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Monday, February 15, 2016



1. I had planned to take Family Day off from the blog (it's a day off for CKRM's SportsCage), but so many people were asking for it that I cobbled together some thoughts on this provincial holiday.  Enjoy the day!

2. Remarkably enough, Friday evening was the first opportunity I'd had to shake Chris Jones' hand and personally welcome him to the province from Rider Radio.  I was away when he was hired, and wasn't around for many of the subsequent announcements including the release of Chick and Dressler.

3. From what I can tell, Jones and I will get along fine even though I had some earlier doubts.  If he was indeed a "Don Mathews Clone", then this relationship was going to take some TLC.  However, after being around him and chatting with those closest to him, he's not like "The Don" at all.  Players who played for Mathews here in Saskatchewan (1991-93) said Don Mathews was "all about Don" and was an attention-seeker.  However I've quickly realized Jones isn't about that at all.  He puts his staff and players first, long before he thinks of himself.

I guess that's the new era way of being successful in pro football.  John Paddock seems to do the same thing across the street with the Regina Pats.

4.  On stage at the Delta Regina Friday night, I asked Jones why he's got such a reputation of being a hard-ass.  He replied, "You'll have to ask the media about that".

It's true, standing in a media scrum with Jones can cause you to break out in a nervous sweat.  HOW DARE YOU ask a question that's already been asked!  I usually stick my microphone in there just to record what the coach is saying, and absorb it later when I listen back at the radio station or in my home office.

I even dreamt about it last night - or had a nightmare - depending how you look at it.

Reporters have to be on their toes now.  And that's fine because it'll make me a lot better.

5.  Things are a lot different with Canada's Team than we're used to.  It's great for the media because John Murphy is doing 90% of the interviews leaving Jones to construct his team out of the media and public's glare.  This regime's openness is entirely new compared to anyone I've worked with since 1999, with the possible exception of Eric Tillman.

And they certainly don't lack confidence.  That's new too.  Insecure?  Not on your life.

6.  It would appear CFL Free Agency has calmed down considerably, and may almost be over.  There are still some big names on the board - including Tyron Brackenridge, Alex Hall, Fred Stamps, Cleyon Laing, Dave Stala, Tristan Okpaulago, Chris Getzlaf and Paul McCallum - which we may hear are signed in the coming months, but the first big tidal wave is over.

7.  Who won 2016 CFL Free Agency?  Or is winning it?  That's subjective.  While many pundits are giving that honour to the Saskatchewan Roughriders, you'd get a big argument in Winnipeg.  They're bouncing off the walls in Bomber-Land whatwith the additions of Weston Dressler, Ryan Smith, Keith Shologan, Andrew Harris, Euclid Cummings, Jeff Keeping and Justin Medlock.  At the Kinsmen Dinner on Friday night there were Bomber fans boastfully wearing Drew Willy and Khari Jones jerseys and "rubbing it in the face" of the Rider Nation.  It's nice to see them proud again. Hopefully it lasts, and I mean that.

As guest speaker Paul Coffey noted on stage, "Big balls by you guys".

I guess the proof will be in the pudding and these teams will "do their talking on the field".

8.  Many have asked my thoughts on the Rider moves and the absence of any big names.  My take is this:  the guys the Saskatchewan Roughriders have signed are still making their names.  They're in their mid- to late-20's and come at a far cheaper salary than the 30+ aged established stars like the Blue Bombers signed.

Linebacker Greg Jones led the Argos in tackles last year and was an East Division All-Star yet he wasn't even a household name in his own house.  WR John Chiles and RB Curtis Steele gashed the Riders while with Toronto in the past.

We all know who these guys are, but they haven't habitually been on the highlight reels.

They will be however, and the Riders will be the benefactors.

9.  It appears it's going to take a lot of work for the New Mosaic Stadium to open in time for August doesn't it?

10.  What was with the monstrous crowd at the Pats game on Saturday night?  I couldn't make it as we had an anniversary supper but my eyes bulged when I saw on the scoresheet 6300+ in the Brandt Centre for Regina's 5-2 rout of the Brandon Wheat Kings.  I thought the capacity of the Brandt Centre was 6200?  Either way, the Queen City seems to be tuning into the Regina Pats big time.

One Pats staffer jokingly said to me last week, "Do you hate us?  You're always so hard on us on your blog and on the radio!"

It shocked the hell out of me because the Regina Pats are the closest team to my heart.  However I go to all the games - save for Saturday - and can clearly see what this team is capable of (even without top defensive pairing Colby Williams and Connor Hobbs).  And over the past three homes games, we've seen the best of the Regina Pats.

The Pats have great players.  I've been saying it all along.  If they don't do something significant in the playoffs, it'll be a disappointment.

I thought it was a good thing that I went to all the games and offered a critique.

11.  Toronto can take a bow for the way it hosted the NBA for this weekend's All-Star festivities.  The only downer was TNT's Marv Albert who must've set a record for saying the term "bitterly cold".  The game was a bore, but everything around it, going back as far as Friday night, was must-see TV.  I also liked NBA-TV's ploy to broadcast Saturday's team practices at Ricoh Coliseum (or as Marv Albert called it, Ricoh Arena).  I think that could be a huge boon in the future - televising CFL, NHL, NFL, etc. team practices live during the playoffs or before big games.

12.  The movie Deadpool.  Thumbs-up for thumbs-down for the MMG today?   We've got to make a choice.



Carm Carteri is entering his 28th season as colour commentator on Roughriders radio broadcasts on 620 CKRM.  The former Roughrider, Ticat and Concorde linebacker stopped by our broadcast location at Friday's Kinsmen dinner and I asked him if he'd like to help me interview Chris Jones on stage.

"You know what?  No!" Carteri laughed.  "I've had some sleepness nights thinking about that and what it'll be like going into a locker room to interview Jones, especially early if the Riders don't have success.  But having said that, I've been doing this a long time and played six years in the league, and I've never seen a team gutted as much as the Rider team has been.

"I'm not talking about getting rid of free agents.  I'm talking about getting rid of local legends.  Guys who are going to be in the Plaza of Honor.  I'm thinking 'What's going on here?' and then two weeks later, you sort of see things evolve with what these guys are thinking.

"I'm looking at it like baking a cake.  You've got so many good ingredients but you have turn the oven onto the right temperature to make sure that cake evolves the way you want it to.  That's going to be the big thing with this coaching staff going into this year.  I'm excited going into the year with it, but to be honest I'm kind of blown away with what's happened."

Carteri says the most-impressive free agent signing for the Riders has been middle linebacker Greg Jones who Carm refers to as "a steal".


In the past I've mentioned the Facebook group The All Rider Fan Page (the group with almost 7000 members).  Well page curator Jason Fichter asked me to publish his latest posting to the MMG and I thought why not?  Jason's been very accomodating to both the SportsCage and this blog in the past.  He has a certain Jim Jones way about him.  If you don't know who that is, Google him.  Let us know your thoughts on Jason's post in the comments section:

"Ok Rider Priders! Here is my 2 cents!

From what I gather, most are excited as hell for Chris Jones and our new team. There are a few that are not. Before I say anything, yes, you are all entitled to your opinion. Makes for great debates.

Ya'll know I love debates. smile emoticon lol. That being said, some that doubt Jones have to look at the big picture. He is here to win games! Some dislike Jones and that is fine but.... Get over it! He is here to win games! Jones is not here to win you fans over! He is here to win games! We as fans think we deserve a shout out from him?? NO!! He doesn't owe myself or any of you fans! He is here to win games! He is here to fix stupid! Dung that Taman left!

Hopson got out while the getting was good, Barely! He knew. Craig Reynolds did what he had to do. Bring in a guy who wins wherever he lands. Kudos Craig! Jones, whether you like him or not? HE Is a WINNER! Jones had to get rid of most of these players.This team was old! This team didn't gel anymore. Players were too high priced! There was crap going on! Trust me! Yes our favorite players are gone. My favs too. I except it, gone for a reason! The Old Boys club was getting redic! Jones axed that! Jones is building something special here!! He has proven that so far with FA and signings and adding an all star staff/team! So I say this! Before you go judging him and the new players? Let them have a chance! Let them play a game or 2! Support them! They need you! They are your new Riders! Jones is all business...In Jones I trust! Go Riders! June can't come soon enough!"

Jason Fichter