2015 GREY CUP NOTEBOOK
1. WINNIPEG -- 2015 Grey Cup festivities officially got underway in the Manitoba capital Wednesday morning with the annual Coaches News Conference featuring Edmonton's Chris Jones and Ottawa's Rick Campbell. We were making the five hour drive from Regina during the gathering so we had to miss it, but it seemed like there were a lot of laughs to be had. Many came from the traditional question from the Edmonton Sun's Terry Jones regarding whether the coaches will allow their players to have sex during Grey Cup Week. The quotes are contained in a post below but, honestly, many feel it's time to shelve that time-honoured quiry. It definitely makes everyone uncomfortable however in the 14 Grey Cups I've been lucky enough to cover and attend, Rider coach Corey Chamblin's response in 2013 is still by far the best. "I told them if they win the Grey Cup, they'll have lots of sex," Chamblin quipped two years ago. "Yep." I'm sure he was right.
2. GETTING IN THE SWING OF THINGS: It seems as though when we get to Grey Cup on Thursday it feels like we've missed something however when he hit town on the Wednesday, it's too soon. That appeared to be the case this time around as the Winnipeg Convention Centre - the hub of the week's activities - was virtually a ghost town yesterday other than facility staff setting up for the various parties, souvenir booths and the TSN set. However Wednesday's SportsCage was a roaring success on 620 CKRM as we were joined by former Roughriders defensive back Jeff Treftlin (1989 Grey Cup champ), Ottawa RedBlacks colour commentator Jeff Avery (1976 Grey Cup champ), and our regular Wednesday guests in Paul Lapolice and Jim Lang. We'll be situated on "Radio Row" alongside all TSN Radio affiliate stations through Friday and I'll take this time to thank TSN for extending the invitation to be part of their impressive group.
3. THE RADIO BROADCAST: 620 CKRM is the official Voice of the Grey Cup and we'll be carrying Sunday's proceedings beginning with the pregame show at 1:00 pm followed by kickoff from Investors Group Field at 6:00 pm. Rod Black will call the play-by-play on radio alongside colour man Giulio Caravatta of the B.C. Lions while Chris Cuthbert and Glen Suitor will have the call on television. The pregame show will consist of various TSN Radio personalities from across the CFL.
|Lawless & Odell Willis at the WBB Media Party|
I'm not sure how many attendees thanked Wade Miller for the bash but I was sure to shake his hand before leaving at 10:00 pm along with Stampeders play-by-play man Mark Stephen and Luc. Hopefully at 2016 Grey Cup in Toronto, Argonauts President Michael Copeland continues the tradition.
5. THE RUMOURS: The rumours were flying fast and furious at Wednesday night's party, as you can well imagine when the CFL media gets together. The Roughriders' General Manager search was certainly the #1 topic however I discovered the origin of the Chris Jones-to-Saskatchewan gossip and let me just say it's baseless. I'd be SHOCKED if Jones winds up in Saskatchewan, and equally surprised if he's interviewed. It's generally agreed upon by reporters that current interim GM Jeremy O'Day has the inside track however John Hunfagel's name was on most everyone's lips. The Stampeders' Mark Stephen is adamant Hufnagel isn't going anywhere, citing the fact "Huf gave his word" twice that he's under contract in Calgary and plans to honour it through 2016. However I don't feel it's been put to bed yet but if the Stampeders President refuses to grant permission for the Riders to even talk to Hufnagel, the whole idea could be dead in the water.
The juiciest rumour I heard was that former Rougrhriders coach Corey Chamblin could be in line to replace Casey Creehan as defensive coordinator of the Toronto Argonauts.
Head coach Jeff Tedford's status with the B.C. Lions is very much up in the air, and not just because news broke this week he's been contacted by NCAA teams about returning Stateside. Apparently Tedford's first season in Vancouver was a rocky one and he wasn't given a ringing endorsement by GM Wally Buono at the year-end news conference.
And one of the most popular questions at Grey Cup is: will TSN's Paul Lapolice be coaching anywhere in 2016? There could be an opening in B.C., we know there's one in Saskatchewan, or he may even find himself as offensive coordinator where he lives, right here in Winnipeg. Many feel Lapolice is content being a star on TSN's CFL coverage but in every discussion I've had with the New Hampshire product, he wants to be back on the sidelines.
|Jutras posing with her book Wednesday night|
7. THE WEATHER: So far most everyone is complaining about the weather but the windy, minus-5 conditions are nothing compared to what we endured at the 2013 Grey Cup in Regina. B.C. Lions fullback Rolly Lumbala Tweeted on Wednesday: "Just landed in Winnipeg for Grey Cup!! Bitter sweet and bitter COLD!!!!! #LOVETHE CFL" In truth, it's not bitter at all. You can get around in a sportscoat whereas in Regina you'd have died, literally, without a parka. Thursday is forecast to be the coldest day of the week at minus-9 while game day on Sunday figures to be partly cloudy and minus-5. That's balmy compared to what Bomber President Wade Miller feared.
8. OH YEAH, THE GAME: While all this was going on, both the Eskimos and RedBlacks practiced outdoors at Investors Group Field on Wednesday. I'm told many of the reporters watched the workouts from the heated press box. It may be unfair to say this, because I haven't spent enough time around either team, but it appears the Eskimos have an edge in attitude this week. From all the quotes and video I've seen, the Edmonton team has shown up with a very determined focus. Their long-time equipment manager Duane Mandrusiak even hung all 13 of the franchise's Grey Cup banners on the ceiling of their locker room to provide added motivation.
As for the Ottawa players, they truly seem just glad to be here (but again, I haven't spent a ton of time around them). RedBlacks colour man Jeff Avery admitted this Grey Cup appearance in just their second season of existence is well ahead of the plan. I likened it to giving a two-year old a driver's license. Maybe that particular two-year old is qualified, but it's "just not ready".
9. THURSDAY'S SCHEDULE: Keeping with tradition, the teams will break bread with the media on Thursday. The East Division champions will hold a media breakfast followed by a media lunch with the West Division champs. Traditionally the CFL Commissioner addresses both teams and then it turns into a free-for-all with reporters scrambling to collect as many interviews as they can in the allotted time. Then, each squad will hold its lone closed practice of the week. Also on Thursday, Riderville opens at 5:00 pm at the Winnipeg Convention Centre.
10. OUR GAME: Finally, a word on the atmosphere at the 103rd Grey Cup in Winnipeg. The Convention Centre was bustling with staff and Grey Cup volunteers who've flown in from across the country and every single person had a smile on their face. Many of them, displaced Saskatchewanians, stopped by our broadcast booth and just wanted to chat about their beloved Roughriders. Others, not so much. I asked if I could fill up my travel coffee mug in the volunteers' lounge and a lady, a Winnipegger, said, "I suppose so even if I don't like that jacket you're wearing". Then she smiled and waved me in. That Rider track jacket has truly been quite an ice-breaker over the years.
You won't hear any talk about the NFL around here this week, or the NHL for that matter. The Grey Cup truly is a celebration of Canadian football and it's a wonderful chance for all of us who love the game to get together and show our pride. It's a very rewarding week.
THAT'S ALL! SEE YOU IN THE CAGE AT 4 PM