Realty One

Titan Auto

Monday, February 22, 2016



1. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan was certainly the place to be on Friday night.  11,042 fans occupied the SaskTel Centre to watch the NLL's Saskatchewan Rush hold on for an 11-8 victory over the Rochester Knighthawks.  It was the largest home crowd the Rush have attracted since relocating from Edmonton last summer and what's remarkable about that is a packed house filled TCU Place across town for the annual Saskatoon Kinsmen Dinner featuring Joe Montana and Chris Jones at the same time.  Saskatoon can certainly give off a "big city" feel and they did on Friday.  It was a true honour to have 620 CKRM's SportsCage on location prior to the Rush game, and the team and SaskTel Centre definitely rolled out the red carpet for us.

2. Who knows if the Rush's promotion to have 12 members of the Seattle Seahawks cheer team - The Seagals - on hand to take pictures, sign autographs and perform three routines sold some extra tickets but it certainly caused quite a buzz.  The pregame theatrics were truly astounding but the game itself fizzled somewhat.  The Rush jumped out to a 7-1 lead after the first quarter and while the wave of early goals brought the fans out of the seats, the rout seemed to drop the game's intensity.

3. It was my first ever NLL game in person however I think we've all watched pro lacrosse games on TSN over the years.  That's the power of national sports networks.  If it's on, we'll watch it and that's why I've been such a proponent of airing CFL games in the U.S. over the years even if there's not much in the way of rights fees ... Regardless, the skill level Friday night was high and the athletes were impressive.  However I don't feel it's any more entertaining than your local Western Hockey League team.  Still, it's remarkable that there are so many goals scored when lacrosse nets are smaller than hockey and goalies wear much more padding.

4. We continue to marvel at how the Rush's crowds have consistently been between 9500-11,000 when the hometown Blades are hemorrhaging at the gate.  Perhaps Saskatoon is in love with the fact the Rush is its first professional team and the fans are more eager to watch men rather than teenaged boys.  The lacrosse players are paid around $25,000 per season but it's clear they're on track to becoming stars in the Bridge City.  Robert Church, Mark Mathews and Ben McIntosh are well on their way to becoming household names within the Wheat province.

The only question now is:  can Saskatoon sustain this support?  Currently there is no reason to think they cannot.

5. Some notes that struck me prior to, and during, the game:  Whomever sung the national anthem is a star.  We've got to get him down to sing Oh Canada at a Roughriders game ... Why oh why would Saskatonians chant "True North" during the Canadian national anthem? Are they hoping the Winnipeg Jets will relocate to the Bridge City? It wasn't the whole crowd who belted out the Winnipeg war cry but there were enough to make it very noticeable ... The Rush front office prints lineup cards with both teams' rosters on it and distributes them to the crowd!  That's something that's missing at sports games in Regina.  One marketing executive in the Queen City said awhile back, "Fans look at their phones for the rosters nowadays".  No they don't. ... The SaskTel Centre (pictured) looked like an absolute jewel all lit up in the prairie sky Friday night ... It was a young crowd at Friday's Rush game with several young ladies.  That, in turn, brings out the young men.

6.  What a concept:  Crank up the music and make it a party!  I've been begging the WHL to do just that for years but they are afraid to rankle the seniors ... I had the song Jump, Jump by Kris Kross ringing in my ears well into Saturday afternoon following Friday's game.  The NLL keeps the music playing continuously throughout the play and it was a tremendous playlist.  Very similar to the NBA.

7.  All in all, we'll be back.  The Rush has assembled a rockstar front office, led by President Lee Genier, and so far they seem to be doing everything right.  Friday games will be tough to attend but we'll get to our share of Saturday contests.  It certainly gives you an appreciation for what out-of-town Roughriders fans have to deal with.

8.  The Saskatchewan Roughriders may reside two hours south of Saskatoon but they still reign supreme in the province's largest city.  I wasn't wearing any Roughriders garb but that didn't stop fans from grabbing me on the concourse and asking questions related to the Green & White.  They all watch In The Huddle.  One concession worker asked, "Did you bring any players with you?"  Sadly I did not, other than Rider alum Luc Mullinder.

One guy plopped himself down right at our broadcast table and rattled off a series of questions and comments during Friday's SportsCage.  "How are the Riders gonna be?",  "I'm still mad they let Ryan Smith go", and "How's Darian's health?"  Some of those questions will be answered further down in the column.

One gentleman at the pregame party grabbed my arm and asked, "Why didn't they build that new stadium in the middle of the province?"  I asked him if he was referring to Davidson, SK (I was dead serious), and he screwed his face up and said, "No, Saskatoon!"  There really wasn't any answer for that question other than the obvious; the Roughriders play in Regina.

9.  Hey -- we've got a HOCKEY TEAM in Regina!  By that I mean the Regina Pats are for real.  I caught a portion of Sunday's 3-1 Pats victory over the Edmonton Oil Kings, the club's fifth win in a row.  Regina was creative offensively, sound defensively, and got stellar goaltending out of Tyler Brown in the triumph.  I was sitting beside a couple of scouts and one leaned over and said, "All they were missing was their play on the back-end".  It would seem Pats Coach & GM John Paddock has somehow figured out what the club was lacking and they're rounding into form at a perfect time.

The Pats are marching upwards in the standings and will swing into Medicine Hat and Lethbridge this week before returning home on Friday to welcome the Prince Albert Raiders.  There should be a huge crowd in the Brandt Cenre for that one.

However one thing struck me at the Pats' recent home games:  why are people still lining up to buy tickets at the box office in the east end of the Brandt Centre up until game time?  It's 2016 ya know.  Isn't it far easier to buy your seats online and flash your smartphone at the door to gain entry?

The same thing goes for the movies, although I'm happy the majority haven't caught on yet.  By downloading the Cineplex app, we buy our tickets ahead of time and breeze past the line.

10.  Speaking of, we were fortunate to hit a couple of movies in the last week.  While Deadpool starring Ryan Reynolds isn't exactly my cup of tea, I'm glad we went.  It was scintillating to hear the star proclaim, "Regina, Saskatchewan" while he was beating up a bad guy ... We also took in How To Be Single, which is a must-see for anyone who's still out there roaming the herd.  If you need to pick between the two movies, the MMG suggests the latter.



The American band Disturbed is performing Monday evening at Mosaic Place in Moose Jaw and that fine facility has jumped back on as a sponsor.

If you'd like to go, text exactly why you'd like a pair of free tickets for tonight's show to 393939 and a winner will be randomly selected at noon today.

The winner will be able to pick up their tickets at Mosaic Place's Will Call prior to the show.



GRAND PRAIRIE, Alta.(CP) - Alberta's Chelsea Carey went undefeated through the opening weekend of the Canadian women's curling championship with a 3-0 record.

The host province downed B.C.'s Karla Thompson 8-5 and beat Stacie Curtis of Newfoundland and Labrador 6-4 on Sunday.

With a draw remaining at night, Quebec's Marie France Larouche and Northern Ontario's Krista McCarville were both 2-0.

Defending champion Jennifer Jones, Ontario's Jenn Hanna, Prince Edward Island's Suzanne Birt, New Brunswick's Sylvie Robichaud and Manitoba's Kerri Einarson were all 1-1.

McCarville stole two in the 10th and another deuce in an extra end to beat Nova Scotia's Jill Brothers 9-7.

Larouche cruised to a 10-4 win over Saskatchewan's Jolene Campbell, who fell to 1-2 alongside Brothers.

Robichaud scored a 7-4 victory over Newfoundland and Labrador's Curtis, who dropped to 0-3. B.C.'s Thompson was 0-2.

Saskatchewan plays at 2:30 pm and 7:30 pm on Monday.



Saskatchewan Roughriders Head Coach & GM Chris Jones made his third and final public appearance at Friday night's Kinsmen Dinner in Saskatoon.  Rider fan Ange Clark posted this photo featuring Jones and Rider defensive lineman Shawn Lemon to the All Rider Fan Page over the weekend.

At Friday's Kinsmen luncheon, Chris Jones spoke to Saskatoon reporters and CJWW's John Fraser - the Voice of the Rush - forwarded me the audio.  Here's a transcipt of Jones' comments:


CJ:  It all comes out in the wash.  We handled the same situation last year in Edmonton and you hate to have those early byes because you haven't played yet but the one thing I do say is if you've had injuries in camp, it allows you another week to get healthy before you have to actually play a meaningful game.


CJ:  It's one of those things.  We are dealing with pro football and unfortunately we have a salary cap that you have to adhere to.  Sometimes the answers are right in front of your face and you have to be willing to make those decisions.


CJ:  Yeah I feel we've had a good free agency.  We've picked up some good players and made some good trades.  We've got some guys in place that are good players and know our system.


CJ:  We pretty much got all the guys that we'd earmarked and wanted to make a run at.  J.O. and Murph did a great job of securing those guys and like I say, we're assembling a pretty good football team.


CJ:  It's not just players, but coaches too.  We've got a great group of guys and that's probably the best thing.  We try to hire good people first, regardless of how they coach or play, good people who are loyal, want to work and put the better good of the team ahead of what they want.


CJ:  You know what, I don't read a lot of newspaper articles and I'm down in the States doing personnel stuff so I'm not privy to all the ups and downs.  I get it from Ryan Pollock.  He tells me the temperature of the room and that type of thing.  We're just trying to make the decisions that we feel like are best and give us the best chance to win when we start.


CJ:  There's no doubt, if you look at the teams that are sucessful, they've got a quarterback and they've got quality Canadian talent.  Adding the Canadians we added, we feel it has bolstered our roster.


CJ:  I've been in the league 15 years and it's nice to be able to come here, instead of being scoffed at.  Maybe they'll like us a little bit, ya know?


CJ:  They've made huge strides.  You've got guys that can go down and compete in the East-West Game and they don't stand out negatively.  They stand out positively, actually.  That kid from Manitoba was one of the best kids down there.  I think the coaches and players themselves have made a commitment since I've been in the league to better themselves and prepare themselves for pro football.


CJ:  If you were playing quarterback, we'd be doing the same things.  We'd be chipping the ends and chipping the 3-techniques.  We're gonna keep the fullbacks in to protect the quarterback because you've got to keep him upright.  The downturn offensively the past couple of years, the CFL wants to change every rule known to man, and really if we just protect our quarterbacks, you'll put more points on the board.  We ask our back to protect the quarterback first and run the ball second.  That's the nature of our offense.


CJ:  Edmonton was very good to me.  Ed Hervey and Paul Jones, Paul's one of my best friends in the whole world.  Getting an opportunity to go over there and compete against somebody you used to be with is always fun.


Meanwhile Roughriders Assistant V.P. of Football Operations Jeremy O'Day joined us on the SportsCage to discuss the latest on the club.  Here are some of his comments:


JO:  It's a great location for us to come to Saskatoon.  From a football operations perspective, it's a great set-up facility-wise.  It has everything all-in-one that we need and it's a great opportunity for all of us to be in the same buildings and develop that team bond and camaraderie.  And the people up there in Saskatoon are great to us.

It's a little ways away but it goes so fast.  It just never really stops where we're always moving to the next phase of the off-season.  It just kind of rolls into each thing and builds up to where we're gradually ready to get out on the field.  It's all exciting.  Gone are the days of the six month season.  It seems to go for the whole year now and it's exciting all the way through.  It'll be here soon enough.  We've started to assemble the roster and we have a ways to go yet, but we feel great right now.


JO:  Darian's doing great.  He's doing everything that anyone could do that wasn't injured.  He's back up to running full speed and doing all the things you need to be doing this time of year.  The positive thing about that is he has plenty more time to keep working on his conditioning and strength before we really get serious.  All the indications are that he's doing real well and the reports are that he's on schedule.  That's real good news for us and we're gonna do our best not to let everything hinge on him and put that pressure on him.  But we know what a huge part of the team Darian is.

*And now we wait.