POSTCARDS FROM SASKATOON
A good share of the May long weekend was spent in beautiful Saskatoon, Saskatchewan as I was one of the guest speakers at the Canadian Football Officials Convention at the Radisson. Here are some photos from our Saturday afternoon walkabout and the event itself ...
Count the Saskatchewan Rush flags! There's one, waving out front of the Radisson ...
There's #2, out front of the Sheratoon Cavalier Saskatoon ...
Here's #3, waving proudly atop the legendary Hotel Senator ...
You couldn't go anywhere in downtown Saskatoon without the NLL's Rush being front-and-centre ... That's great marketing! Kudos to team President Lee Genier and his staff ...
The front desk staff at the Radisson were in the Rush spirit ...
In the lounge, Rush fans were getting into the pregame hijinx. The Rush swept Calgary out of the Western Final Saturday night at SaskTel Centre and have advanced to face Buffalo for the NLL championship beginning this weekend ...
They're ready for the Roughriders to arrive!
Looking for a summer getaway? Look no further than Saskatoon. It's like another world from what we're used to in the south, and you won't be disappointed by its beauty and endless activities ...
Now for the reason we were there ...
Saskatoon football official Todd Joyes did a bang-up job as the Master of Ceremonies ... He admitted to being a "religious reader" of this blog ... Thanks Todd!
It was fun being in a room full of referees. They're not bad guys!
Legendary Regina and CFL official Ken Picot was honoured with the 2016 Tom Cheney Award. Kenny tragically passed away this winter but he left an indelible mark on the game of football in Canada ...
Ken's wife Mary Ann accepted the award and gave a nice acceptance speech in Ken's honour ...
This weekend in Toronto, Ken will further be honoured at the annual CFL officials camp. CFL referees will wear a patch with Ken's initials this season ...
Thanks to Mrs. SportsCage for capturing this pic of my 45-minute address. I told inside stories of what some of the Roughriders personalities were really like during my 18 seasons with Canada's Team. I also provided an update on the current squad as they get set to open camp this weekend in Saskatoon ...
Comedian Kelly Taylor was a last-minute replacement for Mike Pereira from the NFL on Fox. Pereira - a former NFL referee and NFL V.P. of Officiating - had to bow out due to a family emergency, as he had to eulogize a family member on the weekend ... It was disappointing to all that he couldn't be there but Kelly had the crowd in stitches ...
From start to finish it was a wonderful time in the Bridge City! We're excited to get back up there for three weeks during 2016 Saskatchewan Roughriders training camp beginning Sunday at Griffiths Stadium.
2 - The refs were eager to tell their stories in a relaxed setting and some asked what were the zaniest plays I had to call over my time in the CFL. I noted an instance in 2008 in Hamilton when Weston Dressler had the ball punched out through the endzone at the Hamilton one-yard line. The Riders were awarded possession at the Hamilton-1 and promptly scored a touchdown. Ticats coach Charlie Taaffe was livid that the play should've been ruled a Touchback (it would've been under American rules) and I'm sure he still hasn't figured it out.
Another time in 2009 in Regina, a Roughriders PAT-attempt was blocked and returned to the Saskatchewan endzone. As the returner raced to the house, I had no idea how many points he'd be awarded once he got there. The correct answer is two.
3 - These referees all read this blog, listen to our shows, watch In the Huddle on Access and Shaw and watch Rams and Thunder games on Access. Some were quick to point out which of our announcers are the harshest on referees and without naming names, the #1 offender goes by the initials M.B.
4 - Kenny Picot always maintained that I'm a favourite amongst these guys and near the end of the night, one Regina official tugged my elbow, leaned over and said, "Thanks for not s---ing on us". I had a good laugh at that one.
5 - Most of our discussions have to remain confidential but I got exactly what I was hoping for out of the evening -- the referees' perspective on the game. As one official pointed out, "If a quarterback has a 75% completion rate, he's a hero but if we're only right 75% of the time, we're reffing RMF the next year".
They also pointed out that a line judge has to make roughly 1400-1600 assessments during the course of a game however if he's wrong on just two of them, he's villified. It's an incredibly high tightrope to walk.
6 - Case in point in the officiating game: During Sunday night's Hockey Night In Canada telecast of the Lightning and Penguins on CBC, colour commentator Craig Simpson pointed out an incident where Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy played the puck outside the trapezoid. "All four officials missed it," scoffed Simpson.
Meanwhile, an alert viewer pointed out a mistake made by play-by-play man Jim Hughson (pictured) later on that period.
The point is players, coaches and broadcasters expect 100% perfection out of the officials yet they're unable to adhere to the same standards.
However that's something officials learned to live with long ago.
7 - From what I could tell, not much time was spent discussing the advancements of video replay in the game of football during the CFOA convention. More time was spent on identifying and developing young football officials and how to achieve the highest possible standards.
8 - My main concern with the game of football right now is that the NFL, NCAA, CFL and CIS all have vastly different rule books while the NHL, AHL, ECHL and CHL are all almost exactly the same. For a player moving up and down all those hockey leagues, he's not second-guessing how to play the game. However in football, it can be like walking through a mine field for a rookie or even a wily vet when a league introduces nine rule changes at once.
To me, the game of football is broken right now. Some years ago hockey was broken too but they've made the necessary adjustments and now the game may be at its best point ever.
9 - With training camp approaching for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, I'm getting to the end of canvassing different opinions on "How the Riders are going to be this year". However at least week's Plaza of Honor induction announcement, I cornered former Roughriders President Tom Shepherd and asked him his prediction for the Green & White.
"I'm the wrong guy to ask because I have them going to the Grey Cup every year," Shepherd laughed. "It cost me money last year. I can never pick another team, just like I can't in hockey with the great Montreal Canadiens. But we're definitely going to be a playoff team this year.
"I said the three best off-seasons of the club were 1951 when they got Ruby, Cassidy, Ettinger, Nixon and Russell. That, player-wise, was great. I'd put the next one as the 2013 off-season when we got some good coaches and got all those players who won the Grey Cup. And the next one, I don't say this lightly, I'd say this off-season was equal with the other two. This is based on the coaches. I don't know a lot of the players that they've got but I'm very high on the off-season and what they're doing. They have a QB coach again and all those coaches work so well together. Chris Jones has assembled a great staff and they worked so hard on finding players so I'm sure they're gonna have some real winners for our great Saskatchewan Roughriders."
10 - As we approach the 2016 CFL season, here are the preseason Power Rankings from Odds Shark (www.oddsshark.com):
*We will discuss these on the SportsCage today at 4:00 pm on 620 CKRM.
11 - It should be an interesting week ahead with regard to player movement prior to training camp. Jason Fichter of the Facebook group ALL RIDER FANPAGE broke the story that veteran free agent offensive tackle Xavier Fulton is poised for the announcement that he's re-signed with the team. Also rumblings out of Montreal suggest sophomore quarterback Rakeem Cato could be released and we'll be investigating whether or not the Roughriders have an interest.
The Riders are holding their State of the Franchise conference call today so stay tuned for that.
|Lynch and Tom Shepherd last week at Boston Pizza|
NUMBER ONE: MLB Greg Jones. The former Michigan State Spartan who was ALL Big Ten three of his four years with the Spartans in East Lansing Michigan can be a one man gang on defense
He does it all plugging up the middle or being a terror from sideline to sideline and is able to drop back into pass coverage. The Spartan defence was near the top in all defensive categories during his tenure there.
And he has been equally effective with the Argos since arriving a couple of years ago.in Toronto. He will be the best MLB we have had since Rey Wiliams.
NUMBER TWO: RB Kendial Lawrence. This guy can make a game-changing play from any one of three positions RB, WR or KR. He was a terror in College at Missouri because of his versatility because he is a threat to go all the way on any one play as he has a terrific burst of speed and and can change direction on a dime. He will be one of the league's leading kick returners as he was last year.
NUMBER THREE: WR John Chiles. If he is right with that 4.43 speed, this former Texas Longhorn can make this Rider offense frightening.
He has tremendous ability to get into the open and has gluey hughy hands and he stands 6'1", 190 lbs so he should be an imposing target for Rider QB's as he has lots of experience coming off three years in the NFL as well.
NUMBER FOUR: RB Matt Walter. I think he is a steal from Calgary and being a Canadian, really helps the ratio situation. This guy can be a legit starter as he proved he could play in this league filling in for Jon Cornish and backing up Jerome Messam.
13 - I'm afraid I still loathe the new CFL logo, and the very concept of it. The NFL logo has been the same since I was born. That's branding. People are going to see that new CFL logo and not even know what it is. Plus, it's not that nice.
14 - Times must be slow in Hamilton. Ticats lineman Peter Dyakowski announced a "fake" study on Friday citing the fact the Hamilton Tiger-Cats have surpassed the Saskatchewan Roughriders for having the CFL's best fans. I sniffed that one out in a second, and my Twitter account shows this.
I'd hate to have fallen for that one! And that's hardly a stunt I'd expect from Canada's Smartest Person. Perhaps a recount?
15 - Question from the Memorial Cup in Red Deer: When did the M.C. become a skills competition? The Wheat Kings John Quenneville's decision to pull a Marek Malik stick-between-the-legs manoeuvre while trailing 5-2 Saturday night was a head-scratcher. The Wheat Kings are in a ton of trouble at 0-2.
The Memorial Cup Media Guide doesn't say what the most lopsided game in M.C. history is, but Brandon getting spanked last night was certainly the worst since they lost 9-1 to Windsor in the 2010 Cup final.
16 - We might start to see some Raptors Fever around here after Toronto knocked off Cleveland Sunday night to even the NBA Eastern Conference Finals at 2-2. I quizzed the staff at the Cornwall Centre Jersey City Monday afternoon to see if they've seen a spike in Toronto Raptors merchandise sales during this playoff run. "Not as much as you'd think," the young man said.
17 - Remember Marty York? The legendary spit disturber was at his best on Twitter Sunday night (@MartyYork) writing, "Sportsmanship lacking in Toronto. Raptors coach fined, Lowry constant whiner, Jays lead MLB in ejections and now a fan ejected in TOR. #shameful"
Marty was subsequently flamed by readers, which he loved.
18 - And finally, after hearing the term "Physicality" so many times during these NHL and NBA playoffs, I had to look the term up and see if it actually is a word. The truth is, it is. The noun officially entered the English language in 1592, as another word for medicine or medical practice. In 1827, it was first rused to mean the "fact, state or condition of being physical" according to the Oxford English Dictionary.
See what you learned today?
THAT'S ALL FOR THIS WEEK ... THANKS FOR READING!