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Monday, February 25, 2013

THE MONDAY MORNING GOALIE

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Regina, Saskatchewan is going to be the nerve centre of the Canadian Football League this week for the league's annual winter congress to be held at the Delta Hotel beginning Tuesday.

Regina was chosen as host because the league's winter meetings are always held in the Grey Cup host city and we have the game this November.

Staff from league headquarters will be here along with most of the front office staff from each of the league's eight member teams. The new Ottawa CFL franchise will likely have representation as well, although team co-owner Jeff Hunt informed me last week he will be unable to attend after originally planning to be here.

For the first time in recent memory there will be NO football operations staff on hand for the proceedings. That's because team GMs and coaches will gather the day before the annual Evaluation Camp in Toronto this spring to go over rule change proposals and the like. Normally that would be dealt with at the congress.

There will be a welcome reception at the Delta Tuesday evening and on Wednesday teams will get down to business. The first item on the agenda is a breakfast with CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon at which I'll be hosting a Q & A segment with Cohon.

Meetings are planned for the rest of the day and then Wednesday evening there will be a fan event at the Press Box Sports Bar which all eight teams will attend. Mark Cohon will be on hand with the Grey Cup and there will be photo opportunities for fans.

Meetings continue Thursday morning and the annual Coach of the Year luncheon will be held over the lunch hour that day. All three finalists will be present (Mike Benevides, John Hufnagel and Scott Milanovich). Further meetings are planned for Thursday afternoon and then there will be a social that night where the delegates will hit the ice at a local curling club to throw some rocks in a fun bonspiel.

620 CKRM's Sports Cage will be front-and-centre all week long as we plan to broadcast the show live from the Delta on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 5-7 pm.

It's going to be a fun week!
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All the cloak and dagger intrigue in the CFL this off-season has been fascinating! Both the Montreal Alouettes and Saskatchewan Roughriders were chastised for waiting so long to announce their coaching staffs but they went about it in a very similar fashion.

For instance, the Alouettes didn't announce new head coach Dan Hawkins and his staff until last Tuesday however the entire crew was holed up at a Montreal airport hotel for almost a week beforehand. They were putting in 14 hour days in meetings while GM Jim Popp got all the contract details sorted out. The same thing went on with the Roughriders.

How do I know this? Well Thursday evening I got a call from new Alouettes Offensive Quality Control coach Ryan Dinwiddie, a former Blue Bomber and Roughrider quarterback, who had just moved into a downtown Montreal hotel and had five minutes to spare between video sessions. Here's the transcript of our discussion:

RP: TUESDAY MUST HAVE BEEN A REAL PROUD DAY?

DINWIDDIE: Definitely just as proud as any time you're playing football. Obviously I wanted to play as long as I could but coaching was my ultimate goal. I knew coaching was gonna be my career for the rest of my life. Just to get my foot in the door, especially in the CFL, and working with a great staff and with my old college coach. I couldn't ask for more.

RP: OBVIOUSLY YOU WERE SWORN TO SECRECY REGARDING YOUR HIRING?

DINWIDDIE: It was tough. Obviously when I found out I wanted to tell everyone and my parents and grandparents knew but I said 'Hey, you can't tell anyone' because if that gets out on Facebook or Twitter, it can spread. It was really hard for them not to say anything for sure but they did a good job because it didn't get out.

RP: HOW DID YOUR HIRING COME ABOUT?

DINWIDDIE: It's funny because last year when Marc Trestman interviewed with the Colts, I'd just gotten back in the States from Regina and Hawkins called me out of the blue and said 'Hey I need to learn the CFL because I may interview in Montreal if Trestman leaves'. So, me and him went up to Boise State and spent eight hours on the chalkboard with me showing him everything. He got real excited about it and then the same thing happened this year; he called me out of the blue and when Trestman went through the Chicago deal and it just worked out.

RP: EXPLAIN YOUR CONNECTION TO HAWKINS...

DINWIDDIE: We got along real well and he actually recruited me out of Elk Grove for Boise State because he was the Recruiting Coordinator before he was the coach. Being a northern California guy, he coached with my high school coach, so our ties go back a long ways.

RP: HOW ABOUT BEING REUNITED WITH DOUG BERRY?

DINWIDDIE: That's funny because I didn't even know Doug was on the staff until we got up here. Jim (Popp) wanted to have some guys with CFL experience and they brought Doug in as a consultant with CFL rules and practice situations. These guys aren't used to the single points and things like that.

Yours truly interviewing Dinwiddie back in the day
RP: EXPLAIN YOUR ROLE WITH THE ALOUETTES..

DINWIDDIE: I'm Quality Control so that means I'm the greenhorn of the group, just getting my foot in the door and breaking down tapes. Right now I'm just helping them with the CFL game, motions, and the differences. Once the season starts I'll be helping out with the quarterbacks and receivers and doing some of the grunt work.

RP: EXPLAIN QUALITY CONTROL...

DINWIDDIE: It's been around forever. And even in college football now it's a big deal and I almost took a Quality Control job in the States. But I just really wanted to get up to the CFL. I'm comfortable with the game and I know a lot of the personnel. I really like Canada so it's a place for me to stay for awhile.

RP: HOW ABOUT YOUR TIME WITH THE RIDERS (2010, 2011)?

DINWIDDIE: I loved it there. My friends, I still talk to them a lot. That locker room was great with a bunch of classy guys The fan support, it's all great. Some people may say it's too small but I could see myself coaching down there in the future.

RP: HAVE YOU HEARD FROM LOTS OF OLD TEAMMATES?

DINWIDDIE: My Facebook page has been blowing up! All those guys know I was always preparing for this point. I kept my plate clean, worked hard, and let my resume speak for itself. I talked to Darian the other day and I knows I'll do a good job and work my butt off.

RP: WHAT'S YOUR ULTIMATE COACHING GOAL?

DINWIDDIE: Right now I'm just taking it Day 1. From playing to coaching, you do similar things, but terminology, writing it up and putting it on power point, it's all a little new. Obviously I want to start here, prove myself, get to a full-time position, quarterbacks, receivers, running backs, whatever it takes I know I can coach 'em all. Obviously be a coordinator, do well there, and eventually be a head coach.

RP: CONGRATS AGAIN AND GOOD LUCK IN MONTREAL RYAN!

DINWIDDIE: I'm looking forward to it! Hopefully we can both end up in the Grey Cup in Regina this year!

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10 MONDAY MORNING OBSERVATIONS:

1 - The Saskatoon Blades are the hottest team in the WHL having rattled off a club-record 15 straight victories however an NHL scout scoffed at that over the weekend saying "They play in the league's weakest division!"

I in turn scoffed at that notion, saying the Blades don't need to make any apologies for destroying whichever opposition gets in its way. They will win the East Division pennant and then buckle up for a tough road to the 2013 Memorial Cup, for which they are the host team. It won't be easy.

2 - The magic/tragic number for the Brandon Wheat Kings to miss the playoffs is one.

3 - I'm not the hugest fan of the Edmonton Oilers but felt the two game suspension to Taylor Hall for his "knee-on-knee" hit on Minnesota's Cal Clutterbuck last week was obscene. It appeared to be more of a devastating hipcheck and, as Hall put it himself, he could have gone for his head but didn't.

4 - Most people spent Sunday evening watching either the Oscars or the Scotties final between Rachel Homan and Jennifer Jones. However I watched the 1972 Grey Cup between Saskatchewan and Hamilton on ESPN Classics. The broadcast crew was Don Chevrier and Russ Jackson and they were superb. It was a rough start for the Roughies, with an early Ron Lancaster interception and a block punt. Of course the game ended in agony, as Ian Sunter booted a 34-yard field goal on the game's final play for a 13-10 Ticats' victory.

One of the broadcasters said "Heartache for Saskatchewan". Good Lord we've had enough of that haven't we?

5 - Speaking of the Scotties, Saskatchewan's Jill Shumay just missed the cut but she did the province proud in her national debut. Even TSN's Vic Rauter said "Saskatchewan is very strong". Way to go girls! Next up is the Brier with Regina's Brock Virtue rink representing Saskatchewan, trying to end a 30-year drought. It's going to be exciting. Saturday is Day 1.

6 - We are extremely close to having the 2013 CFL schedule released. Scruffy quoted an "unofficial source" on Sunday saying the Rider schedule will be made up of six Saturday games, two on Friday and one Sunday contest. We will find out very soon.

7 - Country sensation Eric Church is this generation's Hank Williams Jr. He even sang Hank Jr's A Country Boy Can Survive at his soldout show at the Brandt Centre Friday evening. I found it odd that Church wore sunglasses throughout the entire performance and was trying to remember the last country singer to do so. It was Hank Williams Jr. Church is clearly a bad boy and makes no apologies for it. He did the most with what he could, since he only has a handful of hits. He made up for it with a Vegas-style show with lots of glitz, smoke and lights. I turned to Nick Mazurak in the Molson suite and said "This is Kiss meets country!"

8 - The funniest quote from over the weekend came from Friday's Sports Cage. Hall of Famer Miles Gorrell was asked which was his favourite CFL team to play for, since he suited up for Calgary, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Hamilton and Montreal. Miles quipped "Whoever was paying me!"

9 - Sports Cage co-host John Lynch was on fire last week making several bold predictions for 2013. The most notable was his suggestion that Doug Berry will be coaching the Montreal Alouettes by Labour Day. Lynch figures Hawkins will have a tough time adjusting to the CFL game and it will be a disaster. We will see.

10 - And lastly, a thousand thank you's to George Yannitsos of the Four Seasons Sports Palace for providing two tickets to Saturday night's Evening In Greece at the Delta! We were able to sit right up at the front with one of the organizers, John Athannasopolous, and MC Costa Maragos of the CBC. Somebody told me 1,000 plates were smashed as the Greeks danced around and chanted "OPA!"


The committee turned over a six figure cheque to Regina's Palliative Care Unit and it truly was one of the most amazing nights of the year. Thanks George!!!
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Blog Mailbag:


Hey Rod, hope you had a great vacation down in Playa. I was down there as well staying in Akumal Beach for a couple of weeks.

I am sure you noticed the Rider Nation is strong as ever even in Mexico!

A couple of pics if you want to share on the blog.

Pic 1- me at sports bar in Playa. I was just pumped when I saw the 07 Grey Cup Champ flag.

Pic 2 – first day at Akumal Beach resort sit by the pool and what do I see hanging from a balcony!! RIDER Nation baby!! I felt like I was at home in Mexico!

Share if you wish.

Go Riders can’t wait for the season!
Jason Dalmage




Rod,
Rider Pride is alive and well here in Comic, BC...
Dave Wilson
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That's it for today. Tune into the Sports Cage on 620 CKRM at 5 pm for another Rider Monday. Among our guests is Hall of Fame football writer Darrell Davis.

HAVE A GREAT WEEK!
RP