Friday, March 1, 2013
15 Random Thoughts On a Friday Morning:
1. The 2013 CFL Congress wraps up this morning at the Delta Regina concluding four days of the league's winter meetings. You'd have to say it was a smashing success and it was an absolute treat to broadcast 620 CKRM's Sports Cage from the Delta all week. Approxiamately 175 delegates were here from across the league in the early going and even more showed up for Thursday's Coach of the Year luncheon. That number shrunk by one during the luncheon, but we'll get to that. Anyways, Delta manager Jim Kilkenny should be proud of his staff because CFL types were raving about their service.
Oddly enough, CFL teams rarely stay at the Delta but that may change in the near future given their exceptional efforts this week.
Oddly enough part two: the only time I spent working outside the media business was a period of three months when I was 19 years old, working at the Delta so I know Mr. Kilkenny fairly well. It was fun, but I despised working 9-to-5.
2. As predicted there wasn't a ton of news coming out of league meetings so this "Huff-Gate" situation was a welcome relief. Stamps coach/GM John Hufnagel got up and left Thursday's luncheon before the winner was announced. Commissioner Mark Cohon and emcee Dave Randorf even awkwardly delayed proceedings until Hufnagel returned, but he was nowhere to be found. They waited 12 minutes before realizing Hufnagel wasn't coming back so they announced the winner to be Toronto's Scott Milanovich. Scott got up on stage and said "Thanks, but I think what we all really want to know is; did Huff have the steak or the chicken??"
Yes, we all thought John Hufnagel had a case of the bubble-guts and had raced to the washroom but no, it turns out he adjourned to his hotel room, checked out, and bolted to the airport. It looked really bad on Hufnagel and he ended up issuing a statement Thursday evening. It's posted below this column.
3. At last year's Grey Cup I wrote that Commissioner Mark Cohon came off looking like a prince and the same thing occurred here in Regina this week. His decision to hold a fan event at the Press Box Sports Bar, and then buy the whole joint a round of beers and free appetizers, made him a hero. Of course, Cohon was immediately chastised by CFL fans across the country for not doing it in their cities but that's the way it goes. If you want the Commissioner to buy you a beer, host CFL Congress!
4. There's not much doubt for which NHL team Mark Cohon cheers. During Wednesday's "Tweet-Up" at the Press Box, Cohon kept a close eye on the Maple Leafs-Canadiens game and pumped his fist when Toronto scored. It's clear he's a BIG Leafs fan and therefore, has a lot of emotional scarring.
5. And what exactly is a "Tweet-Up"? Well it seems to be a CFL-specific term but we learned it's an event to which people are only invited via Twitter. The CFL is definitely out front when it comes to social media and even won an award for it awhile back. However this week's proposal that certain players be allowed to Tweet during games has been met with a universal thumbs-down.
6. This is not the first time the Queen City has played host to the CFL Congress. About a decade ago the current salary cap, or Salary Management System (SMS) was born here. That's what we learned from Football Reporters of Canada secretary-treasurer Darrell Davis this week. Some CFL dignitaries said they'd like Regina to host Congress every year because we in the media showed up and made a very big deal out of it. Even though that's not likely to happen, it would be nice if CKRM broadcast the Sports Cage live from Congress every year because we had some great shows.
7. The succession of Grey Cup host cities for the next four years is: Regina (2013), Vancouver (2014), Winnipeg (2015), Hamilton (2016) and Ottawa (2017). That means the succession for Congress is the same because it's always held in the Grey Cup host city. This list is subject to change of course, due to stadium availability. As we all know Winnipeg was supposed to get the 2014 Grey Cup but their stadium is too far behind. What a mess.
8. What I learned out of Edmonton: A) The Eskimos have led the CFL in attendance for the past 11 years running and B) It was GM Ed Hervey's idea to make a splash at the free agent deadline and announce the signing of Odell Willis at 12:01 pm ET (one minute after the deadline). While the Eskimos got ripped for mocking the free agent process, I thought it was brilliant. Edmonton stole all the headlines and in the off-season, isn't that what it's all about?
9. The Riders' signing of free agent defensive end Ricky Foley was BIG news across the CFL this week. For a background check, I sent out texts to Foley's former teammates, coaches and to some media who covered him and the response was as varied as you can get. One said "Good player, very nice guy, super quotable and a farm boy to make the locals happy!" while another wrote "All the tools but no toolbox". One Argo official told me "Ricky wears his heart on his sleeve and some people don't like that", while somebody else responded with a label for Foley that I can't even print here. Because the reaction has been so diverse, I say we wait to find out for ourselves what Mr. Foley is really like.
10. Spent a good deal of time with Canadian Football Hall of Fame executive director Mark Denobile this week. Among his duties was acting as the "Keeper of the Cup", protecting the Grey Cup and escorting the CFL trophy to its various events. The most amazing thing I learned is that Phil Pritchard, who performs the same role with the Stanley Cup, lives only one block from Denobile in Burlington, Ontario!
Mark also asked me to emcee the 2013 Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Edmonton this fall and I told him if the Rider schedule works out, I'm in.
11. The Calgary Stampeders have lost another beat writer. First it was the Calgary Herald's Allan Cameron who left the newspaper to do media relations for the Canadian Curling Association and now it's the Calgary Sun's Ian Busby. The Cutknife, Saskatchewan product announced on Twitter this week that he's leaving the paper to be a producer/writer for City TV in Calgary. Anyone interested in taking Buzz's spot should email Todd Saelhoff at the Calgary Sun.
12. The three pillars the CFL has been built on are the Three A's: Affordable, Authentic and Accessible. They're adding a fourth in 2013 and it's "Aspirational". Commissioner Cohon says the league aspires to big things and that the league should carry itself with a swagger because it's accomplished a lot of the past few years. Rider President Jim Hopson even said he wishes he was 10 years younger because this league is going to explode in popularity over the next decade. That's great news for guys like me and CFL personnel let me know this blog is a big part of the league's expected growth. What a nice thing for them to say!!
13. Rider Coach Corey Chamblin said this week that I'm giving him grey hair. For the life of me, I can't figure out why. He must have been joking because last night he honked at me and smiled while whisking by in his Rider truck at a downtown Regina intersection. His passenger was B.C. Lions coach Mike Benevides.
14. The best part about the Congress is getting to see league personnel OUTSIDE the tense environment of the regular season. For instance, Argo coach Scott Milanovich was so wound up at his news conference in Regina in October that I thought he wasn't a real nice guy. His media obligations seemed to be more of a nuissance. However spending time with him on Thursday, he seemed to be a real genuine, down-to-earth guy who spoke of his children and his father in interviews after winning the Annis Stukus trophy. He also noted his father, Tony Dungy, Marc Trestman and Jim Barker as his mentors along the way. Real nice guy.
15. Hockey news? It's starting to dry up around here but there's some information listed in the posts below. One thing I learned this week was that the WHL will likely have a team in Nanaimo, BC before it ever has one in Winnipeg. That's the preferred choice and it could be the destination of the struggling Prince George Cougars. We also learned that the WHL is pushing for teams to carry as many as five 20-year olds (up from the current number of three) however they're getting resistance from the OHL and QMJHL. Those leagues have their own reasons for that, but they're not good ones. Also the Saskatoon Blades clinched a playoff spot this week for the fifth-straight year. That's impressive. Nobody else in the division has a current streak that long.
Today's Press Box Sports Bar lunch buffet lineup courtesy Chef Kevin:
Boneless Chicken Bites
Mashed Potatoes & Gravy
That's it for this week. For those who submitted photos, please check back on Monday morning for the MMG. It's been a blur at Congress and I haven't had time to surf through reader submissions but thanks for sending them in!
HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND,