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Sunday, September 21, 2014


HAMILTON, Ont. (CP) - Hamilton's offence was sputtering with a crucial piece lost to injury, but the Tiger-Cats defence held the Edmonton Eskimos at bay long enough for a comeback.

After losing running back C.J. Gable at the start of the game Saturday evening at Tim Hortons Field, the Ticats forced three turnovers and Zach Collaros connected with Brandon Banks for the winning touchdown in the fourth quarter en route to a 25-23.

"The defence was unbelievable,'' said Collaros, who finished the game 25 for 35 for 275 yards with one passing touchdown, one rushing touchdown and one interception. "I gave (Edmonton) a touchdown, and if you take that away, we win this pretty easily.''

Having just returned from the disabled list, Gable suffered a shoulder injury on the team's opening offensive series and did not return. The Ticats had not dressed a replacement.

Hamilton head coach Kent Austin said the loss of an effective running option played havoc with his playbook, and forced offensive coordinator Tommy Condell to get creative.

"That was one of the all-time top performances I've ever seen from a playcaller,'' said Austin. "It had a cascading effect on our personnel groupings. We actually had to rename some of our groupings.''

The Tiger-Cats (4-7) held the Eskimos (8-4) to 316 total yards in the win. It was Hamilton's second consecutive win, and their third in four games.

Hamilton has now won consecutive games against West Division opponents after beginning the season 0-6 against the West.

Edmonton quarterback Mike Reilly was 23 for 42 for 268 yards with two touchdowns, two interceptions and a fumble.

Eskimos head coach Chris Jones deemed the game winnable, but the execution just wasn't there.

"Everything we could possibly have done to let them back into the game, we did,'' said Jones. "Defensively, it looked like we hadn't practised all week.''


REGINA -- The Regina Pats raised their 2014 division pennant Saturday evening in their home-opener but unfortunately that was the highlight of the night.

Jesse Gabriel scored three times for the Brandon Wheat Kings as they routed the Pats 6-1 Saturday night to sweep their season-opening home-and-home series.

Brandon outshot the Pats 35-24 as Daniel Wapple took the loss in the Regina goal. Brandon was 4/9 on the powerplay while the Pats were 1/3. Regina rookie Sam Steel had an assist in the loss, giving him two assists in the Pats' two opening games. Dryden Hunt scored Regina's lone goal.

The Pats visit Moose Jaw Friday evening at 7 pm (Press Box Sports Bar Pregame Show at 6:35 pm).

(Photo courtesy Jordy Schaworski)


EDMONTON, Alta. - The University of Regina Rams erased a 16-point halftime deficit and nearly overcame a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit, but eventually fell 44-42 to Alberta on Saturday night at Foote Field.

After the Rams tied it up in the third, Alberta responded with 15 unanswered points to start the fourth quarter. Jared Janotta caught a touchdown pass with 4:44 left to get within eight, and Noah Picton connected with Addison Richards for an 85-yard major with under a minute left but Picton was sacked on the ensuing two-point conversion and Alberta held on for the win.

Curtis Dell was 17-for-27 for 271 yards and threw four touchdown passes for Alberta, while Levon Hawreliak, Aundrey Webster, and Ed Ilnicki each rushed for over 50 yards in the win for the Golden Bears. Adam Zajdel was Alberta's leading receiver with three catches for 90 yards and two touchdowns.

Picton ended up with 431 passing yards, tied for the ninth highest single-game output by a Rams quarterback. And he didn't come into the game until midway through the second quarter, when starting pivot Cayman Shutter was injured after absorbing a hit following an attempted pass. Picton completed 28 of his 36 pass attempts, with his completion rate of 77.8% standing as the second highest in the school's single-game record book.

Richards finished with nine catches for 225 yards and two touchdowns, with his 225 receiving yards also going down as the second highest single-game total in school history. Janotta had 11 catches for 136 yards and a touchdown, while Riley Wilson had six receptions for 77 yards.

The Rams dominated most offensive categories, ending up with 705 yards of total offence to Alberta's 463 and 36 first downs to the Golden Bears' 20. But the Rams also had over 150 yards in penalties, including a 15-yard unnecessary roughness foul applied on the kickoff following Alberta's final major that gave the Golden Bears an eight-point lead instead of a seven-point advantage. That extra point would eventually force the Rams into the two-point conversion attempt that failed with 57 seconds left on the clock.

Both teams move to 1-2 with Saturday's result. Alberta hits the road next weekend for a game at UBC (0-3), while the Rams will prepare for a Saturday afternoon home game against Saskatchewan (2-1).

NOTES: The victory gave the Golden Bears their first victory since the 2010 season and also snapped Alberta's six-game losing streak against the Rams ... Janotta moved from sixth to fourth on the U of R's all-time receiving yards list, passing former teammates Brenden Owens and Mark McConkey ... Richards came into the game needing just 31 receiving yards to hit 1000 for his career and now has 1194.

(Courtesy Braden Konschuh/U of R Athletics)


The Hamilton Tiger-Cats seem to like their new home. Zach Collaros threw for 275 yards and a touchdown as the Ticats beat the Edmonton Eskimos 25-23 to improve 3-0 at Tim Hortons Field. The victory also moves them into a tie with Toronto for first in the East.


Jose Bautista hit his eighth homer of the year against New York, Marcus Stroman pitched six gritty innings and the Toronto Blue Jays ended a season-worst six-game skid by beating the Yankees 6-3. Stroman gave up two runs and eight hits, striking out seven without allowing a walk while still awaiting word on his appeal of a six-game suspension for throwing over the head of Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph on Monday.


Jerome Williams beat the Athletics for the third time this season with three different teams, as Oakland missed an opportunity to extend its lead in the AL wild-card race with a 3-2 loss to the Phillies. The A's remain a half-game ahead of Kansas City for the top wild-card spot.


Elian Herrera sprinted home on Logan Schafer's sacrifice fly in the ninth inning as the Milwaukee Brewers edged the Pittsburgh Pirates 1-0 to tighten the race for the second NL wild-card spot. The Brewers overcame the ejection of starting pitcher Matt Garza and pulled within 3-and-a-half games of the Pirates.


The Portland Timbers beat the Whitecaps 3-nil to leapfrog Vancouver into the fifth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Meanwhile, the league-worst Montreal Impact won for the first time in four matches by defeating the San Jose Earthquakes 2-nil. Montreal was still mathematically eliminated from the playoffs after wins from Columbus and New York.


Jay Cutler could be without his two best targets when the Bears hit the field for Monday night's game against the New York Jets. Chicago star receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery were listed as questionable and were limited participants in today's workout. Both played through their injuries last week in a win at San Francisco after getting hurt in the season-opening loss to Buffalo.

(Canadian Press)

Saturday, September 20, 2014


By: Luc Mullinder

Speaking solely from an athlete’s perspective, there are three types of film sessions that follow a game.  Even though technology nowadays allows players to download the game immediately and review it personally; there is always (barring time conflicts) a review as a unit, for all three phases of the game.

Before we go into Ottawa, I’ll briefly describe each scenario, so the rest of the Primer makes sense…

Scenario 1:  You play a great game; statistically and assignment wise, you made plays and really contributed.  Individually, this is the best case scenario whether the team won or lost.

It’s a lot easier to joke around in the locker room prior to the start of the meeting.
You don’t mind walking through the hall where all the coaches' offices are.
Your McDonalds breakfast tastes INCREDIBLE and you may have an extra hash brown or egg McMuffin laying around for a teammate.
When you break off into meetings, you’re still upbeat and you sit up straight making direct eye contact with the coaches.
You know every play that is going to be talked about, and all of a sudden, people should be paying attention in the meeting room.  Double bonus if your coach mentions your high level of play in front of the group; you’re really ready to watch film now if that happens.
When coach points out someone else messing up or struggling, if they’re near you, you’ll coach em up and offer words of encouragement.  “It ain’t that bad g”
When the coach points out the plays that you’re killin' it in, your teammates will make comments out loud like, “good sh*t bro” or “I see ya ____”; you just act like it’s no big deal and mutter something like “preciate ya.”  In reality, you’re beaming with pride; you might even take a nice long exaggerated swig of the water bottle that you brought into the meeting with you.  #professionalvindication

Scenario 2:  You played ok; nothing good, nothing bad, you got the job done.  #meh
Still easy to joke around in the locker room, but you might mention a couple reps that you hammed up.  (This gives a “heads up” and eases the ridicule when the play is shown.)
There’s an awkward pause when you see your position coach, you don’t know what he thought of your performance just yet so you give him the obligatory “Whattup Coach!” and keep it moving
McDonalds breakfast tastes INCREDIBLE and you may have an extra hash brown or egg McMuffin laying around for a teammate…However this now becomes a deal:  “I’ll give you this hashbrown but you better not laugh when you see me get pancaked in the 2nd qtr bro”
You hope the coach doesn’t spend too much time on the plays you look bad in, but you also hope that he spends some time on the ones you look good in…They sort of cancel each other out.
Any positive comment is a lapped up like a thirsty dog
You’re VERY receptive too coaching points and offer an “I gotcha coach” or “yeah I gotta do that better” just to let him know that you’re on the same page.   #IgottaGetBetter

Scenario 3:  In your mind's eye, you played terrible, and the coaches probably think the same thing; the following bullet points are made worse depending on if you’ve played this way consecutively.  It’s a production based business and jobs are always on the line.
Depending on who you are, you may lose sleep over the prospects of what the film shows.  You definitely aren’t in a hurry to get to the facility that’s for sure.
Not into joking around today, you probably stick to yourself a bit more, get changed earlier, maybe go get some treatment on your jammed finger that now bothers you a whole lot more than it did before the game.
No way in hell you’re going anywhere near the coach’s offices…I’m talking duck and roll “Mission Impossible” manoeuvring around that section of the building.  You also avoid all contact with your position coach, and if he’s in the locker room talking with others: Time to get some more treatment...
Worst part here is your awareness is heightened.  You notice every coach and their conversations in the locker room for some reason.  Normally, when you’re playing well and a coach doesn’t acknowledge your presence, you don’t care or notice.  If you’re playing bad and your coach doesn’t acknowledge your presence, not only do you care; you also start thinking about depth chart scenario’s and guys that play behind you etc etc…
McDonald’s breakfast tastes INCREDIBLE but it’s the only good part of the day.  #NoHashbrownsForAnyone.  And if give any extras to a passing coach in hopes of making amends for you poor performance, you’re a brown noser of the worst kind.  #SlapYourself
When the meeting starts and the film rolls, it feels like there is a white hot light on you; especially if your personal poor play, or missed assignment, costs the team in any way.
There is a deafening silence that comes along with the poor play on film.  Your teammates know it, your coach’s talk about it, and your position group can’t help but judge.
Every play you’re struggling in hurts.  The next meeting seems like its hours away.  You want nothing more than to get up and go to the bathroom FOREVER, but you know that’s the coward’s way out…

The reason I threw those out there Ridernation, is that every guy on the 42 man roster of the Saskatchewan Roughriders goes through one, or a combination of the aforementioned scenarios, after each and every game.  Here’s the important part:  As hard or as easy as the game film was to watch, you MUST, as a professional athlete be able to improve and make adjustments too your individual game.  Once again, it’s a production based business, and there’s ALWAYS someone else that is hungry for that rep.

It’s hard for the untrained eye (especially when you guys only have access to TSN camera angles) too really be able to analyze the Hamilton TiCat game from last week.  Obviously all eyes were on the performance of the Riders new QB, and the scrutiny that followed him after the loss provided an easy “out” to those looking for answers.

All of that is under the bridge now, but it’s all relative to the upcoming clash with the REDBLACKS…There were things that stuck out on film, and not just for Tino Sunseri, in which the players and coaches will need to correct going into the Ottawa game and moving forward.  Whatever scenario each individual player went through in that first meeting after the game, they must learn from what they saw and get it right the next time.


This isn’t a talent problem that I’ll mention here; it’s more of a numbers/matchup problem.

Teams, and Hamilton did this, are able to match up against the Riders Offense more efficiently now that the squad is missing all three of the Full backs that they entered camp with (Hughes, McHenry, and Moore).

Up in the press box, there is always a coach responsible for identifying the Rider’s personnel groupings that are running onto the field.  That personnel grouping will dictate the guys in which the opponent will send out.  That’s where the problem lies.  When the Riders had the luxury of a Fullback body and skill set to use, teams would have to respect that and scheme against the Riders with the Fullbacks versatility in mind.  Whether it was a single TE set or a double TE set, the playbook was still varied because of the presence of an all around threat on the edges.  With the current stable of injuries, particularly to the Fullback group, the Riders are limited to sending out Olinemen that are typically only going to be used as blocker.  No disrespect to Watman, who is currently in this role, but if he runs a corner post, we’ll all be SHOCKED.  The Riders only have Messam left to act as the versatile body type from the TE spot, and that limits what they can do creatively.

Every time the Riders sent out the Trio of Messam, Allen and Watman last week, Hamilton countered with 5 linemen and stacked the box, because they knew that this limited the number of receivers Cortez could use, and that there was only so much that the Green and White can do out of this group.  If the Riders Offense had one of the FBs on the roster, Hamilton would have had to play it more honestly, and probably would have left the 5th Dlineman on the bench.  Both team’s scheme and playbook would have looked a lot different.  Not having any FBs is making it easy for other teams to match up and play against.

Tino Sunseri

I stated in the last Primer that I thought Tino would be a nice surprise for some of you.  Obviously, things didn’t work out that way, however I still think that he’ll be ok … Especially now that he’s had a chance to see everything on film and get coached up.  Truthfully, he has to be better, or the Seth Doege fans, will pop up in droves.

At times during the game in Hamilton, Sunseri played like a young QB will.  There were downs where he spent too much time looking for the “big play” throw, as opposed to getting the offense into a 2nd and 3-4 type of situation.  If he gets the same type of looks vs. Ottawa, and he’s gone over things with his receiving core, expect Bagg and Swain to have good games and make some possession extending catches.

One can’t attest his pension for looking for the big throw to greed though; you have to chalk it up to inexperience.  There are some plays that are in the book that get called; and if it’s Darian Durant in at QB, the throw is pre-determined.  Doubles may know right away in some cases, that it’s not the 1st or 2nd option that will get the chains moved; it may be the third option right away.  As a QB, that ability only comes after a certain amount of snaps, or if you’re Peyton Manning.

I also spent a little bit of time listening to Tino after the game and during the practise week.  He spoke a lot about how much pressure he puts on himself, and his expectations, in regards to personal performance.  After awhile, the trained ear may hear a QB that is weighing himself down far more than anyone else will do.  Tino Sunseri needs to understand that he doesn’t need to sit and stew in a dark room about the game winning drive or throwing for 500 yards and 3 TDs.  He needs to realize that the talent around him is more than capable of getting to the finish line.  The faster Tino realizes that he is a part of the vehicle, and not the engine of it, the more we’ll start seeing the drive extending short yardage throws that set up the big play capability of Smith and Dressler.  You have to learn from the tape!!!

So this Primer's point was too make it clear that this week’s opponent is not the real storyline.  This week is all about seeing how guys adjust to what they saw from the Hamilton game.  It was a lot more than just Sunseri; and Hamilton taking advantage of personnel groupings.

On defence, Hamilton exposed some mismatches they felt existed, and avoided having Fantuz line up across from Weldon Brown as much as they could.  The defensive players will attest that there were some missed tackles that would have led to Hamilton punts that the Riders didn’t capitalize on as well.  I’m sure some of the Olinemen would like to have a couple blocking assignments and technique stricken from history, and we all know that the Punt cover team is still very inconsistent.
The sky is not falling in Riderville.  I hated reading things like, the guys have to “sick together” or anything else that would suggest that the team is in trouble.  There’s plenty of chance for that to happen, however after one game, the feeling is probably more like, “Dammit, if we had made one or two plays here and there, we would have won.”  Shoot…if the Blue Jays win 7-8 in August, everyone in Toronto thinks we’re going to the show!!!

There are three types of scenarios that play out in the first team meeting after a game; we went over them…

There is only one scenario that can play out after that meeting…Adjust and focus on what needs to be done in order to go 1-0 against the next opponent.

In closing, I want to salute Reggie Hunt and Chris Szarka.  I’m blessed to be able to call you both friends, and it was an absolute honour to get to run out of the Green helmet and compete with you…

Kia Kaha



VANCOUVER - Ricky Ray threw for two touchdowns as the Toronto Argonauts beat the B.C. Lions 40-23 in CFL action Friday night.

Toronto posted only its third win over B.C. in 14 meetings since 2008.

The Argos (4-8) gained sole possession of first place in the East Division as they won for the first time in last five games. The Lions (7-5) suffered their first loss in three outings as their home record dropped to 3-4.

Rookie LaVon Brazill, Steve Slaton, Curtis Steele and Chad Owens - who returned after missing two games with a leg injury - scored Toronto's touchdowns as the Argos led from start to finish. Toronto's remaining points came via Swayze Waters and a safety conceded by B.C.

The Lions got touchdowns on receptions from Emmanuel Arceneaux and Bryan Burnham, and another score on a one-yard plunge from backup quarterback John Beck. Kicker Paul McCallum accounted for the other B.C. points.

The Argos were solid throughout, showing few signs of fatigue after they stayed out west instead of returning home following a tough loss in Calgary last weekend in which they squandered a 29-3 lead -  the largest in their history.

(The Canadian Press)


Tyler Coutler's goal at 6:36 of the third period was the winner as the Brandon Wheat Kings downed the Regina Pats 4-2 in the WHL season opener for both teams Friday evening.

The game was tied 1-1 after the opening period and Brandon led 2-1 after 40 minutes.  Regina's goals came from Braden Christopher and Jared McCammandon.   Regina goalie Daniel Wapple stopped 28 of 29 Brandon shots.

The Wheat Kings outshot the Pats 30-25 as Regina went 0/4 on the powerplay and 5/5 killling penalties.

Regina hosts Brandon in their home opener Saturday at 7 pm on 620 CKRM (Press Box Sports Bar Pregame at 6:35 pm)

Friday, September 19, 2014


CALGARY - Calgary Stampeders running back Jon Cornish won't play Sunday in Montreal against the Alouettes to ``help recovery from nagging injuries.''

The Stampeders announced on their Twitter account Friday that Cornish will sit out.

Calgary leads the West Division standings with a CFL-best 10-1 record.

Cornish missed six games in July and August with concussion-like symptoms, but has been on a tear in the four contests since his return.

The CFL's most outstanding player and top rusher last season ranks third in league rushing with 587 in five games.

(The Canadian Press)



1 - A SPECIAL WEEKEND: It's Plaza of Honor Weekend in the Rider Nation as we honour franchise greats Reggie Hunt (LB, 2002-2007) and Chris Szarka (FB, 1997-2010) with tonight's induction ceremony at the Credit Union Eventplex before nearly 2,000 patrons.  We have many Rider get-togethers over the course of the year but this evening truly is the best because it's the only time we get everyone in the Rider Family together under one roof: players, staff, sponsors and fans.

"The Reaper" and "Zark" embodied what it means to be a Roughrider and this is their weekend.  It truly was a joy to watch them play and a huge honour to have been able to broadcast their games.  They are true Hall of Famers and their highlights fill a reel.  I'll be sure to take lots of pictures along with my role as Master of Ceremonies.

What are your favourite Reggie Hunt and Chris Szarka memories?  Interestingly the inductees got to handpick who will induct them tonight.  Reggie went with Scott Schultz while Szarka chose Mike McCullough.

2 - WHERE'S THE "U"?:  It's going to come up a lot this weekend -- why is Plaza of Honor spelled without a "u" in honor?  We delved into this question last year and former Rider President Gord Staseson revealed that, when they first started the Plaza in the early-80's, marketing experts figured this was the best way to go.  They felt it would look better aesthetically on the cairn out front of Taylor Field and in marketing materials.  So there you go...

3 - DON'T FORGET ABOUT THE GAME!:  The 8-3 Roughriders look to get back into the win column on Sunday when they host the 1-9 Ottawa RedBlacks in the annual Plaza Game at 2:00 pm (TSN, CKRM Rider Radio Network).  The forecast calls for sunshine and a high of 21 degrees Celsius (69 above Fahrenheit) for game time and the Roughriders are favoured by 11.5-points.

The Saskatchewan-Ottawa game is on at the same time as the Super Bowl rematch between the Seahawks and Broncos in Seattle.  To quote the late, great Bob Hughes, "Wonderful planning, that".

4 - WHAT ABOUT PERSONNEL?:  The Riders held a closed practice on Thursday so we weren't able to report on their roster plans for the Ottawa game.  However kicker Chris Milo said after the workout he's prepared to handle all three kicking duties for a third straight game while punter Josh Bartel recovers from injury.  As far as the "three-headed monster" in the offensive backfield goes, it's too early to tell if Will Ford will be in the lineup.  He was a scratch for Sunday's 28-3 loss in Hamilton for ratio reasons, however Jerome Messame and Anthony Allen suited up.

5 - QUOTE OF THE WEEK #1:  Tiger-Cats Coach/GM Kent Austin was asked if his young team is having a tough time replacing the veteran leaders from the 2013 Hamilton squad.  "I'd be careful about anointing some of those guys who left as previous leaders," Austin warned.  What the heck happened in Hamilton last year???  I suppose that's their business, and not ours.

6 - QUOTE OF THE WEEK #2:  On Thursday's SportsCage on 620 CKRM, Chris Szarka was asked about the 13th Man incident in the 2009 Grey Cup and how afterwards he sobbed like a baby as if someone had died.  "SOMEONE DID DIE!" Szarka huffed.  Like everyone else on that squad, that gaffe will haunt them as long as they're on the planet (to quote Coach Miller).

7 - QUOTE OF THE WEEK #3:  16-year old rookie Regina Pats phenom Sam Steel was on the SportsCage on Wednesday and we asked him how it feels to be the Face of the Franchise for the Queen City Kids.  "It's a little early for that," Steel cautioned.  He's right, but how many of you can name three other Regina Pats?  Sam's the one everyone's talking about as the Pats get set to open the 2014-15 season Friday night at Brandon.  Hopefully if the Pats get some wins out of the gate, the city will sit up and take notice.

The 620 CKRM Home-Opener goes on Saturday with a pregame tailgate at 4:30 pm in the parking lot just west of the Brandt Centre.  We'll see you at the game...

8 - WEEK 13 CFL GAME NOTES:  Here are some interesting tidbits from the CFL weekly Game Notes package -

- BC defensive back Ryan Phillips' league-best consecutive game streak of 173 is in jeopardy tonight.  Phillips is a game time decision for tonight's home game against Toronto with a hamstring pull.

- The CFL's East Division is a combined 1-21 on the road so far this season.

- NO team in CFL history has ever won its division with a below .500 record.  It appears that will be the case in 2014 as there's a three-way tie atop the East between Hamilton, Montreal and Toronto.  Each team has three wins with just over a third of the season to go.

- The Riders were 4-2 in the opening third of the season and are 4-1 so far in the middle third.

- Hamilton was 1-4 when quarterback Zach Collaros was out with a concussion.  Meanwhile the Edmonton Eskimos were 0-2 with quarterback Mike Reilly out with a hand injury.  They are 8-1 with Reilly.

- The Tiger-Cats are 2-0 in the newly-opened Tim Hortons Field.  On Saturday evening they host the Edmonton Eskimos who are 6-0 against the East Division this year.  Something's gotta give.

- Only Calgary is better than Edmonton against the East this year at 7-0.

- The Stampeders are the only unbeaten road team this year at 5-0.  However their 10-1 start is not a franchise record.  They were 12-0 during the 1948 season, and are the only team in CFL history to have a perfect season.

- Montreal quarterback Jonathan Crompton is 2-1 as a starter and 2-0 at home.

- Calgary visits Montreal on Sunday afternoon.  They are the two best franchises in the CFL since 1996 (when the Alouettes moved from Baltimore).  Montreal has a .622 winning percentage since then with 10-first place finishes and 14 appearances in the division final.  Calgary is .581 over that span with six first-place finishes and 10 division final appearances.

- CFL referees are getting the message to keep their hanky in their pocket.  In the first 29 games of this season there were an average of 23.9 penalties per game.  However over the past 20 games, there's been an average of 19.3 penalties per game.

9 - THE NFL MESS:  The National Football League has never had a more dreadful 10-day period than what they've just been through.  It seems like almost every team has had to deal with some sort of legal battle and PR catastrophe.  They never really stood up and took notice until sponsors starting jumping ship.  As far as the fans' concerns go, the teams never really seemed to care.  However it seems a little hypocritical for Anheuser-Busch to threaten pulling its sponsorship.  I mean how many people get drunk and abuse their spouse or kids?  Hopefully some good comes out of this but the NFL has a long road back.

10 - AT THE MOVIES:  Not much beats a warm hotdog at Regina's Galaxy Cinemas or Southland Cinemas along with a gigantic bag of popcorn and an over-sized Diet Coke.  We enjoyed the movie "The Drop" Thursday evening and it gets two thumbs-up from the MMG.  However if you're considering catching the flick "Moms Night Out", save your money!  It's one of the worst I've ever seen.




CALGARY (CP) - In order to rise to the top of the coaching ladder, three longtime NHL assistants are dropping a couple of rungs first.

Almost half the teams in the Western Hockey League will start this season with new coaches, with Tim Hunter, Bob Woods and Jamie Kompon coming directly from the NHL.

Hunter, an assistant coach last season with the Washington Capitals, is the new head coach and general manager of the Moose Jaw Warriors. Woods has taken on both roles with the Saskatoon Blades after spending last year as an assistant with Anaheim.

Kompon, who won a Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2013 and the Los Angeles Kings in 2012, is coach-GM of the Portland Winterhawks.

What brings these men to major junior hockey is the belief the WHL can be a springboard to a job as an NHL head coach.

Mike Johnston, Kompon's predecessor in Portland, went directly to head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins this season after six years with the Winterhawks.

"I've been an assistant and worn many hats in the NHL for 17 years,'' Kompon says. "You kind of get to that stage where 'am I ever going to get out of that or is this my peak? Have I maxed out as an assistant?'

"Wanting to be that head coach and running my own team and being able to run my own bench, that's why I feel this is a great opportunity for me.''

Hunter won a Stanley Cup as a player with the Calgary Flames in 1989. He's been an NHL assistant coach for 14 seasons with Washington, Toronto and San Jose.

"As an assistant coach in the NHL, I've applied for a number of jobs that were head coaching opportunities,'' Hunter says. "I keep getting the stumbling block that I don't have enough coaching experience. I never ran my own team.

"For me, I felt if I ever wanted to finish out my dream and be a head coach at the highest level - I was very fortunate to play at the highest level, so now I want to coach at the highest level as a head coach - I thought I'd have to take a step back and become a head coach at the WHL level. I thought it gave me the best opportunity to become an NHL head coach.''

The 2014-15 season opens Friday with seven games. Four of the WHL's 22 clubs will start the season ranked in the Canadian Hockey League's top 10: Brandon Wheat Kings (third); Kelowna Rockets (fifth); Calgary Hitmen (seventh); Portland Winterhawks (10th).

The other teams who made coaching changes were Regina (John Paddock); Edmonton (Steve Hamilton); Kamloops (Don Hay); Kelowna (Dan Lambert); Vancouver (Troy Ward); Calgary (Mark French); and Tri-City (Mike Williamson).

Paddock is a former head coach of the NHL's Ottawa Senators and Winnipeg Jets, while Hay has coached the Calgary Flames and Arizona Coyotes in the past.

After 10 years with the WHL's Vancouver Giants, Hay returns to Kamloops where he coached the Blazers to Memorial Cups in 1994 and 1995.

The CHL - to which the WHL belongs - touts itself as the No. 1 development league for the NHL. The NHL pays the major junior leagues development money based on drafted players. The WHL sent 129 players to NHL rookie camps last week.

WHL owners want coaches with NHL experience because they know what needs to be done to get junior players to the NHL.

"We have the opportunity because we've been at this level, to help these kids as well and show them what we've learned to help them reach their goals,'' Woods says.

"If you can pass along some advice and little things for these guys to help them get there, if we see these guys go on and make the NHL, then it's a reward for us too.''

Woods was an assistant coach to Bruce Boudreau in Washington for three seasons before following Boudreau to Anaheim for the last two.

It may seem like Woods, Hunter and Kompon are taking a few steps down the career ladder, but WHL teams now model their operations on those of the NHL, if on a smaller scale. Running a successful WHL team checks off a box when applying to the NHL.

"Everything we have done from playing rules to regulations has mirrored the NHL experience and we want to provide our players with a similar type of experience,'' WHL commissioner Ron Robison says.

"Whether we're talking about systems played on the ice and how competitive the teams are, the video, the technology used to support our teams, our training facilities that are available for our players, it's all-NHL like in every which way. The gap has closed considerably over the years in terms of the type of experience.''

"You can coach at the junior level but be only a step away from an NHL opportunity because of the likeness of the two.''

The WHL has adopted for the NHL's playoff format for this season. Players to watch include Giants winger Tyler Benson, the first pick in the WHL's 2013 draft, and Kelowna Rockets centre Nick Merkley, who won the league's rookie award last season.

Led by forwards Nic Petan and Oliver Bjorkstrand and goaltender Brendan Burke, the Winterhawks are expected to be contenders again under Kompon.

Victoria Royals forward Tyler Soy and Seattle Thunderbirds forward Matt Barzal were impact players for Canada's under-18 this summer.

Five-star hotels and first-class flights aren't generally part of the WHL experience, so Hunter, Woods and Kompon face lifestyle adjustments.

Hunter can remember riding the bus as a player the WHL's Seattle Breakers in the 1970s. Transportation has come a long way since then.

"The buses are sure a lot better now than when I played in the WHL,'' he says. "Wi-Fi, plug-ins for your laptop, lots of leg room. They're a lot more comfortable in the heating department as well.''