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Monday, March 14, 2016



1 - The 2016 CFL National Combine presented by Adidas is in the books.  What did we learn?  From what I can tell, not too much. did a mind-blowing job of covering the week's events however the vast majority of the nation's football fans didn't seem to be paying attention.  In a Twitter poll conducted last week, only 37% of respondents said they were interested in the combine activities.  However if 1-in-3 fans are interested, it's worthwhile to give the combine adequate coverage.  Some fans I saw on social media were incredibly excited about watching the livestream from Toronto on, saying "the season is here!"  In a way, I suppose it is.

2 - Saturday morning I was a few minutes late for a coffee meeting with a CFL assistant coach and when I joined him, he too was watching the livestream of the Combine on his Iphone.  The first thing out of his mouth was, "Why isn't TSN televising this on one of its five channels?"  That's a question best posed to the CFL's television rightsholder.  They were airing soccer across those channels at the time.  Is the National Combine a ratings-grabber?  We'll never know until it's tried but, like the NLL, if it's on we'll likely watch it.  Some of it will stick in our minds.

This is like a "Made For TV" event that isn't on TV.

3 - And - as noted in the Thursday column - the CFL types attending the Combine are googoo-gaga over it and for good reason.  They need to be.  However in the MMG's opinion, the event is a tad overrated.  For instance, after week-long combine activities across the country we still don't have a consensus #1 pick.

Whatever happened to good old-fashioned scouting?  The combine has whittled it down to scientifics and it's now easy for teams to say, "We picked this guy because he had the most bench-press reps and ran the fastest 40".

4 - I'll defer to Roughriders Hall of Famer Scott Schultz who once opined, "When's the last time you saw a guy bench press 500 lbs in the middle of a football game?"

Dividing the prospects into teams and scrimmaging might be more worthwhile but, oh ya, you can't hit anymore. The East-West game this spring will likely be the more fruitful evaluation tool.

5 - Regarding that #1 overall pick which Saskatchewan holds in the May 10 Draft, Riders GM & head coach Chris Jones says the club is open to trading it.  Methinks since the club is in a current youth movement - unlike Winnipeg who's in "Win Now" mode - the Riders might as well hold onto the pick and get the best player in the land with it.

6 - It's okay that hockey is eliminating fighting.  For those with bloodlust, they've turned their attention to MMA.  Saturday night's Queen City Coronation produced by Regina's Prestige Fight Club was held before a capacity crowd at the Orr Centre at Lewvan Drive & 4th Avenue (the old Canadian Bible College).  One fighter appeared to have his forearm snapped after receiving a leg kick.  He immediately surrendered and was whisked off by EMS staff for attention from physicians who were on-site.  I was standing only 15 feet away.  Another combatant was helped out of the ring with an apparent torn ACL after receiving a blow.

Hockey operators are desperately trying to attract the coveted male 18-35 crowd but I can tell you where they are.

At the fights.

7 - The Regina Pats opened some eyes over the weekend by sweeping the Moose Jaw Warriors in a critical home-and-home series.  The Pats won 5-4 in a shootout at home on Friday before drubbing the Warriors 5-1 in Moose Jaw on Saturday.  Both games were soldout.  It appears area hockey fans have grasped the notion that this is the most-exciting time of year and were quick to snap up tickets.  Both the Pats and Warriors have some weaknesses in their game and therefore aren't expected to go all the way however they're both dangerous in the first round.

There's one week to go in the regular season and it's pointless to look at the standings with the idea of "If the playoffs started today..."  Let's wait until next Monday to see where it all shakes down and go from there.

8 - Our telecast of Friday's Pats-Warriors game was a hit on Shaw/Access and was expertly produced by Shaw's Dave Roberts!  It's a new and rewarding experience for me to be calling the TV play-by-play and received messages from viewers from Victoria to Winnipeg.  Fans in Kelowna and Bonnyville, AB checked in as well.  It's commonplace to get messages like that during Roughriders games but this is an entirely new and exciting stage of my career.  So happy to be a part of The WHL on Shaw.

9 - Back to the CFL.  We were tremendously happy to learn on Friday that Eric Tillman has been promoted to General Manager of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.  However the first question which popped into my head was "Why?"  The Ticats seemed to be humming along like a well-oiled machine and were marching to a Grey Cup championship in 2015 before star quarterback Zach Collaros suffered a season-ending injury in early October.  It would've been their third straight appearance in the Grey Cup.  However if we've learned one thing over the years, it's to not question Kent Austin.  All we can say is "Congrats E.T.!" and hope that his family doesn't immediately move out of Regina.

10 - The biggest news to come out of the CFL over the past week was the half dozen or so rule changes and tweeks which were approved by the Rules Committee Thursday evening in Toronto.  CFL Senior V.P. of Officiating Glen Johnson gave us an overview on the SportsCage on Friday on 620 CKRM.

"The one thing that's getting lost in this - which I think is kind of unfortunate - is we're working hard to reduce the number of penalties," Johnson said.  "There's too many penalties.  We all know there's too many penalties.  The refs don't like it, the fans don't like it, no one likes it.  We're working really hard to modify the Illegal Procedure standard and now we're gonna allow the offensive linemen to move much more prior to the snap much like the NFL.

"As long as you stay in your three-point stance, you can wiggle, and point, and call your assignments.  As long as they come back set for a second, I think we're going to take 100 to 125 penalties out of the game just by making that change.  That's one that's just a silly penalty that we've had to call for years.

"We're trying to take two-to-three penalties out of the game that we're calling now."

Thumbs-up from the MMG.  However the idea of adding a second replay official seems like a very tricky, intricate detail.  Johnson noted that this second official will have communication via wireless headset with all seven on-field officials and if all goes well, we won't even know they've been in contact.  The game will flow like nothing happened.  There will be a lot of kinks to be ironed out but if it works, it'll be a ground-breaking innovation.

11 - The Regina Red Sox annual fundraising dinner on April 23 is officially sold out.  This year's event features Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar and I'll get to interview him live during the Q&A session.  Hopefully people are respectful and pay attention this year unlike what happened to Devon White last year!!

12 - Are you being cocky if you can back it up?  Alberta lead Ben Hebert told us on the SportsCage his Kevin Koe rink would win the 2016 Tim Hortons Brier in Ottawa.  On Sunday, they did.  At 12:05 AM a text message came into my phone from Hebert which read, "Told ya".