Thursday, June 18, 2015
EMPTYING ANOTHER NOTEBOOK
1 - THE BOYS ARE BACK IN TOWN: Describing their time in Saskatoon as "awesome", Corey Chamblin and the Saskatchewan Roughriders officially broke 2015 training camp Wednesday afternoon and returned to Regina to get ready for the season. Perhaps camp isn't officially "over" since they have one preseason game remaining and the final wave of cuts still looms on Sunday. For nervous rookies and those "on the bubble", there are still a few sleepless nights ahead.
So what exactly do we have in the 2015 Roughriders? It's still far too early to tell. It's not the All Star-laden bunch of 2013 and it's not the ragtag bunch of 2014. One thing's for certain -- it's a fairly young group. Back-up quarterback Kevin Glenn is the oldest at 36 followed by 33-year old Jamel Richardson and 32-year old Darian Durant. The core group of receivers which includes Chris Getzlaf, Weston Dressler and Rob Bagg all hover around 30 and then there's a fairly steep drop off in age after that. To steal a movie line, "Our kingdom is young. Our stories have not yet become legend."
By the way, has it already been a week since the last noteboook column?? These weeks are going by like days. Hopefully that doesn't continue all season.
2- AS FOR SASKATOON: It remains a beautiful, bustling, vibrant city. It's an excellent place to stage training camp and the community is always waiting with open arms for the club. The Leader Post's Murray McCormick reports that training camp will likely return to Saskatoon in 2016 however it will be held in Regina's New Mosaic Stadium in 2017. We assume camp will be back in the Bridge City right after that. Being Saskatchewan's largest city, Saskatoon continues to long for a pro sports franchise. They should get one however the NHL is a pipedream and I'm told an AHL franchise is an impossibility. A CFL franchise could likely work, but it would be years and years away. There were rumblings of a new football stadium for Saskatoon three years ago but as we sit here today, we're not any closer to that being a reality.
3 - BRING ON THE STAMPS: The Roughriders will play their preseason finale Friday night at 7:30 at Mosaic Stadium against the Calgary Stampeders (CKRM Rider Radio Network). The forecast for the game continues to change hourly, with the first prediction I saw calling for clear skies and 24 degrees. As of Wednesday evening, it had been modified to include a 60% chance of showers. It will likely change many times more before kickoff. But if it rains, so be it. The farmers need rain far more than the Riders need sun.
With the game not being televised, you're going to have to buy a ticket to see what the club's been cooking up the past three weeks. And at this point we're not sure what the roster will look like however we received a tip on Wednesday that veteran defensive end John Chick will not be in the lineup. That may change too.
4 - LAPO RETURNS: CFL on TSN panelist Paul Lapolice returned for another season of the Coach's Playbook in the SportsCage on Wednesday presented by the Press Box Sports Bar. From his home in Winnipeg, Paul reported that he served as a guest coach for Argonauts training camp and filled an entry level position, charting plays. He said it was a fantastic experience. As for the Argos placing quarterback Ricky Ray on the 6-game injured list to start the season, Lapolice feels it won't serve as a major blow to the club. He feels Trevor Harris is ready to fill the void, and the team had been planning for this for months. Regarding Winnipeg Blue Bomber camp, Lapolice reported that second round pick Addison Richards has returned from injury and looked great the past few days.
As for the Press Box Sports Bar, they have 10 tickets left for Friday's game. For $50 you'll get a game ticket, transportation to and from the game, a burger and Molson product. Call 306-924-0111 to reserve your seat or stop in and ask a server.
5 - PLAY IT AGAIN SAM. OR DON'T: With rookie defensive end Michael Sam walking out on Montreal Alouettes camp on Friday, he can add another term to his resume. Quitter. No one's saying what the personal reasons are for Sam's departure, but the popular notion is that he saw the writing on the wall and cut his losses. It's disappointing he didn't see the venture through and as Alouettes GM Jim Popp told reporters, Sam's football career is likely over unless he returns to Canada.
6 - TROUBLE IN THE NATION'S CAPITAL: As if a 2-16 inaugural season wasn't bad enough for the expansion Ottawa RedBlacks, they looked dismal in two lopsided preseason losses. 40-year old quarterback Henry Burris put it in perspective saying they played two exhibition games with the benefit of only one week of training camp but many CFL observers feel the RedBlacks could be an even worse team in 2015. Hopefully that's not the case but if it is, can the fanbase withstand it? We may be about to find out. Ottawa visits Montreal on Thursday evening to kickoff the brand new season.
The RedBlacks have a 40-year old quarterback. Incidentally the Saskatchewan Roughriders' president and head coach are both under 40.
7 - THE GREATEST BLUE BOMBER EVER?: The topic came up this week in Winnipeg in a poll to decide who's the greatest Winnipeg Blue Bomber ever. The list was whittled down to Chris Walby and Milt Stegall. This is for Bomber fans to decide but if I had a vote, it would have to be for Walby. I mean, Stegall never won anything during his time in Blue & Gold other than a boatload of individual awards. Plus Walby's from there, if that counts for anything.
Incidentally you can join Walby and fellow Blue Bomber Hall of Famer David Black along with Carm Carteri and me on the inaugural Football Fan Cruise through the Caribbean next February. The sooner you book, the cheaper it is. Contact Christine at Ixtapa Travel in Winnipeg at Christine@IxtapaTravel.ca for information.
8 - MOVING THE SEASON UP: The news broke last week courtesy the Calgary Sun's Scott Mitchell that all nine CFL teams are in favour of moving the regular season up to begin as early as June 1 next year. The number one reason is to sell tickets in warmer weather, and to avoid playing playoff games in inhumanely cold temperatures. However the hold-up is TV rightsholder TSN who isn't fond of the lower ratings in the summer months. It's a back-and-forth issue and everyone has an opinion, and stake, in it. The CFL feels the NHL is a bigger threat than the NFL and is wary of battling the Stanley Cup Finals in June. However the way it is now, the CFL battles both the NHL and NFL in the fall. Other factors include the final NFL cuts just prior to Labour Day and the reluctance to hold the CFL Draft ahead of the NFL Draft. It's going to take some deep thinking.
email@example.com or go to www.ticketedge.ca. Tickets are only $40.
10 - HOCKEY NOTES: Next week will be jam-packed for the NHL with the Awards Show next Wednesday in Las Vegas and then Round 1 of the Entry Draft on Friday in Sunrise, FL ... Congrats to Regina's Bruce Franklin, a full-time scout with the Chicago Blackhawks, who won his third Stanley Cup ring on Monday evening. He told the SportsCage on Tuesday that he's taking his daughter to Thursday's Stanley Cup Parade in Chicago ... It's a foregone conclusion that Connor McDavid and Jake Eichel will go 1-2 in the Draft to Edmonton and Buffalo but no one knows who the Arizona Coyotes will select at #3. Franklin says the Coyotes will have the luxury of taking the top defenceman available in the draft and you can't understate the importance of blueliners. Bruce said to take, for example, Conn Smythe Trophy winner Duncan Keith ... It was disappointing to learn that former Regina Pats captain Barret Jackman has likely seen his tenure with the St. Louis Blues come to an end after 13 seasons. Barret's poised to become a free agent and the Blues don't intend to re-sign him. Interestingly, Jackman is the longest-tenured pro athlete in St. Louis dating back to 2002 ... A bevy of NHL players will be in Rouleau on Thursday for the 4th Annual Hockey & Hearts Charity Classic hosted by Keith Aulie of the Edmonton Oilers. John Lynch and I will be on hand for the SportsCage on 620 CKRM at 4:00 pm live from Rouleau Town Hall ... The wisest marketing slogan I heard this week, "Preparation H: Don't stand for hemorrhoids".
THAT'S ALL FOR TODAY! HAVE A GREAT ONE...