Tuesday, May 26, 2015
MONTREAL (CP) - While Michael Sam would prefer to be just another football player, he knows there is a unique responsibility that comes with being the first openly gay athlete in the CFL and one of only a tiny minority in North America's major professional leagues.
Signed to a two-year deal by the Montreal Alouettes last week, Sam tried to downplay the significance of the move during a news conference Tuesday, repeatedly saying he just wants to play football.
But when asked if he regretted coming out in February 2014, the defensive end was adamant it was the right decision.
"I've set in motion a lot of stuff,'' he said. "I have a responsibility to handle myself the right way and carry myself the right way so future athletes who may be straight, gay, bisexual, whatever, they can be inspired just by what I'm doing.''
"If you're afraid of what your family might think, if you're afraid you think you might be disowned, I'm your family,'' he added. "Come to me and I'll be a part of your family.''
The 25-year-old Sam was selected in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL draft by the St. Louis Rams, becoming the first openly gay player chosen by an NFL team. He was later cut by the Rams and from the Dallas Cowboys' practice roster.
Sam is part of a tiny group of professional athletes who have chosen to go public about their sexual orientation. Retired NBA player Jason Collins came out in April 2013 while Los Angeles Galaxy soccer star Robbie Rogers is the lone out player in Major League Soccer. There are no openly gay players in Major League Baseball or the NHL. Derrick Gordon became the first openly gay player in Division I men's basketball last year.
Alouettes general manager Jim Popp was unequivocal about what Sam's presence in Montreal means for the CFL and for sports in North America.
"Today marks a historic moment in Canadian sports, in the Canadian Football League, and across the world,'' Popp said.
A star at Missouri in college, Sam earned SEC Defensive Player of the Year honours in 2013 and set his sights on the NFL. That dream has been put on hold for now.
When pressed about whether or not his decision to come out affected his success in the NFL, he dismissed the question.
"I am happy with what I did,'' he said. "I've helped so many people and given them so much inspiration and I have no regrets whatsoever.''
Popp, who had been scouting Sam for some time, said he believes the six-foot-two, 260-pound player can excel as pass-rusher in the CFL - so much so that the NFL will regret letting him go.
"I would love nothing more for him to spend his whole career here,'' Popp said, "(But) there is such a small window in a football career, I hope he does so extraordinary well that it's a benefit for our team (and) he gets another shot (at the NFL).''
Sam is considered by NFL teams to be a "tweener,'' not quite the right body type to be a defensive end or an outside linebacker for that league.
Popp said he believes Sam can follow a path similar to that of Cam Wake, who was converted from linebacker to end when he joined the B.C. Lions in 2007. Wake was the CFL Defensive Player of the Year in each of his two seasons before signing with the Miami Dolphins, where he has had a successful NFL career.
"My size fits as a pass-rusher,'' said Sam. "I led my team in pre-season in sacks and that was in the NFL so I'm a pass-rusher. Doesn't matter where I'm at.''
Sam looked nervous when he first took the stage Tuesday. He uttered a little nervous laugh after his brief opening statements, but warmed up quickly and became comfortable enough to talk about his fiance, and the infamous Montreal weather.
Being from Texas, Sam said he first got a taste of snow as a student in Missouri.
"I'm used to cold weather but my fiance hates it,'' he said. "The snow doesn't bother me.''
McCray, a Tulane product, spent five seasons with the Green & White (1986-90) and was the MVP of the 1989 team which won the Grey Cup.
Schultz, a UND product from Moose Jaw, SK, spent nine seasons with the Riders (2001-2009) after being the #1 overall pick in the 2001 CFL draft. He was the starting nose tackle in the 2007 Grey Cup win and a two-time Most Outstanding Canadian for Saskatcewan.
As a result of being Saskatchewan's most prestigious sporting dinner, the Plaza of Honor Dinner has contributed over $6 million to the Saskatchewan Roughrider Football Club.
The Plaza of Honor Dinner presented by SaskTel has inducted 118 individuals who have made major contributions to the proud tradition of the Saskatchewan Roughrider Football Club. The club has also inducted the 1966, 1989 and 2007 Grey Cup championship teams.
The cairn honouring the Plaza of Honor Inductees is situated outside the main gates on the west side of Mosaic Stadium. The Plaza of Honor cairn is sponsored by SaskTel, SASK SPORT INC. and the City of Regina.
This year's dinner is set for Friday, September 25that the Credit Union Eventplex – Evraz Place. Four seasons ago the Dinner was moved to the Eventplex in order to accommodate a much larger audience. The space allows patrons the opportunity comfortable mingle and meet friends and associates throughout the evening. Many changes are in the works for this year's dinner. The committee is working diligently to renew this event in order to ensure it continues to be an exciting, memorable, and unique experience for everyone involved.
|From left: Steve Mazurak, Walt Precourt, Ron Styles, Bruce Axelson & Paul Hill|
Demski (6’0 – 215 lbs.) was selected by the Green and White in the 1st round (6th overall) of the 2015 CFL Draft, after playing four seasons with the University of Manitoba. In 2014 the Winnipeg native made 27 catches for 589 yards and five touchdowns while also rushing for 47 yards on six carries. The 21-year-old contributed on special teams where he added 19 punt returns for 272 yards and a touchdown for the Bisons.
He was named a 2014 CIS second-team All-Canadian and a Canada West All-Star as well as playing in the East-West Bowl.
The Saskatchewan Roughrider 2015 Rookie Camp schedule has been released. On field workouts on Wednesday and Thursday at Mosaic Stadium are open to the public! All times are approximate and subject to change.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 27th
11:45am On field work
THURSDAY, MAY 28th
11:45am On field work
A Lightning victory tonight will send Tampa Bay to the Stanley Cup final for the second time in franchise history. Steve Stamkos and the Bolts host Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final against the Rangers, who are trying to force a Game 7 back in New York. Tampa Bay won the Cup in 2004 -- the only other season the Lightning reached the final.
The RCMP says Graham James is facing criminal charges of repeated sexual assault alleged to have occurred while he coached the Swift Current Broncos in the early 1990s. James served three-and-a-half years in federal prison for sex offences against former Broncos player Sheldon Kennedy and two others. He's now completing a five-year sentence for sexually abusing former N-H-L player Theoren Fleury and Fleury's cousin, Todd Holt, when they played for him with the Moose Jaw Warriors.
Nick Merkley, Gage Quinney and Leon Draisaitl (DRY'-sit-uhl) each scored twice as the Western Hockey League champion Kelowna Rockets downed the Rimouski Oceanic 7-3 at the Mastercard Memorial Cup. The loss puts the Quebec champs from Rimouski into a must-win situation Wednesday night against the host Quebec Remparts.
The Oshawa Generals will attempt to go undefeated in round-robin action tonight at the Mastercard Memorial Cup. The Ontario Hockey League champions are 2-and-oh so far and face the Western Hockey League's Kelowna Rockets, who evened their record at 1-and-1 with a 7-3 win last night over the Quebec league champs Rimouski Oceanic.
The Houston Rockets are still alive in the NBA's Western Conference final. James Harden scored a playoff career-high 45 points as Houston downed the Golden State Warriors 128-115 in Game 4. The Rockets used a 45-point first quarter to build a big lead that they never gave up. The Warriors lead the series 3-1.
Drew Hutchison threw a complete-game four-hit shutout and Justin Smoak and Josh Donaldson homered as the Toronto Blue Jays defeated the Chicago White Sox 6-nothing. Jose Reyes returned to the lineup after a stint on the 15-day disabled list and hit a double in his first at-bat for the Jays.
Albert Pujols hit a two-out, broken-bat single with the bases loaded in the ninth inning to give the Los Angeles Angels a walk-off 4-3 win over the San Diego Padres. And Jhonny Peralta hit a game-ending homer in the 10th inning, lifting the St. Louis Cardinals to a 3-2 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Monday, May 25, 2015
A BUFFET OF RIDER COVERAGE
- We are less than a week away from 2015 Saskatchewan Roughriders Training Camp presented by Coors Light in Saskatoon! The first workouts are scheduled for Sunday at Griffiths Stadium but rookies arrive in Regina on Tuesday for Rookie Camp on Wednesday and Thursday. During that period, the rookies will spend time with positional coaches learning the playbook and more about the CFL. The two day orientation will consist of classroom sessions and some on-field work so everyone is ready when camp officially starts Sunday at Griffiths Stadium. At this point, the Riders aren't sure how involved the on-field sessions will be so no decision has been made yet whether they'll be open to the public. Once a decision has been made, the news will be reported here and on my Twitter feed at @sportscage.
- A soldout field of golfers took part in Friday's 2nd Annual Getzlaf & Friends Charity Golf Classic at Long Creek Golf & Country Club in Avonlea, hosted by Rider slotback Chris Getzlaf. Former Rider Scott Schultz and I broadcast the SportsCage live from the clubhouse and had one of our best shows of the year, welcoming several current Riders onto the 620 CKRM airwaves. Here are some of their comments as we get ready for the season:
WR ROB BAGG
HOW WAS YOUR OFF-SEASON?
RB: It was great. I spent a lot of time with the family in Kingston and that was great. But as soon as you get into April and the flowers start to come out, you get that itch. The entire family's excited to get out to Regina. It's the best summers for the kids to get to come out to football games in Regina and enjoy the beauty that is Saskatchewan. Can't wait to get it fired up. It's different this year for my kids because they're starting school in French Immersion back home so they'll know more French than me probably by the end of September. They're excited about that. It'll definitely be different not having them around.
WHAT'S YOUR PREP FOR THE SEASON BEEN?
RB: I just got in on Wednesday. Just put in a couple of workouts but the main core of guys that were here working all off-season were Dressler, Macho Harris, Weldon Brown and a few guys who you can tell have been working hard. Dan Farthing does a great job getting guys ready and I think Darian is coming in this weekend so I just can't wait to run routes with him and get that chemistry back. Talking with Weston, for whatever reason, it just feels like it's going to be a special season. I'm not sure why yet, but I hope in November we'll be able to look back and say it was. I'm at that age now where every season is that much more special and I think it's going to be the best year yet.
WERE YOU SATISFIED WITH DURANT'S ELBOW IN FLORIDA?
RB: Yah I thought he looked great and that was even five weeks ago. As a guy who's come back from injury, every week, every day that you get further from it, you continue to improve. I expect him to be, as much as you said 'satisified' with him, I expect him to bring it even more in training camp. He's the type of guy that's relentless in his preparation and with his work ethic and I think throughout the first half of the season, you might be pumped with how he looks in Week 1 but he'll be so much better by Week 9.
ARE YOU BIG ON A FAST START?
RB: It's all about what you do at the end of the year but you can certainly position yourself better early. We've all seen how important it is to host the Western Final. If you can get that bye, guys that are banged up get extra time. Those things add up. You don't win the Grey Cup at the beginning of the year but you can certainly position yourself for those games later in the season. We'll have to play well, obviously, because you can't afford a bad start.
RB ANTHONY ALLEN
HOW WAS THE OFF-SEASON?
AA: I've been here since January. I kind of wanted to embrace the town and embrace the winter. I survived. Every day was literally the coldest day of my life. Every day. But I made it through. I was just around town and showing my face. The Rider Nation does a great job of letting you know that you're known here. It was fun. It was a fun off-season.
I'm feeling good. I've been down here training with guys like Weston and Weldon. It takes me a good two months after a season to get feeling good. I take a month off from everything, and then the next month is working out and I start feeling places on my body I wasn't able to feel before. It takes awhile to get your body back as a running back but that's what you sign up for. You don't think about when you're trying to dodge a tackle. You're trying to make 'em miss and score a touchdown.
ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN RIDER FANS AND RAVENS FANS
AA: It's different throughout the towns. In Baltimore, fans in the Ravens Nation are like 'He's a Raven, so I'd better just leave him alone' where as with the Rider Nation, it's like 'Hey Anthony come over here! Let us help you out! We want to help you!' They're more hands-on here. They're not afraid to to talk to the players and interact with them. I'm very sociable so if you want to talk to me, I'll talk all day.
ON JOINING CAMP LATE LAST YEAR
AA: One thing about me is I'm good at learning playbooks so I learned the playbook fast but I hadn't played tackle football in a year and a half. It had been awhile so I had to get my body accustomed to it and I'd missed the first few days of camp. This year is way better. I have more momentum going into the season. I've been getting my body ready for an 18-game season.
WHAT'S THIS TEAM CAPABLE OF THIS YEAR?
AA: Everybody saw what we did last year without our starting quarterback. Everybody saw what we did last year when everybody knew what plays we were running. I don't wanna go into too much detail but with a new offensive and defensive system, with Durant back, with the new additions that we made, I'm so excited. This is the time of year that you get restless because training camp's right around the corner but it's not close enough. I think we're gonna do good.
ON DURANT IN FLORIDA
AA: When I went down there I wasn't expecting him to throw. I thought he was just going to do individual and a couple QB things but when I saw him show up for the 7-on-7's, the skellys and the half-skellys and he was zinging that thing like Darian does, I was excited. I went down there expecting the least out of him and he showed me the most. I was texting him right after saying, 'Hey bro when can we get together and throw?' I think I got too excited.
CB PAUL WOLDU
ON HIS FORMER TEAM THE ALOUETTES SIGNING MICHAEL SAM
PW: It'll go great. Most importantly he's a pretty good football player. That's what I get from it. From a football standpoint, GM Jim Popp goes out and tries to find players from all over the place. Whether they're Canadian, American or wherever, he does a pretty good job with his scouting department. He's obviously found a pretty good football player and Michael Sam will like the city of Montreal. There's a lot of culture and history and it's a pretty interesting city.
That's a pretty successful franchise, right? And they have been for years. It's obviously because of the things Jim Popp does. I don't think he's going to bring a guy in just to sell tickets. He might bring a guy in to help win football games AND sell tickets but he's never going to bring a guy in just to sell tickets. I don't think anybody can do that. It's a 'produce now' and 'what have you done for me lately' business we live in and that's all that matters.
ON HIS DESIRE TO START THIS YEAR
PW: I always find it's harder to be a back-up than it is to be a starter. You have to prepare like a starter without the reps. My last year in Montreal I started 11 games and the Eastern Final and I finally got into a rhythm and I swear it was easier to prepare when you're playing 40 or 50 plays on defense rather than waiting for your time. At the end of the day, that's the name of the game. Are you gonna tell me Tristan Jackson isn't one of the best out there? Of course he is. Brackenridge, Maze, Weldon Brown, we've got some studs out there.
SB CHRIS GETZLAF
ON THE ORIGIN OF THE GOLF CLASSIC
CG: It's just through friends and meeting people within the city but also meeting people who come from where my Dad grew up. I've had a relationship the last few years with Nelson GM in Avonlea and they approached me with an idea that was in the back of my mind at the same time and Children's Wish Foundation was a great fit. We were able to have a few Wish families out here this year and one of them talked and it's hard not to get emotional when that kind of talk is going on. To see the strength that they have, and what the wishes do for them is pretty inspirational.
DO YOU LOOK FORWARD TO TRAINING CAMP?
CG: I look forward to training camp because it means you're getting into a new season. The actual part of the training camp, I don't know about that.
ON THE NEW 5-YARD CONTACT RULE ON RECEIVERS
CG: I think it's going to be a little bit difficult. They're really going to have to set the tone early to make sure that that's the way it's gonna be. When you make a rule, you've got to assume it's going to at least do something. If it takes away half of the contact, that's a win for me. With how much clutching and grabbing and actual physical contact there is 10 yards down the field, it's going to be great for receivers. I love it.
MONDAY QUICK HITS
- Hopefully you enjoyed those tidbits from Friday's interviews! It's great to get the players out of the football atmosphere and into a comfort zone away from the stadium. These types of interviews certainly allow us to get to know the players more. However it's done nothing but whet our appetite even more for the start of the new season! Once next Monday hits, it'll be wall-to-wall Rider talk in the SportsCage but until then we'll finish off our hockey coverage with Tiger Williams, Peter Loubardias, the Dumba's, etc.
- Several sports personalities were on hand in Avonlea to support Chris Getzlaf including his father Steve and teammates such as Weston Dressler, Weldon Brown, Alex Anthony, Chris Best, Scott McHenry (who turns 28 today), Alex Pierzcalski and Nic Demski. There were Rider alumni on hand such as Mike McCullough, Scott Schultz and Luc Mullinder and several hockey types including Keith Aulie of the Edmonton Oilers (who's married to a Getzlaf), Regina Pats personalities such as John Paddock, Mike Sillinger, Dave Struch, Gord Cochrane and former NHL referee Mick McGeough. It seems like this tournament will be around for several great years.
- You'll notice the old Gainer car was brought out of retirement for the Getzlaf event. It was actually awarded to Avonlea when they won the Riderville contest in 2010 as part of the Roughriders' centennial year celebrations. Former Calgary Flame Rhett Warrener once offered $100,000 for that car because the Frontier, SK product wanted to own it and drive it around Calgary. Perhaps the good folks of Avonlea will sell it to him.
- Winnipeg Rider fans: tune into TSN 1290 Radio today at 8:30 am MT (7:30 am Sask time) as I'll be chatting Riders and CFL with host Troy Westwood.
- One of the hot topics on Friday's show was the Alouettes' signing of DE Michael Sam. It was a great day for the CFL to have the first openly gay pro football player come to our league. However I'm still not convinved it's not something of a publicity stunt a la Chad Johnson or Ricky Williams. As for Sam, he's become something of a publicity machine himself and it'll prove to me how serious he is about his football career if he changes his Twitter handle from @MichaelSamNFL to @MichaelSamCFL.
- Wonder how the eastside at Mosaic Stadium will treat Michael Sam on September 27? In the past, nothing's been off limits.
- Last week's tour of New Mosaic Stadium was jaw-dropping. The sheer size of the facility is jaw-dropping and it's exciting to know they're 41% complete with construction. The PCL construction crew is unfazed by the enormity of the project given its $230-million budget (their figure). They don't go by the SIZE of the project but rather the budget and one official told me they've erected structures with a cost twice this amount. Still, they're very proud of what they're building here. And when another PCL official pointed out the exact spot where the Roughriders will run out onto the field, I got chills.
- Final thoughts on the sale of the Argos: Wednesday was a landmark day for the CFL, particularly in Toronto, even if it was overshadowed by the hiring of Mike Babcock by the Leafs. At least now if the Argonauts continue to hemmorhage money, they'll have the deep pockets of Bell and MLSE to keep them afloat. And even though they're Little Brother within that sports consortium, at least they'll benefit from the marketing machine rather than competing with it.
- Now they just have to get the Toronto soccer community to stop bitching about sharing their facility with a CFL team.
- Our condolences to the family of Jim McLeod, the long-time floor director of our television show In The Huddle on Access. Jim passed away last week, and will be sorely missed. We'll be sure to honour Jim during our season premiere episode from Saskatoon next week.
- Don't forget about the Regina Red Sox!! They opened their training camp on Saturday and will open the season at home to the Weyburn Beavers Friday night at Currie Field at 7:05 pm. Weather permitting, we'll broadcast the show from Currie Friday afternoon in advance of the game.
- Didn't watch too much hockey over the weekend so you'll have to forgive the absence of hockey commentary in this week's MMG. However there will be some NHL personalities in town on Thursday for the annual Cougar Mens Hockey Alumni fundraising dinner at the Travelodge. Islanders greats Clark Gillies and Bob Bourne will be in town as our honoured guests.
- And lastly, how can we forget Moose Jaw? We spent the weekend in the sleepy community next door and enjoyed some time at the Temple Gardens Mineral Spa. It certainly wasn't a first, but when I got out of that hot mineral water after a long soak on Saturday, all of my "general soreness" was gone! We didn't get much of a sleep however, as people were coming and going and slamming doors until 2 a.m. Saturday night. But you can get that at any hotel.
- Saturday evening we "restaurant-hopped' enjoying appetizers all over downtown Moose Jaw. Global's Derek Meyers joined us and as dusk fell, the TV sports anchor waved his arm and said, "If you just added mountains, you'd have Banff!" It certainly has a nice feel.
- It was pretty quiet in "The Jaw" Saturday night though. Folks were apologizing all over themselves for the lack of buzz, however that suited us just fine. We made a stop in the Crushed Can sports bar which is in the shadow of Mosaic Place. That was fun to sit out on the patio and visit. The best part is they have the old scoreboard from the actual Crushed Can hanging in the facility.
- One of our must-see destinations was Deja Vu, the famed wing and milkshake joint on High Street. All I can say is, if you're going, allot a good hour-and-a-half. It was lined up out the door but that speaks to their popularity. Their wings are huge and they boast 60-some different flavours which are drizzled across the chicken parts. I opted for Buffalo Dill and Wild Wild West Texas, but steered clear of the "Cody Beach" flavouring. My guess was that it was overrated!!
THAT'S ALL! SEE YOU IN THE CAGE AT 4 PM
Chicago will look to keep its momentum going tonight in Game 5 of the NHL's Western Conference final against the Anaheim Ducks. The Blackhawks are coming off a 5-4 double overtime victory at home in Game 4 to tie the series at two. The series shifts back to Anaheim this evening.
Two late goals, one in regulation and one in overtime gave the Oshawa Generals another win at the Mastercard Memorial Cup. Stephen Desrocher scored the winner late into overtime as the Generals slipped past the Quebec Remparts 5-4.
One team will get into the win column tonight at the Memorial Cup. The Rimouski Oceanic face off against the Kelowna Rockets, both of which lost their first games of the tournament. Yesterday, the Oshawa Generals scored in overtime to beat the Quebec Remparts 5-4. The Generals are a perfect 2-0 to start the Memorial Cup.
You would have never have known LeBron James missed his first 10 shots of the game. James finished Game 3 of the Eastern Conference final with 37 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists as the Cleveland Cavaliers downed the Atlanta Hawks 114-111 in O-T to move within one game of the NBA finals. The Cavs can take the series on Tuesday.
Atlanta forward Al Horford was ejected in the final minute of the second quarter of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals for throwing an elbow at Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova. The officials took several minutes looking at the play on a video monitor before assessing Horford with a Flagrant 2 foul and ejecting him. He had 14 points for the Hawks. Horford could face further discipline from the league.
Golden State can punch its ticket to the NBA Final tonight. The Warriors are in Houston trying to close out the Rockets in Game 4 of the Western Conference final. Golden State leads the series 3-0. It would be their first trip to the final since 1975.
The Toronto Blue Jays avoided a sweep by the Seattle Mariners. Ryan Goins and Edwin Encarnacion hit two-run homers and Aaron Sanchez pitched into the seventh as Toronto pounded the Mariners 8-2. Both Blue Jays homers came in the fifth inning.
Toronto continues its homestand tonight at Rogers Centre against the Chicago White Sox. The Blue Jays are coming off an 8-2 win over the Seattle Mariners yesterday afternoon. Drew Hutchison is slated to pitch for Toronto, while the White Sox counter with Hector Noesi (no-EH-see). Chicago is at the bottom of A-L Central, eight games back of first place.
Adrian Peterson will apparently not be with the Minnesota Vikings this week when they hold optional practices. An AP source says that the running back informed Vikings coach Mike Zimmer that he won't be in attendance. Peterson has been unhappy with the Vikings for a perceived lack of support from within the organization while he addressed child abuse charges last season.
Sunday, May 24, 2015
A record crowd of more than 12,000 passed through the gates at McMahon Stadium on Saturday for Fanfest, presented by Alberta Ram Dealers.
This free annual event allows Stampeders players, coaches, the Outriders dance team, Ralph the Dog and fans to interact on the McMahon turf on the final weekend before the start of training camp for the new Canadian Football League season.
"It was a beautiful day and a fantastic event and I can't think of a better way to kick off the season," said Stampeders president Gordon Norrie. "Thanks to everyone who turned up in record numbers today."
The day got under way with a pancake breakfast in the East parking lot as the Calgary Grey Cup committee served more than 1,200 breakfasts to hungry fans.
The activities then moved inside the stadium with player autographs, pictures with the Grey Cup, locker-room tours, partner activations, games and activities.
The players and coaches were introduced, with star running back Jon Cornish, toting the Grey Cup, being the last to come up on stage. Two members of the team were formally honoured on Saturday as Corey Mace received the Presidents' Ring - which goes to the Stamps player who best demonstrates excellence on and off the field - while Randy Chevrier was presented with the Herm Harrison Memorial Award for his tireless community involvement.