contest.

Jacob Hoggard, the lead singer of the Canadian pop group Hedley, performed the national anthem. Then former Argos Joe Theismann, Damon Allen, Raghib (Rocket) Ismail and Mike (Pinball) Clemons all received warm ovations as they walked to centre field to participate in the coin toss.

Toronto Mayor John Tory wasn't so lucky. And Owens, who spent six seasons with the Argos before joining Hamilton as a free agent, was booed after registering a seven-yard catch on the Ticats' first possession.

"I'm sure all of those people were drunk so they don't know any better,'' Owens said. "We had a lot more cheers at the end than we did boos so that's all that matters.''

Owens had six catches for 67 yards and admitted it felt good to score against his former team.

"Scoring always feels good regardless of the circumstances,'' he said. "They had some momentum and then we were able to come back and put a couple (drives) together and really steal the momentum back.

"I went out there like (it was) another practice, just another game. They tried to get into my head a little bit early in the game with some extra hits. At the end of the day it's about winning.''

Andy Fantuz had Hamilton's other touchdown. Brett Maher added four converts and four field goals. The other points came on a safety.

Hajrullahu had two converts and two field goals.

------

TORONTO - The nostril-massaging scent of grilled hamburgers hung in the air, fans threw pigskins around and tailgaters set up shop on lawn chairs and downed a few cold ones Thursday outside BMO Field.

This was a new pre-game experience for CFL fans in Toronto and it seemed to be a big hit.

A few hundred fans were on hand in one designated tailgate parking lot south of the Argos' new stadium and a few hundred more were in another lot across the road at Ontario Place.

Sporting a blue Argos jersey, Julie Mogk of Guelph, Ont., drove in with a few friends in the late afternoon.

"You just look around, you see games, you see BBQs, it's amazing,'' she said. "The atmosphere is wonderful.''

Joe Theismann greets fans pregame
Argos legends Joe Theismann, Raghib (Rocket) Ismail and Mike (Pinball) Clemons were on hand to socialize with fans, sign autographs and pose for photos.

"It is palpable, it is infectious, it is energy personified,'' said a beaming Clemons, the team's vice-chair. "The first game of the year is always crazy. There is always great energy, but this is different. It is indescribable.''

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats would later spoil the home opener party, topping the Argonauts 42-20.

The weather co-operated as blue skies and warm temperatures helped give the pre-game scene a summertime urban campout feel.

Classic rock boomed from car speakers. A marching band and cheerleaders added to the football atmosphere.

Jennifer O'Brien drove down from Burlington, Ont., for the home opener.

"This is great, we're close to the field,'' she said while turning sausages and flipping burgers on her grill. "The new field is lovely and our seats are in the sun.''

Rogers Centre has a retractable roof but BMO Field, also home to Major League Soccer's Toronto FC, is an open-air facility. It has natural grass and with a seating capacity of about 27,000, is much cozier than the domed stadium.

The Argonauts played home games at Rogers Centre for the last 27 seasons before moving a few kilometres west for the 2016 campaign.

Tailgating is a tradition in many football cities but Argos fans couldn't do it at Rogers Centre since it's in the heart of Toronto's downtown core. However, there is plenty of space near BMO Field with several large parking lots in the area.

"Very cool vibe,'' said CFL commissioner Jeffrey Orridge. "It's just very cool. It's fun, it's exciting. I've been here for quite some time in Toronto and I haven't felt a vibe like this in a long time.''

A handful of police officers and security guards were on hand but the crowd seemed well behaved. It cost $35-$40 to park and tailgate depending on the lot.

A cold beer cost four bucks a can and lineups were quite reasonable.

"There was no tailgating experience whatsoever at Rogers Centre,'' Mogk said. "This is what football is about. This is what gets people excited. You get the fans out, you get that camaraderie, everybody goes into the stadium at the same time.

"We're all excited and pumped up for the game, ready to cheer on our team. It's such a different experience. It's exactly what we needed.''

(Canadian Press)

RED SOX 8 MILLIONAIRES 3


Regina starter Allan Sanchez collected his first win of the season as the Red Sox defeated Melville 8-3 Thursday night at Currie Field.

Sanchez was dominating in his eight innings of work, allowing just three runs on eight hits. He also struck out four of the 34 Millionaire batters he faced.

The Moneymen countered with starter Michael Harrison, who had a rough outing. Harrison gave up six runs and 11 hits over six innings.

A great crowd of 725, enjoyed the impressive offensive output by the Red Sox. Regina hitters banged out 13 hits and added six walks in the victory. For Regina, the MR Mikes Player of the Game, Korbin Polston, went three for five with two runs while second baseman Gabriel Montero contributed three RBI on two hits.

Ethan Mohn was the lone offensive bright spot for Melville as he went two for four at the plate. He also scored two runs.

The Red Sox, now 10-5, will be back on the field tomorrow in Yorkton and then host Swift Current on Saturday at Currie Field.

(Courtesy Tony Playter/Outlaw Communications)

Thursday, June 23, 2016

RIDERS ANNOUNCE $4.3M LOSS IN 2015

Rider President Craig Reynolds
The Saskatchewan Roughriders held their 2015-16 Annual General Meeting June 22nd in the Schumiatcher Room at Conexus Art Centre.

2015-16 AGM ANNOUNCEMENTS 

FINANCIAL REPORT

During his report, Kent Paul, the Saskatchewan Roughrider Chief Financial Officer, revealed the Football Club reported a deficit of $4.3 million. The Club recorded operating revenues of $39.3 million.

TICKET SALES

Gate receipts generated $15.7 million in revenue for the 2015 season up slightly from the prior year, despite the tough season on the field.

MERCHANDISE SALES

Even though the Club continued to set the pace in merchandise sales in the CFL during the year, the Club recorded $7.2 million in sales which was a $2.2 million decrease from the prior year and the lowest level since 2012-13.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

The Board of Directors welcomed two new members as Dave Pettigrew and Terri Harris were elected for a three-year term. Continuing with the Board are Arnie Arnott, Randy Beattie, Doug Emsley, Barry Clarke, Robert Leurer, Dennis Mulvihill, Laurie Powers, Jeff Stusek, Joel Teal, and Wayne Morsky who was re-elected as Chair.  

The Club would like to acknowledge and thank Twyla Meredith for her time and dedication to the Roughriders Board of Directors. Twyla will be retiring from the Board after serving a nine-year maximum term.

SHAKEUP IN SASKATOON: WOODS OUT, BROCKMAN IN

The Saskatoon Blades have named Dean Brockman as their 21st head coach, with news Bob Woods is returning to the NHL.

Woods, who joined the Blades two years ago, has signed on to be the right hand man to Buffalo Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma.

“This was too great of an offer to pass up,” says Woods. “It’s a chance to work alongside a Stanley Cup winning coach who also coached in the AHL. It’s an example I’d love to follow. I have mixed emotions leaving the Blades since the team is turning the corner but I know the players are in great hands.”

Brockman, 48, who was alongside Woods for the past two seasons, is thrilled with the opportunity.

“We’ve come through three difficult but necessary years but the time for talk is over. It’s time for results and we are committed to take a major step forward this season. We have a room full of great players who have outstanding character. They’ve taken great strides during our time together and I can’t wait to work with them to seize the opportunity we have in front of us.”

Brockman
Brockman is well-suited to take the top job. Previous to his two years with Woods, Brockman coached the Humboldt Broncos of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League to incredible success over 17 years. He led the team to victory in the Royal Bank Cup on two occasions, 2003 and 2008. In two other appearances at the national championship, Humboldt was the runner-up in 2009 and lost the semi-final in 2012.

The product of St. Benedict, Saskatchewan, also guided the Broncos to four Anavet Cup Championship titles in five appearances at the event, which matches up SJHL champion against the winner of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League. Brockman was named SJHL Coach of the Year four times.

Brockman also has a history of success with Hockey Canada. He coached Canada West to a silver medal at the World Junior A Championship in 2012, taking home a gold medal at that same event as an assistant coach one year earlier in 2011.

While Brockman has some strategic thoughts on adjusting the team’s play on the ice for more wins, he also sees opportunity on the mental side of the game. “I have great passion for our players and I want to help guide them through the obstacles that stand in their way so we can together find – and enjoy – success.”

“We believe Dean is a great fit to carry on to what we have been building for three years while adding a different perspective to our players,” says the new general manager, Colin Priestner. “Our fans are anxious for a return to the playoffs and so are we. It’s been a long wait and we have every intention of returning to the playoffs this coming season.”

Priestner assumes the GM position on a full time basis, a role he has largely carried out while Woods focused the bulk of his attention on rebuilding the team on the ice. Priestner, who becomes the 7th GM in Blades history, may be only 32 years of age but he guided the team through the previous three drafts, the results of which have been widely praised by independent observers. He has also crafted the restructuring of the Blades scouting system as well as rebuilding the 50-man list.

Priestner, who has a degree in Political Science from the University of Alberta and is currently enrolled at the Business of Hockey MBA program at Athabasca University, becomes the youngest GM in the WHL.

“Colin has brought tremendous talent to our organization. He was very insightful introducing critical structure and analysis to our recruitment process, and that is reflected in the quality of players who are joining our great group of veterans,” says president Steve Hogle. “The fact he’s the youngest GM in the league is similar to some hires of bright young minds in the NHL, such as the Phoenix Coyotes signing 26-year-old John Chayka as their GM.”

THURSDAY RODSERVATIONS

A REPORTER'S NOTEBOOK

1 - SO LONG COMMENT SECTION:  This blog lasted just over 10 years with a vibrant comment section for readers which was undoubtedly a big reason why it's twice been voted Canada's #1 sports blog (2007, 2011 Canadian Blog Awards).  However on Tuesday I made the tough decision to pull the plug entirely on allowing reader comments.

Why?  Well the answer is obvious for the readers who've been with me for a very long time.  The comments simply got way too far out of control and a good thing was ultimately ruined.  Long-gone are the regular posters with colourful names like Woz, Devo, Caesar, Obama, etc. and they all tell me the online bullying just got to be too much for them.

The hatred displayed by many from the "Anonymous" family was quickly becoming a turn-off factor but it ran far deeper than that.  It got to the point where I had to take a deep breath each time I opened up the "Comment Moderation" page and a voice inside my head kept saying, "Get ready for the hate".  It's something I didn't need and I wonder now why it took so long to reach this decision. But, I liked fans to have the ability to share their thoughts. Unfortunately some idiots ruined it.

What you saw was bad enough.  What you didn't see - the comments which were never published - were far more vile, ruthless, obnoxious, and unfortunately, personal.  Common sense isn't that common anymore and apparently there are many angry, disillusioned people amongst us.  True losers in life.

Oh I've been to the police in the past couple of months and showed them some of these comments which come in via email from the blog server.  "You definitely have a case for harrassment," the head of internet crimes told me.  The question became how much time did I want to dedicate to pursuing the culprits?

The Roughriders shut down their message board in 2001 after I personally received a death threat on their site.  (Ask then-Riders marketing manager Trent Fraser about that one).  They seem to have done just fine without it.

I've seen where some message board posters elsewhere have predicted that the comment section will return here by Game 1 of the Roughriders season.

Nope.  Uh uh.  Once my mind is made up on something, there's no going back.

My IT people are working on a plan to incorporate a Facebook component to commenting on this website whereby posters will have to identitfy themselves.  At the very least, you'll need to sign in with your Google ID.  However the good old days of the wild, wild west on this website are a thing of the past.  Interestingly, there are several great comments coming in on my Facebook page related to this column already.

For the time being, you can visit here:
https://www.facebook.com/rodpedersencom-722702824499075/

Will it cost me a few readers?  Maybe, but it's doubtful.  Website hits are actually up over the past couple of days and 99% of the websites I visit daily don't even have a comment section.  We can certainly get by without them.

While the comments were often fun and entertaining, many of them served to "cheapen" this blog and it doesn't need or deserve that.

This is progress.

2 - DRAFT KINGS:  I can't accurately put into words what a gargantuan step forward it is for the Canadian Football League to have partnered with the fantasy sports betting app Draft Kings this week.  In a lot of ways, it's all the CFL has been lacking lately.  Sure there are a few other deficiencies in this league but the absence of a credible Fantasy Football component was glaring.

Now, that's behind us.

It was astounding to have been able to have Draft Kings co-founder Matt Kalish on the SportsCage this week.  Speaking from his office in Boston before he boarded a train, Kalish initially came across as a brainiac tech guy but once he realized he was talking to three guys with established Draft Kings accounts (Luc Mullinder, Phil Andrews and myself), he opened right up.

Of all the things Kalish said during the 10-minute interview, one stood out to me the most.  "If you're a sports fan and you're not playing Draft Kings," Kalish observed, "You're missing out."

It's a bold, new world for the CFL and my Iphone has been blowing up with fans signing up for the app and several inviting me into leagues and weekly challenges.  I had to forewarn some of them:  I can't get into these challenges with everybody who sends an invite or else I'll be broke in a week.

However we'll be discussing the games even more intently on the SportsCage this season and will certainly be paying even more attention to games not involving the Roughriders because we'll have money on the line.

This is what catapulted the NFL past MLB and NBA for popularity in the USA. These days, they're so far out in front it's not even close.

This advancement is also a boon to us in the sports media business because fans - particularly those in the coveted 18-34 age bracket - will be scouring blogs like this one, our Twitter feeds and radio shows, to get the latest roster updates and injury news.

What I'll be sacrificing in hits because of the new "No Comment" policy will be made up for by the new readers chasing fantasy news.

Now all we need is for Riders Coach & GM Chris Jones to be a little more forthcoming with injury and starter updates.

Good luck with that!

3 - WEEK 1 FANTASY ROSTER:  Many CFL fans are new to Draft Kings but it really couldn't be more simple.  Simply download the app, create an account, select a contest to enter (you can bet as little or as much as you want) and then pick a team which consists of one quarterback, one running back, two receivers, two "flex" players (of any skilled position) and one team's collective defense.

Here's my Week 1 CFL fantasy roster:
QB: Drew Willy
RB: C.J. Gable
WR: Adarius Bowman
WR: Weston Dressler
FLEX: Kevin Elliot
FLEX: Tori Gurley
DEFENSE: Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The Draft Kings contestant who assembles the best roster (consisting of players who have the best weekly stats), wins his or her contest.  Scruffy has a great breakdown of how the fantasy points are awarded over on his blog.

Enjoy and good luck!

4 - DO WE HAVE A GOOD TEAM?:  Whenever asked, Chris Jones has asserted the 2016 Saskatchewan Roughriders are going to be a very good football team.  He points to talented players, great leadership and a great coaching staff which has a long track record of success in other places.

Riders Assistant V.P. of Player Personnel John Murphy was on the SportsCage this week and I asked him what has this regime so optimistic?

"For one, nobody's ever going to go into something with the other (losing) mindset because if you did, you won't be doing this for any extended period of time," Murphy explained.  "Secondly, the guys we brought in, we looked for guys who had more to them than their style of play and their activity on the field.  There are a lot of guys with substance, were team captains, and were winners both collegiately and professionally, and are willing to do the hard work on their own.

"And also the way we approached the preseason.  We've done a lot of things in a different pattern.  There were 10 two-a-day opportunities but we only did six.  There were opportunities to push guys and do more but we did less with the purpose of the real progress being over the 18 games of the season and not in the preseason.  And also not rushing guys back from ticky tack injuries for fear of them lingering.

"Some guys got an extended look in the preseason that you knew weren't running with the 1 or 2 groups for different reasons.  Certain position groups didn't play together for an extended period of time.  But they were able to get more practice in than game action.  I think you'll see us come back with fresher legs next week to open the season than a lot of other teams had the chance to have.  There will be a ton of excitement to see these guys for the first time and if you want to do that, there are still tickets available for the season opener."

To get your tickets to next Thursday's home-opener against the Toronto Argonauts, go to Ticketmaster.ca, Riderville.com, call 1-888-4-RIDERS or visit the Mosaic Stadium ticket office.

5 - RIDERVILLE?:  The fantastic town of Avonlea, SK was named "Riderville" in a team-sponsored contest in 2010 for being the community with the most Rider Pride in the province.  What a fabulous idea that promotion was by the way.  But is Avonlea still full of Rider Pride?  With the release of Chris Getzlaf (whose father is from Avonlea) and last week's release of rookie offensive lineman Aaron Picton (whose mother is from Avonlea), one has to wonder.

I feel like a buffoon because so many of Picton's extended family asked me this spring and summer if he was going to make the team.  Judging by the work he was getting and his play, he seemed to be a shoo-in.  It was actually a shock when he was released on Sunday.  Moreso to Aaron and his family, I'm sure.

However as Murphy noted above, they're doing things in an unorthodox nature.  As I noted in Monday's column, they have a plan in place but it's not immediately clear what it is.

6 - OPENING DAY:  It's finally here!  The 2016 CFL season kicks off Thursday at 5:30 pm Sask Time with Toronto hosting Hamilton at the Argonauts' new home, BMO Field in downtown Toronto.  The Voice of the Argos Mike Hogan and the former Voice of the Argos Jim Lang both said on the SportsCage on Wednesday that there's far more excitement around the actual "event" than there is on the actual game between the Argos and Ticats.

The game is not yet soldout - and isn't expected to be - which is a bit of a downer but it really won't matter in the end.  If this thing plays out like the Argos expect, it's going to become the hottest ticket in town and there will a long string of sellouts at BMO.

It's incredibly "CFL-ish" that the BMO Field endzones are only 17 yards deep but heck, Boston Garden featured a shortened ice surface for many years for the legendary Bruins.  Hogan revealed that Argos coach Scott Milanovich is already devising a way, and playcalls, to maximize the "homefield advantage".

And, as Hogan pointed out, Toronto team officials feel the worst seat at BMO Field is better than the best seat at Rogers Centre.

Ratings are going to be sky-high on TSN Thursday night and I'll be one of the interested viewers.  With my Draft Kings app open along the way.

7 - GAME NOTES:  The CFL did its typically wonderful job of compiling interesting tidbits and factoids in its weekly Game Notes package.  Here are some which stood out to me:

* Thursday's coaching match-up features Hamilton's Kent Austin versus Toronto's Scott Milanovich.  Austin has a lifetime CFL coaching record of 41-31 while Milanovich has a career mark of 38-34.

* Saskatchewan's Chris Jones (26-10) has the highest winning percentage (.722) of any current CFL head coach with a minimum of two seasons under his belt.

* B.C.'s Wally Buono returns to the sidelines Saturday night when the Lions open up against the Calgary Stampeders at B.C. Place.  Wally's 254 career victories dwarf the total of ALL OTHER EIGHT CFL COACHES who are at 150 combined.  However someone stated awhile back that Buono is the longest-tenured current CFL coach but I feel his four-year absence poopoo's that.

* This is the 103rd season of Canadian football and the actual 59th season of the Canadian Football League.

* Home teams were 45-36 last year in CFL play.

* The East Division snapped a 10-year drought in 2015 by going 22-18 versus the West.

* Here's a really interesting one:  The Argonauts have the most rookie players on their 55-man roster with 14.  The Roughriders come in third in that category with 10.  The Montreal Alouettes have the fewest amount of rookies at 8.  This shouldn't be confused with who are the youngest and oldest teams, but I expect a stat will be published on that in the weeks ahead.

8 - VERY WINNIPEGISH:  Kudos to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for recognizing long-time play-by-play man Bob Irving in their 2016 Hall of Fame induction class. The Lestock, SK product will go in along with John Helton and Bob Molle.

At what point will the Roughriders Plaza of Honor committee recognize the contributions of people like Lloyd Saunders, Bob Hughes, John Lynch, Carm Carteri, etc.?

9 - BACK TO PHOENIX:  It appears we're headed back to the Valley of the Sun.  Terry Kaszas at Marlin Travel informed me on Wednesday that the SportsCage Ultimate Sports Trip VI will head to Phoenix, Arizona from Dec 1-6, 2016.  Join me and other sports fans as we take in the NFL's Cardinals/Redskins and the NHL's Coyotes/Kings and the Coyotes/Blue Jackets.  You'll also be part of our live SportsCage broadcast from Arizona!  The NBA schedule isn't out yet but if the Suns are home that week, we'll be heading to that as well.  Talking Stick Resort Arena is a fantastic venue to watch sports in.  To purchase your spots, email terry.kaszas@marlintravel.ca or call 306-585-0055.

10 - VIVA LAS VEGAS:  It won't be long before Las Vegas will be a destination on the SportsCage trip.  In fact, fans on last year's trip to South Florida were already discussing Las Vegas last December.  T-Mobile Arena is jaw-dropping and the possibilities for that franchise are limitless.  There was plenty of negativity on Twitter regarding Wednesday's announcement that the NHL is expanding to Nevada, but that's unfortunately a sign of the times.  What do they say, "People mock what they don't understand?"

The only thng that troubles me is that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman feels the addition of a 31st team won't dilute the talent pool in the league.  How would he know?  He wasn't even an NHL fan until 1990.  The best hockey the NHL has ever seen was already gone by then.

11 - ROAD TRIPS:  I heard someone say on the radio last night that if they're leaving Regina for an NHL road trip, they're going to drive six hours to Winnipeg.  Good luck with that!  After being stranded in Winnipeg in a snowstorm two years ago after watching the Jets and Boston Bruins, I swore I'd never go back.  At least try flying 2 1/2 hours to Las Vegas and watching some hockey down there in the sunbelt and see if you ever want to go to Winnipeg again in the winter.  Although, the Las Vegas Black Knights won't be making a living on tourists to fill their arena.  Their goal is to fill it with locals, which should've been the goal of the Arizona/Phoenix Coyotes all along.

------

THAT'S IT FOR TODAY!  IF YOU'D LIKE TO COMMENT, BLAME THE HATERS AND THE TROLLS!
RP
@rodpedersen

CKRM'S WEEK 1 CFL PICKS 2016


SCHEDULE
Thursday: Hamilton at Toronto
Friday: Montreal at Winnipeg
Saturday: Ottawa at Edmonton
  Calgary at B.C.

ANNCR/RECORD/PICKS
SCHULTZ (0-0): TOR - WPG - EDM - CGY
BALL (0-0): TOR - WPG - EDM - BC
ANDREWS (0-0): TOR - WPG - EDM - CGY
BLAIR (0-0): TOR - WPG - EDM - CGY
ABOU (0-0): TBD
REMPLE (0-0): HAM - WPG - EDM - CGY
PEDERSEN (0-0): TOR - WPG - EDM - BC
SHARKY (0-0): TOR - WPG - OTT - BC
LYNCH (0-0): HAM - MTL - EDM - CGY
CARTERI (0-0): TOR - WPG - EDM - BC
LUC (0-0): TOR - WPG - EDM - CGY

(*Winner gets a $100 gift card to the Press Box Sports Bar)

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

RED SOX 9 MILLER EXPRESS 2

The Regina Red Sox exploded for three runs in the first inning on their way to a 9-2 victory over the Moose Jaw Miller Express.

Adam Prashad pitched eight stellar innings in the Red Sox victory. Prashad, a senior at Madonna College, limited Moose Jaw to only two runs on six hits while fanning five. Seth Sorenson came on in the ninth to close out the game.

Jake Howard, Derek Slate and Justin Erlandson each had three hits and scored two runs to lead the Regina attack.  Korbin Polston and Howard also provided some highlight reel home runs for the 635 Red Sox fans in attendance. It was the first multi-homer game for Regina this season.

Regina hitters hammered Miller Express starter Jesse Marks for 11 hits and seven runs in just four innings.

With the win Regina improved their overall 2016 record to 9-5.

The Red Sox round out a short home stand Thursday night when they host the Melville Millionaires. Game time 7:05 pm.

(Courtesy Tony Playter/Outlaw Communications)

CFL, COMMISSIONER, READY FOR OPENING DAY

A view from the announcer's booth at BMO Field
TORONTO - CFL commissioner Jeffrey Orridge says he couldn't hope for a better way to begin the 2016 regular season than two bitter rivals opening a new stadium.

The Toronto Argonauts host the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Thursday in their first regular-season game at BMO Field. It's not only a showdown between two longstanding rivals, but the game features a number of players squaring off against their former teams.

Slotback Chad Owens, the '12 CFL MVP who helped Toronto win the 100th Grey Cup that year, makes his Hamilton debut after signing there as a free agent. The Argos' roster features defensive linemen Brian Bulcke, Bryan Hall and Justin Hickman, all former Ticats free agents.

"It's going to be incredible, especially with the personnel changes you'll see,'' said Orridge, who'll attend the contest. "We couldn't hope for a better opening-season matchup.''

On Friday night, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers host the Montreal Alouettes. Action concludes Saturday with the defending champion Edmonton Eskimos facing the Ottawa Redblacks in a Grey Cup rematch before the Calgary Stampeders visit the B.C. Lions.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders, looking to improve upon last year's league-worst 3-15 record, open June 30 hosting Toronto.

There are four new head coaches this season with Jason Maas (Edmonton), Dave Dickenson (Calgary), Wally Buono (B.C.) and Chris Jones (Saskatchewan). Buono and Jones both have previous head-coaching experience but Maas and Dickenson are both in the first seasons.

Orridge begins his second year on the job following a busy off-season for the CFL. In February, several high-profile players like Owens, defensive linemen Justin Capiccotti, Shawn Lemon and Keith Shologan, kicker Justin Medlock and quarterback Trevor Harris changed teams as free agents.

The CFL and its players agreed on a new drug-testing policy to be conducted by the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport. There were no tests last year after the league severed its partnership with the CCES.

The agreement calls for the number of tests conducted to be equal to 100 per cent of the players in the league. But because testing is random, it's possible some will be tested twice while others won't be tested at all.

CFL teams are also sporting new uniforms, sideline and streetwear apparel by Adidas. Reebok had served as the on-field supplier for the previous 10 seasons.

The league will have expanded video review in 2016 with a second official in the command centre to address obvious errors not covered by replay challenges. It's one of 10 rule changes adopted by the CFL board of governors, including making offensive pass interference, illegal contact and illegal interference on pass plays as reviewable offences.

Orridge doesn't believe the changes will result in longer games.

"They're actually designed to make the pace of the game even quicker and also make sure we get those calls right,'' he said. "We'll have a video official in the command centre so if there's an obvious call that was either missed or should've been corrected, we'll have the ability to do so quickly.''

Orridge said the league has made many fan-friendly changes for 2016.

"For avid fans, we've updated and revamped our website so there's more statistics, news and information,'' he said. ``We've also created more content for social media ... on-field content, football-specific content and more casual content.

"It's about giving fans more reason to engage with us.''

And appealing to a younger audience.

"We're focused on not only satisfying our avid fans but really getting the attention of that next generation of fans and providing them with what they're craving,'' Orridge said. "We understand that next generation of fans is consuming sports in a very different way and we've got to be where they are.

"It's about fantasy gaming, social media and sharing and getting together and talking about the exciting things happening in the league.''

The CFL also has an officiating partnership with the NFL. A group of NFL officials worked in pre-season games and will continue into the regular season before heading to the NFL's annual officiating clinic next month.

The 2015 season was an unpredictable one that featured expansion Ottawa's surprising rise in the East Division and Edmonton's late-season charge (10 straight wins to end the year). Orridge expects more of the same in 2016.

"The great thing about the CFL, particularly this year because there was so much movement in free agency and among coaches, is you never know what's going to happen,'' he said. "Last year was exceptional where we had half of our games decided by six points or less and a third decided in the last three minutes.

"Once again we anticipate the same thing. I think it's a wide-open field ... and that's what makes the CFL super exciting.''

(Canadian Press)

CFL THIS WEEK PRESENTED BY DRAFT KINGS

HAMILTON at TORONTO
THURSDAY 5:30 PM

Jeremiah Masoli and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats look to spoil the party Thursday night.

The Ticats visit arch-rival Toronto in the first CFL regular-season game at BMO Field. The two teams met their during the pre-season with the Argos prevailing 25-16.

Masoli will get the start at quarterback for Hamilton as incumbent Zach Collaros continues to recover from season-ending knee surgery. Masoli led the Ticats in their two playoff games last year, including a 25-22 victory over Toronto in the East Division semifinal.

Toronto will have its offensive leader under centre. Veteran Ricky Ray returns healthy after missing most of last year recovering from off-season shoulder surgery.

The contest is expected to attract a sellout at BMO Field, which has a seating capacity of about 28,000 for football. Toronto relocated to the outdoor facility after playing the last 27 seasons at the Rogers Centre, which holds over 52,000 but fans have long complained about the lack of atmosphere and intimacy at the cavernous domed facility.

Veteran slotback Chad Owens will make his Hamilton debut. The speedy receiver-kick returner spent six seasons in Toronto and helped the Argos win the 100th Grey Cup game in 2012 at Rogers Centre after being named the CFL outstanding player that year.

Toronto gets a slight edge based upon home-field advantage.

Prediction - Toronto
______________________________________________

MONTREAL at WINNIPEG, FRIDAY 6:30 PM

Winnipeg hosts a meeting between two teams that both missed the CFL playoffs last season. Quarterback Drew Willy returns under centre for the Bombers after suffering a season-ending knee injury last year. GM Kyle Walters was very busy in free agency, adding the likes of home-town running back Andrew Harris, receiver Weston Dressler, defensive linemen Keith Shologan and Euclid Cummings and kicker-punter Justin Medlock. The return of receiver Duron Carter was huge news in Montreal, giving veteran quarterback Kevin Glenn another big-play receiver to complement veteran S.J Green.

Prediction - Winnipeg
_____________________________________________

OTTAWA at EDMONTON, SATURDAY 5:00 PM

A Grey Cup rematch in Edmonton as the home team faces the squad it beat 26-20 in Winnipeg. Jason Maas, Ottawa's offensive co-ordinator last year, is now the head coach of the Eskimos. He will have Mike Reilly as his starter. Reilly led the Esks to 10 straight wins to finish last season. Henry Burris, the outstanding player in the CFL last year, leads the offence for Ottawa and has four 1,000-yard receivers at his disposal. However, the Redblacks will be minus defensive stalwarts Shologan and defensive end Justin Capiccotti and defensive back Jovon Johnson, who all left in free agency.

Prediction - Edmonton
______________________________________________

CALGARY at B.C., SATURDAY 8:00 PM

At Calgary, Wally Buono marks his return as B.C.'s head coach following a five-year absence. Buono last coached in 2011 but relinquished sideline duties after leading the Lions to a Grey Cup title to concentrate on his front-office responsibilities. But he assumed the coaching job after Jeff Tedford resigned after posting a 7-11 record last season. Dave Dickenson, who played quarterback for Buono in B.C., makes his head-coaching debut with Calgary after serving as the club's offensive co-ordinator. Bo Levi Mitchell returns under centre with Canadian Jerome Messam replacing the retired Jon Cornish in the backfield.

Prediction - Calgary

(Canadian Press/Dan Ralph)

RIDER PREVIEW: IT'S ALL ABOUT DURANT


REGINA - The last two years have taught Darian Durant to take nothing for granted.

The veteran quarterback enters his 10th CFL season with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, who'll open the campaign June 30 hosting the Toronto Argonauts. But the 2016 season is an important one for Durant after suffering season-ending injuries the last two years.

"It's not about me, it's about this team and us getting better each and every day,'' Durant said. "Hopefully I'm there throughout the whole process.''

Durant's 2015 season ended quickly as he suffered an Achilles injury in the Riders' first game. They went on to post a league-worst 3-15 mark.

Saskatchewan also struggled after losing Durant to an elbow injury in 2014. After surging to an 8-3 record, the Riders dropped seven-of-nine games without Durant, including an 18-10 setback to Edmonton in the West Division semifinal.

Durant's last full season was 2013 when he led Saskatchewan past Hamilton 45-23 in the Grey Cup game at Mosaic Stadium. Prior to the elbow injury, Durant, who turns 34 in August, had started 83-of-90 games the previous five seasons.

Saskatchewan's struggles last year cost head coach Corey Chamblin and GM Brendan Taman their jobs. In the off-season, the club hired Chris Jones as its head coach/GM after he led the Edmonton Eskimos past the Ottawa Redblacks 26-20 in the Grey Cup game as their head coach.

Jones won't have to wait long to face his former team. Saskatchewan visits Edmonton on July 8.

Jones didn't waste any time putting his stamp on the Riders' roster. Veterans such as safety Tyron Brackenridge, defensive lineman John Chick and receivers Weston Dresser and Chris Getzlaf were either released or set adrift as free agents, while receivers John Chiles and Shamawd Chambers (Grey Cup game's top Canadian), defensive lineman Justin Capiccotti and linebacker Greg Jones were among those Jones added.

The challenge Jones faces is molding the new players and returnees into a team.

"The talent is there,'' he said. "We weren't necessarily the most talented team in Edmonton last year but without a doubt we had probably the strongest locker-room I've ever been around and I think that was the difference.

"When we got down (in Grey Cup) we were able to withstand all that and continue to play and have a strong belief system. That's what we're building here. When you've got guys who are strong leaders, when stuff starts going bad you're not the only one signing the song.''

The five-foot-11, 214-pound Durant also took a leadership role when he reportedly accepted a $50,000 pay cut heading into the final year of his deal to give the Riders more cap flexibility.

"Everyone knows what happened last year,'' Durant said. "For us all it's a year to bounce back.

"It's a year to forget about everything that happened in the past and move forward and celebrate the last year at Mosaic Stadium.''

The new Mosaic Stadium is scheduled to open next season.

Jones' biggest impact should be felt on Saskatchewan's defence, which allowed a league-high 29.7 points per game last year. The 48-year-old Tennessee native has a well-earned reputation as an innovative defensive guru who's not afraid to bring pressure from anywhere on the field.

"I've told the younger guys who've never been in the CFL that the defence we go against every day is going to be, by far, the toughest you'll see all year,'' Durant said. "The different looks he brings, the exotic blitzes, bringing weak corners, strong halfbacks.

"If you can prepare for this every day, you're going to be ready for the game.''

Durant enters the season third in Riders history in passing yards (24,668) and TDs (135). Durant has been Saskatchewan's starter since 2009 and led the club to three Grey Cup appearances (2009-10, 2013), winning on the third try to give the franchise its first championship on home soil.

Durant was also Saskatchewan's third quarterback when it won the '07 Grey Cup. But the injuries of the last two season have given him a new perspective on the game.

"This the most fun I've ever had and I think it's mainly because the game has been taken away from me,'' he said. "I take every single day as if it's my last ... you just appreciate the little things and being around the guys.''

(Canadian Press)

THE WEDNESDAY THRILLER ... WITH PHIL ANDREWS

Voice of the Pats Phil Andrews
Happy Wednesday Everybody!

My apologies for the week hiatus, I was up north on the annual Andrews fishing trip with my Dad and Brother but I'm back in full force this week and there is a lot to get to!

HOCKEY CANADA CALLS - Three Regina Pats got some good news on Monday. Defenceman Connor Hobbs is among 41 players who will attend development camp for Canada's National Junior Team for the 20176-17 World Junior Championships. Forward Jake Leschyshyn has been invited to selection camp for the Under-18 squad, he is among 44 invitees. Finally defenceman Dawson Barteaux is one of 111 players that will attend selection camp for the under-17 team.

Hobbs, a 5th round pick of the Washington Capitals is the first Pat invited to development camp since Morgan Klimchuk ahead of his 19-year-old season in 2014. "Well it's pretty amazing, I've gotten the chance to wear the maple leaf a few times and it's just a great opportunity for me and I am really excited." Hobbs said.

Hobbs was a member of the gold medal winning Under-18 team at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in 2014 and also played for Canada White at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in 2013. He says this invite feels a little bigger than the previous two calls he got. "It's a little bit different in the respect that it's older guys and it's different competition and it's pretty cool. I am just really excited to get out there and show em what I can do."

Hobbs, originally a draft pick of the Prince Albert Raiders in 2012, was traded to Medicine Hat in 2013. Things didn't work out there for the Saskatoon product and he spent parts of the 2014-15 season in the SJHL with the Nipawin Hawks. The Pats then acquired him in January of 2015 and his career has taken off from there. "It's been a bit of a rocky road but I've had lots of people in my corner helping me out. Just to name drop a few, I mean John (Paddock) obviously and Dave (Struch) here in Regina and my family and stuff. It's just really exciting to get the opportunity that I have here this summer."

"No" Hobbs chuckled when asked if he expected the invite. "I wasn't shocked but I was very surprised and pleasantly surprised. I am really excited and will just have to take my summer to a new level and work really hard to be where I want to be and I'm beyond excited right now."

Hobbs says it would be incredible to make the team for this years tournament. "Since I was a little kid out at the farm watching out at the farm on a little screen. It's just a bit of a family tradition that way and it would be amazing to get to represent the country and be in the position those guys were in I was watching as a kid."

Hobbs will take part in Canada’s National Junior Team Sport Chek Summer Development Camp in Toronto July 30th to August 2nd. It  will feature a four-game series against the Finland, Sweden and the United States from Aug. 3rd to 6th in Plymouth, Mich.

Meanwhile Jake Leschyshyn will head to Canada’s National Men’s Summer Under-18 Team selection camp and Dawson Barteaux to the National Under-17 Development Camp both in Calgary, at the Markin MacPhail Centre from July 26th to August 2nd.

NHL DRAFT - Just two days wait for the 2016 NHL Entry Draft in Buffalo, New York. It is safe to assume two Regina Pats will have their names called over the two days of selection, Sam Steel and Adam Brooks. Two very different journeys led up to this week but it is an exciting time for both of these players and their families.

Steel has been synonymous with the NHL since we first heard about him in Regina three years ago. He is ranked 30th in North America in the final list from the NHL's Central Scouting Service and Steel says he got better as his draft year went on. "I thought overall it was not bad. I had a slower start, didn't play the way I wanted to off the start of the year but I thought as the year went on I started playing better and better hockey. In the last few months of the year, especially playoffs, it's my favorite time of year and I played my best hockey at that point."

"It's definitely an exciting time. I hope to hear my name, called and wherever I go it's a whole new journey after that. I'm excited to get tings going I guess and we will see what the future holds." Steel said. "Being from just outside Edmonton I have always gone to those games and cheered for them so I would say they are my favorite team but when it comes to the draft I'm definitely not picky and would be honoured to go anywhere."

While Steel has always been a lock to hear his name called this weekend, the same is not true for Adam Brooks who just completed his 19-year-old season and is headed into his final eligibility for the NHL Draft. Brooks was not on the radar of the NHL in his draft year two years ago but it seems the third time will be the charm for the Winnipeg product. It's been well documented his season, leading the WHL in scoring with 120 points.

Despite his dominance in the WHL this year, Brooks remains even keeled looking at what might come. "Excited, I mean obviously I'm not getting to far ahead of myself because I know what it's like to be passed over but just excited for the opportunity. I have one last crack at potentially being drafted and thought I had a year to put me in a position to maybe be selected."

Brooks has visited with the Chicago Blackhawks, Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres in person and has had numerous online talks with other NHL teams in the weeks and months leading up to the draft. "Yeah I guess there is some talk. Everyone heading into the drat has probably talked to a few teams and that is a part of the process. For me the whole ride of this and getting to experience this which I wasn't able to experience in the last two years and talking to teams and getting to go down to some pre-draft camps and stuff like that it's just been enjoyable for me. I'm just having some fun with it and hopefully everything works out."

"The last four years have been just a roller coaster." Brooks added. "I think it will mean a lot not only to me to a lot of people who have stuck by me, especially through the times that things were going pretty bad. There were a lot of people that stood by my side throughout that and were there to pick me up when things weren't going so well. For me it's an exciting time and I think for some other people it's an exciting time as well and whatever happens happens. It's all positive, this whole season and this whole off-season have been a positive for me and whether I am drafted on Saturday or whether I am not I will continue to work hard and hopefully continue to have some positives come my way."

There are few better stories than Adam Brooks and how far he has come in his WHL career. For him, his family and the people who know him, what a weekend this will be.

PATS PRE-SEASON SCHED - 71 days, that's all between now and the Pats first pre-season game, September 1st at the Co-Operators Centre. The Pats will be hosting a pre-season tournament again this year with Swift Current, Prince Albert and Saskatoon in attendance. The full schedule can be found here. The Pats home and season opener is set for September 23rd against the Prince Albert Raiders.

CONGRATS MARK LAMB - The Swift Current Broncos are searching for a new Head Coach and GM. Mark Lamb who filled that role for the last 7 seasons is headed to the American Hockey League and the Tucson Roadrunners as their first head coach. Lamb was great to work with over the last five years and I wish him all the best. Good people deserve these opportunities.

WHL RULE CHANGES - The Western Hockey League concluded its Annual General Meeting on Wednesday in Vancouver, and a number of changes are coming in 2016-17. The biggest of which is the adoption of hybrid icing just like the NHL uses. GREAT NEWS! I love this change and Daniel Fink and I have lobbied for it on the air numerous times. Also new video replay systems will be provided by Hawk-Eye Innovations and will be installed in all WHL facilities in time for the start of the season. Hawk-Eye, also the supplier of video replay technology to the NHL and Major League Baseball, will provide WHL Video Goal Judges with improved capabilities for all video review situations. This is also AWESOME. Finally the WHL is setting a trend when it comes to when a goal counts or does not count after it is redirected off a skate. The new rule states that unless the puck is in the goal crease, a puck that enters the net off of a player’s skate shall be ruled a goal. This will eliminate the need for a decision by the referee and/or video goal judge as to whether it was a distinct kicking motion or not. So as I understand it, a player can blatantly kick the puck into the goal as long as he is not in the crease. Quite an interesting rule change and we will see how it shapes out this season.

WARRIORS ADD 2 OVERAGERS - The Moose Jaw Warriors have added two 20-year-olds to their roster via trade. 20-year-old forward Dakota Odgers was acquired from the Vancouver Giants for a conditional 8th round pick in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft. As well 20-year-old defenseman Matt Sozanski comes over from the Spokane Chiefs in exchange for a conditional 6th round pick in 2017. The Warriors have defenceman Josh Thrower and forward Jesse Shynkaruk on their roster entering their overage years.

COUGARS ADD TO COACHING STAFF - Prince George Cougars General Manager, Todd Harkins announced last Wednesday that the team has hired Steve O’Rourke as an Associate Coach. O’Rourke has spent the past three seasons serving as an Assistant Coach with the Red Deer Rebels.

FOOTBALL CANADA ANNOUNCES JUNIOR NATIONAL TEAM -  10 Players from Saskatchewan and 3 from the Regina Thunder have been named to Team Canada for the  2016 International Federation of American Football (IFAF) U19 World Championship, June 28 – July 10, in Harbin, China. Here is a look at the full roster: http://bit.ly/28JI9Im

NBA FINALS - What a performance by LeBron James in the last three games of the NBA Championship series. The Cavaliers became the first team in history to come back from down 3-1 in the Finals and win. James put Cleveland on his shoulders and it was the best performance I have ever seen. Those are the moments we as sports fans strive to see. James is a once in a generation player and one of the best of all time and he gave us everything and more in this series. I'm not a huge Cavaliers fan but I am happy for Cleveland, 1964 is a long time ago since their last major sports title.

US OPEN - Was so glad on Sunday to see Dustin Johnson get the monkey off his back and finally win a major championship at Oakmont. It wasn't without controversy, it always seems to follow Johnson in the major tournaments. He was told by the USGA on the 12th hole that he may be assessed a penalty stroke from back on the 5th when his ball moved on the green. First off, in my opinion, he didn't make the ball move so there should be no question about a penalty stroke. But even if it was his fault, why would the USGA not just make a decision and tell Johnson and everyone else instead of waiting until the end of the round? It was a terrible way to handle the situation but in the end it didn't matter. Johnson was up by 4 and then it ended up being a 3 stroke win after the penalty. So good to see him win, he deserved it.

That's all I have for today, have a great week!

Phil
@PhilAndrewsCKRM

EIGHT MISSISSIPPI PRODUCTS IN THE CFL IN 2016

BY PATRICK MAGEE
PMAGEE@SUNHERALD.COM
Twitter: @Patrick_Magee

There are eight players from Mississippi colleges set to be on Canadian Football League rosters for the 2016 campaign.

Former Ole Miss quarterback and offensive coordinator Kent Austin is the head coach of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and he will be on the sideline Thursday night when the CFL seasons opens with a Hamilton-Toronto contest that will be shown on ESPN News. Some CFL games will be shown on the ESPN networks this season and all can be watched on the Watch ESPN app.

Austin's Hamilton squad features a pair of former Ole Miss standouts, quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and defensive tackle Ted Laurent. Masoli will be the starting quarterback for the Tiger-Cats to begin the season as former starter Zach Collaros continues to recover from a knee injury.

Masoli took over as the Hamilton quarterback late in the 2015 season and played well through the playoffs, nearly leading his team to the Grey Cup. He completed 30-of-42 passes for 349 yards and two touchdowns in a 35-28 loss to Ottawa in the East final last season.

Laurent, a native of Montreal, has become one of the better defensive linemen in the CFL. He had 24 tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble in 17 games a year ago.

Southern Miss has one representative in the CFL in running back Tory Harrison, who teamed with Damion Fletcher to form a tough running back duo at USM from 2006-09. Harrison was referred to Tuesday as the “Yankee-doodle dandy” in the Calgary backfield by the Medicine Hat News. Last season, he rushed 55 times for 273 yards and had 18 catches for 172 yards and five scores.

Mississippi State also has only one player in the CFL – Saskatchewan Roughriders cornerback Justin Cox, who signed with the team in May.

Here are the other CFL players from Mississippi colleges:

Name – Position – College – CFL team

Emmanuel Arceneaux – WR – Alcorn State – B.C. Lions

C.J. Morgan – DB – Alcorn State – Edmonton Eskimos

Marcell Young – DB – Jackson State – Edmonton Eskimos

Thaddeus Coleman – OL – Mississippi Valley State – Saskatchewan Roughriders

Read more here: http://www.sunherald.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/keeping-score/article85118277.html#storylink=cpy