|Some of the attendees at the SportsCage Watch Party at Boston Pizza Emerald Park|
1 - EH OH CANADA GO!: All seems right in the hockey world today. Team Canada advanced to the gold medal game at the 2017 World Junior Hockey Championship with a 5-2 semifinal victory over Sweden Wednesday evening in Montreal.
We'd barely taken our seats by the time Sweden jumped out to a 2-1 lead, chasing starting Canadian goalie Connor Ingram from the net after allowing two goals on just three shots. Carter Hart came on in relief and guided Canada to the victory in a game which won't go down as a classic.
Hart as to be the starter against USA in the championship game Thursday night. This is why you have two goalies.
As for Connor Ingram - the pride of Imperial, SK - no one will remember what a forgettable night it was for him, except for Ingram himself. Especially if Canada goes on to win gold.
But it was a massive, massive sigh of relief for Hockey Canada to get past Sweden. The hockey watchdogs in this country (myself included) were ready to pounce all over Canada if they lost this one, as the braintrust has been second-guessed at every turn.
Now, however the gold medal game turns out, at least Canada gave themselves a chance to play for gold.
2 - EMPTY SEATS? NO PROBLEM: It's a shame the majority of the coverage coming out of this tournament has focused on all the empty seats in Montreal's Bell Centre. The long-standing tradition of passing the massive Canadian flag around the stands faltered Wednesday evening as there weren't enough hands in the seats to keep it moving.
One headline out of Eastern Canada read, "Why Are People Staying Away From The World Juniors?" which is beyond unsightly for Hockey Canada.
Many writers are suggesting that big cities don't care enough about junior hockey but that wasn't a problem in Alberta in 2012 or in Toronto in 2014.
The culprit this time around? Ghastly over-priced tickets in Montreal and Hockey Canada is getting gashed for being too greedy.
On that point, the critics are correct.
However the problem is easily correctable and Vancouver Giants owner Ron Toigo - who's leading the 2019 event in Vancouver and Victoria - knows this.
Hopefully the event has come back to earth and returns to smaller, traditional centres in the years ahead.
3 - THE WATCH PARTY: Thanks to all who came out to Boston Pizza Emerald Park for the first-ever SportsCage/RodPedersen.com Watch Party! SportsCage listeners and blog readers joined SportsCage hosts such as Derek Meyers, Scruffy, Jared Dumba and myself to watch the game and enjoy each other's company. Thanks to Marco Ricci for being such a great host and a tip of the cap to the Regina Pats for picking up the tab!
The Pats were a big part of the event's success. Many have noticed that since Christmas I've stepped up promotion of the Pats mightily through my social media channels and they have reciprocated by supporting my projects in kind.
That's the way it's supposed to work.
As far as the inaugural Watch Party goes, stay tuned because we'll be holding many more of these in the future.
The SportsCage continues to lead the way in this province.
4 - SHOOTOUT OR NOT TO SHOOTOUT?: The debate was inevitable. When the USA beat Russia 4-3 in a shootout in Wednesday's earlier semifinal, social media was crammed with complaints of, "How could they use a shootout to determine a playoff game?"
They're right, and it sucks. When the shootout was adopted in the great game of hockey some-15 years ago, the caveat had to be that it wouldn't be used to settle playoff games. And from the CJAHL to the WHL to the NHL, it isn't.
However it is in international hockey and the only reason I can think of is because of television purposes. What other explanation could there be?
It's wrong and it's weak, but to quote Richie Hall, "It is what it is".
5 - ONE MORE TIME: On Wednesday the Regina Pats were once again ranked the #1 team in the nation in the weekly CHL Top 10 rankings. Out of 15 weeks, the Pats have been ranked 14 times and have spent the majority of it in the top spot.
What more can be said about the Queen City Kids that hasn't already been said? This seems to be a once-in-a-generation squad and have become the talk of the town. However it's clear from talking to Pats staff that the job is FAR from being completed.
This is a huge weekend for the Blueshirts as they host the Calgary Hitmen on Friday and the Moose Jaw Warriors on Saturday. Friday's game will be televised on Access across Saskatchewan and across Western Canada on Shaw and I'll have the call along with Darren Dupont.
I can't tell you how fantastic it is to be calling these games!
6 - IT'S ALL ABOUT THE KIDS!: Bennett Dunlop Ford and the Regina Pats are partnering to collect used sports equipment at the Pats game on Friday. The first 500 households that drop off sports gear will receive a free Wash and Vac coupon to have their car professionally cleaned at Bennett Dunlop Ford.
The donated equipment will go to under-resourced children and teens in the Regina community. – encouraging them to be active and providing opportunities for them to participate in team sports.
Ehrlo Sport Venture is looking for donations of equipment that is clean and in good useable
condition, including hockey, basketball, football, soccer, baseball, and other sporting equipment.
Ehrlo Sport Venture offers free drop-in sports leagues and operate the Sport Venture Library in
north central Regina where youth and families can borrow sports equipment, free of charge.
Collections will take place at both entrances of the Brandt Centre right before the game starts.
Volunteers from Ehrlo Sport Venture & KidSportTM Regina will be on hand to collect and sort the
7 - THE "SYSTEM": There's one good reason to watch Monday night's CFB Championship game in Tampa Bay between Alabama and Clemson: Crimson Tide Offensive Coordinator Steve Sarkisian.
The personal struggles of Sarkisian - a former Roughrider quarterback (1997-1999) - have been well-documented (just Google him if you don't know) but he's come out on the other side smelling like a rose.
That is, if he calls a good game Monday night.
Just last week Alabama coach Nick Saban punted O.C. Lane Kiffin a week before the championship game since he's poised to jump to the Florida Atlantic program as Head Football Coach once the season concludes.
To put it in perspective, that would be like Kent Austin turfing Ken Miller a week before the 2007 Grey Cup!
However Saban is so confident in his "system" that he's comfortable handing the reins to Sarkisian who's only been with the program since September, as an observer.
We're all pulling for "Sark"!
One memorable story about Sarkisian from his time in Riderville was a spat with then-GM Alan Ford over the team refusing to fly Steve's wife to the 1997 Grey Cup on the team's dime. As I recall, the dispute was resolved with a happy ending.
8 - JONES IS OUR SABAN: Roughriders Head Coach & GM Chris Jones doesn't come from the Nick Saban coaching tree but his resume does include a stint with the Crimson Tide as a Graduate Assistant in 1997.
Saban's "system" in Tuscaloosa is one built to withstand "external and internal distractions" and it seems to be what Jones is attempting to construct in Saskatchewan.
Jones looks to be building a foundation here that can withstand the loss of a franchise player and can be successful year-after-year. That's how it looks from the outside anyway.
Hopefully we'll get a chance to speak with Jones in a media forum soon.
9 - SAINTS GO CFL SHOPPING: A couple of weeks ago we reported the New Orleans Saints were high on free agent linebacker Adam Bighill and on Wednesday, TSN reported the Saints have signed the former B.C. Lion along with DB Forrest Hightower, who spent 2016 with the Ottawa RedBlacks.
In other CFL news, the Montreal Alouettes re-signed pending free agent Nik Lewis to a two-year deal on Wednesday. Lewis has always been a thorn in the Riders' backside and a popular target of the Rider Nation however his numbers are undeniable.
As a six-time All Star, two-time Grey Cup champion and Top 10 All-Time receiver, he's bound for the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.
10 - NFL REGINA TIES: It's NFL Wild Card Playoff weekend and there are some Regina ties to a few of the games. Former star Roughrider linebacker Brian Peters will try to help the Houston Texans get past the Oakland Raiders, Regina's Jon Ryan helps lead the Seattle Seahawks into battle against the Detroit Lions and former Saskatchewan coach Danny Barrett is the Miami Dolphins Running Backs Coach as they prepare to visit Pittsburgh.
And Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was once photographed in a U of R Cougar t-shirt. Just kidding. Rams grad Brett Jones is of course with the Giants, who will visit Green Bay.
11 - JOIN US IN INDIAN HEAD: The good folks of Indian Head are attempting to raise funds to build a skate park for town kids and are holding a fundraiser dinner next Saturday, January 14 featuring Tiger Williams, Matt Dominguez and me as the speakers. Here are the details of the event. Click on the poster for a closer look:
12 - AT THE MAC'S: The AAA Regina Pat Canadians have had a torrid start to the season - just like their parent club - but they went out with a whimper at the Mac's Midget Tournament in Calgary. They had a respectable 2-2 record, but that was near the middle-to-bottom of the pack. From what I can tell, the Belarus National U17 team won the event on the mens side but details were sketchy. The Pat C's ceased sending out news releases on their results over the holiday season.
She seemed shocked that I would let my guard down, and for good reason.
I didn't volunteer for it ... they pulled me out of the crowd ... but I figured, "Sure, why not? What the hell". Three years ago I'd have been paralyzed by fear, not wanted to look silly, and flat-out refused.
What would people think if they saw it?
But now, through this incredible path of Recovery I've been on (which I also like to call Discovery because I'm learning who I was truly meant to be), I'm way more comfortable with "living in the moment".
It has been the greatest experience of my life and seeing "what's next" each and every day is an exhilarating experience. My only regret is that I didn't do it sooner.
THAT'S IT FOR TODAY! SEE YOU ON THE RADIO