WEST PALM BEACH, FL: From a Holiday Inn near the I-95 along Florida's Atlantic coastline, we bring you this week's Monday Morning Goalie:
The news of Terry's passing spread quickly amongst the Rider family, with former Rider President Jim Hopson writing, "Damn good man. He did a lot for the alumni ... really brought it together. He had a vision."
Rider Radio analyst and proud alum Carm Carteri mentioned, "A Regina boy who was a good hockey, football and baseball player. He was one of the first guys back in the day who really pushed the weights thus earning the nickname 'Bull'. Terry was a major cog in helping brand the Rider Alumni over his five years as President. He was a northend star growing up who gave me hope of playing the CFL."
Our condolences go out to the Bulych family.
2 - ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?: Gridiron talk will dominate this blog over the next several days as the Roughriders stage their annual Spring Minicamp at Historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach, FL. CKRM football analyst Luc Mullinder and I are holed up down just down the road in West Palm Beach for a couple of days before making the hour's drive north on Tueday for what could be a carnival.
The Riders have been holding spring camps in Florida since 2013 but none have been as hotly anticipated as this one.
It's all because of the signing of veteran NFL quarterback Vince Young on March 9, and media outlets from across the USA quickly confirmed their attendance. When I left the Queen City on the weekend, all the football types had a smile and a twinkle in their eye as they advised, "Enjoy the circus!"
But Rider boss Chris Jones isn't interested in running a sideshow. In fact, once that first football flies in the air at Dodgertown on Tuesday morning, it'll be all business. And the second year Head Coach & GM isn't prepared to cut Young any slack despite his gaudy resume.
“He’s like everybody else: He’d better show good,” Jones told Riderville.com. “There’s no room for error.”
All eyes are on Vince.
3 - ABOUT THE CAMP: There's been all kinds of info out there about what this minicamp will entail. I've read that 40 players will be in attendance, then 100, and now the latest report says 80 players will be strutting their stuff here in the Florida sunshine. The latter number seems to make the most sense.
And while we'll be endlessly scrutinizing every pass - and dropped pass - bull rush and missed block on our daily SportsCage shows from Vero Beach, we have to remember not to put too much stock into what we see.
For instance, no one will make this year's club based on what happens over the three day camp. But make no mistake, dozens of players won't make the club based on their performance.
As the old scouting saying goes, "The decisions always make themselves."
Last year at Dodgertown, we mentioned that Justin Cox was the best defensive back but now they're looking for his replacement. Rookie Canadian linebacker Dillon Grondon showed enough in Florida to earn an invite to main camp in Saskatoon and wound up making the team.
But I earmarked Marquez Clark as one of the top receivers last year at this time, and he didn't even make it out of training camp.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder (Chris Jones), and it's tremendously exciting to be here and follow the players' fortunes!
The SportsCage will be broadast daily from Dodgertown on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday on 620 CKRM at 4:00 pm Sask Time.
4 - LUC'S LOCKER: As mentioned, former Roughrider defensive lineman and current CKRM analyst Luc Mullinder is back for another year and provided this minicamp primer for the MMG:
My response has become quick and easy these days. I'll look whoever is asking me in the eyes and say, "Imagine everything that you think it is, and multiply it by two. It's that cool."
The problem is that the journey is one that not a lot of people understand, and it comes lined with so many disapointments. The guys who do manage to make it to a professional roster are literally the one-percenters.
For some, this camp will be something that they can look back on as the start of something special in their lives. However for most of the others, this camp will unfortunately become another setback in the journey.
All one has to do is look at the cross section of quarterbacks that will be working out here come Tuesday to see how different these individual paths can be. The first three guys that will come to mind are KG, Brandon Bridge, and Vince Young. It's crazy how different each of these three players are but yet here they at the same point, competing for the same position.
That battle is going to be talked about all the way through June until someone takes the reins. But don't let the conviluted situation at the QB distract you from the many other intriguing things that mini-camp will have to offer.
People don't talk about it much but the Riders use mini-camp to take a hard look at the guys in the trenches. Tom Brady could be at the helm of the Green and White and it wouldn't mean a darn thing if the O-line can't protect him.
To me, that's the real interesting watch: What is this offensive line going to look like? There may be a couple of interesting finds down here in Florida and it would seem to behoove Saskatchewan to have the O-line group be the most competitive of them all headed into main camp in the summer. The success of whichever QB wins the job depends on the hoggies ability to keep him upright. I'm actually pretty excited to see how things play out.
In terms of sheer numbers, I've heard that there may be 30 guys at mini-camp, or 300. It wouldn't surprise me if the group was as big as last year (a little over 100 showed up) because realistically, the recruiting and scouting process never stops for any professional organization.
For those who stop by the camp, things are going to be moving about 100 miles an hour. It may be confusing at times, but for the guys on the field, it will feel just like home.
Hopefully the guys get some good rest over the next couple of days. There's a lot of big dreams on the line in Dodgertown.
5 - ANSWERING QUESTIONS: If you've been following along on this blog over the past several months, you'll know I've been speaking to many crowds about the 2017 Saskatchewan Roughriders. Here are some of the questions - and answers - which were posed at Friday's Executive Club luncheon at the Conexus Art Centre:
Can Vince Young get it done? Of course he can. His physical tools have never been in question. The knock on him has always been his drive. Through his college and pro careers, everything came easily to him because of his natural gifts. But when the going got tough, he vamoosed. And as we've recounted many times over the past six weeks, he's got a "do-over" at the age of 33 and he doesn't want to live with any regrets. But whether the Riders like it or not, this minicamp is all about Vince Young. To the Riders it's not, but to everyone watching from the outside, it is.
What if Young can't get it done? The Riders aren't in as dire shape at the quarterback position as some would think if Young doesn't pan out. Kevin Glenn has shown an ability to win games and although he's never won the big one, that's not to say he never will. And veteran Brandon Bridge could be forgiven for coming into camp with a chip on his shoulder. He's been overlooked in this whole scenario but he's spent the winter training for this opportunity and plans to put his best foot forward starting Tuesday. Remember, Jim Popp thought Bridge could be "the next one" in Montreal and all he might need is the right opportunity.
How's the roster looking? It seems like a group of All Stars: At some positions, yes. Rider Hall of Famer Don Narcisse gave the receiver group a "10 out of 10" on the SportsCage on Friday and he'd know better than anyone. Unfortunately those vets won't be competing in Florida.
There are some big name players on the roster including Eddie Steele, Henoc Muamba, Willie Jefferson and Ed Gainey on defense. The offensive line will be sturdy if Brendon Labatte remains healthy and Josaih St. John takes the next step in his development.
But there have been holes created with the tragic loss of Joe McKnight and the NFL departures of Jeff Knox Jr. and Otha Foster.
There are plenty of jobs up for grabs and we'll start to get a look at the incumbents this week.
Are the Riders set up on the business side for this season? (This wasn't a surprising question to get from a group of Regina businessmen). I'd say that of course they are. The Riders know business. But it's tough to market a team with a losing record and that's been their task since the 2014 Banjo Bowl (10-35 since). If the Riders win and become a contender this year, all will be good. However if they're slow out of the gate and flounder, that will make everyone's jobs in the front office a lot tougher.
It was a joy to attend, and to speak at the supper about my relationship with Jeff.
And it was a Who's Who of the CFL in attendance with the likes of Darian Durant, Chris Getzlaf, Andy Fantuz, Scott Flory and Luc Mullinder. As many know, Jeff has been the proprietor of a variety of personal CFL websites over the years including Kerry Joseph, Geroy Simon and the guys listed previously.
It was fantastic to spend time with these guys, and not talk football.
Congrats to Jeff and Karlee Armstead!
7 - GO PATS GO: It was disappointing to leave the Regina Pats while they're on this remarkable playoff run but, obviously, I'm not complaining. This Florida trip is the highlight of my year.
But finally the City of Regina has gone googoo-gaga over the Pats. It seems one out of every three Facebook posts I read is all about the Queen City Kids.
They hardly panicked over Friday's 3-1 loss to Lethbridge in Game 1 of the WHL Eastern Conference Final on Friday, and everything stabilized after a 3-2 OT win in Game 2 on Saturday. Now the series heads to Lethbridge all tied up at 1-1.
Pats captain Adam Brooks proved his worth by scoring the winner Saturday night and has cemented his stature with some of the all-time Pats greats. He's become a household name in Southern Saskatchewan.
As former Rider Matt Dominguez is fond of saying, "The regular season makes All Stars but the playoffs make legends."
The better team should always win over the course of a seven game series and for that reason, I'm confident the Pats will move on to the WHL Final. But I'll be back for Game 7 and fully expect the series to go that far.
8 - STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS: So now the Conference Semifinals are set. Nashville faces St. Louis and Edmonton takes on Anaheim in the West while in the East, it's the New York Rangers against Ottawa and Pittsburgh will face Washington.
For what it's worth, ESPN's Barry Melrose predicts the Rangers and Penguins to advance to the Eastern Final but I didn't catch his predictions for the West on the evening SportsCenter.
I'll take Nashville and Edmonton but even if the Oilers lose out to the Ducks, they're going to be back in the spring for many years to come.
THAT'S IT! TALK TO YOU TUESDAY FROM FLORIDA