Friday, February 8, 2013
Now onto this week's observations which include hockey, football and even curling:
* Watched a lot of hockey this week and one thing popped out -- isn't Roberto Luongo supposed to be playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs this season? He's living proof that you can't believe all of what you hear from the insiders. For a collection of CFL rumours which didn't come to pass, keep reading.
* Regina's Tyler Bozak notched a goal and an assist for Toronto in the Leafs' 3-2 win at Winnipeg. Wait a minute, wasn't Bozak supposed to be going to the Canucks in the Luongo deal?
It seems both teams are doing just fine without making the trade. Both are in a playoff spot.
* Jaromir Jagr, who turns 41 one week from today, has turned out to be a magnificent pick-up by the Dallas Stars. His overtime winner in Edmonton Wednesday night was "vintage". After a shaky start, Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk is proving his stripes. Should Dallas make the playoffs this spring, perhaps we Stars fans can finally put the hard feelings surrounding Dave Tippett's firing behind us.
* And what about those Edmonton Oilers? For the past number of years Oiler fans have crowed about how exciting their young team is to watch but they are currently winless in five games. Mind you, they sit 7th in the NHL's Western Conference and if they continue to grind out points in overtime and shootout losses, they'll finally make the playoffs.
One of Regina's most diehard Oiler fans is a guy by the name of Jared, a firefighter originally from Saskatoon whom I see in Gold's Gym everyday. He said this week "But we could be 10-3!" Yes, but Edmonton is not. That's like the Riders saying "We coulda been 11-7 last year!" They were not.
* There was a hilarious interview in the intermission of Tuesday's Flames-Red Wings game on Sportsnet. A young Calgary fan interviewed Flames defenceman T.J. Brodie and asked him who his favourite player was growing up. "Steve Yzerman," Brodie answered, to which the kid replied, "Oh, mine is Jordan Eberle!"
* Very proud of former WHL officials Graham Skilliter and Kiel Murchison who made their NHL debuts recently in Edmonton and Vancouver respectively.
* Skilliter is a Saskatchewan product who gives hope to up-and-coming officials in our fine province. One of which is WHL linesman Troy Murray, son of Tampa Bay Lightning Director of Amateur Scouting Al Murray, who regularly works Regina Pats games. At the same time, Troy is a 20-year old with the Notre Dame Junior A Hounds. Very impressive.
* Was on the air on a Lethbridge radio station the other night and they asked when the struggles of the Regina Pats will end. That's a tough one to answer. After last night's 7-0 home loss to Edmonton, the team has lost 11 of its last 12 games and is pegged to miss the playoffs. This is the third year of the Chad Lang regime as General Manager and he should be given a little more time to sort it out. He spent his first season surveying the situation and then elected to clean house. The finger was pointed at Curtis Hunt, Shaun Sutter, Ryan Cyr and Todd Ripplinger. Will those moves pay off? Only time will tell but the clock is ticking on fans' patience.
* Lang's decision not to sell off assets the past two seasons had some merit. At least last year. He felt it was imperative to make the playoffs in 2012 since the team had missed the post-season for the previous three years. They lost a five-game first round series but filled the rink and the city was abuzz. However now, it's come back to bite the team in the butt and there is no quick fix.
* One thing about sports marketing is certain; 75% of it is WINNING. Fans will not buy tickets nor merchandise to support a perennial loser. It was no different with the Roughriders in the 90s in this town. The stadium was half-empty for Rider games and you got mocked in public if you were seen wearing a Rider hat, t-shirt or jersey. Therefore you rarely saw it. My how times have changed and what's the common denominator? Winning.
* Former Regina Pats Jesse Deckert and Ian Duval are in town tonight with the University of Manitoba Bisons to take on the Regina Cougars at 7 pm at the Cooperators Centre.
* The community of Warman, Saskatchewan - just outside Saskatoon - has applied to the SJHL about an expansion franchise. If their bid is successful, the franchise would begin play in the 2014-15 season. This is great for the SJHL and the franchise fee would be eagerly devoured.
* Here's a photo which old school broadcasters will appreciate. That's Kevin Harlan calling Super Bowl 47 on national radio across the USA during the 34-minute power outage. If you look closely, he's calling the game on a telephone handset which he turned upside down to use as a microphone.
How many of you play-by-play men out there have done that before? My first experience was in 1993 at the Tri-Cities Coliseum calling the Americans and Prince Albert Raiders. I had left an important piece of radio equipment in the broadcast booth in Spokane the night before and after an exhaustive search of stores in Kennewick, WA along with Raider trainer Dave 'Radar' Horning (which came up empty), we had to resort to the same method as Kevin Harlan. It happened a half-a-dozen times or so during my 1300-plus game career in the Dub. It's also happened on occasion for Roughrider broadcasts.
* CFL rumours which did not come to pass (but were reported on this blog): Duane Forde would be the GM of the Ottawa CFL team and Doug Brown would join the Blue Bomber front office. Rumours are just that; rumours.
* Many are wondering what's up with the Roughrider coaching staff? Well an announcement is forthcoming, perhaps as early as today, but it appears the Rider staff has been formalized. They've been staying at a Regina hotel and are already feverishly preparing for 2013 in meetings at Mosaic Stadium.
* Ottawa CFL franchise part-owner Jeff Hunt was a great guest on the Sports Cage this week. We asked him why he thinks the team will be a success this time around and his answer was five-fold: 1) local ownership, 2) a healthier CFL, 3) an expansion draft which is designed to be more fair, 4) the existence of a hardline salary cap and 5) a refurbished, pro-calibre stadium.
* Hunt will be in town at the end of the month for the annual CFL Winter Congress at the Delta Hotel. That's going to be a spectacular week.
* The new Ottawa team will be announcing its name within the next couple of weeks and it would appear they'll also be in the market for a play-by-play man. Long-time Rough Riders and Renegades voice Dave Schreiber retired from the business last summer.
* For the first time CFL football operations types will NOT be present at the Congress however. I've been told they will congregate the day before the spring Evaluation Camp to discuss rule changes and the like.
* The 2013 CFL schedule should be released before the Congress meetings but it's not guaranteed. I've been told the teams haven't even seen the first draft yet. Over the past few years the schedule has been announced as early as late-January and as late as early-March.
* Former Roughrider Luc Mullinder announced his retirement on Twitter this week, the same day he was granted his release from the Montreal Alouettes. Luc was the "unnamed player" I reported would announce his retirement prior to the Als' 2012 training camp however he had a last-minute change-of-heart.
* The acquisition of Geroy Simon by the Roughriders has been given the thumbs-up by just about everyone across the CFL as a good move however as one scout told me, "The only catch is if Geroy gets hurt. You don't heal as quickly at his age."
* Happy birthday this week to Rider lineman Ben Heenan who turned 23.
* There are signed auction items from Chris Getzlaf and Darian Durant up for grabs in the latest auction at Rider linebacker Mike McCullough's website at: http://www.mcculloughfootball.com/wordpress/index.php/auctions/
All proceeds go to benefit the charity Jesse's Journey.
* Vancouver broadcaster Matt Baker was on our radio show this week discussing Super Bowl 47, which he attended for Team 1040 radio. We asked him the differences between the Grey Cup and Super Bowl and he said the most notable was "accessibility". Fans can get into all the best parties in the CFL but normal folks, like Matt, were left banging on the door of the club during Super Bowl week.
* Like it or not, in this blogger's opinion, the "Schille-gate" controversy in curling circles this week is good for the sport. We had plenty of reaction to our discussion in the Sports Cage about the member of the Saskatchewan men's champion Brock Virtue rink being ejected from a game at the Tankard for swearing. The SCA said the ejection had been building but it drew the ire of many in the curling community.
Because of it, I'll now be paying particular attention to the fortunes of the Virtue rink at the Brier in Edmonton next month. Curling is a niche sport, a little like Nascar, which doesn't catch on in the public conscience until there's some type of scandal (in the case of Nascar it would be a fight or spectacular crash). This should make the Brier fun!
* And lastly, if you're driving on the streets of Regina this winter, for heaven's sake watch both ways at green lights! So many drivers are barreling through red lights to avoid the ice. We've set a record for power consumption and SGI claims are probably at record-levels too.
* Today's Press Box Sports Bar lunch buffet lineup:
Boneless Chicken Bites
Chicken Mushroom Alfredo
Long Grain Rice
* That's it for today. See you in the Sports Cage at 5:00 pm on 620 CKRM. Our featured guest is Roughriders' Assistant GM Jeremy O'Day.
HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND!