A RIDER DOZEN ONE-TIMERS
1 - Wednesday's 2-1 overtime loss in Game 7 of Washington's second round Stanley Cup Playoff series with the New York Rangers had to be the most bitter of Alexander Ovechkin's hockey career. And there have been many. The Great 8's sheepish guarantee of a Game 7 win caught everyone's attention and it was certainly shaping up to be a fantastic story when he scored to give the Caps a 1-0 lead after the first period at Madison Square Garden. Privately, I was hoping the Caps would make good on it. Unfortunately Ovechkin's teammates weren't able to muster enough guption to back their captain's assertion and their playoff journey wound up in the ditch. Ovechkin's a heckuva hockey player with all the talent in the world but to quote Paul Pierce - the Washington Wizards small forward - he lacks the "it" factor.
Remember in Game 1 when he scored on Rangers goalie Henrik Lundquist and circled the net beaking, "All series! All series"? He looks like a fool now. The greats of the game would have never done something like that.
2 - Should the NHL be thrilled or mortified at the prospect of an Anaheim-Tampa Bay Stanley Cup Final, a battle of sunbelt teams who didn't exist in 1990? An Original Six championship series between the Blackhawks and Rangers is mouth-watering as well. Either way the hockey continues to be excellent and don't forget about the Royal Bank Cup and the Memorial Cup!!
3 - Rider GM Brendan Taman said Wednesday his team is pleased with their 2015 Draft class but admitted all nine CFL teams likely feel that way about their picks right now. He admitted the proof will be in the pudding a year from now. We got word Wednesday that some Winnipeg media types were upset with Taman for selecting Bisons star receiver Nic Demski in the first round at #6. However upon further review, if Demski was so coveted, why didn't the Bombers take him with the #2 pick?
4 - Even in local football circles, the Roughriders were not criticized for passing over star Regina Rams receiver Addison Richards with their first pick Tuesday evening. The general consensus was that Richards was the #3-rated receiver in the draft however one person connected to the Rams texted - "Richards better than Demski ... Demski is good but injury prone ... Richards is 6'5" with great hands and runs a 4.58 40 ... He'll be Getzlaf 2.0 only bigger and faster".
Some are hoping the Jason Clermont Scenario of 2002 - when the Riders forfeited their pick in favour of the Supplemental Draft and Clermont wound up going to the B.C. Lions - doesn't play over again but in the final analysis, Addison Richards is a Sport Utility Vehicle while Nic Demski is a flashy sports car. And the Riders wanted the sports car.
5 - It'll be tough to see Richards in Blue & Gold though. And I thought it was impressively ballsy for Addison to proclaim long before the draft that he was hoping to be chosen by Saskatchewan. However he's not dumb and he quickly changed his tune when speaking to CBC Radio in Winnipeg on Wednesday. "I couldn't be more excited," Richards said. "I'm thrilled to be becoming a Blue Bomber. It's a dream come true to play in the CFL. I can't lie ... I grew up in the heart of the Rider Nation and grew up a Rider fan of course but at the end of the day, the dream's always been to play pro football."
Addison also displayed the raw honesty of Generation Y when he tweeted that he was offended to be referred to as 'Addison Reed' by someone on the TSN panel Tuesday evening! Those of us in Generation X were taught to always bite our lip.
6 - It was really cool to see the 2015 Saskatchewan Roughriders coaching staff introduced by Premier Brad Wall in the opening comments at the Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly this week. How many CFL teams can boast that? That must have been a magnificent thrill for the coaches. Wonder if the Riders will repay the favour by having Wall's Cabinet in for a tour of the Rider locker room? And it's really swell to consider Gene Makowsky's history with both the Roughriders and the Sask Party caucus.
7 - How disappointing it was to learn of the Tampa Bay Lightning's policy to ban Montreal Canadiens jerseys in the Amalie Arena for Game 6 of their second round series with the Habs. The Lightning even went so far as to decline ticket orders from anyone with a "514" area code. Not even Calgary does this when the Rider Nation comes to town. They're smart enough to know that Rider fans' money counts just the same as Stamps' fans. A few years ago they offered a noise-maker promotion at a Stamps-Riders game for anyone wearing red and while we mockingly groaned about it on air, it was all in good fun. At least it was from our side.
8 - 20,000 Canadiens fans packed the Bell Centre in Montreal on Tuesday to watch the road game on the centre ice big screen, all paying $10 at the door. One wonders if the Regina Pats or Evraz Place would offer a similar opportunity for road Roughrider games in 2015? With the largest high definition LED screen in the country currently hanging in the Brandt Centre, you would certainly get a pretty good view of the broadcast. Just a thought.
9 - This is a football town so it's no surprise some of the talk on coffee row this week centred on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's four game suspension for his role in Deflate-gate. Pretty much everyone I spoke with felt the penalty was too harsh, and I agree. In fact, I didn't think he'd get anything at all. If the Stanley Cup-winning goal was found to be scored by an illegally-curved stick, would there be such an uproar? Of course not. In the end, Brady will likely win his appeal and never miss a game. ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that Brady's legal team is "unreal".
10 - News from the Regina Thunder junior football club: the team has added coaches Luc Mullinder (defensive line) and Reid Quest (QBs) for the 2015 season. Luc - our prized SportsCage football analyst on 620 CKRM - is working his way up the coaching ladder the right way, starting in RMF and moving up to the PFC. Who knows how far up the ladder goes? He's a gem of a human being and football mind.
The Thunder also announced they'll be playing an exhibition game against the Calgary Colts on Saturday, August 8 in Medicine Hat. Whatever happened to those rumours from years ago that Medicine Hat and Lethbridge were going to be getting PFC teams?
Regina was supposed to be getting a North American Indoor Football League franchise too. Guess that went out the window as well.
11 - Where's a good hotel in Saskatoon for Luc and me to stay during 2015 Roughriders training camp? We were happy to go back to the ParkTown for another year but have been discouraged by the fact nearby University Bridge is closed for the summer. It's also great to be heading back to P.A. for the Riders' one-day practice at Carlton Comp in June. My old stomping grounds! They love their Riders in Prince Albert.
12 - JUST NOTES: In the latest rankings for the 2016 NHL Draft by The Hockey News, Regina Pats forward Sam Steel is rated 6th overall ... Scottsdale, Arizona's Auston Mathews is rated #1 and his WHL rights are owned by the Everett Silvertips. There was a false rumour going around this week that the Pats had acquired Mathews' rights via trade but it was just that; false. However there's a connection there because Arizona Coyotes co-owner Gary Drummond also has a stake in the Pats and the Coyotes would dearly love to get their hands on Auston. But if they do, it won't be this way ... The Hockey Writers website had a nice feature on Manchester Monarchs forward Jordan Weal this week proclaiming "Jordan Weal Is The Real Deal!" Where have we heard that before? The article starts off by saying you likely haven't heard of Jordan Weal yet, but you will soon since he's leading the AHL in playoff scoring. That's the beauty of junior hockey -- you know who these players are long before the Johnny-Come-Lately's do ... Had a wonderful meal at the new Regina restaurant 2010 downtown on 12th Avenue this week. I recommend the Chicken Ancini, which I'd put up against Grekos' Chicken a la Greko. The restaurant has a "big-city" feel ... Is the City of Regina on a parking ticket blitz? Is Mayor Michael Fougere in need of a raise? I got nailed with two violations this week.
13 - Life is easy. It's people who complicate it.
THAT'S ALL FOR THIS WEEK! THANKS FOR READING...