Monday, January 14, 2013
THE MONDAY MORNING GOALIE
* The weekend started out with Four Seasons Football Friday in the Sports Cage when we were joined by former Roughrider defensive back Lance Frazier (2006-2011). He joined us to break down the NFL division playoff weekend, tell some stories and update us on his current status. As it turns out, Lance is working as a rigger in the oilfield in southeast Saskatchewan. It's extremely hard, and dangerous, work but it comes with a nice paycheque. Lance says pretty much everyday your life is on the line working around dangerous gases and the threat of bursting pipes but he's learned how to make it work. We asked Frazier what has the most pressure: playing for the Riders, the Dallas Cowboys or in the oilfield. He responded "the Cowboys!", the team for which he started 12 games at cornerback.
Lance plans on a return to football at some point whether it be in the media or in personnel. Scouting and management are his goal but right now no opportunities have presented themselves. He was a tremendous guest and he'll be a regular contributor in the future.
* Then it was off to the Regina Pats-Calgary Hitmen game in the Brandt Centre. As a favour to Molson-Coors, I hosted the Molson luxury suite for a group from the Regina Mens Bonspiel who won the night as a doorprize. There were to be 14 people in the box and I figured I'd know at least one of them. As it turned out, that was the case as former WHL linesman Chad "We Are" Marshall was in the group. We had a great hockey chat and Chad figured it would be nice if the NHL offered free Centre Ice as a gesture to the fans because of the lockout. At the very least, Marshall felt Centre Ice should come at half-price given the shortened regular season. We'll see.
* The game itself was a bit of a downer. The Hitmen scored 13 seconds into the game and went on to a 6-1 rout. It was the second of three straight Pats' losses. One small complaint from the evening: it would be nice if rosters were provided for the patrons in the Brandt Centre luxury suites. Fortunately I was able to scramble down to the media/scouts room and grab an armful of lineups.
* Of course there were plenty of NHL types at the game as always. One of those gentlemen is close to Brian Burke, who was fired as GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs last week. "They've got the right guy in there now (Dave Nonis)," the insider told me. "He'll do what he's told. Burkie doesn't."
This fellow also said not to expect Burke to join another NHL team any time soon as he's owed $10-million from the Leafs over the next two years.
* Even though you're out of the office, you can never really leave work behind when you have a BlackBerry in your pocket. The rumours regarding CFL and NFL coaching positions are getting out of control and you don't know what to believe. My phone was going nuts all weekend. I've heard George Cortez's name in connection with five teams in both the CFL and NFL. It's likely Cortez will be coaching somewhere in 2013.
* Word came out over the weekend that Alouettes coach Marc Trestman has interviewed with the Oakland Raiders for their offensive coordinator position. One trusted CFL source told me that should Trestman be hired as a head coach in the NFL, he'll likely take Argonauts head coach Scott Milanovich with him. That would create a TON of openings across the CFL.
* Another source said the shortlist for the New York Jets GM job has four names on it and Alouettes GM Jim Popp is not one of them.
* Sportsnet CFL reporter Perry Lefko Tweeted on Saturday that Joe Womack WILL be named the General Manager of Ottawa's new CFL team. Perry seemed quite convinced. Many feel Joe will make a great selection.
* Meanwhile the Ottawa Sun's Don Brennan says the leading candidate for the nickname of the new Ottawa team is the "Red Blacks". Oh my. I think I prefer the "Rough Riders".
* There's also a report that university football's Ottawa Gee-Gees are poised to hand the coaching duties to former Rider assistant coach Jamie Barresi.
* Come Saturday morning I was getting cabin fever since we haven't gone anywhere for a month so bright and early we loaded up the Titan Auto Sports Cage cruiser and headed to Lloydminster to catch the Lakeland College Rustlers and NAIT Ookpicks in ACAC basketball action. More on that in a minute.
* Passing Bladworth, Saskatchewan, it struck me as odd that they don't have a "Home Of Cory Sarich" sign.
* We made a pitstop in Saskatoon for some quick shopping and lo and behold, the first guy I saw walking out of Midtown Plaza was Martin Ring. Marty and I go back 20 years to the Prince Albert days and he was Mike Modano's billet in the 1980s with the Raiders. Ring was also the organist for Raider games before technology took over and went on to do radio colour commentary for the team. Hockey; the ties that bind!
* Back in the SUV we went, headed up to Lloydminster. On the way there I was fascinated to listen to Brian Burke's exit news conference on NHL Home Ice satellite radio. The bullets were flying from Burkie, particularly the one pointed at Toronto Sun columnist Steve Simmons. "That's the best part about today, Steve," Burke spat. "is that I probably don't ever have to talk to you again."
* Within minutes Simmons wrote on Twitter: "If you do your job the way I try to do it, telling the truth, even when the truth is uncomfortable, you're going to upset people." Amen Steve.
* We made it up to Lakeland College by mid-afternoon and chatted with some of the Rustlers. One girl, Hannah, explained that they had lost the night before in Edmonton because they got off to a slow start and couldn't recover. "But we'll win tonight," she said. And they did, 75-70. Love the confidence. The cockiness. And the fact that they delivered on her promise.
* Sunday morning was some of the best "Me Time" you could ever have. It was spent in the hotel restaurant with a coffee, watching ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown and reading the Edmonton Sun, which was provided free for hotel guests. It contained pages and pages and pages of Edmonton Oilers coverage. Less than 24 hours after the players accepted the CBA agreement, they were already complaining in Edmonton about the Oilers' schedule. Just be happy they're playing!
* Hearing all these legendary stories from Edmonton about "Hallsy" always makes me think they're talking about Hall of Fame Eskimos broadcaster Bryan Hall. They're not.
* There was a somewhat confusing ad for Sunday's Edmonton Rush lacross game against the Toronto Rock. It said Ricky Ray would be an honourary captain. I thought, "for which team?" (Think about it). After digging a little further I discovered Ricky would captain the Edmonton squad, after receiving approval from the Eskimos.
* Things got interesting on the trip home. It was minus-30 with the windchill as we pointed the cruiser southward for the journey. The trouble was that around Dalmeny, SK our ride lost its breath, and acceleration, and we had to pull over. I called a tow truck but also shut the vehicle off. Upon starting it back up, we were back in business and were able to chug into Saskatoon with the check engine light on. The girls shopped while the vehicle was attended to at Canadian Tire. Everything happens for a reason they say, and the break allowed me to watch the cliffhanger of a game between the Seahawks and Falcons at a nearby Chilis location. Once the game-winning field goal was booted by Atlanta's Matt Bryant, the verdict was in: the throttle in the sports cruiser was frozen. After thawing it out, we were back on the road and our troubles were behind us. Apparently it had something to do with having the cruise control set at 120 km/h going into a headwind in minus-30. What do I know? I'm no mechanic.
* It struck me as odd though, that there was no Saskatoon Blades memorabilia in that particular Chilis restaurant. After discussing it with the manager, I learned their association is with Huskie athletics and not the WHL. That's good enough for me. However there wasn't a lot of evidence that the Memorial Cup will be played in Saskatoon in May. There were plenty of billboards for CIS hockey's University Cup, but not much on the junior game. I'm sure there is somewhere in the city.
* Oh, and is the finger on the panic button in Saskatoon with the Blades right now? They dropped a pair of home games over the weekend and sit 7th in the WHL's East Conference. They have a three point lead over the ninth-place Pats but have four games in hand. Missing the playoffs is a possibility but not a probability. However they are a full 10 points back from home-ice in the first round.
* 7350 turned out for Blue Jays Night at the Blades-Rebels game at Credit Union Centre on Friday. It looked great on TV and Jays players J.P. Arencibia, Anthony Gose, Drew Hutchinson and Colby Rasmus were on hand. Jose Bautista was nowhere to be found but it's unlikely he'd be caught dead in Saskatchewan in January.
* Back to the journey. We arrived home in time to watch the New England Patriots put the finishing touches on their Sunday night playoff victory over Houston in a game they never lost control of. Then, the phone starting ringing....
* One of those calls was from BC Lions assistant coach and draft coordinator Kelly Bates who asked if we could provide some publicity for his football camp. Of course we can! It's the Kelly Bates Football Camp teaching football fundamentals for grades 9, 10 and 11 and the camp is in April. Registration opens on February 4. The list of coaches includes Keith Shologan, Neal Hughes and Jason Clermont. The cost for the camp is $165 and all the info is contained at www.kellybates.ca.
And finally some Monday leftovers from the notebook:
* Congratulations to Regina Pats alumnus Boyd Kane, the "Chairman of the Boards" as I used to call him, for appearing in his 900th AHL game last week. The Taber, AB product was always one of my favourites and not just because he married a Milestone, SK gal.
* The Dallas Stars will be changing up their jersey scheme and colours in time for the 2013-14 NHL season but it won't be red, white and blue, as was originally reported in the Dallas Morning News. The predominant colour will be "Celtic Green".
* Changing the colours won't turn people on in Dallas but making the playoffs will. It's been a four year drought.
* We've also learned Mike Modano will be rejoining the Stars organization in an as-yet to be named role. He'll still go down as my all-time favourite hockey player even though he allegedly turned down a request to appear on the Sports Cage when he went into the USA Hockey Hall of Fame a few months back. I don't believe the request was ever actually relayed to him. Most players, when asked directly, gratefully oblige. It's when PR people get in the way that things go awry.
* Case in point is Anaheim Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf of Regina who was on the show last week. The interview was set up by his brother Chris of the Roughriders. We learned that Ryan and his wife welcomed their second son, Gavin, last month. There is no significance to the name Gavin, unlike Ryan's first-born child Ryder.
* I asked Getzlaf if the Pacific Division is the toughest in the NHL because all teams came so close to making the playoffs last year and the L.A. Kings actually won the Stanley Cup. He wouldn't go so far as to say it's the toughest but he said all the teams in that division are built in the same mould: big, tough and rugged.
* We learned from Robert Griffin III's father (Robert Griffin II) that his son will be ready to play in time for training camp next year. But why is a player's parent being quoted at all? The only sports parent I care to hear from is Walter Gretzky.
* What a travesty. The spell-check in my phone wants to type "Greatly" instead of "Gretzky"! I suppose that's appropriate given Wayne's greatness.
* Tune into Rider Monday in the Sports Cage on 620 CKRM to hear special guests Don Narcisse and Paul Lapolice.
* That's about got it for today! Don't forget the Press Box Sports Bar's Monday lunch deal of All-You-Can-Eat Soup & Salad for just $7.99.
HAVE A GREAT WEEK