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Thursday, June 25, 2015

THURSDAY RODSERVATIONS


SPORTS THOUGHTS AND GAME NOTES

1 - PREPARATIONS CONTINUE:  The Saskatchewan Roughriders held Day 2 of their practice week behind locked doors at Mosaic Stadium on Wednesday.  The club continues to put plans together for Saturday's Week 1 clash with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in Regina (6:00 pm, TSN, CKRM Rider Radio Network).  Day 2 will likely be a closed practice for the rest of the season in order to keep prying eyes out.  When the team emerged on Wednesday, head coach Corey Chamblin disclosed that veteran stars Weston Dressler and Tyron Brackenridge will miss Saturday's game due to injury.  The coach said Dressler is further along than Brackenridge - and both probably could play if pressed - but he wants to ensure their health over the long haul.

While this is clearly a torpedo to the Riders, it won't sink them.  Chamblin shrugged and said their depth at the receiver and safety positions will be put to the test earlier than they'd planned.  Ryan Smith, Keenan MacDougall and/or Macho Harris will be leaned on in these respective areas come Saturday.

2 - DON'T OVERLOOK THE BOMBERS!:  Winnipeg was 0-3 against the Roughriders last year and are 7.5-point underdogs going into this one.  They were a division-worst 7-11 last year.  Everyone around here (with the exception of the Riders themselves) seems to be predicting a Saskatchewan romp Saturday night.  "It doesn't have to be close," opined CKRM football analyst Luc Mullinder this week.  Does this scare anyone?  I posed the question to Chamblin on Wednesday's CKRM Coaches Show and he said he's not concerned about outsiders' predictions.  He basically said they've got enough to worry about making sure everything's covered on their end, and he hasn't even had to bring up the possibility of looking past Winnipeg.  It's not even a consideration and he hasn't had to build any extra hype.  His boys are ready to go.

As for the forecast on Saturday, it looks like a beauty.  Sunshine and 30 degrees Celsius (86 above Fahrenheit).

3 - THE "GREEN" BOMBERS:  Someone joked that the Bombers are the "Riders-East" given the fact their coaching staff is speckled with former Rider assistants like Richie Hall, Todd Howard, Barron Miles, Bob Wylie and Marcel Bellefeuille.  To be fair - some of them got their coaching start in places other than Saskatchewan.  Their roster comprises several former Roughriders too, like middle linebacker Sam Hurl, DB Graig Newman, receiver Kris Bastien, quarterback Drew Willy, lineman Patrick Neufeld (who's on the injured list) and centre Dominic Picard, who was an original draft pick of Winnipeg.

"What do they say?  Imitation is flattery?" Chamblin joked on the Coaches Show.  "That's what most people say.  Imitation is just flat out imitation.  That's what it is.  It doesn't flatter me.  They may try to emulate us and the past success that we've had.  You can't live off past success, you have to create new success and that's where we're at."

4 - THE CURTAIN RISES:  The 2015 CFL season kicks off Thursday night with the Ottawa RedBlacks at the Montreal Alouettes (5:30 pm Sask time, TSN).  The CFL schedule-makers have certainly set the table for the RedBlacks, putting them on centre stage for a marquee game to open the week.  CFL Commissioner Jeffrey Orridge will likely be there, and all the notable dignitaries.  Now it's up to the RedBlacks to not soil the sheets.  The Alouettes are favoured by a whopping 8-points.  Football maven John Lynch has predicted an Ottawa upset.

5 - GAME NOTES:  The CFL sent out its comprehensive game notes package for the Ottawa-Montreal and Calgary-Hamilton games on Wednesday.  Some of the things that stuck out are:  46% of all CFL players are in their first or second year this season.  That's up from 44% in 2014 and 42% in 2013 ... The average age of a CFL player is 27.2 years which is exactly the same as a year ago this time ... Non-import players comprise 48% of all team rosters ... Darian Durant goes into Saturday's game 691 passing yards away from being #17 all-time ... Kevin Glenn is 522 yards away from passing Matt Dunigan for #7 all-time.

6 - DON'T SLEEP ON THE TICATS:  There are several marquee games on the Week 1 schedule including Friday's Grey Cup rematch in Calgary between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Stampeders.  A really good football team is going to come out of that game at 0-1.  As one CFL-type said to me this week, "Kent Austin's coached in this league for three years and made three Grey Cup appearances.  It's not a coincidence."  Will this finally be their year for the first time since 1999?  The smart money says yes but the oddsmakers have the Stampeders, Eskimos and Roughriders ahead of them.

7 - FOOTBALL'S FIRST FAMILY:  Just the mere mention of the name "Lancaster" is enough to get peoples' attention in this town.  Bob Lancaster, the youngest of Ron and Bev Lancaster's three kids, is in Regina observing the Roughriders during their Week 1 preparations.  He's coaching a Four-A high school football program in the Carolinas but jumped at the invitation to come "home" for a week and immerse himself in pro football.

Bob's the only one of the Lancaster tribe to have been born in the Queen City and counts local sports figures (and current Regina City Policemen) Kollin Erichsen, Tim Logan and Dean Shaw as some of his childhood friends.  He also said it never gets old to come into this stadium and see his Dad's picture on the grandstand or his name emblazoned on the facade.

Lancaster noted that his brother R.D. Lancaster won a Grey Cup in his first season in the CFL and so did his nephew Marc Mueller.  I noted that he omitted his brother-in-law Larry Mueller, who won a Grey Cup in his first season with the Roughriders in 1989.

"Ya, that was on purpose," Lancaster grimaced.  "I gotta live with Larry for a week while I'm up here so I don't need him holding that over me!"

The full interview with Bob aired on Wednesday's SportsCage.  I may air it again this week as it got a tremendous reaction from our listeners.  By the way, he looks fantastic in green.


J.R. displays his Super Bowl and NFC championship rings
8 - WEDNESDAY NIGHT LIVE:  The Saskatchewan Sound Stage on College Avenue was packed for the first-ever Wednesday Night Live hosted by Seattle Seahawks punter Jon Ryan of Regina and his fiance, comedian Sarah Colonna.  The posh event featured a stand-up routine from Colonna along with performances by the rock group The Trews and country star Gord Bamford.  We stayed until The Trews' smash hit Not Ready To Go, before heading to the exit.  Kind of ironic when you think about it.

The event was all part of Jon Ryan's 3rd Annual Charity Classic which will include a soldout golf tournament at the Royal Regina on Thursday.  Once again, the SportsCage will be broadcasting live on location.  Jon's efforts are to raise money for the Bob Ryan Foundation and Gear Up, the new initiative to raise funds for Regina Minor Football's new Mighty Mites Division.

Already the Seahawks' career leading punter and a Super Bowl champion with Seattle, Jon Ryan has no intention of hanging up the cleats anytime soon.  However he is entering the final year of his contract with the Seahawks.  His Mom Barb came on the SportsCage from Wednesday's event and I asked her if Jon will ever fulfill his goal of punting for the Saskatchewan Roughriders before calling it a career.  She quipped, "He'll be pretty old by then."

As for Saturday's game, Jon said he'll be cheering for the Roughriders even though the franchise passed him over multiple times in the CFL Draft and he wound up going to Winnipeg.

- A BIG DRAFT FOR THE REGINA PATS:  The Regina Pats have six players elligible for this weekend's NHL Draft in Sunrise, FL but insiders feel it's likely four of those will hear their names called.  Those are Austin Wagner, Jesse Gabrielle, Sergei Zobrovsky and Connor Hobbs.  The most Pats ever selected in one NHL Draft was in 1983 when eight were selected.  The most in my time was 1996 when Josh Holden (Vancouver), Derek Morris (Calgary), Curtis Tipler (Tampa Bay) and Boyd Kane (Pittsburgh) were all taken.  I was on hand that day in St. Louis, Missouri and it was fantastic.  I'll never forget at an NHL reception the night before, Flames scout Jim Bzdel leaned over to me and said they planned to take Derek Morris at #13.  He quickly followed it up with, "And if you tell anyone that, I'll kill you".  That's generally a pretty good way to get me to keep your secrets.

As for NHL expansion, it's playing out exactly how we told you it would.

10 - SOCIAL MEDIA:  The only reason I signed up for Facebook way back in the day was to establish a network of contacts for alumni of the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Regina Pats.  It's been an invaluable tool in that regard, and the same goes now for Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.  For any other reason, they're mostly a pain in the butt but imagine my surprise when I got an "invite" from former Roughrider defensive lineman Demetrious Maxie this week through LinkedIn!  The UTEP product from Shreveport, Louisiana had a 14-year career in the CFL and spent the 2000-2001 seasons with Saskatchewan.

I loved the man.  I'll never forget one night at the Four Seasons Sports Palace, we were sitting around discussing baby names for my child-to-be.  "I think you should go with Orlando," D-Max proudly suggested.  Thank God we had a girl.

------

THAT'S IT FOR THIS WEEK!  ENJOY THE GAME
RP
@sportscage
Instagram: ridervoice

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your tireless efforts.

Anonymous said...

Just watched the top 50 CFL players feature on TSN. Huh? Where was Crompton? That man carried the Alouettes on his back for half the season.

Anonymous said...

Agree with anon #1, I really do appreciate reading your columns every week. It keeps me in the loop on all the Riders news

Mike

Anonymous said...

Crompton? You want Crompton in the Top 50? There are back - up's in the league better than Crompton; Glenn and Tate come to mind. I'm not sure Crompton is even the best QB on his own team given the signing of Lefevour.

Anonymous said...

Bear Woods and the Al's D carried the team last year! Pay attention man.

Anonymous said...

Very sad to hear that the NHL is prepared to expand and water down the product on the ice again.

Anonymous said...

Remember how awesome it was when the Alouettes 'already' had SAM jerseys on sale the day he signed ... how did that work out for those folks?

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with anon #6. Just shows you the NHL owners are just greedy. The league already has enough watered down teams trying to compete. How about getting rid of 2 or 3 teams.

Anonymous said...

Especially the idea of putting a team in Vegas. They think that just cause there are a lot of Canadians that live and vacation down there that a team will be successful. Well, there are a lot of Canadians in the Phoenix area and that place has been nothing but a gong show. Sorry Rod I know you love Phoenix and Vegas but if Canadians are going down to those places, they aren't going to watch hockey (unless their team is playing). It hasn't worked and it's not going to work. But Bettman will never admit that, he's determined to make up for the Atlanta failure come hell or high water.


Biden

Anonymous said...

yes the oilers and leafs

Anonymous said...

Congrats to the Pat NHL draft prospects. I think there were 8 NHL picks in 1974 too. Joly,Gillies,Burdon,Sobchuk, MacDougall, Laird, Ulrich, & Bell, I believe in that order. Back then all were 19 years old when drafted.

Anonymous said...

The change from a nicotine culture to a cell-phone culture seems almost complete.

It was not too long ago at Pat games and Rider games, at work, on a plane, on the street etc. that most people's hands held a cigarette and they were immersed in enjoying their "fix".

Now, when I look around me at football and hockey games, at work, on planes, on the street etc. most peoples hands are out with a phone in it.

It is a distraction for many to be sure, and an annoyance for old folk like me, especially when you are at a restaurant with your teen who is a chain texter, but the one good think is there is no second hand product that can kill you with cancer or heart disease. That I suppose is progress. But I wish people at football games would watch the game on the field and not poke away at their phone, but to each their own eh?

Old Hank

ps. If you are out riding your bike or for a walk today, avoid Wascana Creek west of the Albert St. bridge. There has been a huge die-off of large fish and the stink and the flies is quite bad.

Anonymous said...

Saw the performance by Ryan Smith today at practice and he should be in for one outstanding year. He should also emerge in the top 50 CFL players.

Anonymous said...

So Wascana Creek stinks. Will anyone even notice the difference.

Anonymous said...

Ryan Smith has been rushed back from his concussion and will be out again by game 2.

Anonymous said...

Old Hank

With cell phones the non native blue light and emf is definitely causing cancer to you and those around. It also causes most disease since our body essentially runs on a dc electric current. Cigarettes may actually be better for you than fake blue light. If you think I sound crazy just check out Jack Kruse's blog, he is probably the leading authority on light.

Debbie

Anonymous said...

Old Hank,

Then tell your teen to put his damn phone away, or take it away from him.

Lincoln

Anonymous said...

In 20 years, researchers will probably tell us that we're all at high risk from using cellphones non-stop. Bet on it.

Anonymous said...

Loved the interview at the end of the Sports Cage with George Reed. A good way to wrap up an excellent show. Hope George was able to get some time with Bob Lancaster (a good interview with Bob at the end of yesterdays show).

Anonymous said...

Could it be Tino Time for the Als? Their QB's are dropping like flies!
Hope it is not a trend this year.

Old Hank