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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

PATS SOLD?

There's a report the Parker family is close to announcing the sale of the Regina Pats Hockey Club. As the story goes, the ownership group includes local businessmen Anthony Marquart and Todd Lumbard.

Marquart's name first surfaced on this blog in August (http://www.rodpedersen.com/2013/08/friday-rodservations.html) with regards to the purchase of the Pats.  Anthony is a Calgary product who now makes his home in Regina and is the President of Royalty Developments.  Lumbard is a successful Regina businessman, originally from Brandon, who played three seasons in goal for the Brandon Wheat Kings and Regina Pats in the 1980s.  It's believed Lumbard could be named President of the hockey club once the sale is finalized.

While no news conference has been called by the team, speculation is there will indeed be a news conference Wednesday at 1:30 pm at the Brandt Centre. However sources tell me the new ownership group will not be unveiled at that time. That announcement is expected in May.

RP

TUESDAY'S DUB ROUND-UP

PORTLAND, Ore. (CP) - Taylor Leier scored in overtime as the Portland Winterhawks came from behind to defeat the visiting Kelowna Rockets 4-3 on Tuesday in Western Hockey League playoff action.  The victory gave Portland a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference Final.

The Winterhawks, who trailed 3-1 late in the third period, put 65 shots on net before Leier scored the winner on Kelowna's Jordon Cooke at the 10-minute mark of extra time.

Oliver Bjorkstrand had a pair of goals for Portland and Brendan Leipsic forced overtime when he scored at 18:42 of the third.  Riley Stadel, Colten Martin and Ryan Olsen supplied the scoring for the Rockets.

Portland will host Game 4 on Wednesday.

---

MEDICINE HAT, Alta. (CP) - Marek Langhamer stopped 43 shots, including all 14 his way in the third period, as the Tigers hung on to beat Edmonton 2-1 in Game 3.  That cut the Oil Kings' lead in the Eastern Final to 2-1.

Tommy Vannelli put the Tigers on the board at 6:25 of the first period while Dylan Bredo scored what turned out to be the winner at 17:22 of the second.  Curtis Lazar opened the scoring for the Oil Kings.  Edmonton's Tristan Jarry turned away 19-of-21 shots in defeat.

Game 4 is in Medicine Hat on Wednesday.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

TUNING IN...

With Ardith Stephanson

Line driv(ing)

Baseball is an ideal sport for radio.

On a recent road trip, bored with listening to FM radio music, I tuned in to CFSL 1190 AM Weyburn, which has carried Toronto Blue Jays games for what seems like forever. It was a great way to pass the time while driving.

Sportsnet radio carries all 162 Blue Jays games, featuring Jerry Howarth and Mike Wilner. In Saskatchewan, we can catch them on CFSL, as well as CJSL 1280 AM Estevan, CJYM 1330 AM Rosetown, and CFYM 1210 AM Kindersley.

I think baseball is so easy to listen to because of the pace. It's easy to visualize, is a slower pace than a sport like hockey, and is relaxing. Whether or not you're a Blue Jays fan, it is nice to have an option (without paying for satellite radio) when you're on a road trip.

I need a Kleenex

What an emotional week for the city of Boston and its residents.

Last week was the memorial of the Boston Marathon tragedy of a year ago. Monday was the running of the 2014 edition of the race. And prior to Sunday night's Red Sox baseball game was a touching 30-minute pregame show in honour of the anniversary of the tragedy.

It was powerful to watch survivors, families of survivors, rescue workers, police officers and of course the baseball players from the Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles gather on the field.

Sports have a way of bringing us together. When a tragedy strikes, it can help to heal the wounds caused by the tragedy, and the Boston Strong movement that culminated in the Red Sox World Series victory is an example of that.

Again, whether or not you cheer for the Red Sox, it was touching to watch how the city rallied around the team, and how the team helped the city on the road to healing.

From rocks to mics

Other than the final games together for many of the teams at the Grand Slam of Curling Players' Championship this past weekend, the biggest news was the announcement by Kevin Martin that he is retiring and moving to the other side of the camera.  In the final Grand Slam of Curling event of the season, Martin went out a winner after the announcement that he was putting away his broom in exchange for a microphone.

Martin will be joining SportsNet next year as both a broadcast analyst and official spokesperson for the Grand Slam of Curling series.  The Slam will also expand to five events with a new event, the Elite 10, joining the Masters, National, Canadian Open and Players' Championships. Total prize money will be increasing to a total minimum of $700,000, with the $1 million bonus still available to the men's team who can win all five Slams in a season.

Sportsnet's curling broadcast coverage will increase to up to 200 hours for next season, with the Grand Slam events as well as the Alberta, B.C., Manitoba and Ontario Provincial Curling Championships.

According to Sportsnet, in addition to serving as a broadcast insider and analyst, Martin will help to shape the future of the Grand Slam of Curling, working with the players, communities and sponsors.

They need a replacement for Richard Hart, who is going in the opposite direction of Martin - exchanging his microphone for his broom as he comes out of retirement to curl with Glenn Howard next season. Not a bad finish for Martin – he shot 98% in the Championship final.

Sportsnet has owned and operated the Grand Slam of Curling since 2012 and it has been interesting to watch the rise in popularity of the World Curling Tour events. Hours of coverage continue to increase, and ratings for events like the Brier are also doing well, while in-person attendance at events like the Brier continues to suffer.

Are we all getting used to watching curling from the comfort of our couches and now prefer that to watching in person?

Around the Dial 

In the last week, I've gotten a chuckle at all the Habs and Pens fans who have told me in the most sincere manner how much they are cheering for the Red Wings. Being naturally suspicious, I wonder if it is because they hate the Bruins? … I wondered why the women's Players' Championship Grand Slam event was televised Sunday in prime time after the men's. Duh. Then I realized it was a repeat from the morning. Interesting that Sportsnet would replay it, unless they figured it would draw viewers in that prime-time slot…The Grand Slam finals seemed like replays as Martin and Jennifer Jones won. Again.

Send in your thoughts and follow me on Twitter @Ardith_S


PATS LONG-TIME THERAPIST GETS NEW DEAL

Regina, Saskatchewan – Regina Pats Senior VP and General Manager Chad Lang announced today the team has signed Athletic Therapist and Equipment Manager Greg Mayer to a contract extension.

“It’s always nice to get things done (early) and get a little bit of peace of mind,” said Greg Mayer.  “You’re always wondering, and hopefully you’ve done enough to earn another contract.  I’ve been here a long time and I don’t plan on going anywhere so it’s nice that (the Pats) want me back.”

Mayer is the longest serving member of the Pats hockey operations staff, joining the Blue and White in 2004.  With 17 years of experience in the WHL, he is fourth among those in his position for time in the league.

“We are glad to have Greg return for his eleventh season with the Pats,” commented Chad Lang.  “He plays a valuable role within our hockey operations staff.  Greg’s medical knowledge regarding our players is important and we believe continuity is vital for our organization to continue taking strides forward.”

Mayer served as a trainer with Team Canada U-18 (2000) and World Juniors (2001, 2010) and has assisted the Saskatchewan Roughriders during their Training Camp the past three years.

REGINA PRODUCT SIGNS NHL DEAL

Swift Current, SK – The New Jersey Devils announced Tuesday that they have signed Swift Current Broncos graduate Graham Black to an entry-level contract.
 
Black, a Regina, SK product, was selected by the Devils in the 5th round, 135th overall, of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.  The 6', 184-pound Regina, SK product recorded a team-leading and career-best 97 points (34G,63A) in 69 games played with the Broncos this season.  In his WHL career, he posted 199 points (76G, 123A) in 214 games played (all with the Swift Current Broncos).
 
Black recently joined the Albany Devils of the American Hockey League, where he recorded a plus-1 rating in two games played.
 
The Swift Current Broncos would like to congratulate Graham on this incredible, yet well-deserved milestone in his hockey career.

TICATS STADIUM NEWS

HAMILTON - The Hamilton Tiger-Cats provided a wide-ranging update about the state of the franchise and fan experience at Tim Hortons Field on Tuesday.

TIGER-CATS MAKING SIGNIFICANT INVESTMENT IN TIM HORTONS FIELD

The Tiger-Cats will invest at least $5 million in capital expenditures to improve the fan and player experience at Tim Hortons Field.

A continual commitment to providing every advantage to our football team will see the Tiger-Cats invest significantly in all aspects of the football experience for our players and coaches. From the locker rooms, to the medical and therapeutic programs, to improved nutrition, strength and conditioning facilities, the players and coaches will have everything they need in a world-class facility.

The Tiger-Cats will also be investing in everything that will ensure Tim Hortons Field has an unsurpassed fan experience, including improved technology, gameday entertainment, customer service and more.

PREMIUM SEATING AREAS AND SEVERAL SECTIONS SOLD OUT

Anticipation for the upcoming season at Tim Hortons Field has already generated strong season seat sales results:

· All 30 private suites on the Scotiabank Premier Suite Level are SOLD OUT.

· The entire Club Level is SOLD OUT.

· Both the upper and lower levels of the Coors Light Patio in the north end zone are SOLD OUT.

· The Seagram Touchdown Lounge, located in the south end zone, is SOLD OUT.

All available season seats in the platinum, red and green sections are SOLD OUT.  While limited tickets are available at other price points, fans can secure their season seats for the Inaugural Season at Tim Hortons Field for as low as $240.

"We're very encouraged by our sales to date -- fans are clearly excited to be a part of the Inaugural Season at Tim Hortons Field," said President and Chief Operating Officer Glenn Gibson. "We have sold out of 11 of 15 price points and expect to sell close to 5,000 new season seats by the end of June. We plan on capping season seat sales at just over 16,000 and clearly we are on the verge of achieving that goal."

Gibson continued, "While some great seating options are still available, we don't expect them to be on the market for long. Fans who wish to guarantee their spot at Tim Hortons Field should purchase their seats immediately."

LEGACY WALL TO COMMEMORATE INAUGURAL SEASON


To show gratitude for the overwhelming support demonstrated by season seat holders and corporate partners, the Ticats have commissioned the creation of a Legacy Wall to commemorate the Inaugural Season at Tim Hortons Field.  The Legacy Wall will be prominently displayed within the stadium and feature the names of all season seat account holders who are a part of this historic first season.

Fans that purchase their season seats by June 30, 2014 will have the opportunity to have their name etched on the Legacy Wall, which will be unveiled prior to the final home game of the season.
Additional information about the Legacy Wall can be found on Ticats.ca.

OVER 4,000 PARKING SPOTS AVAILABLE IN STADIUM PRECINCT

Through collaborations with the City of Hamilton, ArcelorMittal Dofasco, local school boards and other third-parties, the Ticats will facilitate the use of over 4,000 parking spots within a 12-minute walk of Tim Hortons Field - over five times the amount of spots the team controlled in 2012.

A comprehensive parking guide will be located on Ticats.ca to help fans identify over 4,000 parking opportunities on gamedays. Pre-reserved parking spaces will be available for season seat holders to purchase in mid-May.


MORE ON RYAN SMITH

By: Eric Grover
Wahpeton (N.D.) Daily News

Former Wahpeton Huskies and North Dakota State University football standout Ryan Smith is on to the professional level, signing a one-year deal with a second-year club option with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, the defending Grey Cup champions of the Canadian Football League.

"It was always my dream but I didn't know if it would become a reality. It just shows that if you work your butt off, hard work pays off. It's crazy. It's just really crazy," Smith said. "I think it's a great opportunity for me to play football again. That's all I was asking for the whole time — another opportunity. Talking with my family, it's what I think I need to do. I'm looking forward to going up there and making the team."

Primarily used as a running back while wearing the purple and gold, Smith was a two-time All-State selection for the Huskies and holds nine school records, including Most Rushing Yards in a season (2,781), Total Offense in a season (2,893 yards) and Rushing Touchdowns in a season (40). His work ethic began back then, said Smith's high school coach Mike McCall, the current school athletic director.

"When he came up as a freshman he was an undersized kid with great speed. He's made his living doing the things others said he couldn't do. He had a tremendous work ethic and put in the time to get better," McCall said. "To see him continue his career at the next level is exciting and I think he'll do very well up there."

Converted to a wide receiver in college, Smith was also a part of three consecutive national championships for the Bison in football, capping off his senior season with an undefeated record.

He finished his collegiate career with 1,783 yards and eight touchdowns on 147 receptions, as well as 271 yards and three touchdowns on 32 rushing attempts. Smith was a three-time All-Missouri Valley Football Conference second team selection.

Shortly after the conclusion of the college season in January, he began working out again, getting ready for pro teams to give him a look.

"I started reaching out to some NFL and CFL teams," said Smith's agent, Reed Duchscher, a former NDSU football player himself. "Saskatchewan showed interest and Ryan was interested because he could play football right away at his position. He didn't want to go to the NFL and play in 10 plays a game on special teams. He wanted to play 60 plays as a kick returner and wide receiver."

Smith was invited to the Roughriders minicamp in Florida, held April 4-6. A little more than a week later, he was offered a deal.

"Before you know it, I was signing a contract with the Saskatchewan Roughriders," Smith said.
"When he got to mini-camp, their eyes got a little wider. Whether he starts or not is going to be decided in fall camp. He's going to have to compete for the job," Duchscher said. "But they see him playing a big role offensively in their future."

Details of the contract are not being disclosed per CFL rules, Duchscher said. But if Smith didn't have enough motivation already, he will be able to renegotiate terms at the end of the upcoming season, which begins in June.

Since winning his third national championship in January, Smith said the process of turning professional has been a difficult, but worthwhile journey.

"It's been a really fun process, going through workouts and pro days, signing an agent and going to minicamp, signing a contract," he said. "The steps keep on getting bigger and it's been a great ride. It's been hectic, but overall pretty fun."

Smith, who is majoring in business administration at NDSU, will finish his degree in the summer with online classes. Smith said he's been up to Canada before, but not Regina, Saskatchewan, where the team is based. The CFL offers small differences between NFL and NCAA play, including a wider, longer field and 12 players per side.

"It's just like any other game. You'll have to adjust. But I'm just going to go out there and play football. You have to love and enjoy it," Smith said. "... They're a very successful organization and won the Grey Cup last year. I'm excited to get up there and start working."

(http://m.wahpetondailynews.com/mobile/sports/article_06853206-c640-11e3-8d76-0019bb2963f4.html)



Monday, April 21, 2014

TICATS LINEMAN APPEARS ON JEOPARDY

Canada's smartest person knows better than to rush back from injury.

Peter Dyakowski is easily handling stairs and weighted squats five months after suffering a serious knee injury in the 2013 Grey Cup. Despite his progress following surgery for a torn patellar tendon, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats offensive lineman doesn't expect to be ready for the start of training camp June 1.

"I'll be there and active but I'm not going to be close to contact,'' Dyakowski said in an interview. "I'm working on jogging the rest of this month and in May I'll be running and getting into football drills.

"But with this injury, caution is very important to keep in mind. I want to be back playing better than I did before, that's my goal and motivation here.''

The six-foot-five, 325-pound Dyakowski has been a solid performer for the Ticats. He was their 2011 nominee for the CFL's top lineman award and the following season claimed East Division and CFLPA all-star honours.

And last year, Dyakowski played in his first Grey Cup. But it wasn't necessarily a positive experience as Hamilton not only lost 45-23 to the hometown Saskatchewan Roughriders but Dyakowski left the game on a stretcher before halftime due to his injury.

"When I woke up that morning, I was about to be a Grey Cup champion,'' he said. "Just before halftime I'm loaded up on my right leg pushing on (Riders' defensive tackle) Keith Shologan with everything I've got and I get hit right in the back of the knee.

"You're supposed to get hurt, it happens to everyone but being carted off the field an unable to walk off was probably one of the most embarrassing, shameful moments of my life. I felt awful.''

Four days later Dyakowski has surgery. Then the real fun began.

"The first couple of months were brutal, I was horizontal for the most part,'' he said. "Now I'm doing several days a week at the Ticats' headquarters and a couple days at McMaster because they have an underwater treadmill and it's really coming along.

"I've got a bit more time ahead of me than behind but I feel like I'm closer to the finish than the start.''

When Dyakowski returns to Hamilton's lineup, he won't have teammate Marwan Hage to lean on. The 10-year veteran centre retired this week, four months after being selected by Ottawa in the CFL expansion draft.

"It's going to be different because aside from a couple times where one of us was injured, I've played my entire seven years here next to Marwan,'' Dyakowski said. "Over the years I learned a lot from him so I'll be a better player for it even though he's gone.''

But the fun-loving 29-year-old Vancouver native is more than just muscle and brawn. In 2012, Dyakowski won CBC's "Canada's Smartest Person'' show, beating out contestants in six categories of intelligence: musical, physical, social, logical, visual and linguistic.

"Canada's Smartest Person'' returns this year as a weekly series and Dyakowski says he's living proof anyone can win.

"In some ways I personified that whole idea,'' said Dyakowski, who won't be defending his title on the show. "It was vindication, of sorts, that we football players aren't all that dumb.''

Then again, Dyakowski isn't a typical jock. He attended LSU, a traditional NCAA football powerhouse, on an athletic scholarship while majoring in mechanical engineering. In his third year Dyakowski had to switch to history and geography because football commitments prevented him from booking engineering labs, which were required for third- and fourth-year classes.

"I started out with high aspirations, I was going to build bridges and machines,'' he said. "But football, especially in the SEC, is a year-round, full-time job and we didn't really have any time after noon to book classes and the engineering labs are only given in the afternoon.

"So I was either looking at puttering around for my five years there taking courses I didn't need or biting the bullet and changing my major so I changed to history and geography. I should've stayed in hard science in hindsight but I love history and figured I might as well pick something I love.''

Dyakowski's success on "Canada's Smartest Person,'' is further proof in football circles that offensive linemen are the most cerebral players.

"I went just for fun,'' he said. "I had a friend say, 'You should try out for this show, 'Canada's Smartest Person,' and I thought, 'It's going to be embarrassing but why not?'

"When I won it, it was a total surprise.''

Dyakowski isn't done testing his wits on television. He was recently a contestant on "Jeopardy.''

"(Host Alex Trebek) is a Ticats fan so it was kind of cool,'' Dyakowski said. "One of the really neat things was at the start when they say, 'This is Jeopardy,' actually seeing the guy (announcer Johnny Gilbert) doing it live because I always thought it was a recording.

"It's very reassuring, very comforting to hear this familiar voice and see this kind, grandfatherly type figure saying it.''

So how did Dyakowski fare?

"I'm contractually obligated to maintain strict silence officially,'' said Dyakowski, who will appear on the show in June. "However, I will say it was a lot of fun and I'll have many stories when the time is right.

"Unfortunately, there were no categories about Tim Hortons pastries. I think the other contestants would've cried foul if those had come up.''

Possessing a superior intellect has allowed Dyakowski to take a unique approach to dealing with trash talk on the football field.

"I try to maintain a certain level of composure and have fun with that,'' he said. "I try to be very creative and target deep-seeded psychological anxieties that my opponents may have and exploit it.

"Comments about their weight, for example, and they're self-conscious for the rest of the game and worried if the cameras are picking up them in an unflattering light. Before they know it, they're messing with their jersey and not thinking about sacking the quarterback. I also try to think up good nicknames and a few good comments. I go for humour and it's usually appreciated by the opposition. Occasionally, though, you'll meet a guy without a sense of humour.''

(Canadian Press)

PATCHAT

Pats in the Pros
It didn't take long for Chandler Stephenson to get himself into the goal column with the Hershey Bears.  Stephenson scored in the first period of his first game with the Washington Capitals' affiliate.  Unfortunately for Stephenson and Pats Captain Kyle Burroughs, both their AHL seasons came to a close this week with Hershey and Bridgeport respectively.  Burroughs played nine games with the New York Islanders affiliate Sound Tigers.  Morgan Klimchuk's season will extend into the playoffs with the Abbotsford Heat.
 
Kammerer at the World U18 Championships
Pats forward Maximilian Kammerer is in action at the World U18 Championships this week in Finland.  The Pats' 2nd Round pick in the 2013 CHL Import Draft leads Team Germany with three points (2G, 1A) in three games at the tournament.  Germany is still looking for its first win having lost to Slovakia, Canada and Russia.
 
Telus Cup
Canada's National Midget Hockey Championship gets going today in Moose Jaw. The top six teams from across the country meet at Mosaic Place with Saskatchewan being represented by the Prince Albert Mintos and host Moose Jaw Generals.  The Pats have a pair of prospects in action with Rykr Cole (Moose Jaw) and Liam Finlay (Okanagan).
 
17th Annual Pats Wickenheiser Golf Classic
Last week the Pats announced the 17th Annual Pats Wickenheiser Golf Classic coming up Monday, June 16th at the Deer Valley Golf Course.  Entry into the tournament is $325 which includes a catered lunch and supper, all on course activities and a limited edition Pats golf bag (retail value $200).  To register, fill out the attached registration form and email it to pats@reginapats.com, drop it off at the Pats Office or call 306-522-7287 before May 30th.

Important Dates
Wednesday, April 30th – Season Ticket Early Bird Deadline/WHL Awards Luncheon
Thursday, May 1st – WHL Draft
Friday, May 30th – 17th Annual Wickenheiser Golf Classic Registration Deadline
Monday, June 16th – 17th Annual Wickenheiser Golf Classic

(Courtesy Daniel Fink/Pats PR)

DAYTONA HOMES MONDAY MORNING GOALIE

LAS VEGAS -- The placeline of today's column is Las Vegas, Nevada because that's where it was written.  However we're now home from Sin City and ready to put the pedal to the metal for the next six weeks or so until Roughrider season begins.  Or 41 more excruciating days.  We'll try to count it down each Monday morning until the players hit the field in Saskatoon on June 1.

What a fabulous April it has been for the MMG by the way.  Beginning with the Roughriders minicamp in Florida and followed by the Harvard Broadcasting annual getaway to Las Vegas, I got to spend 14 of 16 April days in the sunshine.  Now back to reality.

Frankly I hadn't planned on posting much of a photo-blog from our most recent trip because I thought perhaps it was getting old after all these years.  However several readers wrote in asking for some shots so I'm only too glad to oblige.  As always, you are the ones who keep this website going.  And can you believe we passed the eight year anniversary of this blog on March 19?  It came and went with no fanfare.  I always forget it.  One of these years I'll mark it in my calendar.  Anyway, here goes:


This was homebase for the week; Planet Hollywood.  This nice young lady provided service by the pool on those sunny days.  Over her shoulder you'll see an ad for Britney Spears, who's appearing THIS week!  Can't believe we missed her.


For some reason we spent a big chunk of our time here at the Venetian.  Faith Hill and Tim McGraw finished up their long run while we were here, but we did not attend.  These are pretty clear shots off of my Prairie Mobile smartphone.


The Hooters pool.  One of Las Vegas's best-kept secrets.  You don't have to pay for a recliner, drinks are cheap and blackjack is only $3 per hand.  Too bad I don't gamble!  However it was paradise for an afternoon.  But it wasn't so great that evening when they would only put one hockey game on and it wasn't the one we wanted.  Las Vegas never was a hockey town.


A beautiful setting along the Las Vegas Strip.  Singer Ryan Maloney (you may know him from The Voice) entertains visitors at Cabo Wabo while the Bellagio water show goes off across the street.  This is the restaurant/bar where former Rider punter Eddie Johnson used to work.  More on Eddie later in the column.


If you want to watch hockey in Las Vegas, you've got to head to a Sports Book in one of the hotels.  This was a hockey fan's paradise at the Bellagio, even if I was one of the few watching night #2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  These boys know how to televise sports...


Things got a little goofy on Fremont Street one day.  This is older Las Vegas where we took a detour for an afternoon.  You'd have to see it to believe it.  Mrs. SportsCage didn't think I should post this shot but what the heck.  We're showing you what this city's about.


The jaw-dropping aquarium in the lobby of the Golden Nugget.  We broadcast the SportsCage from here one afternoon.


Here's a shot for Phil Andrews and Eddie Johnson.  This is at one end of Fremont Street.  As Mrs. SportsCage said, "Your kinda place".


This is one of the more famous sportsbars on the Strip, the Legasse Stadium in the Palazzo hotel.  It's the largest sportsbar in America and it features this stadium-style seating.  However it never really turned my crank.


Now this place did get me excited.  This isn't a recent photo but it's Rider great Ray Elgaard with some friends of mine from Milestone, SK last fall.  It was taken in the Rockhouse which is pretty much the official host bar of the Rider Nation in Las Vegas.  I found myself in there by accident last week and after speaking to the manager, we deduced this photo was taken pretty much right where we were standing.  You'll be hearing about the Rockhouse in the weeks and months ahead.  Remember the name...



Mrs. SportsCage with Bruce Willis.  Pretty cool..


In the Tri-Star Sports Memorabilia store in the Miracle Shops at Planet Hollywood, this helmet signed by the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks is one of the most-expensive items in the place.  If you look closely, you'll see Jon Ryan's signature right on top of the helmet.  Pro Football Hall of Famer was in attendance at Tri-Star on Friday selling autographs for $80 a pop.  I passed.  However Joe Montana and Jerry Rice will drop by later in April.  They come in once a month to soak the fans!

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POTSHOTS:

1 - IS IT REALLY ALWAYS THIS WAY?:  Every year we hear that the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is always the best round of the tournament and 2014 certainly has been no different.  A column in the Washington Post over the weekend surmised the Stanley Cup Playoffs feature "Cuban missile crisis intensity", particularly sudden death overtime, and the writer was bang on.

Take your pick for the top storylines: the seven-point explosion in two games by Avalanche whiz-kid Nathan MacKinnon, the implosion of the L.A. Kings in Games 1 and 2 against San Jose, the downright viciousness of the Chicago-St. Louis affair, the early playoff mastery of the Montreal Canadiens ... the hot topics are endless.

CBC's Don Cherry advised Blackhawks defenceman Duncan Keith to "smarten up" Saturday night while TSN's Adam Ward predicted Keith is deserving of a "fist to the face" for his antics.  The ferocity is palpable and no one is complaining about it.   Not yet anyways.

2 - PLEASE, SPARE US:  These Monday and Friday columns were designed for me to get things off my chest so here's one; it's aggravating to hear American NHL play-by-play men "teach" the game to their audience while calling the action.  It's one thing for the colour commentators to do it - that's their job - but the playcallers are describing the action right out of the rule book in order to "dumb it down" for the American viewers.

Don Cherry said it best a few years ago.  "They've had hockey in the States for 100 years," Cherry chirped.  "If they don't get it by now, they're not gonna."

You don't hear NBA play-by-play men doing this!  Not even in Canada.  They figure the viewers know the sport they're watching and there's no need for a tutorial, even come playoff time.

On another note, that Washington Post columnist opined that there's no entertaining panels on U.S. NHL broadcasts like the NBA features with TNT's Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith (who routinely make fun of teams, players and coaches).  The column scorned NBC's Jeremy Roenick and Mike Milbury however it applauded ESPN's Barry Melrose.  The two most famous mullets in the States belong to Melrose and Billy Ray Cyrus but somehow Barry has managed to make his work.

3 - MELROSE PLACE:  Kelvington, Saskatchewan's Barry Melrose truly is American's foremost expert on the NHL and, despite a brief tour of duty as Tampa Bay Lightning head coach, has carved out an excellent career as ESPN's number one hockey analyst over the past 20 years.  It's truly a shame we don't get his commentary in Canada, but I'm sure he's okay with it.  Over the weekend Melrose signalled out Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf for his gutsy effort in Games 1 and 2 against Dallas.  "That's a hockey player," Melrose advised.  "Good job Ryan".

4 - ONE MORE ON THE NBA:  Can someone please advise what decade this is?  The Charlotte Bobcats, Washington Wizards, Toronto Raptors, Portland Trailblazers and Golden State Warriors are all in the postseason tournament?  How did this happen?

5 - NICE JOB RIDS:  Broadcaster/bus driver Bob Ridley has been calling Medicine Hat Tigers games on 1270 CHAT for 44 years and reached a milestone on Sunday when he called the Tigers' 3-1 playoff loss at Edmonton.  It was Bob's 3,452nd broadcast which pulled him even with Hall of Fame Edmonton Oilers voice Rod Phillips for games-called with one franchise.  To quote former WHL referee Dennis Pottage, "That's a lotta hockey".

6 - NHL PLAYOFF TV COMMERCIALS:  Regina's Flaman Fitness must shoot the whole wad of their advertising budget during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  I think I counted five spots alone during Saturday's Pittsburgh-Columbus game.  And they're not cheesy ads either.  Meanwhile you may notice the latest "Just For Men" commercials during the NHL playoff broadcasts.  If you look closely, the ads feature former Saskatchewan Roughrider punter Eddie Johnson (pictured).  Eddie's one of those guys who drifts through life but will always do just fine for himself.  I'm glad to call him a friend.

7 - CATCHING UP ON THE CFL:  What were the big topics in the CFL over the past eight days?  Likely the Montreal Alouettes' signing of NFL bad boy Chad Johnson and the Roughriders' contract extension for Darian Durant.  One CFL fan said to me over the weekend regarding Johnson, "Do we really need to try this again?"  The colourful history of the CFL is dotted with all kinds of stories of wayward NFLers trying to resurrect their careers north of the border.  Andre Rison, Curtis Marsh and Ricky Williams immediately come to mind along with that renegade defensive lineman for Ottawa in the 1990s whose name escapes me at the moment.  An article in the States suggested Johnson's signing brings needed publicity to the CFL.  While I wouldn't go that far, I am excited to see Chad with the Als this season.

As for Durant's extension, he's the perfect face for the franchise.  Many Grey Cups are ahead.

8 - IT'S ALL ABOUT FOOTBALL:  They even joked about it on ESPN's daily coverage of the NFL last week, "There is no off-season".  The finest program on television right now is Jon Gruden's QB Camp on ESPN.  For the past couple of years the former NFL coach and current Monday Night Football analyst sits down with a top end college quarterback and they watch video together for the show before hitting the field for drills.  Last week the program featured Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel who's causing quite a headache for the Houston Texans who own the #1 pick in the draft.  Manziel's a Texas product with an eye-popping resume but also comes with a penchant for getting into trouble.  Gruden advised Houston to take "Johnny Manziel" at number one saying, "You want that club in your bag."

9 - NO INK FOR THIS KID:  While in Las Vegas I flirted with the notion of getting a tattoo featuring the initials of my wife and kids down my forearm.  The idea was flawed from the get-go since their initials are, in order, "C A C A".  However over a staff supper, CKRM's Perry Nyhus snuffed out the scheme saying, "You're a country boy through-and-through.  It's not you".

And with that, the plan was out the window.  He's right.

10 - QUOTE OF THE WEEK:  This one came from Perry Nyhus as well, the former host of the Nyhus Country Drive on 620 CKRM radio.  I congratulated Perry on 30 years with Harvard Broadcasting to which he quipped, "Even Thatcher got out after 25!"

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THAT'S ALL! SEE YOU IN THE CAGE MONDAY AT 4 PM
RP
@sportscage