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Thursday, November 23, 2017


1 - GREY CUP 105: We haven't even been in Ottawa for 24 hours and I've already declared 2017 Grey Cup Week better than last year in Toronto. Why? Because for one, people actually know it's on and care. For two, there were already lineups to get into parties and that was on a Wednesday. Take a bow Ottawa! You've grabbed Canada's #1 sporting event with ghusto and ran with it.

2 - THE GAME: Calgary versus Toronto is a less-scintillating match-up compared to what could have been (Saskatchewan vs anyone) but kudos to both teams for earning the right to be here. The Stampeders have become like Montreal last decade: their appearance at Grey Cup has become so regular that it's boring. However you can't penalize them for their excellence. Stamps to win on Sunday by 5.

3 - THE CONSPIRACY: At halftime of the East Division Final when the Riders were losing 17-3 in Toronto, I Tweeted "It's clear the preference is for Toronto to be in the Grey Cup". I stand by the comment, although it wasn't directed at anyone specific. All weekend in Toronto I heard that a West-West Grey Cup would be a deathknell for the CFL and once the EDF kicked off, 90% of the calls went Toronto's way. I wasn't pointing the finger at anyone in particular, but rather making an observation. Don't underestimate the power of the subconscious mind.

4 - JONES: It started with a buzz in the airports on the way here; dozens of CFL fans and football types alike asked, "Is Jones coming?" People can't get enough of the polarizing Head Coach & GM of the Saskatchewan Roughriders. I assume he'll be in Ottawa because there's plenty of league business to be done. Last year he spent a lot of time mingling with the dozens of fans at Riderville at the Toronto Grey Cup.

5 - ANNIS STUKUS: Sportsnet's Arash Madani said on the SportsCage this week "Forget Marc Trestman and forget Dave Dickenson. Chris Jones is the Coach of the Year. I don't understand why Rider fans don't like him." That comment caught me off-guard. Do Rider fans STILL dislike Chris Jones? He took this team from a pile of rubble to a conference title game for the first time in five seasons. Jones says he "loves it here" and wants to sign an extension. Are you still upset over Jones dumping franchise greats? Get over it.

6 - AIR CANADA: At the first cocktail party I attended at this year's Grey Cup (hosted by TSN's Dave Naylor), the buzz in the room was all about Brandon Bridge.  "Can he lead a team?" they asked and "What'll he sign for?" CKRM's Luc Mullinder admitted that it's "odd" Bridge's agent would make the first move on contract talks with the Riders given the fact he's headed to free agency and there will be plenty of teams looking for a QB. Bridge is a Mississauga boy, loves his Mom's cooking, and would sell tickets for the Argos. Methinks this story goes until at least mid-February.

7 - TORONTO: My hat is off to the Argonauts. They nearly soldout last weekend's EDF and there was a palpable buzz in town. It didn't hurt that Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock - a staunch Rider fan -  made a huge deal of the Riders-Argos match-up in advance of the game. The Argos are coming back and shame on those who said the Argos situation is "hopeless" (Sportsnet's Bob McCown). Read This: No situation is hopeless.

8 - LIONS DEN: Unfortunately the B.C. Lions are entering hopeless territory. From what we hear, their entire organization is in flux because owner David Braley has decided to hold onto the team for at least one more year and won't spend a dime on marketing or business. He's dropped the decision of next year's Coach/GM into the lap of Wally Buono which is entirely unfair. Wally's ready to retire - certainly he's earned the right - but he's reluctant to walk away after missing the playoffs for the first time in 21 years. Again, these are the rumours at Grey Cup cocktail parties.

9 - THE CAROUSEL: Names you'll hear a lot of for Coach and GM vacancies this off-season: Danny McManus, Paul Lapolice, Jeremy O'Day, Corey Chamblin, Devone Claybrooks, John Murphy, Brendan Taman, Ed Hervey, Jim Barker and many more. Remember the season still has one more game to go and there's a freeze on CFL announcements not-related-to-the-Grey-Cup this week. There's a ton to shake down after Sunday.

10 - AND FINALLY: It may be time for the annual "Sex Question" to go at the Grey Cup coaches news conference. The Edmonton Sun's Terry Jones asked Marc Trestman and Dave Dickenson if they'll allow their players to get busy this week and Trestman said his answer hasn't changed since the last time his team was here. Dickenson turned the tables and asked the reporters if THEY'D have sex this week. My response to that is, "Yuck" ... The Commissioner's State of the League news conference goes Friday morning and it's expected to be a tame affair compared to the last two, but playoff realignment figures to come up ... CFL reporters were impressed that Randy Ambrosie appeared at last night's party. I got to shake his hand ... Eskimos back-up QB James Franklin is still likely the #1 free agent this winter. He never gets to play in Edmonton and has to be tired of that ... Esks HC Jason Maas is a hot topic but how could he be fired? He's a fine head coach but needs to stop losing his cool. He's young and will learn ... It's been an outstanding year for the CFL. I'm grateful to be a part of it.

Y'er welcome,