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WHAT I'M THINKING
1 - SCOTTSDALE, AZ: We've been down here in the Valley of the Sun pretty much since Grey Cup ended but Saskatchewan hasn't been too far from my mind. Thanks to the Saskie boys running CanadaToArizona.com for the accomodations, and I encourage you to check them out if you're planning to get out of the cold for a stint in the Phoenix area this winter.
Perhaps during the Riderville Arizona Tour III on February 9 when the Arizona Coyotes take on the Montreal Canadiens? It'll be the biggest party we've held in Glendale yet, and the Riders are flying in star receiver Naaman Roosevelt for the occasion.
2 - CFL and Rider news have been incredibly sparse to dig up lately but as one national reporter pointed out Sunday night, this generally is the only "off" time of the off-season for Football Operations types. However the league held three days of meetings last week in Winnipeg including GMs, Presidents and Governors! Sadly, no one knew about it.
League executives have been incredibly tight-lipped about the contents of their meetings, saying only that they discussed video replay in the CFL.
BUT FOR THREE WHOLE DAYS?
One has to think a good deal of time was spent on the future of CFL Commissioner Jeffrey Orridge who's heading into the final year of his contract, however I'm told his support from some Governors is spotty. If the league brass prefers to keep mum on that situation, you can see why.
But the NHL's Board of Governors meetings were held last week in Florida and there were plenty of discussion points revealed to the media including: NHL participation in the 2018 South Korea Olympics, a debriefing on the World Cup of Hockey, the league's new concussion spotter program, and the fact the Jets' Mark Chipman and the Canadiens' Geoff Molson were voted onto the NHL's executive committee.
If the CFL intends to operate in another cone of silence like they did all of last off-season, it's going to be a very long winter for those of us tasked with delivering you the news.
They don't need the publicity?
Donald Trump has proven that bad publicity is a lot better than none at all.
3 - As I wrote the day after Ottawa's 39-33 overtime win over Calgary in the 2016 Grey Cup, the actual game saved Grey Cup Week overall. It's been proven over and over again while I've been down here.
The Americans all watched the game on ESPN2 and thought it was an absolutely spectacular display of football. On that point, they are correct.
However one American sports fan said to me at a dinner party, "Is it true they had to give away tickets for the game?"
Sigh. Don't ask.
4 - The Montreal Alouettes' search for a new GM is what's dominating the CFL news these days. 3DownNation.com's Justin Dunk reported some time ago that Danny Maciocia was all but "signed, sealed and delivered" to take over the Als however, as we know, things change.
Now, Sportsnet's Arash Madani reports Kavis Reed is in line to become Montreal's General Manager with Jacques Chapdelaine being retained as Head Coach. The impeccable Twitter account of @CFL_News reports Maciocia was indeed inline for the position however he wanted to hire Brendan Taman as his assistant but it didn't work out for a variety of reasons.
That would've been a surprise to me since Taman is still cashing big cheques from the Roughriders through the 2017 season and I've been told he's comfortable if that's his last job in the league.
5 - If anybody knows what's going on with the Toronto Argonauts, can you please let me know? The last we heard, Argonauts President Michael Copeland was reviewing the status and organizational structure involving GM Jim Barker and Head Coach Scott Milanovich. Meanwhile Milanovich was telling people prior to Grey Cup that he expects to be let go.
So ... what's the hold-up?
6 - The trail of the Darian Durant contract talks with the Saskatchewan Roughriders has gone completely cold. Tumbleweeds. Crickets. From what I've been led to believe, there have been no discussions since the end of the season and that's going on six weeks.
The little I've heard is that Durant's received a little leverage given the Alouettes situation, and his strong relationships with Kavis Reed and Jacques Chapdelaine.
Perhaps that's why it's been so quiet; Darian will likely go to free agency and hence there's no need for any further discussions with the Riders. Each side has drawn their line in the sand, and it's going to come down to who blinks first.
Who ya got?
7 - Roughriders running back Joe McKnight will be laid to rest in New Orleans on Monday, and the Riders will observe the moment. The situation continues to distress Saskatchewan's football team. Team Chaplin Jared LaCoste has served as a grief counselor for a lot of players still troubled by the incident.
The Riders' John Murphy is speaking at the service in Louisiana.
McKnight proved to be a very loved and respected figure in that locker room in his short stint with the football club.
He caught the eye of the NFL too, as I reported in my column at Riderville.com last week, McKnight had drawn interest from the Vikings and Saints however he was under contract to the Riders for 2017.
8 - This Phoenix area is absoluely enthralled with football, and their beloved Cardinals. It's only served to make me miss Roughrider football even more. It's been endlessly entertaining to listen to their postgame radio call-in show, and it's a carbon copy of the Rider Roundtable on 620 CKRM. Sometimes I wonder why we have these shows at all? People call in frothing at the mouth saying the most outlandish things that they can't possibly mean.
Perhaps that's exactly why we carry these shows!
Arizona coach Bruce Arians (or "B.A." as he's lovingly referred to as by the hosts on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM) has been crucified by callers the past two weeks and the embattled radio host has been tapdancing trying to defend the club. It just so happens Arians has been the best thing to happen to the club since Kurt Warner. But no matter. To Cards fans, his shelf-life has expired and the same goes for the quarterback.
"The problem with this team is not Carson Palmer," said one analyst. "The problem with this team is not coaching," said another. "Players are responsible for making, or not making, plays on the field," said still another, "Not the coaches."
One thing's been made very clear since I got out of the vacuum of Saskatchewan and witnessed another pro football team from the outside: the Head Coach is ultimately reponsible for everything when all is said and done.
Win or lose.
The other thing I learned - and should've known - is that listeners don't ever get tired of sports talk about their football team. It's Cards talk on radio around the clock from Monday to Friday. People can't get enough and presumably the same goes for Rider fans.
Sometimes I wonder if people get tired of it but as it turns out, they don't.
So it's been a great learning experience professionally down here too.
9 - It's true, I did fly home for less than 24 hours (16 actually) to broadcast Friday's Regina Pats-Swift Current Broncos game province-wide on Access. I wouldn't have missed it for the world and maybe I have a screw loose, but I enjoy taking vacation time to broadcast these games. There's no better pastime for me than calling hockey.
Not surprisingly, the Pats routed the Broncos 8-1 Friday night and none of the Pats faithful was upset by the lopsided score. They've been waiting for a team like this for 30 years.
In the Coyotes' owners box the other night, they asked me the biggest reason for the resurgence of the Pats. I thought for a moment, and then answered "John Paddock".
See Point 8.
I don't know what happened in Saturday's 2-1 home overtime loss to the Saskatoon Blades because I wasn't there but I'm told Regina goaltender Tyler Brown stood on his head. Perhaps John Paddock's crew took their eye off the ball for a minute. Still, the Pats have yet to lose in regulation time at home all season long.
I expect the Pats won't have a crowd of less than 5,000 fans the rest of the way and come mid-February, the Brandt Centre will be sold out every night.
10 - And finally, it took me a few days to realize why football maven John Lynch asked last week if Regina could host the Brier, the Memorial Cup and the Grey Cup all in 2018. At first I thought there would be no problems with accomodations or the number of volunteers required but it bares asking if the sports fans in the Queen City can actually afford to attend all of these events?
It's a serious question. It'll be no small task to shell out the dough to attend them all even when they're spaced out months apart. Regina sports fans love all of curling, hockey and football.
Meanwhile A LOT of the Regina people here in Phoenix are giddy about Guns N' Roses coming to New Mosaic Stadium in August. The ones I've talked to have been scrambling for ticket information.
GNR certainly wouldn't have been my first choice, but I understand hard rock goes over big in Regina.
THAT'S ALL FOR NOW! SEE YOU SOON