Saturday, November 28, 2015
WINNIPEG - Commissioner Jeffrey Orridge continues to put his stamp on the CFL.
Orridge unveiled a new logo, slogan and marketing campaign for the league Friday at his first Grey Cup state-of-the-league address. The new logo consists of the block letters "CFL'' over a small maple leaf on a silver, football-shaped background with its new slogan, "What we're made of.''
Orridge's presentation also included a 90-second video that will run during the television broadcast of Sunday's game between the Ottawa Redblacks and the Edmonton Eskimos at Investors Group Field. The move is aimed at attracting a younger demographic.
"Our great fans will be the first to tell you: we need more fans and in particular, we need to attract the next generation of fans so this league is strong for years to come,'' Orridge told reporters. "The time has come to update and transform how we present ourselves.
"We're not asking our new fans or casual fans to join our already avid fans in the stands just because somehow it's their duty as Canadians. We're inviting them to join us because the product and the experience are fun, exciting, accessible and authentic. We are showcasing who and what we are today and we're looking to build for the future.''
Since being hired in March, Orridge has said attracting younger fans is a top priority. In May, the CFL partnered with Whistle Sports, a multi-channel digital network with millions of subscribers on various platforms including YouTube and Facebook.
These days, the CFL is on solid economic footing, thanks in large part to a lucrative, long-term TV deal with TSN. But attracting the next generation of fans remains very important. Orridge said league attendance remained stagnant this year with reports TV ratings dipped 15 per cent.
"While the league has come a long way ... it would be foolish and even irresponsible for us to ignore these rapidly changing landscapes and challenges,'' Orridge said. "We also have a lot of momentum with new stadiums in place and more on the way, some great, new young stars on the field, emerging technologies and the social dynamic that allows us to reach new fans in new ways and we need to capitalize on that.''
One team that struggled at the turnstiles this season was the Toronto Argonauts, who played four scheduled home games outside the GTA due to the Pan Am Games and scheduling issues at Rogers Centre. But next season, the Argos - who posted a 10-8 record to make the East Division playoffs - will be under new ownership (MLSE chairman Larry Tanenbaum and Bell) and play at a refurbished BMO Field.
"We can't assume these two things will automatically ensure the Argos, who've been strong for years now on the field, will be just as strong in business,'' Orridge said. "However there is tremendous potential for a new era for the Argos, and a new era we plan to mark with a tremendous Grey Cup in 2016 in Toronto.''
The CFL also adopted several significant rule changes this season, including pushing converts back 20 yards and moving up two-point attempts two yards. Another major move was preventing defensive backs from contacting receivers more than five yards downfield, giving pass-catchers a less obstructed path to the football.
The changes helped create an eight per cent boost in scoring (44.5 points per game this year compared to 37.7 in 2014) while shaving three minutes off the average length of games (two hours, 52 minutes).
One-point converts dipped to 85.5 per cent from 99.5 per cent while two-point attempts were successful 65.9 per cent of the time. But there was also a nine per cent spike in penalties that resulted in continued criticism of CFL officials, which Orridge felt was wrong.
"I wish everyone who watches our game was just as quick to acknowledge when a good call is made and when a good game is officiated,'' he said. "Overall our officials do a really difficult job very very well but I say to them ... our best can always get better and we'll always work to get better.''
Orridge said the league is always looking at improving itself and left the door open to the possibility of hiring American officials.
The CFL's most pressing issue was the health of its starting quarterbacks as seven-of-nine teams lost their starter and/or backup for significant portions of the season. Ottawa's Henry Burris, the league's outstanding player and oldest quarterback at age 40, was the only one to start all 18 regular-season games although Calgary's Bo Levi Mitchell made 17 straight starts before being rested in the Stampeders' regular-season finale.
"Injuries are part of any sport,'' Orridge said. "But the truth is this affected teams' ability to perform at their best and so it did affect our product.
"I plan to sit down with our teams, our football leaders, in the off-season and really examine this issue.''
Friday, November 27, 2015
The win by the Pats was their first at the ‘Dome since 2011.
Travis Sanheim forced overtime for Calgary, netting the equalizer with 14.2 seconds remaining in regulation. The Philadelphia Flyers prospect also added an assist in his first game back after missing nine contests with an injury.
Jakob Stukel netted a pair of goals for the Hitmen who saw their season-high seven game winning streak come to an end but the club has now picked up at least a point in eight consecutive games producing a record of 7-0-1-0.
Radel Fazleev had a pair of assists in the loss to improve his team-leading points total to 35 which is tied for eighth in the WHL scoring race.
The Pats (12-10-2) visit the Red Deer Rebels Saturday at 8:00 pm on 620 CKRM.
(Courtesy Calgary Hitmen)
“We have world class athletes doing amazing things. Our games are fun and social – the place to be on many nights. And we play in new and newly renovated venues. The time has come to update and transform how we present ourselves,” Jeffrey L. Orridge said as he delivered his State of the League address to media gathered in Winnipeg for the 103rd Grey Cup presented by Shaw.
“Our great fans will be the first to tell you: we need more fans. And in particular, we need to attract the next generation of fans, so this league is strong for years to come.”
Orridge, who assumed his duties as Commissioner last April 29, said this new approach puts the spotlight on what is true and best about the CFL today.
“It respects the past but really invites in our fans of the future,” Orridge said.
He said the CFL can do this now because it has considerable momentum, with new stadiums, emerging young stars, and new technologies in place that allow it to engage avid fans and reach new ones in new ways.
And the CFL needs to do this now because the sports and entertainment industry is rapidly changing and the CFL can’t ignore the challenges presented by those changes, Orridge said.
The Ottawa REDBLACKS meet the Edmonton Eskimos in the 103rd Grey Cup presented by Shaw – the championship game of Canadian professional football -- this Sunday at 6:30 pm ET. The game is broadcast on TSN and RDS in Canada and ESPN2 in the United States.
During his address, Orridge touched on several topics.
Scoring was up this year, by a touchdown per game, thanks in large measure to successful rule changes, but several starting quarterbacks were injured, hurting their teams’ chances and, at times, the product.
“We owe it to our fans and our product to sit down in the off-season to take a careful look at this,” Orridge said.
The CFL has developed a proposal, with the help of the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, which would strengthen the league’s drug policy and resume testing for performance enhancing drugs. The proposal is now with the Canadian Football League Players Association.
“We’ve worked hard to strengthen the policy I inherited, so we can work with a credible lab and in the best interests of the health and safety of our players, and the integrity of our game,” Orridge said.
News for the Argos
One of the highlights of the year was the announcement of new local owners – Bell Media and Larry Tannenbaum’s Kilmer Group – for the Toronto Argonauts, and a new home for the team at BMO Field in 2016.
“There is tremendous potential for a new era for the Argos,” Orridge said.
Penalties were up 9 per cent, or almost two flags per game. In 2014, they were up 18 per cent over the previous year.
“Overall, our officials do a difficult job very well. But I say to them and I say to you: our best can always be better, and we will always work to get better,” Orridge said.
The CFL enjoyed the strongest year in its history for partnership sales, with the exception of the year of the 100th Grey Cup.
“We signed tremendous new partners, including Shaw, the first ever presenting sponsor of the Grey Cup,” said Orridge, adding the league is looking forward to 2016 and the introduction of adidas as its’ official outfitter of on-field uniforms, apparel and headwear.
There were consistent sell outs in Hamilton and Ottawa, just a few years after people questioned the strength of the CFL in Ontario, but fluctuation and softness in some markets. Attendance year over year was unchanged.
The league is looking forward to new stadiums being added in Regina and Calgary, and the Argos moving to a renovated home in Toronto, on top of the new or refurbished venues now in place in several other CFL cities, Orridge said.
Audiences for the CFL on TSN and RDS were down about 15 per cent, according to some measurements, the product of what Orridge called “a kind of perfect storm”: unprecedented competition from the Pan Am Games, FIFA Women’s World Cup and the Blue Jays playoff run, which displaced the Argos, tough seasons in CFL strongholds Regina and Winnipeg, and changes in viewership habits that are affecting the television industry overall.
“I believe that the fact an average of nearly 600,000 fans watched each of our regular season games speaks to our resilience,” Orridge said.
“Still, we would be irresponsible if we didn’t take this seriously. I know we do and so does TSN and RDS.”
The new brand campaign is a sign the CFL is optimistic about the future, Orridge concluded.
“We can showcase what we are today because we have a strong story to tell,” he said.
“Transitions, and transformation are not always smooth. But a bit of turbulence is something you go through at times of gaining altitude,” Orridge said.
WINNIPEG - When we travel to these events we always like to make you feel like you're here right along with us so here's a Friday photoblog from 2015 Grey Cup Week. As you see by the front page of the newspaper, everyone's in the CFL spirit!
Riderville - the official host party of the Saskatchewan Roughriders - opened its doors at the Winnipeg Convention Centre on Thursday. CKRM's Luc Mullinder shows you the way...
Alex Runions - the favourite country act of Rider receiver Chris Getzlaf - was the first to take the stage at 5:00 pm on Thursday ...
The doors had literally just opened when we went in to snap a few pics ...
Need to take a load off? There's a spot to get off your feet at Riderville ...
This photo from the lounge at our hotel embodies the spirit of Grey Cup. Fans from a variety of teams got together to celebrate the Canadian Football League ...
The Convention Centre is the hub of all the activity and attracted these fans who were interviewed on local TV ...
The Calgary Stampeders Outriders were nice enough to pose for a photo ...
TSN's Milt Stegall and Jock Climie got corralled by the Grey Cup Fun Police which includes a former co-worker of mine, Dave Duncan (left) ...
TSN's Rod Smith and Chris Schultz do their thing ...
On TSN's Radio Row, Alouettes legend Anthony Calvillo stops by TSN 1040 Vancouver to chat with host Matt Sekeres ...
TSN's James Duthie will anchor this weekend's Grey Cup television coverage and popped into the SportsCage ...
So too did Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Drew Willy who was all dressed up for the CFL's Player Awards ...
Great to see former Roughrider Jeff Treftlin ...
The 620 CKRM Rider Pep Band stopped by our broadcast location to play a few numbers. The other radio station hosts weren't overly impressed with the interruption but we were!
The Canadian Football Hall of Fame has a great display set up just outside Riderville and it includes this impressive display of Grey Cup rings from over the years...
Keep it here for more coverage from Grey Cup Week in Winnipeg!
-- The time has come. Grey Cup 103 is upon us with the Edmonton Eskimos battling the Ottawa REDBLACKS. I don't think when teams got together for training camp in June that anyone had this matchup happening on Sunday. The Eskimos were in the equation for sure, but how could have anyone seen what was going to happen in Ottawa. Their rise to prominence in year 2 of existence is the story of the year in what has been a bad year for the CFL on a variety of levels.
While I do believe the Eskimos are the better team, I think Ottawa gets it done. I don't know why and I have no rhyme or reason when making this pick, but I think they somehow get it done even though they are outmatched just about everywhere except one thing. They have the experience on their side as guys like Henry Burris, Greg Ellingson, Keith Shologan and Zack Evans have been to the big game while the Eskimos feature a roster of players that mainly haven't been on this stage. I don't know how the REDBLACKS do it, but I say they do and I will say they do it by a score of 29-21 with Burris being named the MOP, Would that be enough for Burris to call it a career? I can't see that happening. If he does, there is a spot at TSN waiting for him.
-- There is a lot of talk about Greg Ellingson's TD on 2nd and 25 to win the Eastern final and how it is a play that will go down as one of the greatest in CFL history. Whoa, whoa, whoa! As great a play as that was by both Ellingson and Burris, if Edmonton wins it all Sunday night, that play means as much as Jose Bautista's homer against Texas in the deciding game of the American League Divisional Series and that is nothing. All it did was get you a little more time. Take nothing away from the play because it was fantastic and it was perhaps the biggest play in the short history of the REDBLACKS, but it doesn't mean a lot if Ottawa doesn't win, It gives you something to talk about, but it didn't get you what you wanted.
-- If the CFL is going to refer to non-imports as "nationals" now, don't you think it is dumb to still have a Top Canadian award, Why not call it the Top National? Here's a better idea, just go back to calling players who aren't imports either non-imports or Canadians.
-- Congrats to Henry Burris on being named the M-O-P. Some can argue the award would have gone to Zach Collaros had he not gotten hurt, but there is no denying the numbers the 40 year old put up. He deserves it.
-- Was it really just two years ago we were still celebrating the Riders win over Hamilton in the 2013 Grey Cup. The L-P's Rob Vanstone wrote a column this week asking if the cost was worth it after what was experienced in Riderville this season, I say absolutely. I also say this season would have seen the team make the playoffs if Darian Durant and Shea Emry do not get hurt in the opening half of the season. Would they have been playing on Sunday? NO! Would Corey Chamblin and Brendan Taman still have their jobs. YES!!---at least for now. Championships are special and they don't come easy. When that chance is there, you have to take it and hope everything falls into place. The euphoria of that night for Rider Nation is one I don't think many would give up if someone was to tell them what would happen two years later.
-- Who exactly is Brock Sunderland? His name is getting more and more press over the last few days regarding the much sought after GM vacancy here. I will be honest when I say I had not heard of him until the Gary Lawless report last weekend. Talk about flying under the radar.
-- I don't know what the bottom line was for the Grey Cup in Vancouver last year, but I do know Regina's 2013 Grey Cup meant over nine million dollars for the football club. It is safe to say the Bombers will turn a tidy profit, but is it a franchise-saving profit. I can't see the Bombers being in need of money because of the TSN deal and the benefits they are getting from Investors Group Field, but the product on the field has been sub-standard and that must be having some kind of impact on their bank account.
-- Johnny Manziel = Idiot. He got help and he still doesn't want to let go of his party-boy image even though it is costing him his NFL football career. The Cleveland Browns make Manziel their starter and this is how he thanks them. Johnny Football has probably played his last snap in the NFL for quite a while and he may have played his last snap period. A couple of weeks ago, NFL Radio was talking about him and wondering if he would be a quarterback who could end up in the CFL. I think Manziel could be outstanding north of the border if he could understand the game. The problem is I don't think he is mature enough at this time to even give it a shot. Then again, maybe he would be a perfect fit for the Cowboys and they have an opening at QB now.
-- I can't decide if the Eagles or Cowboys had a worse Thanksgiving. Both were absolutely brutal.
-- The Brett Favre/Bart Starr moment was just powerful! Starr is to Green Bay what Ron Lancaster is to Saskatchewan. Legend doesn't even start to describe it.
-- I wonder how Bill Belichick would respond if someone asked him the question of players having sex before the game that is asked at Grey Cup every year. I'd love to see it happen. I am thinking Pete Carroll would love the question. Most coaches are so stone-faced these days and many give cookie-cutter answers. This isn't a question where a cookie cutter answer is given.
-- Week 12 NFL Lock of the Week -- Cardinals over 49ers (yeah, going out on a limb there)
Week 12 NFL Upset of the Week -- Broncos over Patriots
-- The David Price rumours are flying, One day it is said he wants to come back to Toronto, the next day you hear he is too expensive for them. It is the same with many other players and teams. I don't know what the Blue Jays can give Price for a maximum deal in their budget, but I would consider it because of the talent that team will possess in 2016.
-- I am guessing it isn't easy being Todd McLellan these days. If it is frustrating to watch the Oilers play, I can't imagine how frustrating it must be coaching them, I think Todd knew going in that he had a major job in front of him, and I think he sees they are close and will be better when Connor McDavid gets back, but the amount of one goal games they are losing is maddening. Of course with the effort they gave in Carolina, the Edmonton Oil Kings might have beaten them, The trade spotlight is now apparently on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. I'd be OK with that.
-- Still with the Oilers, I was shocked to hear an assist by Nail Yakupov on Wednesday night was his 100th career point and that he is the leading scorer amongst players taken in the 2012 draft. I had to go back to see who went in the first round that year and it was the year of the defenceman as guys like Morgan Reilly, Griffin Reinhart, Olli Maatta and Derrick Pouliot were taken in the first round as were Filip Forsberg, Tomas Hertl and Teuvo Teravainen.
-- It's great to see the NBA coming to Regina with its all-star tour to promote the game that will be in Toronto. There are other leagues and events that could take note of what the "Association" is doing to help grow the game in this country. The event will be here December 3-6 at various spots across the city with some clinics and a lot of other things being held.
--That's all I got. Have a great weekend! Enjoy the game!
Thursday, November 26, 2015
WINNIPEG - Henry Burris and the Ottawa Redblacks dominated the CFL awards banquet Thursday night.
The 40-year-old quarterback was named the CFL's outstanding player for the second time and also received the Tom Pate award for community service. Burris shared the spotlight at the Club Regent Casino with Ottawa coach Rick Campbell (coach of the year), receiver Brad Sinopoli (top Canadian) and tackle SirVincent Rogers (top lineman).
Hugh Campbell was the '79 coach of the year with Edmonton, making the Campbells the first father-son winners in CFL history.
With his parents, wife and two young sons looking on, Burris immediately paid tribute to family.
"To go through the tough first season trying to build a new product in the capital city, we went through a lot of heartache,'' he said. "That's stuff that can be hard on a family at home.
"For my wife, Nicole, to be able to handle all the stresses of raising two knucklehead sons by herself, I mean, wow. She's my rock, she makes me the man I am today and when I was being a knucklehead myself she stood by my side throughout this entire journey.''
On Sunday, Burris and Co. face the Edmonton Eskimos in the Grey Cup. Awards voting was conducted by 75 members of the Football Reporters of Canada.
Other winners included B.C. Lions linebacker Adam Bighill (defensive player), Hamilton Tiger-Cats' kick-returner Brandon Banks (special-teams player) and Edmonton receiver Derel Walker (rookie). Bernie Custis, 87, who in 1951 became pro football's first black starting quarterback with Hamilton, received the Commissioner's award while Montreal Alouettes tackle Jeff Perrett claimed the Jack Gaudaur Veterans' trophy.
Burris had a CFL-record 481 completions and led the league in passing with 5,703 yards. He won his first outstanding player honour in 2010 with Calgary.
Burris also helped Ottawa (12-6) engineer an amazing turnaround, finishing atop the East Division standings after winning just two games in its inaugural 2-14 campaign. Burris had twice as many TD passes (26) as interceptions after throwing more picks (14) than touchdowns (11) last year.
"The bottom line I couldn't do this without my teammates, I can't do this without the coaching staff, I can't do this without the personnel staff, our owners, fans,'' Burris said. "To bring in a guy like (offensive co-ordinator) Jason Maas, a guy who was my adversary, my foe for so many years ... whoever thought he was the best thing in disguise for me waiting to happen in the future.
"It's been an amazing journey for me this year on probably one of the best teams I've ever played for and one of the best group of guys I've ever played with. That's what the power of team can be all about because a quarterback can't do it all by himself.''
Calgary Stampeders quaterback Bo Levi Mitchell, the 2014 Grey Cup MVP, was the finalist.
Sinopoli, a native of Peterborough, Ont., won the Hec Crighton Trophy as a quarterback at the University of Ottawa. Sinopoli was the CFL's top Canadian receiver with 1,035 yards on 86 receptions with a league-high 471 yards after the catch in his first season with the Redblacks.
"I've been a CFL fan ever since I can remember,'' Sinopoli said. "To be in this league, I am so thankful about it.''
Jamaal Westerman of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, a New York native who grew up in Brampton, Ont., was the finalist.
The six-foot-four, 319-pound Rogers was a key off-season pickup for Ottawa, starting all 18 games at left tackle protecting Burris's blind side. B.C.'s Jovan Olafioye, the 2012 award winner, was the finalist.
Rogers thanked each of his offensive line teammates by name and also paid tribute to his mother, Alfrieda, who died in 2011.
"I know she would be proud,'' Rogers said. "Thank you mom, I'm still trying to go hard.''
Chris Jones was the coach-of-the-year finalist after Edmonton finished tied with Calgary for the league's best mark of 14-4 but secured top spot in the West after winning the season series.
"Chris, congratulations on your great year, I hope it ends badly,'' Campbell said with a smile. "Wow, this is wild.
"This isn't my award. We all know football is the ultimate team game.''
Bighill becomes the second straight Lion to be named top defensive player after teammate Solomon Elimimian won it last year as well as the CFL's outstanding player award. Bighill recorded a CFL- and career-high 121 tackles this season while adding four sacks, an interception and fumble recovery.
"Wow,'' Bighill said. "The last five years I've been living my dream and I have to thank the B.C. Lions for that.
"For all young people, don't let anyone determine what you can do ... don't let anyone tell you that you can't do something.''
Hamilton linebacker Simoni Lawrence was the finalist.
Banks had four punt-return TDs, one shy of the league mark. The five-foot-seven 153-pound dynamo was third overall in all-purpose yards (2,073) and punt return yards (930) and became the first CFL player to return a missed convert for a score.
"I just want to thank the CFL and my team and coaching staff for putting me in a great position to be successful,'' he said. "Last but not least, I want to thank my teammates.
"Without them I can't run a punt or kick back. I hate getting touched and they do a great job of keeping me from being hit.''
Calgary kicker Rene Paredes, the 2013 award winner, was the finalist.
Walker enjoyed a stellar first season with 89 catches (Edmonton rookie record) for 1,110 yards and six TDs despite playing only 12 games (10 starts). Toronto's Vidal Hazelton was the finalist.
Walker said when his opportunity to play came, he was ready although he added he required time to adjust to the Canadian game.
"I feel they developed me when I was on the practice roster,'' he said. "I was learning the system because it's clearly different than American football.
"Opportunities don't come along too often so you have to hit the ground running'.'
|Ottawa DC Mark Nelson inspects the Grey Cup|
Ottawa's defensive linemen and linebackers are dubbed Capital Punishment. The defensive secondary is known as D Block.
"There is definitely the same swagger but we go about things a little bit differently than D Block does,'' explained six-foot-two 251-pound defensive lineman Shawn Lemon.
"Capital Punishment is a little more hands on,'' he added with a menacing smile.
While the Edmonton Eskimos and head coach Chris Jones, a defensive guru, have occupied most of the defensive spotlight going into Sunday's Grey Cup, the Redblacks have their own defensive chops.
Overseeing the Ottawa defence on the sidelines - with help from head coach Rick Campbell - is veteran co-ordinator Mark Nelson.
Nelson, a Nick Nolte lookalike complete with gravelly voice, is old-school football through and through.
"An old, tough ball coach type of guy,'' said linebacker Damaso Munoz. "He's a great coach, man, and I'm happy to play for him.''
His late father, offensive tackle Roger Nelson, is on the Eskimos Wall of Honour. He played 13 seasons for Edmonton between 1954 and 1967, was named the league's Most Outstanding Lineman in 1959 and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1985.
Mark Nelson made his CFL debut in 1980 with Calgary, playing six seasons as linebacker and fullback before retiring in 1987 with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
His oldest son Kyle Nelson, one of his kids, is a long snapper for the San Francisco 49ers.
Campbell brought Mark Nelson to Ottawa. They met in 2006 and worked together in Winnipeg and Edmonton.
"The players believe in him,'' said Campbell. "He was a player and gets what it's like being a player, interacts well with them.''
Nelson, who manages to come across as a craggy but youthful 59 year-old, is equally complimentary about his 44-year-old boss.
"Not very often have I heard a coach just talking to his players and at the end the players start clapping,'' he said.
Campbell's forte as an assistant coach was defence and special teams although he has worked with the offence.
"Football is his speciality ... he has an unbelievable football mind,'' said Nelson.
"I don't like to compare him to his father but Hugh Campbell was always ahead of people and Rick Campbell is the same way,'' he added. "He's ahead of everybody.''
Nelson plays down his own contribution.
"I always tell people I've never really worked. I played and then when I couldn't fool them any more that I could play good, I thought, 'Well shoot I'll coach.' I've been fooling them since.''
Nelson, a native of Edmonton who won Grey Cups as an assistant coach in 1993 with the Eskimos and 1996 with the Argonauts, says the Ottawa defence is more than the sum of its parts.
"We're slowly getting better,'' he said.
"We may not be the best in everything but as a unit we really play hard - and play for each other, as corny as that sounds.''
Nelson's resume reads like a bus route. He estimates there have been 16 stops. Home is now Ottawa although the family has a base in Tulsa, Okla.
"I've moved a little bit,'' he acknowledged with a chuckle.
"I was always told when they chase you out of town, make it look like you're leading like a parade.''
Nelson says some of his defence's statistical pluses are simply due to the good play of the offence or special teams, allowing his charges to rest.
Ottawa led the league in sacks (62) and was No. 1 against the rush (70.8 yards a game allowed). No team was stingier than the Redblacks when it came to net yards offence allowed (297.6 yards a game).
Edmonton allowed the fewest points (341) and was No. 1 in pass defence (245.2 yards a game).
Lemon is unimpressed.
"I know our defence is better than theirs,'' he said matter-of-factly. "I'll take the group of DBs we have over theirs any day. I'll take the group of linebackers we have any day. And I'll most definitely take our D-line over them every day.''
The Eskimos led the league in total yards allowed per game (321.8), with the Redblacks second (322.8).
"They have a yard over us,'' said Munoz, a Rutgers alumnus who plays bigger than his listing of 5-11 and 219 pounds. "It's going to be a tough match. It's going to be about a yard type of game.''
2015 GREY CUP NOTEBOOK
1. WINNIPEG -- 2015 Grey Cup festivities officially got underway in the Manitoba capital Wednesday morning with the annual Coaches News Conference featuring Edmonton's Chris Jones and Ottawa's Rick Campbell. We were making the five hour drive from Regina during the gathering so we had to miss it, but it seemed like there were a lot of laughs to be had. Many came from the traditional question from the Edmonton Sun's Terry Jones regarding whether the coaches will allow their players to have sex during Grey Cup Week. The quotes are contained in a post below but, honestly, many feel it's time to shelve that time-honoured quiry. It definitely makes everyone uncomfortable however in the 14 Grey Cups I've been lucky enough to cover and attend, Rider coach Corey Chamblin's response in 2013 is still by far the best. "I told them if they win the Grey Cup, they'll have lots of sex," Chamblin quipped two years ago. "Yep." I'm sure he was right.
2. GETTING IN THE SWING OF THINGS: It seems as though when we get to Grey Cup on Thursday it feels like we've missed something however when he hit town on the Wednesday, it's too soon. That appeared to be the case this time around as the Winnipeg Convention Centre - the hub of the week's activities - was virtually a ghost town yesterday other than facility staff setting up for the various parties, souvenir booths and the TSN set. However Wednesday's SportsCage was a roaring success on 620 CKRM as we were joined by former Roughriders defensive back Jeff Treftlin (1989 Grey Cup champ), Ottawa RedBlacks colour commentator Jeff Avery (1976 Grey Cup champ), and our regular Wednesday guests in Paul Lapolice and Jim Lang. We'll be situated on "Radio Row" alongside all TSN Radio affiliate stations through Friday and I'll take this time to thank TSN for extending the invitation to be part of their impressive group.
3. THE RADIO BROADCAST: 620 CKRM is the official Voice of the Grey Cup and we'll be carrying Sunday's proceedings beginning with the pregame show at 1:00 pm followed by kickoff from Investors Group Field at 6:00 pm. Rod Black will call the play-by-play on radio alongside colour man Giulio Caravatta of the B.C. Lions while Chris Cuthbert and Glen Suitor will have the call on television. The pregame show will consist of various TSN Radio personalities from across the CFL.
|Lawless & Odell Willis at the WBB Media Party|
I'm not sure how many attendees thanked Wade Miller for the bash but I was sure to shake his hand before leaving at 10:00 pm along with Stampeders play-by-play man Mark Stephen and Luc. Hopefully at 2016 Grey Cup in Toronto, Argonauts President Michael Copeland continues the tradition.
5. THE RUMOURS: The rumours were flying fast and furious at Wednesday night's party, as you can well imagine when the CFL media gets together. The Roughriders' General Manager search was certainly the #1 topic however I discovered the origin of the Chris Jones-to-Saskatchewan gossip and let me just say it's baseless. I'd be SHOCKED if Jones winds up in Saskatchewan, and equally surprised if he's interviewed. It's generally agreed upon by reporters that current interim GM Jeremy O'Day has the inside track however John Hunfagel's name was on most everyone's lips. The Stampeders' Mark Stephen is adamant Hufnagel isn't going anywhere, citing the fact "Huf gave his word" twice that he's under contract in Calgary and plans to honour it through 2016. However I don't feel it's been put to bed yet but if the Stampeders President refuses to grant permission for the Riders to even talk to Hufnagel, the whole idea could be dead in the water.
The juiciest rumour I heard was that former Rougrhriders coach Corey Chamblin could be in line to replace Casey Creehan as defensive coordinator of the Toronto Argonauts.
Head coach Jeff Tedford's status with the B.C. Lions is very much up in the air, and not just because news broke this week he's been contacted by NCAA teams about returning Stateside. Apparently Tedford's first season in Vancouver was a rocky one and he wasn't given a ringing endorsement by GM Wally Buono at the year-end news conference.
And one of the most popular questions at Grey Cup is: will TSN's Paul Lapolice be coaching anywhere in 2016? There could be an opening in B.C., we know there's one in Saskatchewan, or he may even find himself as offensive coordinator where he lives, right here in Winnipeg. Many feel Lapolice is content being a star on TSN's CFL coverage but in every discussion I've had with the New Hampshire product, he wants to be back on the sidelines.
|Jutras posing with her book Wednesday night|
7. THE WEATHER: So far most everyone is complaining about the weather but the windy, minus-5 conditions are nothing compared to what we endured at the 2013 Grey Cup in Regina. B.C. Lions fullback Rolly Lumbala Tweeted on Wednesday: "Just landed in Winnipeg for Grey Cup!! Bitter sweet and bitter COLD!!!!! #LOVETHE CFL" In truth, it's not bitter at all. You can get around in a sportscoat whereas in Regina you'd have died, literally, without a parka. Thursday is forecast to be the coldest day of the week at minus-9 while game day on Sunday figures to be partly cloudy and minus-5. That's balmy compared to what Bomber President Wade Miller feared.
8. OH YEAH, THE GAME: While all this was going on, both the Eskimos and RedBlacks practiced outdoors at Investors Group Field on Wednesday. I'm told many of the reporters watched the workouts from the heated press box. It may be unfair to say this, because I haven't spent enough time around either team, but it appears the Eskimos have an edge in attitude this week. From all the quotes and video I've seen, the Edmonton team has shown up with a very determined focus. Their long-time equipment manager Duane Mandrusiak even hung all 13 of the franchise's Grey Cup banners on the ceiling of their locker room to provide added motivation.
As for the Ottawa players, they truly seem just glad to be here (but again, I haven't spent a ton of time around them). RedBlacks colour man Jeff Avery admitted this Grey Cup appearance in just their second season of existence is well ahead of the plan. I likened it to giving a two-year old a driver's license. Maybe that particular two-year old is qualified, but it's "just not ready".
9. THURSDAY'S SCHEDULE: Keeping with tradition, the teams will break bread with the media on Thursday. The East Division champions will hold a media breakfast followed by a media lunch with the West Division champs. Traditionally the CFL Commissioner addresses both teams and then it turns into a free-for-all with reporters scrambling to collect as many interviews as they can in the allotted time. Then, each squad will hold its lone closed practice of the week. Also on Thursday, Riderville opens at 5:00 pm at the Winnipeg Convention Centre.
10. OUR GAME: Finally, a word on the atmosphere at the 103rd Grey Cup in Winnipeg. The Convention Centre was bustling with staff and Grey Cup volunteers who've flown in from across the country and every single person had a smile on their face. Many of them, displaced Saskatchewanians, stopped by our broadcast booth and just wanted to chat about their beloved Roughriders. Others, not so much. I asked if I could fill up my travel coffee mug in the volunteers' lounge and a lady, a Winnipegger, said, "I suppose so even if I don't like that jacket you're wearing". Then she smiled and waved me in. That Rider track jacket has truly been quite an ice-breaker over the years.
You won't hear any talk about the NFL around here this week, or the NHL for that matter. The Grey Cup truly is a celebration of Canadian football and it's a wonderful chance for all of us who love the game to get together and show our pride. It's a very rewarding week.
THAT'S ALL! SEE YOU IN THE CAGE AT 4 PM
Edmonton (9-14-3-0) came out firing with an early tally courtesy of Kole Gable at 6:43 of the 1st period. Regina (11-10-2-0) answered back immediately with one of their own from Connor Hobbs, but the Oil Kings wasted no time getting back on top as d-man Jordan Dawson scored his first WHL goal to put the home side up 2-1 less than a minute later. Another off the stick of Hobbs moments after that would knot it up at 2-2 after 20 minutes.
The track meet continued in the 2nd with 2 goals from Oil Kings centre Lane Bauer, his team-leading 27th & 28th points on the year, to give the home side the 4-2 cushion heading into 3rd period.
“A couple of really nice plays,” Oil Kings head coach Steve Hamilton said of Bauer’s two tallies. “Puck movement found him open and I liked how he was patient and picked his spot. Those were a couple goals that took some skill & poise. It was critical to set us up for the 3rd like that.”
The 3rd period saw the scoring open up even more as Oil Kings winger Tyler Robertson potted his 11th of the year just 2:25 in to make it 5-2. But after the goal some rough stuff ensued. Two roughing penalties & two fighting majors, including one to the goal-scorer Robertson, were handed out and when the dust settled the Oil Kings somehow found themselves on the power play. But the Pats would manage to score on their ensuing penalty kill (Austin Wagner's 8th of the year) to narrow the lead to 5-3 early in the 3rd period.
“I really disliked what went on after (Robertson’s) goal. I think that led us down a path, and we followed up with a lot of stupid penalties,” said Hamilton. “That stuff was initiated unnecessarily… How we came out of that with a power play is fortunate.”
Despite lacking some discipline in the final frame, the Oil Kings would add one more courtesy of Brett Pollock en route to the 6-4 victory over the visiting Pats.
NOTES: The Pats were 1/7 on the powerplay and 6/6 on the penalty kill ... Edmonton outshot Regina 30-24 ... Tyler Brown and Jordan Hollett split time in the Pats'goal with Brown allowing five of Edmonton's goals ... The attendance was 4825 ... The Pats visit the Calgary Hitmen Friday at 8:00 pm on 620 CKRM.
(With files from OilKings.ca)