NOTEBOOK FROM LAS VEGAS
It's a pretty good deal for me for sure.
2 - This year we're staying at the Monte Carlo resort, right across from the brand new T-Mobile Arena on Frank Sinatra Drive. The facility will hold its grand opening on Thursday with a concert featuring Las Vegas rock group The Killers and Vegas legend Wayne Newton. We plan to get a tour of the new arena while we're down here and there's a connection between T-Mobile Arena and Regina's New Mosaic Stadium which will be noted a little further down in this column.
They've got a brand new arena and no team. As someone on the trip quipped, "Just like Winnipeg!"
3 - Somewhere across town, prospective Las Vegas NHL owner Bill Foley is wringing his hands in anticipation. My guess is by the end of May, NHL owners will vote in favour of granting an expansion franchise to Foley and then he can hit the ground running with the management team he's already assembled. 14,000 Nevada residents have already plunked down their money for season ticket deposits including Roughrider great Ray Elgaard. We'll be hooking up with Ray at some point this week, but I'm not sure if we'll be able to get together with Mr. Foley again like we did a year ago at this time.
4 - By the time Saturday was over, I was happy to have my head hit the pillow here at the Monte Carlo and get out of dodge. A rather innocent projection of the CFL West Division standings by me on Friday's SportsCage on 620 CKRM literally went nuclear on Twitter courtesy the popular Twitter account @CFLNews. I was hesitant to even make a prediction since it was only April 1 and there's still two months to go before training camp but since there was nothing else to talk about, I let fly with the following: 1) Saskatchewan, 2) Calgary, 3) B.C., and then a toss-up between Edmonton and Winnipeg.
That sent the Eskimos into a rage causing quarterback Mike Reilly and Nate Coehoorn to hurl a barrage of insults at yours truly and it seemed to engage fans from every CFL team across the land. Reilly maintained that I know nothing about football (nothing new there), and labelled my comments as "extreme homerism". I guess Mike's a little late to the party on that one.
Coehoorn hurled some personal insults my way which caused many members of the Rider Nation to turn his Twitter feed into a warzone. (Thanks to the Rider fans for their defense of me). However it's clear that Coehoorn wasn't familiar with my significant "life change" which goes back 14 months and he subsequently apologized both privately and publicly for his comments.
All in all, it was something out of really nothing but it livened up an otherwise dull Saturday. But I'm shocked someone as sensitive as Reilly can be so effective as a quarterback.
Meh, I've been in far bigger storms than Saturday's.
5 - Truthfully, I should be sending Thank You cards to Reilly and Coehoorn because it sold out the remaining spots for my Social Media/Branding/Media Relations seminar on May 14 at Mosaic Stadium. However don't fret if you've been sitting on the fence because we've added dozens more. You can register or find out more details at www.pedersenmedia.ca.
However this Tweet on Saturday from colleague Arash Madani was golden:
6 - How tragic however, that Friday's CFL news should have been dominated by the CFLPA meetings in Las Vegas or the CFL ruling that Ottawa is due no compensation for the Jason Maas hire by Edmonton. Instead, players, fans, media and alumni went ballistic over a casual standings prediction which I could change in a week. On another note, I don't feel the CFLPA is off to a good start under new President Jeff Keeping if he won't return any messages. Imagine: we could have had the CFLPA trending on Twitter in Canada rather than me. Oh well, I'll take it.
|Wayne Morsky in Las Vegas|
Roughriders Chairman Wayne Morsky is representing the football club on this Las Vegas trip along with V.P. of Sponsorships Steve Mazurak and on Sunday morning I sat down with Morsky for a coffee and a long interview which is contained here:
STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
WM: Things are pretty good. I look back at last year's State of the Franchise and it was a year of firsts. We talked about (Rider President) Craig Reynolds and it was his first year on the job. We talked about (CFL Commissioner) Jeffrey Orridge and his first year on the job. This year it's a lot about change.
When you look at what happened last year with the season there's been some big changes. Changes at the local level and we're all excited to see how that's going to turn around this year. The second thing is the change at the CFL level with the rules, the Argos moving into a new stadium and Jeffrey now having a year under his belt. There's been a lot of change across both the local and the national level.
2015 SEEMED TURBULENT FOR BOTH THOSE MEN
WM: Sure, it's always that way with change. With Jeffrey taking over from Mark Cohon who'd been there for a long time, they're different people. They have different priorities and mandates that they want to do and Jeffrey's got a different direction. He's the guy who's going to take the league to the next level hopefully, especially when you look at how our markets are across Canada.
There were some challenges last year if you look at the amount of stadiums that were used for other venues and that hurt the league. You look at the rule changes and that takes time to adjust to. You look at the fact that we saw an unprecedented amount of injuries to star players. And then - let's face it - when the Riders hurt, everybody hurts across this league. Fortunately we had a great Grey Cup in Winnipeg in the end, but we've got some work to do going forward.
IS COMPENSATION THE #1 ISSUE FACING CFL FOOTBALL OPERATIONS RIGHT NOW?
WM: It certainly isn't the biggest. We've got a lot of other things we're dealing with right now but it is an issue. This is why we have a Commissioner. This is what what his job is right now, to look at a situation like this and whether it's a fine for an injury on the field or it's a situation between the teams like this, this is what he has to look at.
When we looked at what we did with Edmonton (hiring the Eskimos' coaching staff), nothing was under the table. It was clean, we feel good about it, and morally we've moved on from it. What's the difference between the one in and Edmonton and Ottawa? Same thing.
WHAT'S THE UPDATE ON THE NEW STADIUM?
WM: Wow that's exciting! When you drop by there right now, you notice the lights are all up on the east side already. The speakers are in the ramps already. I saw them the other day. They've got the sinks in and the carpet in a few places. The field level is starting to be excavated to the finished surface. Put it this way: the turf has been ordered with the actual emblems that are gonna be stitched into it so it's exciting.
WERE THERE SOME CHALLENGES WITH CONSTRUCTION?
WM: Certainly any project has those in today's world, especially when you're got timelines. I have to applaud all the people who were involved because the benchmarking that was done, learning from others what they did right and wrong was an asset, and having a generous schedule has been really important. It's given us some flexibility. When you look at the model of the stadium, and you can go across North America - and maybe even outside of that - when you have a funding model where you've got the fans as the biggest funder, the Province and the City kicking in, and then you've got the Riders coming in with their portion and also the corporate world kicking in funds, all these guys came together. It's a city-owned facility and not only the Roughriders benefit, but the whole city does. All of the minor football, soccer and field lacrosse teams will utilize it plus we'll have the concerts so it's a great facility.
THE RIDER FACILITIES IN NEW MOSAIC STADIUM ARE AMAZING
WM: The attraction for coaches and players will be phenomenal. It'll rival a lot of the other cities in North America. We did a lot of stakeholder interviewing, for instance we even had players' wives consulted on the family area. The media was involved, the strength and conditioning people were too. Jeremy O'Day led a lot of that. And then having the Populus Group, who was our architect/designer, and well-known throughout the world, in fact they were involved in the design of the T-Mobile Arena right across the road from where we are now here in Vegas, that led to a state-of-the-art facility in Regina. It'll make it so much nicer and everybody who goes there to work everyday will leave there feeling pretty good about it.
ANY OTHER MESSAGE TO THE FANS?
WM: I'd just like to thank them for their patience. Being a club that has a following like we do and have a 3-15 season like last year and then have them still stand behind us, support us on and off the field, is great. When we hired Craig Reynolds, one of the terms he kept using was "long-term sustainability". That 18-34 aged crowd across the nation has so many options right now of where to spend their discretionary income so we've got to do a better job of getting them to spend their money with us and the best way to do it is to win on the field. That's what our goal is.
THE FANS SEEM TO BE LOOKING AHEAD, NOT BEHIND
WM: Sure. You can't look back. It's done. You've gotta learn from it and move on. Take the lessons we learned and put it in front of us. The change we've made with the dual role of the Coach/GM, if you look across, that seems to have some success behind it. That doesn't work if you don't have the right person but we felt in the interview process that Chris Jones was the right person. With him, Jeremy and Murph, that's a great group along with the coaches they brought in. We look forward to it. It's exciting, it's a change, and that's what people wanted to see happen.
THANKS FOR THE CHAT WAYNE!
WM: Thanks Rod and all the best. Thanks for all the things you do for the Rider Nation.
7 - The annual CFL Congress is underway in Toronto and I'm told a lot of their discussions will centre around some of the items mentioned by Wayne Morsky. Roughriders President Craig Reynolds is there along with team Presidents from across the league. The Riders' Ryan Pollock will be on the SportsCage's Rider Monday to recap Monday's events plus CFLPA player rep Chris Best will discuss last week's meetings here in Las Vegas.
8 - Popular former Roughrider punter Eddie Johnson is in Las Vegas attending the Academy of Country Music Awards and, apparently, a retirement party for his old Minnesota Vikings teammate Jared Allen. As always, Eddie's social media feeds are jammed with entertaining photos and comments. I'm hoping to hook up with Eddie at some point this week. Busy, busy! Eddie just returned from Europe where he was a model in Volkswagen's new ad campaign. What a guy.
9 - Got a great piece of advice for dealing with the haters last week. "Consider the source".
10 - And lastly, the Regina Pats are getting set to take on the Red Deer Rebels in Round 2 of the 2016 Western Hockey League Playoffs beginning Saturday in Red Deer. How ecstatic the Queen City Sports & Entertainment Group must be that they've achieved the second round in both years of their ownership! However I fear the clock is about to strike midnight on the Cinderella Pats. The last time these two teams met - in that Hockey Day Game in February - Regina really was no match for Brent Sutter's Rebels. The MMG predicts Red Deer to take this series in no more than six games.
And it appears I won't be able to take in any of the games because I'll be in Florida for the Roughriders' annual spring minicamp. Oh well, can't be everywhere.
THAT'S IT FROM VEGAS! THANKS FOR READING ...