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Monday, March 28, 2016


Jim Hopson, Gregg Zaun and me with the Bulyea Rustlers Saturday in Strasbourg, SK

1 - HOPPY EASTER:  Former Saskatchewan Roughriders President Jim Hopson (2005-2014) made his way home from his Mexican estate on Friday for the first of several spring speaking engagements.  Saturday night Hopson and Sportsnet's Gregg Zaun were the keynote speakers in Strasbourg, SK for the Bulyea Rustlers fastball team's fundraising dinner.  I was the Master of Ceremonies for the event which was held before a soldout crowd at the Strasbourg Community Hall.

I noted above that Hopson's tenure concluded after the 2014 CFL season although he didn't actually handover the reins of the Roughriders to Craig Reynolds until the end of March 2015.  However I don't think he'd care to have the 3-15 campaign of 2015 on his record!  Does he bare some responsibility for what happened last season?

That's included in this partial transcript of our Q&A from Saturday night:


JH:  Yes I would have because I believe once you hire a GM and Head Coach, you've gotta be supportive of their decisions.  I love Weston and I love John.  I know them well personally but Craig made the decision to bring in Chris (Jones) and I don't think it was a bad decision.  I look at Chris's record in the CFL and he's been a winner everywhere he's been.  He has a vision and the salary cap is our reality now.  He made a decision and it'll all come down to winning.

If Chris and the team do well and win, it'll all be great.  And if he doesn't, he knows the consquences will be a lot of unhappy people but he's willing to do that.  I give him credit for having a vision and being strong enough to move forward.

We all know there were times in the past where we probably hurt ourselves by not making those tough decisions.  I remember Bobby Jurasin probably played a year too long and us probably listening to the fans more than we should have.  I can't criticize the decision.  If you're gonna hire a GM, you've got to turn him loose and let him do his job.


JH:  I know this:  if Brendan Taman would've stayed, he would've had to have done something as well.  There had to be some adjustments made.  Brendan went "all in" to win the 2013 Grey Cup and he was competing against some other teams for Weston and John so he paid what he had to pay.  But it was unsustainable and something had to give.


JH:  It's easy to say yes but their first three years were very, very good years.  The first year (2012) the team got better and got to the playoffs.  The second year, we won the Grey Cup at home.  The third year, it looked like the best team in the league until the quarterback got hurt.  The first three years were very good.

Based on that, I made a decision to keep them on.  Unfortunately 2015 couldn't have been worse.  You can blame injuries but there were coaching decisions, officiating decisions, bad luck, all kinds of things happened.

I've never said this to anybody but when I reflect, maybe when you look at 2014, when Darian got hurt, maybe we didn't handle the adversity very well.  Our quarterback went down and we made the playoffs but we only won two games after Darian got hurt.  We were 2-6.  Maybe that was a hint that we didn't handle adversity well.

Certainly last year, of all the things, that was the biggest challenge; we didn't respond to the adversity.  Having said that, last year Hamilton lost their quarterback and went 2-5 afterwards.  But I think that was the biggest challenge, how did we handle the adversity and we didn't handle it very well.


JH:  I'm a Craig Reynolds fan.  I really respect the young man.  I think he's got a lot going for him.  As Rod and I were saying earlier, he's "an accountant with personality and courage".  He's had a tremendous role in the new stadium, has been a real leader in that, and I think the stadium will be the finest in North America in terms of an outdoor facility.  I think it'll be a credit to the province, the fans and so on.

I think we're on the right track.  Craig has a vision.  Chris has a vision.  I don't offer any advice to Craig unless he asks but Craig wants us to be a championship-calibre team in 2017 when we move into the new stadium.  This year we have to be patient, hopefully we'll be competitive, but I think they're really geared up that next year should be a strong year for us.  This year is going to be a really special year for us.


JH:  We can't afford it!

* Hopson's 30-minute address was excellent.  He informed me that he has about three different speeches that he uses but Saturday's was all about his time with the Roughriders including playing with Ronnie and George, Ed McQuarters, Bill Baker, etc. and also his time as President of the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

To book Jim to speak at your event, call Joe Gunnis at 306-631-4123.


Sharing a laugh with Gregg Zaun
2 - THE ZAUNTOURAGE:  Sportsnet's Gregg Zaun was his usual, entertaining self as the final speaker to take the stage Saturday night in Strasbourg.  Interestingly enough, the Bulyea Rustlers banquet was the 20th speaking engagement for Zaun - a 16-year Major Leaguer and World Series champion - this off-season while he had exactly ZERO in the winter of 2015.  Why the difference?  Obviously the Blue Jays' post-season run of 2015 made Zaun a household name as the analyst on Blue Jays Central with host Jamie Campbell.  Don't let it be said that the team's performance doesn't affect the broadcasters' popularity!

However as Zaun took the stage Saturday night in Strasbourg, he cautioned the patrons to put their cameras and smartphones away so that "We can have a little fun!"  At that point, I turned my tape recorder off.  The Los Angeles product certainly gave a no-holds-barred assessment of the Toronto Blue Jays, one which might ruffle a few feathers with the ball club.  However here are some takeaways:

- The Boston Red Sox will give the Jays their biggest competition in the American League East in 2016.

- The infamous "Throwback Incident" in the 7th inning of the Jays' Game 5 series-clinching victory over Texas in the ALDS last season was 100% the correct call despite the protests from the Blue Jays and their fans.

- Jose Bautista's batflip was "a tad excessive".

- His favourite ballpark as a player was Toronto's Skydome while his least-favourite were Wrigley Field, Fenway Park and both New York stadiums.

- Jose Bautista will not get his $150,000,000 five-year deal from Toronto because "He's simply not a $30-million dollar player at this age".  And furthermore, "He signed a bad contract.  He's got to live with it."

- Zaun also spent a great deal of time discussing comparisons to Hockey Night In Canada's Don Cherry.  Many have tabbed Zaun, "Baseball's Don Cherry" or "The Next Don Cherry".  Gregg refutes this saying Cherry only wears a sportcoat while Zaun prefers to be adorned in full-bodied, three-piece suits.  "For instance the one I'm wearing is worth about the same as the GNP of a small country".

On the car ride out to Strasbourg we spent a long time discussing Gregg's relationship with Cherry.  Zaun said they talk regularly because he generally finds himself in the centre of controversy and Cherry knows a thing or two about that.  He said Cherry once mentioned to him, "Just when you think you're in trouble with the network, you're actually not in trouble at all.  In fact it's probably a good thing for your popularity."

I can't really remember where along the line Gregg Zaun and I got to be such close friends but I'm sure happy we did.  He's as genuine as they come.

And finally Zaun is a noted philanthropist and on Saturday night he donated a pair of Blue Jays fan trips which included game tickets, airfare and hotels plus batting practice passes to two winners.  They were auctioned off for a total of $7,000 which all went to the Rustlers' bottom line.


3 - RIDER MONDAY:  We'll be back on the football beat on Monday's SportsCage on 620 CKRM at 4:00 pm with our popular Rider Monday.  Our guests will include new Roughriders running back Matt Walter, Rider great Don Narcisse and the Voice of the Montreal Alouettes, Rick Moffatt.

4 - CFLPA BLOODSHED?:  TSN's Gary Lawless reported on Sunday there may be a coup atop the Canadian Football League Players Association at this week's annual meetings in Las Vegas.  Lawless reports Winnipeg Blue Bombers offensive lineman Jeff Keeping will attempt to unseed Scott Flory as CFLPA President and the matter will come down to a vote.  Lawless says the Players Association is unhappy with the leadership provided by Flory over the past few years. Flory seemed to think this is all rumour.  It should be an interesting week in Sin City.  The MMG arrives in Las Vegas on Saturday, but the whole matter might be over by then.

5 - RIDER RADIO OPPORTUNITY:  Rider Radio 620 CKRM is looking for a game-day operator for our 2016 Roughriders broadcasts which entails pushing buttons and producing our broadcasts from the CKRM studios.  The position is ideal for a broadcasting/journalism student or anyone else hoping to get their foot in the door in the broadcasting industry.  I performed that same role for Toronto Blue Jays radio broadcasts back in 1991 and 1992 for Tom Cheek, Jerry Howarth and the Telemedia Radio Network.  Interested parties should email CKRM's Program Director Grant Biebrick at

6 - DUB HUB:  The Regina Pats are coming back home after earning a split of Games 1 and 2 in Lethbridge in their first round WHL Playoff series with the Hurricanes.  I watched Game 1 on my Android box at home and was mortified by the Pats' effort in that 6-3 loss on Friday.  The same problems which plagued the club up until about mid-January reared their head again, like the Pats panicking in their own zone and forgetting the details.  Adding to the problem were the 12 powerplay opportunities they gave up, leading to four goals on the penalty kill.  However the good news was all their problems were self-inflicted and they seemed to shore them all up in Game 2 on Saturday when they came away with a 3-0 triumph.  Games 3 and 4 go Tuesday/Wednesday in the Brandt Centre.

Most WHL teams are going with flashy playoff campaigns like Brandon's "Gold Rush", Moose Jaw's "Whatever It Takes" and Lethbridge's "Cane Train".  What is the Regina Pats' playoff motto?  Are we supposed to wear red on Tuesday?  I'm so confused!

It's interesting too that Regina is finally getting aboard the Pats bandwagon.  So many people texted or emailed over the weekend wondering where they could watch the games in Lethbridge on Web TV.  It's that old adage, "I don't follow them until the playoffs".  That's fine.  I'm the same way when it comes to baseball for the most part.

Meanwhile the P.A. Raiders and the Brandon Wheat Kings are both in 0-2 holes after dropping the opening pair of games to Moose Jaw and Edmonton respectively.  Does anyone actually think Brandon's going to lose that series?  I don't.  However the Raiders are in a world of trouble.

And please, please don't offer up the phrase, "You're never in trouble until you lose a game at home in a seven-game series" this spring.  The lower seed could win all their home games and still lose a seven-game series.  Stop it!

One other junior hockey note:  the Erie Otters are the first OHL team in history to record three straight 50-win campaigns.  Their coach for them all?  Kris Knoblauch who was dumped as coach by the Kootenay Ice before heading east.  With the Ice finishing with the WHL's worst record this season, Knoblauch certainly is getting the last laugh.

7 - FEEL THE RUSH:  The Saskatchewan Rush swept a pair of games from the Toronto Rock over the weekend and at 9-3, have clinched a berth in the NLL Playoffs which will allow them to defend their league title.  With an average attendance of 10,400, the Rush sit 4th in the NLL in that category.  They trail only Buffalo, Denver and Calgary.  Well done Saskatoon!

8 - JUST NOTES:  Today's Pet Peeve:  People who ask for advice and then don't take it ... The funniest line I heard from a comedian last week: "The only reason you need a landline in your home is to call your cell phone when you can't find it!" ... They say it's getting ugly in Vancouver with the Canucks' eighth straight loss last night.  Hey - don't blame coach Willie Desjardins (the pride of Climax, SK).  They've got no players!  I wrote that here after seeing their final preseason last fall against Edmonton at Rogers Arena. ... On this date in 1982 Wayne Gretzky scored his 92nd goal of the season, setting an NHL record which still stands today. ... The Arizona Coyotes held a townhall meeting with fans, President/Co-owner Anthony Leblanc and GM Don Maloney on Saturday prior to the team's 2-1 win over Philadelphia.  Leblanc said it's "highly, highly unlikely" the team will be playing at Gila River Arena in Glendale past the next two seasons.  And Maloney said they absolutely will NOT be trading their franchise cornerstone Oliver Ekman-Larsson to whichever team wins the draft lottery so that they can select Scottsdale's Auston Mathews in the June draft.  We'll see!  I still think they will.

9 - CANADA'S TEAM:  Many have asked my thoughts on Sportsnet marketing the Toronto Blue Jays as Canada's Team heading into the 2016 MLB season.  My take?  They are Canada's Team!  In November when I took in the Oilers and Blackhawks at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Blue Jays first baseman and outfielder Chris Colabello received a standing ovation from the Edmonton faithful when he was introduced.  They surely wouldn't have done that for Darian Durant!  The Canada's Team moniker as it pertained to the Saskatchewan Roughriders was a simple marketing schtick that worked out perfectly.

And as for Edmonton, the Oilers are asking for fans' favourite memories of Rexall Place/Northlands Coliseum during this Farewell Season.  Mine came in the 1997 Stanley Cup Playoffs just before Game 3 of the Oilers-Stars series.  I was standing behind the Stars' net with my Dad - who was in his 10th season with Dallas at the time - and every single light in the arena was killed just before the opening faceoff.  You couldn't even see your hand in front of your face.  Then a spotlight knifed through the darkness as "Rock And Roll All Night" by KISS rocked the facility.  Over our heads they were dropping the banners of COFFEY, GRETZKY, MESSIER, FUHR and HAMILTON, and the place was absolutely coming off its hinges.

Just as memorable was an incident after that game in the Stars' coaching offices when GM Bob Gainey was furious over Ken Hitchcock not taking a timeout when the Oilers were mounting a frenzied late-game comeback.  I was nervously staring at the floor, wondering how the hell I even got in there.  Kelly Buchberger scored the OT winner that night and the Oilers went on to win the series but Hitch got his due in 1999 when the Stars won the Stanley Cup.

But nobody does pregame theatrics like the Edmonton Oilers.  Nobody.

10 - THE SUMMIT:  Spots are filling up for the inaugural Pedersen Media Summit on Saturday, May 14 at Mosaic Stadium's Pilsner Place.  Thanks to the Swift Current Broncos/Ryan Switzer, Estevan Bruins, Sean Nelson and Nelson Hackewich for signing up over the weekend.  We've brought in some of the Saskatchewan Roughriders digital media staff as well as an MMA promoter to serve as collaborators for the day.  It'll be an idea-sharing, best-practices marketing and social media event where breakfast and lunch will be served as part of the $150 fee.  For more details or to book your spot, visit




Anonymous said...

Rod asked, "Does he bare some responsibility for what happened last season?"

The answer is YES.

An average fan like me knew what was going on in 2013, we knew that
Taman was buying the Grey Cup. Everybody knows that kind of operation is unsustainable in a cap world. Hopson ignored that logic and extended Taman and Chamblin's contracts before the wheels fell off.
You bet he's got to answer for 2015. He's no hero of mine.

@mrt_man said...


Anonymous said...

According to the NLL stats page the Rush are actually third in attendance at 10809.

Rod Pedersen said...

I got my info from the Toronto Sun ...


Anonymous said...

Toronto Sun?
Mistake number 1.

Anonymous said...

Rod, how come you never break any CFL stories? Every tidbit I read on your blog says, so-and-so is reporting that....

Anonymous said...

Yeah that other guy is right, the attendance stats from Toronto Sun are from last week, updated stats are out now.

Anonymous said...

Someone should have asked Hopson why he even hired Taman in the first place. Wayne Shaw did and Hopson said that he thought Taman would be the next Bob Ackles. There's one thing certain, Brendan Taman is no Bob Ackles. Notice Hopson didn't actually admit any responsibility for the fall of the team nor if he would have skidded Taman/Chamblin. It's easy to say things now after the fact.

Gundersons Yorkton

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I am still wondering how Taman bought a cup in 13, lost over 20 players from that team, but was still in salary cap trouble.

The FACT is the 2013 win had very little to do with it. Cap management AFTER the cup is strictly to blame, along with the guy in charge of that. Dressler signed two contracts after 2013. One when he returned from Kansas City and one the next season to avoid free agency.

John Chick signed a contract extension AFTER 2013, along with other guys like Getzlaf, Best, Picard, and Bagg. Picard also got cut because of a bad contract.

Anonymous said...

Rod, why does the TSN CFL insider that gets fed info directly by the league always break league news?

Anonymous said...

Zaun thinks Bautista went over the top with the bat flip. Interesting!

PS: He's right!

Anonymous said...

1) The Bluejays are absolutely Canada's Team! Keep fooling yourself Rider fans!
2) 100% Disagree with Zaun on the bat flip. It was entertainment at its finest. If he does it in Game 1 of the season, then I agree with you. If pitchers don't like it, don't serve up the bombs. The next generation of fan loves that sort of thing.
3) Go Pats Go!!!!

Anonymous said...

The bat flip was excessive - to the point not overtly but subtly someone is going to drill Bautista right in the neck for showing up that Pitcher. He's luck he isn't in the Clemans, Palmer, Gossage era that's for sure.

Anonymous said...

You knuckledraggers are obviously content with the Riders being a 7-10 win team every season. The Riders went for it and won it. Yet you still bitch, moan and complain over what happened in 2015 because of it. Once again, the so-called most knowledgeable fan base in the CFL shows they don't have a clue when it comes to how to run a football team.

The complete stupidity by some on here is completely astounding.

John Q Public

Anonymous said...

The stupidity is astounding

Anonymous said...

Get off of Rod's back on here.

Anonymous said...

There is NO WAY anyone would accept Ekman-Larsson for the first overall pick. Not a chance. He is great dont get me wrong but you have a big kid who is already stronger than most men who is mean and dedicated who broke Patrick Kane's USNDTP records handily. No way would anyone give up a chance like that. As a matter a fact I don't think anyone in the top 3-4 picks would make that trade this year.


Anonymous said...


Is already out to lunch and its 10:23 am D men like OEL are impossible to find and really hard to draft cause you don't know how they will turn out. Austin Mathews alone won't get Oliver. He is a gamer and one of the top 5 maybe even top 3 Dmen in the NHL. Every team wants one and many don't have one.


Anonymous said...

All the Oilers have is theatrics. What a piss poor organization.

Great job Friday night you beautiful man. It was a treat to visit with the beautiful Mrs. Sportscage too.

Anonymous said...

"Its easy to say things after the fact"

Yes Mr. Yorkton, very true in your case and for everyone else. Thanks for the great insight. But you failed to mention how easy it is for all of us posting on these anonymous blog sites to say things before the fact. Facts simply don't come into play. Its all about the hate man. It keeps us alive and breathing with our mouths closed.


Anonymous said...

Do the Regina Pats do any marketing or game day promotions at all anymore ? The only time I get emails from the Pats now is when I owe them money for tickets or they want to give my tickets away.

The entire FRONT OFFICE staff sure could use attending your course in MJ Roddy.

There are no more hockey minds working for the Pats. When Mapes left so did all of the hockey mind and sense.

All the management staff now in place have never played the game, been a fan, or even know the first thing about hockey. They might be very successful in their business career but its sure it not reflecting with the Pats. I've never been a Parker fan but he at least grew up with sports (and a silver spoon).

Concerned Season Ticket Holder
for 20+ years

Anonymous said...

Hey Joe, Jesus walks on water. Hopson does not.

Gundersons Yorkton

Anonymous said...

The loons are alive and well again Roddy!

Tim from Kansas said...

Major League Football (spring league/MLFB) was supposed to start training camp this coming Monday last I heard. The league sent a letter to all players yesterday telling them to postpone their travel.

I think there's about 700 football players under contract who are now in limbo. Here's the letter, hope this link works.

I would love to know what the Rider management is thinking. I'm sure there's MLFB guys that the Riders would love to try out. But if they go a Rider tryout, they're breaking their MLFB contract. What a mess.

Anonymous said...

The Blue Jays are a joke. They can't be Canada'team when 95% of their "fans" are shameless bandwagon jumpers.

Anonymous said...

I won't say I told you so .....

Anonymous said...

did you miss the fan appreciation night a few weeks back with live music and entertainment???

Anonymous said...

Just scooped up 4 tickets for tomorrows Pats- Hurricanes game. TONS of tickets available, which surprised me. Hopefully their is a rush tomorrow on sales.

Anonymous said...

The Bautista Bat flip...that was 50K fans on their feet, a decade of frustration and carrying the team all wrapped in to one event. No one will understand what that must have felt like. Bautista will probably get plunked for it, but if the pitcher keeps it below the neck he'll accept it and take his base. Bautista gets a free pass for that all day from me.

Ty Cobb used to sharpen his cleats for sliding into 2nd base to deliberately injure. So in comparison, a little showboating never hurt and one. And for indignant pitchers, don't throw beachballs, and don't celebrate big strikeouts. What's the difference in a bat flip and yelling after a strikeout? Batters don't go out and smack the pitchers with a bat when they celebrate.

Simmer down on this one.

And met Zaunie at Moxies on Sat afternoon RP. Brief convo but was accommodating and seemed to be down to earth with others and staff around him. And appreciate he doesn't tow the company line when reporting.

Anonymous said...

CFL types were never threatened by this league. I have a 'friend' he says the league is over $10M up[front away from even getting off the ground.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Grey Cup Coach and GM Kent Austin also walks on water, do not forget.

Go Ti-Cats
Eat Em' Raw in 2016
Grep Cup ... here we come!

Tim from Kansas said...

Yes, pretty much everybody told me so.

Just because MLFB has no money, no cities named, no stadiums, no uniforms, no logos, no schedule, did I mention no money, yeah I hear you. And I saw some other things that went overlooked, that I thought were really sketchy as well.

But I'm still holding out hope, maybe next year. They're clearly not ready to go right now.

Spring football, where the season ends right before CFL starts, would be so great. I'd be watching.

Anonymous said...

I thought I saw Jim Popp in town the other day driving down University Park Drive.

Rod Pedersen said...

There are 1000 guys in this town that look like Jim Popp.

Anonymous said...

Top of the list would surely be Kelly Remple!

Anonymous said...

Are the Pats going to bring back their RED bulldog jerseys? I hope so!
Go Pats Go!
Wear Red?

Anonymous said...

Red Jerseys are extinct....thank goodness! We don't need a different colour to get the Brandt Centre going. Wear a Pats Tshirt, Hoodie, Jersey........Go Pats Go!

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... Please address the man properly as "The Sk. Football God Mr. Kent Austin" thank you. He's personally responsible don't you know for 2 out 4 CFLeague Grey Cups the Saskatchewan Roughriders have won In their 100+ year history, great accomplishment for one man. He's now in the employ as the head honcho and doing miracles on behalf of the Ti-Cats, hear the Roarrrr...
Oskee Wee Wee,
Oskee Waa Waa,
Tiger Cats of Hamilton win 2016 GC Championship from the pretenders that show up as clown entertainment posing as opposition.

Go Cats Go!
Go Cats Go!
Go Cats Go!
Go Cats Go!


Anonymous said...

Pathetic crowd of 3,200 at MJ Monday night

Anonymous said...

God Love Ya Brother Oskee!!

Anonymous said...

YeWwwwwww... Infinity...

i'm a gurl

Anonymous said...

We miss Hopson and Zaun rules MLB

Anonymous said...

Why is that blowhard Hopson still around??

Anonymous said...

No we don't. Reynolds is way better.

Anonymous said...

As long as everyone keeps questioning the fact there is no roof, the stadium will always be somewhat a failure, or at least, it will have fallen short of expectations.

The new stadium will be amazing, it will be resistant to the harsh NW wind, including rain or snow. The fans will have to get over it, the media (yes you RP) will have to stop asking 'why'. Treat it like a new-born into your family, would you really be that negative from the moment of its birth? You will have that stadium for years to come, similar to a new-born, you will have to accept it for all that is good with it.

No wind folks! That in-itself is a miracle!!! Be happy that you have it, and enjoy the game!

Kel in Victoria

Anonymous said...

The Warriors need to pull up their socks tonight otherwise they may be in a heap of trouble. Go Warriors!!!!

Anonymous said...

Who are you kidding? That stadium design a colossal mess. Keeping out wind from all direction will be a monumental task, the rain, snow? dont ask. Parking? Traffic flow? Geeze your gullible. While it may be a upgrade, not good enough! Hasteful wasteful build that wasnt thought out properly.

Anonymous said...

Warriors killing Raiders 5-0 in third period Tues