The trip was doomed from the start. Friday night was miserable, as you can tell by the picture from the tarmac at the Regina Airport. There was an issue loading the equipment which caused an hour delay at this end and there was a further delay once we landed in Calgary. All this occurred while the Stampeders were home snuggled in their own beds. That's why it's called homefield advantage.
We got to the Westin hotel just before midnight and this nice note was waiting in my room from Lindsay Sandomirsky, the hotel's Sales and Marketing Director. More on that further down in the column. It felt like home!
The Riders made every effort to make their locker room at McMahon Stadium feel like home. Here are some inspirational posters from Coach Corey Chamblin...
Odell Willis posed for a shot outside the locker room. Tough to say if he'll be back in 2013 although Chamblin said Tuesday they'd like to have him back. Although high maintenance at the start of the year, he seemed to have settled down by Labour Day. However he didn't have a sack after Week 13.
There were tailgaters outside McMahon Stadium however as you can see, there weren't many of them. Will the Roughriders ever allow tailgating? Team President Jim Hopson had this to say to the Globe and Mail last week: "We've talked to the province and they don't want to make a change in the liquor laws and have tailgating at ball tournaments and hockey games. We're a little bit reluctant (to do tailgating). We want to have a good family environment at our games."
QR77's Jock Wilson and Dave Rowe host the Stampeders' pregame show on Sunday from the booth next door to ours..
And finally, kickoff. As you can see the stadium wasn't nearly full and there wasn't a ton of green either. The game just didn't have the excitement or vibe that we were used to for Rider games in Calgary. Not sure why. Did the forecast scare people off? Is the Rider Nation losing steam? You tell me.
RANDOM WEDNESDAY THOUGHTS
* Apparently that Rider loonie is still somewhere under the turf at McMahon Stadium. A stadium worker, originally from Saskatchewan, winked and told me that the day before the game. It was placed there before the 2010 West Division Final, which the Riders won, but the luck ran out in 2012. I'd still prefer to keep it there.
* The weather this time of year always makes travel dicey but I suppose we don't have to worry about it any longer. The voice of the Rams Michael Ball was due to land Saturday at noon for the 2:00 Hardy Cup kickoff between the Rams and Dinos but there was a storm forecast for all weekend. Carm Carteri and I were prepared to broadcast the game on 620 CKRM but thankfully Ballsy and colour commentator Marco Ricci got there in time. They called the Rams games all year and deserved to call the last one.
* Rams quarterback Marc Mueller and the 30-or-so graduating players can take a bow. Losing in the Hardy Cup is no embarrassing way to end their careers.
* With the temperature below-zero for Sunday's WSF many people asked why the western game didn't kickoff before the eastern game, while the sun was still up. The answer? The people who make those decisions, the suits in Toronto, don't have to play in the games nor sit on the cold metal bleachers outside.
* Over the weekend this blog surpassed the 8,000,000 all-time hit plateau. As always, thank you!
* The Riders stayed at the Westin for this road trip to Calgary and it was, in a word, magnificent. How can you go wrong with a Keg and a Starbucks right in the lobby? Plus I got a note in my room from Lindsay, the Sales and Marketing Director from the Westin who said she's a lifelong Rider fan who's wanted to the Riders to stay there forever. Her father "Stan from Saskatoon" is a regular caller into CKRM's sportstalk shows. She even left a bucket of beer in the room! How did she know?? Here's hoping that's the Riders' new Calgary headquarters, although I enjoyed the Marriott too.
* FYI the Riders stayed at the Delta Bow Valley for the 2009 Grey Cup. That's where that fanatical Rider fan chamber maid works.
* More proof the weekend in Calgary sucked: my rental car was a Volkswagen Gulf and I left the lights on overnight Saturday. Sunday morning in freezing temperatures, the battery was dead. What an absolute pain in the neck that was. Fortunately the Westin staff helped with a boost.
* Quotable: Globe and Mail media columnist Bruce Dowbiggin walked by me in the news conference room the day before the game, smiled, and said "Hello Trouble!" What's he talking about??
* Quotable: Calgary Herald football writer Allen Cameron after the coaches' news conferences: "Huffer was more entertaining than Chamblin. And that's saying something!"
* Quotable: QR77's Dave Rowe on our pregame show: "We are three years away from having the worst stadium in the CFL."
* Quotable: QR77's Peter Watts on our halftime show: "The Stampeders have not sold out a game all year, including this one."
* People are scratching their heads over CFL attendance right now, and not just in Calgary. I'd say the things that have plagued the WHL the past number of years have caught up to the CFL. Everybody has a mancave now with a big screen TV and it's hard to pry a guy out of there to buy tickets to go outside in the winter. It's a problem that the marketing people need to solve. Glad that's not my job.
* It's too bad Jon Cornish's personality has been exposed. It's hard to appreciate his on-field prowess now, given the ridiculous stunts he's pulled. Carm Carteri and I were walking up the ramp from the field to the media facilities on Saturday and Cornish was walking down the other way. Carm said "Hi Jon", but he never even acknowledged us and kept walking. I checked to see if he had earbuds in. He didn't. Can't even say hi.
* Global TV's Derek Meyers said on the Sports Cage yesterday, "Do we really want our league MVP to be the guy who mooned the crowd at a game this year?"
* Many have asked why Stamps Coach/GM John Hufnagel puts up with this crap from his players (see: Nik Lewis). Simple. He wins with them.
* It was great to see former Regina Pats villain J.D. Watt outside the stadium after the Rider game. He was dressed head-to-toe in Stampeders gear and I asked him if he lost a bet. The cowboy from Cremona, AB is playing hockey at SAIT and getting his education. He gave me a big hug which cracked my back. He was only with the Pats for half a season but boy did we get along well! Great to see that guy.
* 620 CKRM is broadcasting BOTH the East Division Final and the West Division Final. Why? Because we sell SOOO many commercials for Rider Radio broadcasts that we couldn't fit them all into just one playoff broadcast this Sunday so we needed to carry both games. Don't tell me sports aren't the backbone of that radio station.
* It meant a ton for Rider quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan to wander up to me on the team bus after the game and say "Hey I wanted to tell you how much I enjoy the content on your blog. I'm a sporadic reader but I can tell how much work you put into it, and I really enjoy it." Wow! That coming from a veteran of 11 NFL teams! And I can tell you the God's honest truth, I didn't even think he knew who I was. Honest. I hope he's back in 2013.
* Also, Stampeders statistician Darryl Slade has published his second book and it's on the shelves at the Stampeders store. It's called "STAMPEDERS - GREY CUP OR BUST" and is a chronicle of the rich playoff history of Calgary pro football. Darryl signed a copy for me "To Rod, A Great CFL Man and Author", and gave it to Jim Hopson to get to me. We were treated so well in Calgary.
* So many CFL types and fans have asked me which CFL GM was ripped by that NFL scout last week when I was in the press box in Seattle. Honestly I'd rather not say, but it wasn't the Riders' Brendan Taman. I prefer not to make anybody look bad here, unless I really want to make them look bad, and this is not one of those times.
* RUMOUR: Doug Brown is going to join the front office of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
* Congrats to the Saskatoon Hilltops for their third-straight Canadian Bowl title. Graig Newman of the Roughriders is a proud alumnus and was decked out in all Hilltops gear on the weekend.
* Great ploy by Molson/Coors to threaten legal action against the NHL for lost sales during the lockout. It probably won't go very far, but it's getting lots of play in the national media.
* The AHL game between Oklahoma City and Abbottsford must have drawn big ratings on Saturday night on Sportsnet. Everywhere I went in Calgary, the game was on TV. I think I speak for most Canadians that we'd enjoy some hockey on Saturday nights, no matter the league. Hopefully Sportsnet keeps it up.
* And please, replayed hockey games are as old and boring as last week's newspaper. Whether it's Team Canada Rewind or Classics on Hockey Night in Canada, we know the outcome!! Show something live for goodness sake.
* Of course we couldn't get out of Calgary, an NHL city, without getting filled in, in-depth, on both sides of the NHL lockout. The players are mad the NHL owners are "hiding money". That's one of the biggest issues right now, I'm told. Settle in for a long fight.
* Today is Day 60 of the work stoppage and some are starting to crack. One TSN staffer, not on-air, told me Sunday afternoon "If I see an NHL player, I'll punch him in the face". This guy is a freelancer who gets paid by the game and now with the CFL almost done, he's broke with bills to pay and a family to feed. But hey! Let's make sure the players get their fair share!! Sickening.
HAVE A GREAT DAY