|It's Finally Arrived|
10 LATE HITS AND A PHOTO GALLERY
1 - There will be no Home Field Jinx at New Mosaic Stadium. Before a Canada West-record crowd of 16,500 on Saturday afternoon, the University of Regina Rams survived a late scare from the University of Saskatchewan to beat the Huskies 37-29. It was the first game at the new facility and, as we all know, served as a "test" game. It seemed to go off without a hitch.
The Rams were their usual selves; explosive. It took awhile for Rams quarterback Noah Picton to totally get in a groove but it seemed like he and the offense owned the second half. The one thing the Rams are going to have to avoid if they plan to go to the Vanier Cup for the first time since 2000 is turnovers. They were costly, and could've been fatal against the Huskies.
But at 4-1, there's talk of the Hardy Cup being played in Regina. Wouldn't that be something? And there's even a whisper of it being held in New Mosaic Stadium but that's just chatter.
Before posting some thoughts on Saturday afternoon's festivities, here are some photos from the event:
The view from the TSN broadcast booth. Or as was the case on Saturday, the Shaw/Access broadcast booth with Canada West lead voice Jim Mullin ...
A view to the right from the TV broadcast booth ...
And a view to the left ...
A common scene on Saturday: volunteers and fans alike taking plenty of photos of the historic day ...
A pregame meeting for stadium security in the Harvard Broadcasting Lounge ...
Volunteers were fed well in the lounge ...
This shot outside the west windows gives you an idea of the proximity to the Brandt Centre ...
Yours truly, getting ready to sign-on the first-ever television broadcast from New Mosaic Stadium on Access/Shaw. Give an assist to Colin O'Brian's Man Shoppe. THANK YOU, thank you, thank you to Access and Shaw for having me be a part of the broadcast. It's days like that why I got into this business ..
My view looking back the other way ...
Could the new place be nicknamed "The House That Hoppy Built"? I think so. It was great to see the former Rider President and his wife Brenda, supporting his alma mater ...
One behind-the-scenes shot of the broadcast booth hallway ...
And one last shot from the field ...
2 - Many fans on Saturday remarked that, "God must be a Saskatchewan football fan" because it was sunny and 23 degrees Celsius for the clash. Organizers couldn't have asked for any better.
Glitches? There were none that I could see. Evraz Place officials were prepared to take some heat for the lack of parking - most stalls were saved for Rams and other football and political MVPs - but I didn't hear any complaints. If you were there, your thoughts are welcome in the comment section below.
The large replay screen in the south endzone was inactive and the smaller video scoreboard in the northeast corner didn't feature any replays. Local football fans seemed lost without that amenity, and many seated around our broadcast tent peered in for television replays on our monitor.
The concessions were "temporary" at best, but some of the most popular attractions were 2-foot long hotdogs and "Nachos In A Bucket". Western Pizza had a small space reserved on the southwest concourse and were kept busy but when New Mosaic Stadium opens for real, Western Pizza magnate Jim Bonis tells me they'll have three permanent booths in the facility. He couldn't be more proud.
The huge crowd was a record for Canada West football, but not CIS-wide. I'm told a crowd of 50,000+ watched a university game in Toronto in the 1950's and the record stands to this day.
I was impressed at how many Huskie fans made the drive down for Saturday's contest. They were loud, and very noticeable.
3 - The broadcast sounded great on 620 CKRM with Michael Ball and Marco Ricci however Ballsy was aghast in the fourth quarter, huffing "Where's everybody going? I guess they only came to see the stadium." There was far less that 16,500 in the house when the final gun sounded.
It's true and it's not new; Regina is a Rider town, not a football town. The same goes for Toronto, which is a Leafs city, and not a hockey city.
If thousands showed up for high school, junior or university games here, then an argument could be made otherwise but if it hasn't happened up until now, it's not going to.
The fact is the vast majority of the 16,500 on hand Saturday were Rider season ticket holders who came to scout out their seats, and otherwise Rider fans who just wanted to get a look at their beloved football team's new home.
I'm not sure how you feel about your seats, but my wife couldn't have handpicked her seat in the new stadium any better if she'd had the chance.
My favourite comment I heard on Saturday was, "Just wait until we're kicking everybody's ass in here!" I wish I could remember who said it, but I talked to hundreds of people during the day.
4 - The debate is on in the CFL; Who has the best stadium? Right now Saskatchewan, Winnipeg and Hamilton are all proclaiming they have the best and there really is no correct answer. We're all right. One CFL-type told me recently, "If B.C. Place was to be built today, it'd have a pricetag of $2-billion with its current amenities". But the fact is that stadium was built in 1983.
However we all pretty much agree on who has the worst.
5 - For the sake of avoiding any more confusion, I'm going to refer to the Roughriders' current stadium as "Taylor Field" until the end of this 2016 CFL season. The Grand Ol' Lady certainly deserves that title, since that's what she was called for 95 years.
If the good folks at The Mosaic Company have an issue with that, I'll certainly listen to them however it was just too bulky and cumbersome to say on television on Saturday, "The Rams and Huskies are playing here at New Mosaic Stadium this afternoon but tonight at Old Mosaic Stadium, the Thunder will host the Hilltops".
Taylor Field it is, and it feels good. Mosaic has already received plenty of mileage with the new facility.
6 - Football maven John Lynch was deliriously happy to take in Saturday's Rams game and was even more delighted to have a chat with Roughriders Head Coach & GM Chris Jones during the first half. John Frenzy reports that Jones is "ecstatic" with the new additions of Jeff Fuller and Willie Jefferson, and the prospects which lie ahead for the Green & White.
Jones reportedly told Lynch that once the Riders gave a new stadium tour to Willie Jefferson last week, the defensive lineman gushed, "This is where I want to play football!"
You don't think that the best facility in the CFL will be a major attraction to free agents and prospects? Think again.
However the Calgary Stampeders will continue to be a formidable foe on the recruiting trail, given the fact they're the most solid outfit in the league.
7 - Saturday's news that the Roughriders released veteran running back/returner Kendial Lawrence was a surprise, but not a shock. However something must've gone down during the bye week since Jones said Lawrence would be back with the football club this week after attending the funeral of a family member in the States.
Without question, Lawrence was a disappointment for the Roughriders this season. I predicted he'd have an All-Star season after leaving Edmonton as a free agent to sign here but he was nowhere near the player he was with the Eskimos. To me, he dogged it during training camp and barely moved the needle once the regular season began.
However I was told Kendial was one of Jones's "boys" (favourites) and the coach was going to give him every opportunity to shine. It appeared that moment came in the Labour Day Classic when he returned a potentially game-winning punt 85-yards for a touchdown in the dying moments.
Again, something must have happened in between but I'm told it was a mutual parting-of-ways.
The Riders' John Murphy will discuss it further on Monday's SportsCage on 620 CKRM.
8 - Once we get back to game action, we'll get back to the complaints about CFL officiating. The fateful "Illegal Procedure" penalty on Hamilton for their centre moving the ball ahead by several inches two weeks ago at Saskatchewan continues to be a hot topic. Particularly in Hamilton, where the Tiger-Cats find themselves in a considerable tailspin following Saturday's home loss to Calgary.
3DownNation.com's Drew Edwards referred to the infraction as a "terrible call" last week and he got little argument. One former CFL GM told me last week that, "It was a bad call, but that doesn't mean our refs are bad".
It's going to be a scintillating stretch drive - even if the Riders aren't a big part of it - and here's hoping officiating doesn't become a factor in the outcomes.
The Week 15 games were all entertaining, and seemingly devoid of the officials' glare.
9 - It really was a fun weekend in the Queen City. At Friday night's 50th Anniversary Gala for the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame at Queensbury Centre, dinner patrons were kept in stitches by the Hot Stove panelists.
The hockey group stole the show with the likes of Glenn Hall, Bob Bourne, Chico Resch, Fred Sasakamoose and Ed Staniowski. Virtually none of their stories revolved around hockey, and had more to do with growing up in Saskatchewan while carving their Hall of Fame careers. Resch had the line of the night saying Saskatchewan is home to the best people, and are trademarked by their humility.
I was seated at a table of Olympians including Mike Mintenko and Diane Jones-Konihowski and they were trembling at the prospect of following the hockey personalities. However they did a superb job, just not as side-splitting.
And then I finished off the evening by hosting the Hot Stove with football Hall of Famers George Reed, Alan Ford, Gerry James and John Konihowski.
I thought the legendary Gerry James stole the show there, even if he was decidedly grumpy over the course of the evening. Regarding his name being added to the Ring of Honour at Winnipeg's Investors Group Field in July, James grumbled, "I didn't even get anything for it! Not even a gift certificate".
When I asked him his career highlight from his wars in both the NHL and the CFL, James' eyes brightend as he said, "Lining up on the blue line for Oh Canada in the Montreal Forum and looking across the ice and seeing Richard, Beliveau, Geoffrion and Plante! They were all my heroes. It doesn't get better than that."
Thank you to the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame for having me be a part of the night.
10 - If you look atop the WHL's Eastern Conference standings, you see the name Regina Pats. All I can say is "Get used to it". Other teams in the East are chortling about the Pats being already anointed Memorial Cup champs but I'll stick to the assertion that this will be the best season of Pats hockey in over 30 years. They've yet to lose in regulation time (although neither has Moose Jaw) but they're showing now signs of slowing down. In fact they're only going to get far better.
They steamrolled the Red Deer Rebels 7-2 on Sunday afternoon in the Brandt Centre as phenom Sam Steel notched five points. Why isn't he a bigger star in this town anyway? The win improved the Pats' record to 3-0-1.
Your next chance to witness the Queen City Kids play is Friday night when they host the Kootenay Ice. Come on out and get an eyeball of them.
THAT'S ALL! SEE YOU ON THE RADIO AT 4:00 PM