In our first year in 2015 there were 350 Rider fans on hand and that number swelled to 1,200 in 2016. This year we're expecting thousands more and the added bonus is Friday's party from 12:00-3:00 pm at The Draft sportsbar in Mesa, AZ followed by the Phoenix Suns-Chicago Bulls NBA game. For tickets to the Suns with a discount for Rider fans, email me at PedersenMedia@outlook.com.
I'm very much looking forward to Thursday's show, and visiting with fans over the next few days about the current state of the team. If you're unable to join us in Arizona, please tune in on 620 CKRM!
The forecast calls for sunshine and 30 degrees Celsius.
2 - SCHEDULE THOUGHTS: I was disappointed to see the Riders wouldn't be hosting Darian Durant and the Montreal Alouettes in the home-opener at New Mosaic Stadium but that might've been asking for too much. The Riders may not have even wanted the extra attention Durant would have drawn, preferring to showcase the stadium itself.
Meeting Durant and the Alouettes in Week 1 in Montreal has a nice ring to it. The Riders have never lost a season-opener there before, with wins in 1983 and 2007.
And it's ideal that the Winnipeg Blue Bombers will provide the opposition on that Canada Day evening since they are historically the Riders' top rival.
“We are thrilled to showcase the best rivalry in sports with the opening of Mosaic Stadium on Canada Day,” Blue Bombers president and CEO Wade Miller said in a press release.
“We know many Bombers fans will be there to take part as well.”
That's if they can get a ticket. The Return of Dressler II will add enough extra drama.
Beyond that, I don't get too wrapped up in the schedule when it comes out each year. I check to see who's coming to town for the home-opener and that's about it. You know you're going to face the eastern teams and selected western teams twice, and two more western rivals three times. It's nine home and nine road no matter how you slice it.
Obviously I was interested to see when the bye weeks come and the first is in mid-July which means we may schedule a SportsCage Marlin Travel sports trip to New York or Chicago for baseball that week. That will allow new listeners to join us who otherwise aren't able to make it December when we usually go.
CKRM analyst Carm Carteri also mentioned that CFL Commissioner Jeffrey Orridge should be lauded for getting the schedule out sooner than ever before.
3 - ABOUT THE RIDERS: I had occasion to spend some time with Arizona Cardinals punter Richie Leono at a barbecue on Thursday and one of his first questions was, "Who's your quarterback?" I really had no answer other than Kevin Glenn but when I mentioned the Riders had added Vince Young to their neg list, his jaw hit the table.
That transaction last week got several people in football talking and also wondering what exactly the "end game" is there. Young hasn't taken a snap in live action in several years and you really have to wonder what's in it for the Riders, especially with the current youth movement.
However I'm told Chris Jones met with Young in Tennessee last week so there's obviously more to it than generating publicity. Jones doesn't seem to be the type to go in for that.
I can't wait to discuss it on Thursday's show. Also, Richie Leone will be at Thursday's party and is scheduled to appear on air with us.
4 - AINSWORTH A LION: Justin Dunk from 3DownNation.com reported late Wednesday night that former Rider - and pending free agent - Dylan Ainsworth has signed a free agent deal with his hometown B.C. Lions. The Western product was much-hyped as a 2nd round pick of Saskatchewan in 2014 and had some pretty stellar campaigns including being name the club's Special Teams Player of the Year. Players like that are critical to the success of a football team, but a severe upper body injury wiped out Dylan's entire 2016 with the Green & White.
His family has to be ecstatic that he's headed home, and the kid works so hard that he deserves another shot in the CFL.
5 - MORE FOOTBALL: People down here are still buzzing about Super Bowl 51 and New England's epic comeback however the conversation is more weighted towards Atlanta's mammoth collapse. "Why didn't they run the ball with an 8-point lead at New England's 29-yard line with only minutes to go?" is the oft-asked question.
Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is getting mauled on sportstalk radio for "butchering" the fourth quarter of the game by his playcalling. The San Francisco 49ers are getting buried too for hiring Shanahan as their new Head Coach right after Super Bowl.
Meanwhile former Rider quarterback Steve Sarkisian has bolted Alabama to replace Shanahan as the Falcons' O.C. and that's left many people wondering what Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban thinks about being left holding the bag just five months after hiring him.
Hey, you've got to look out for #1 and it's great to see Sarkisian get back to "The League" after his well-documented personal problems.
6 - THE COYOTES DEN: It may not be getting much play in Canada but the hockey people in Phoenix are buzzing about the collapse of the Coyotes' new arena deal with Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ. On Friday, ASU abruptly pulled out of the deal meaning the Coyotes owners were left holding the bag. The new arena was expected to save hockey in the Valley, whatwith a move closer to where the majority of Canadian snowbirds are located.
Coyotes GM John Chayka was on sportstalk radio here Wednesday morning saying they're content to stay in Glendale for the foreseeable future and was speaking lovingly about Gila River Arena and Glendale politicians. That's a flip-flop from what the team's been saying for almost the past year.
7 - VEGAS BABY: It shouldn't be long before the NHL's expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights name their first-ever Head Coach and watch for it to be Claude Julien, who was fired by the Boston Bruins this week. My sources in Las Vegas predicted a month ago that Julien would be out in Boston and that he could be headed to Sin City.
However Julien is one of four top candidates who became available this season including Ken Hitchock (St. Louis), Gerard Gallant (Florida) and Jack Capuano (N.Y. Islanders).
However the Vegas people feel they not only need a Head Coach, but also one who's capable of "selling the game" in Las Vegas by way of speaking at luncheons and banquets and making the media circuit.
I contend that an NHL Head Coach has enough on his plate let alone being a P.R. guy too.
Time will tell, and we'll know soon who Golden Knights GM George McPhee selects.
8 - MEMORIAL CUP: These have to be anxious times for the owners of the Regina Pats as they await the CHL's decision on who will be named host of the 2018 Memorial Cup. I was told the winner was supposed to be announced last Saturday however a few snags came up.
On our Pats-Oil Kings telecast last weekend I asked Pats Coach & GM John Paddock how confident he is that Regina will be picked. "I really don't know," Paddock said on Access. "But I can't imagine the conversation if they called (bid chairman) Shaun Semple and told him we didn't get it."
Paddock was in Toronto for the bid presentation and said it was mind-blowing.
Incidentally the Pats were ranked #1 in the country on Wednesday for the 19th week out of 20 so far this season.
9 - MCSORLEY COMING TO REGINA: The 5th Annual Regina Cougar Mens Hockey Alumni Night of Stories is scheduled for Thursday, April 6 at the Travelodge Hotel & Conference Centre. The keynote speaker is NHL great Marty McSorley and I'm pleased to have been asked to be the Master of Ceremonies for the evening. I've done some events with Marty in the past and he's one of the best storytellers on the circuit! He's also fresh to the Regina banquet scene. Tickets are $125 each and you can get yours by emailing Sharky at email@example.com or www.reginacougarhockeyalumni.com.
10 - CANADA TO ARIZONA: I want to personally thank Rob Pederson, Miles Zimbaluk and Darcy Hordichuk at Canada To Arizona for the accomodations and transportation while we're down here this week. For weekly and monthly rentals at their beautiful gated community in Scottsdale, check our their website at www.canadatoarizona.com.
BIRTHDAYS: Happy 26th birthday today to Rider equipment assistant Mike MacNeil and to Pats alum Troy Vollhoffer.
I THINK THAT'S ALL FOR TODAY! SEE YOU ON THE RADIO AT 4