ANOTHER WEEKEND, ANOTHER BANQUET
A soldout crowd attended the 2015 Ducks Unlimited 35th Anniversity Dinner & Auction Saturday night at the Delta Regina. The event is always well-attended as tens of thousands of dollars are raised to help conserve the wetlands and save the ducks.
However the past few years an entertainment component was added and three years ago TSN's Jay Onrait and Dan O'Toole were the featured speakers. Last year I had the golden opportunity to interview on stage members from the four Roughrider Grey Cup championship teams: 1966 (Alan Ford), 1989 (Roger Aldag), 2007 (Jeremy O'Day) and 2013 (Darian Durant).
This year's even featured the Dean of Canadian sportscasters, TSN's Brian Williams who's best known for anchoring dozens of Olympic broadcasts as well as his feature work on CFL telecasts.
He was a little fidgety throughout the event, not particularly warming up to the fact he wouldn't take to the stage until 9:30 pm after all of the auctions had wrapped up. He knew people weren't paying attention to the front of the room in the first place, and would be even less-so with a belly full of booze by the end of the evening. However I did my best to ease his nerves and get his mind off of it.
As far as people being disrespectful at these dinners and being nearly impossible to corral, I've given up. I guess that's Regina's new "thing". I'll just continue to go through the program and hope for the best.
So being a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame Media Wing, Brian Williams has an affection for the CFL so I asked his take on the Toronto Argonauts conundrum which currently faces new Commissioner Jeffrey Orridge.
"I went to the same high school in Hamilton with Martin Short but David Braley also went there so I know David," Williams said. "He didn't try to own two teams. He's got the Argos and B.C. Lions but he had the Lions first and had he not bought the Argos, they would've gone out of business.
Now I'm not some Toronto-centric person but without Toronto, the league doesn't exist. You've got a population of 35-million and 10-million are in Southern Ontario."
Williams is confident the Argo mess will be straightened out by Braley, along with Brian's bosses.
"He will get that settled and the word is Bell - and I work for Bell Media - no one from Bell has talked to me but Bell spends $45-million a year for CFL television broadcast rights," Williams theorized. "Larry Tanenbaum, the head of MLSE, was after the NFL but the NFL is not coming to Toronto because Buffalo is staying where it is. Now Tanenbaum's involved trying to get the Argos with Bell so the ideal situation would be to play at BMO Field with strong ownership. I think it's coming. It's tough, but I"m optimistic."
Of course Brian Williams moonlights as the host of Don Cherry's Grapeline - the longest syndicated radio show in Canadian broadcast history. The program originates out of Fan 590 in Toronto but also airs on Regina's 620 CKRM weeknights at 6:30 pm. I asked Williams for his best Grapes story, and how the show began.
"1984 I came home from the Olympics in L.A. and Friar Smith, a well-known broadcaster at Toronto's CFRB, calls me and says Don Cherry wants to do a radio show," Williams reflected. "I say, 'I don't even know Don Cherry!' but he says Don wants to do a show and wants to do it with me. So we go and have a meeting and the CFRB guys say there's no money in syndicated radio shows. Don pulls out a cheque for $100,000 from Bridgestone Tires and says, 'Will this do?' This is 1984 and that's like a half a million dollars these days.
"So now we go and have to sell it door-to-door. Don asks me if he's got enough stories to last until Christmas! We agreed to stop in 1994 because we were tired of it but the media group Telemedia says they want to continue the show with a shorter season and they're gonna pay us more money!"
Brian warned that this is where his favourite Don Cherry took place.
"We're supposed to meet the Telemedia guys for lunch at a Toronto hotel to talk about it and Grapes calls me and says, 'Don't dress up for this lunch. Just wear a golf shirt and jeans because it's June and it's hot out'," Williams laughed. "I go dressed like that but he shows up in his best suit! Dressed to the nines! As we're leaving the restaurant, the whole place stands up and applauds us and Don stops and says to the whole place, 'Thank you! Thank you! Look at this - typical CBC - he's dressed like a bum'. We got outside and his wife Rose gave him hell. So we continued the show and we've done 31 years and I'm not sure about 32. I'm so busy and he's busy but he's great to work with. He loves the Regina Pats because of the Princess Patricias Canadian Light Infantry and Don loves his military history. I'll tell you why Don is so good: he's exactly on TV like he is in real life. It's not an act. He is exactly like that."
The full interview with Brian Williams will air Monday evening on the SportsCage after 6:00 pm.
JON RYAN CHARITY CLASSIC EVENTS
Seattle Seahawks punter and Super Bowl champion Jon Ryan of Regina will be holding his annual charity event in late June in his hometown. There will be an added bonus this year with the first-ever Wednesday Night Live at the Saskatchewan Sound Stage on June 24. Ryan joined us on Friday's SportsCage to discuss the evening.
|On stage with Jon in 2014|
"Ya it's gonna be a really cool event," J.R. said. "It's going to be a concert by The Trews as well as Gord Bamford, one of the biggest country stars in Canada. We're gonna be doing that along with my fiance, best-selling author and stand-up comic Sarah Colonna. She'll be hosting the event and I'll have some of my Seahawks teammates there too. It's gonna be a fun night. You can go online to www.jonryancgc.com to buy tickets and they're selling for $150 dollars right now."
The third annual charity golf classic at the Wascana Golf & Country Club will be held on Thursday, June 25 but is already soldout. Jon said
"I've been absolutely floored by it," Jon gushed. "I never thought it would get to this level or that we would be able to raise the amount of money that we've raised. It just speaks volumes about the people of Regina and how they support their own. I've said it millions of times, but I've taken so much from that city that you could never possibly give it all back. And everytime you try to give something back, they turn around and give you more than you could possibly ever ask for. That's what it's like to be from Regina and be from Saskatchewan."
The full interview with Jon Ryan is available on Friday's podcast on our official website at www.sportscage.ca.
2015 CFL DRAFT GOES TUESDAY
Excitement is ramping up for Tuesday's 2015 CFL Canadian College Draft which begins at 6:00 pm Saskatchewan time. Luc Mullinder and I will be broadcasting a preview of the event live from the Rider locker room on the SportsCage Tuesday beginning at 4:00 pm. We'll have plenty of Rider guests appearing live on the show - just like last year - including Head Coach Corey Chamblin, Assistant GM Jeremy O'Day and others.
TSN Draft Analyst Duane Forde will be holding a national conference call with the media on Monday which will air later in the day on the SportsCage while Rider GM Brendan Taman will address reporters right after at Mosaic Stadium
CTV Regina's Darrell Romuld did a nice feature with Canadian football scout Kent Ridley at www.ctvregina.ca and this is a portion of it:
REGINA -- Kent Ridley of Ridley Scouting spoke with CTV’s Darrell Romuld ahead of Tuesday’s CFL Draft.
“The fullbacks are really strong this year. There’s also a really great group of linebackers that I think all have a shot at earning a regular rotation spot,” Ridley said.
Ridley wrote the sixth annual Canadian College Draft Guide. He says there are not a lot of surprises this year. However, there may be some information in it that people might not have heard before, especially on players who have been in the United States for four or five years.
As for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, he predicts that they will try to trade into the second round only having picks at the number six and 24. The team needs to fill ten spots and Ridley thinks there are some good players that they will key in on.
“I think with their first pick they will probably look toward the offensive line just kind of a gut feeling there. And the number 24 spot I’ve got a lot of defensive guys that kind of fit into that position. In the draft that would be reasonable selections there and I think guys like Blair Smith would be a great fit for the Riders’ defense,” said Ridley.
Ridley also thinks that Tevaughn Campbell has a good chance to get selected. The local football player has got invites to two NFL training camps.
“When you’ve got a guy with that kind of chase speed, you know, you kind of places to put him,” said Ridley.
Addison Richards is also someone who Ridley says coaches have their eye on. He says Richards is a quality route runner and takes care of his blocks, something you don’t always see with Canadian players.
Top quarterbacks include Brandon Bridge and Jordan Yantz, who is from Saskatchewan . However, Ridley says that quarterbacks have an “uphill battle” this year. He explains that as long as the position is not involved in the ratio it may be a “stumbling block.”
“Jordan is a gutsy kid. I think he really fits in with the Edmonton mold. He’s a guy that comes in and could kind of look like a Mike Riley or a Matt Nichols and not create differences in how he plays,” said Ridley.
As for Bridge, he said that he fits the CFL style more than the NFL style.
MONDAY QUICK HITS
- Reporters will do their best on Monday to dig out of Rider GM Brendan Taman what their draft strategy will be this year but he can be forgiven for keeping his cards tight to his vest. When you sit down for your playoff draft, do you let the other poolies know what your plans are? Of course not. However as I wrote one week ago in this space, it wouldn't surprise me to see the Riders try to select offensive linemen and receivers since coach Corey Chamblin favours 11 starting Americans on defense.
- One CFL personality emailed after my Thursday column regarding how the Riders have diligently worked to patch the weaknesses of last season. "What will they do this year when the holes pop up?" he asked. We will have to wait and see.
- Rams receiver Addison Richards looms as a tantalizing pick for the Riders although they hold the 6th overall selection and Addison is rated for the second round. Despite his solid showing at this weekend's New York Giants minicamp, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Riders skip over Richards in Round 1. In 2010 the Riders went with the local guy in Jordan Sisco while Canadian receivers Cory Watson and Shawn Gore were snapped up with the very next two picks. They both have had solid CFL careers while Sisco never panned out, with injuries being the main culprit. It's unlikely history will repeat itself here despite the attachment to the local stud.
- It seems like 8:00 pm Eastern Time is an odd time to hold the CFL Draft but it's in prime time and fills a hole in TSN's programming. However it's an easy target for the critics, such as Montreal Gazette writer Herb Zurkowsky who Tweeted over the weekend, "Great moments in scheduling: CFL draft goes Tuesday night - head-to-head with sixth game of the Canadiens-Lightning series". That's a cheap shot. The CFL has tried everything over the years including starting the draft at 8:00 am or noon but nothing ever stuck. Hopefully they'll keep with this scenario and build something.
- We mentioned that former Rider safety James Patrick's little brother Qua Cox (same mother) was in camp with the Riders in Florida last month. However Cox worked out with the New York Giants over the weekend and may never get the opportunity to suit up with the Green & White.
- Announcing the CFL's new partnership with Shaw Communications Friday in Calgary seemed like odd timing as well but the message certainly seemed to have reached the masses. Shaw will be the presenting sponsor of the Grey Cup, Player Awards and the Player of the Week Awards. The amount of the sponsorship has not been made public but Hamilton Tiger-Cats President Scott Mitchell Tweeted, "Partnership between CFL/Shaw/TSN is one of the most significant corporate partnerships in league history. Grey Cup now presented by Shaw".
- The Anaheim Ducks are moving on to the NHL's Western Conference Final after disposing of the Calgary Flames 3-2 in overtime in the deciding Game 5 Sunday night. The Flames will no doubt be bitter with their ouster but in time they'll hold their heads high for what they accomplished this year. The question I have is: is this the start of something special in Calgary or will they be a one-and-done like Brian Burke's Toronto Maple Leafs?
- The other note that struck me over the weekend is the old excuse that hockey teams in L.A. and Anaheim can't be successful because they're so close to the sun-drenched beaches. There was a time when players would come to the rink with sunburns and coaches would throw their hands up. However with the Kings winning two Stanley Cups over the past four years and the Ducks charging towards a championship this year, you can toss that notion into the ocean.
I hate excuses.
- Matt Stajan's hit on Anaheim's Corey Perry wasn't dirty Sunday night. And it doesn't matter now anyway.
- Interesting to read Flames President of Hockey Operations Brian Burke isn't allowed to speak with the media during the playoffs, deferring to GM Brad Treliving. That's what it said in the Toronto Star on the weekend anyway.
- Speaking of championships, is there a more-decorated Regina sports personality than Norm Fong who celebrated his 64th birthday on Friday? The former Rider equipment manager and Plaza of Honor inductee joined us on the SportsCage on Friday and talked about his two Grey Cups with the Riders, his Memorial Cup title with the Regina Pats and two Canadian Bowl wins with the Regina Rams. Normie's royalty!
- Which team comes back from a 3-1 series deficit to win in Round 2: the Montreal Canadiens or New York Rangers? After falling down 2-0 to the Lightning, I tweeted that the Habs would come back to win the series and they seem to be on track to do just that. Here's hoping, since I've got five Canadiens in our annual playoff pool.
- It was a pleasure to sit with UofR Mens Hockey coach Todd Johnson at the Ducks dinner on Saturday. The Cougars appear to have their next starting goalie with the news over the weekend that former Regina Pats and Yorkton Terriers netminder Dawson MacAuley has committed to the UofR.
- The Brandon Wheat Kings are down 2-0 to Kelowna in the WHL championship series with the next three games slated for the Rockets' building. It would appear the Wheat Kings are about to be thrashed in the combine but you have to wonder how much better they'll be in 2015-16? Many predict they'll be nose-to-nose with the upstart Regina Pats but Pats coach John Paddock told us on the SportsCage last week, "We'll be even younger next year and will be pushed to make the playoffs".
- It was great to see the Pats draft Mike Sillinger's son Lukas on Thursday as well as John Paddock's nephew Max, a goalie out of Manitoba. I have no problem with drafting along bloodlines because it certainly sells tickets. However you never know how the genes are going to play out. Jordan Eberle's father Darren plays lead guitar in a rock band! But it appears Lukas Sillinger has a good head about him. When asked about the pressure of trying out for the team with which his Dad starred, Lukas said, "There can be pressure both ways. I'm just happy to have the opportunity."
- Every time I turn on the news, I see R.A. Dickey saying how much he sucks. How long will this experiment last with the Blue Jays?
THAT'S ALL! HAVE A GREAT WEEK...