Thursday, November 29, 2018
10 THINGS I THINK I THINK
2 - ECONOMIC IMPACT: In this column last week I wrote that Edmonton hit a grand slam as Grey Cup hosts. They really did. In a news release issued before Sunday's game, the host committee said 500,000 fans attended the game or festival in some way, and that an economic impact of $80-million was felt in the Alberta capital. A quick Google search told me the 2013 Grey Cup in Regina had an ecomonic impact of $93-million, so apparently Saskatchewan is still #1 for "biggest Grey Cup ever". I Tweeted as much. Then on Tuesday, Edmonton media outlets started reporting an economic spin-off of $100-million from this year's Grey Cup. Stop it.
3 - THE POSITIVES: The Calgary Stampeders are Saskatchewan's top current rival so it was a little uncomfortable to see the Stamps prancing around in the red & white confetti at Commonwealth Stadium, and yukking it up at their downtown Calgary Grey Cup rally on Tuesday. But the good news is the Stamps are about to lose their QBs on both offense and defense to the NFL: Bo Levi Mitchell and Alex Singleton. That's a major bonus for the Riders, and all other CFL West Division teams. I don't really care for Singleton's onfield antics, but it's clear he loves playing the game of football.
4 - THE G.O.A.T.: Will the Stampeders take a step back after an uncertain off-season? It's highly doubtful. John Hufnagel's been in charge of the Calgary Stampeders since 2008 and in those 11 seasons, he's had his team in the Grey Cup six times. That's staggering.
Meanwhile there is tremendous pressure on the 2019 Grey Cup organizing committee in Calgary. We are coming off two of the greatest Grey Cup Weeks ever, in Edmonton and Ottawa. Does Calgary have the chutzpah to take it to the next level, or will it simply be "just another game"? They have all the amenities and tons of things going for them but the drawback is an apathetic fanbase (a paltry 70 people showed up at McMahon Stadium to welcome the Stampeders home on Monday). Calgary can get it done, but they're going to have to get creative.
5 - VIVA MEXICO!: CFL types are somewhat split on what CFL 2.0 (expanding to Mexico) actually means. The glass-half-full crowd smiles and twinkles when thinking of playing games in Mexico, and extending the league's brand around the globe. The glass-half-empty faction scoffs at the quality of players in Mexico, but is volunteering to attend the Mexican scouting combine. You know me: I'm all-in and excited to get going! If there's a game to be played in Mexico, it HAS to be the Saskatchewan Roughriders. They already have a fanbase in the Matador Country!
6 - THIS IS OUR GAME: When Gretzky went to LA in 1988 and Europeans were ushered into the NHL at the same time, the idea was to "grow the game". 20 years later, Southern Californian hockey players flooded the WHL and Canada couldn't win international hockey tournaments. This led to the arrogant slogan "This Is Our Game" from Hockey Canada. So just remember: if the CFL wants to grow the game in other countries, you'd better be prepared to give something up. You can't have it both ways.
7 - COACHES SALARY CAP: It's interesting to hear the comments from around the CFL regarding the hardline on the coaches salary cap for 2019 which has limited wages to $2.7-million and 28 football people per team. No wonder it's being regarded as "The Rider Rule". Most GMs are saying it doesn't affect their team terribly much, like Ottawa's Marcel Desjardins who quipped, "We're not as out-of-whack as some other teams". The Riders have had to lay off dozens of people but they're really the only team complaining. One prominent Sask politician recently referred to this new rule as the "Communist Football League". When anybody loses their job because of cuts, it's a shame.
8 - NO CFL WEEK: Thankfully I caught TSN's Sportscentre Tuesday morning, when CFL Insider Farhan Lalji announced at the tail-end of his Grey Cup report that Marks CFL Week III has been scrapped because of the pending labour dispute. If I hadn't been watching, I wouldn't have known! CFL Week was just getting off the ground, and has been referred to as "wildly successful". So the next one will be held in 2020. Might we suggest Halifax?
9 - CAROUSEL: This uncertain off-season is officially underway. QB Trevor Harris announced this week he hopes to stay in Ottawa and avoid free agency while QB Jonathan Jennings told the BC Lions that he's going to test the market. But J.J.'s primary focus is family right now, as he announced on Facebook this week the passing of his father. If Jon Jennings is the starting QB in Saskatchewan in 2019, that would suit me just fine. You'll remember my glowing scouting report of him when he was a Rider for a weekend in 2014. I know him enough, and know him to be a talented, humble, mature young man.
10 - RANDOM THOUGHTS: The NLL strike is over! The Saskatchewan Rush open training camp this weekend and host Calgary in preseason play on Saturday, Dec. 8. Listen to the SportsCage to win tickets! ... Ken Hitchock is a genius! By telling Edmonton reporters it'll take a long time to turnaround the Oilers, he's immediately bought himself some extra time. However if Hitch doesn't get the Oil into the playoffs this year, they'll all be gone. Edmonton is 2-1-1 since Hitch showed up and introduced them to a thing called "defence". ... It was a fun 7 hours spent in Lloydminster on the drive to Edmonton. You'd think they'd be an Eskimo town, but they're not. It's all Riders. Meanwhile, a WHL team would fit real nicely in that market. Too bad the arena isn't adequate. ... Watch for the release of my third book Heart & Soul of the SJHL, A 50-year History in the next week! I'll be dropping hints and teasers on my social media accounts. ... Thank you Sportsnet for adding a shot clock to your on-screen scoreboard. ... Next week's column comes to you from Nashville, TN, where we're taking 60 listeners on the 8th Annual SportsCage/Vision Travel Ultimate Sports Trip. What off-season? ... Wonderful tribute to Mick McGeough by the Winnipeg Jets prior to Tuesday's home game against Pittsburgh. ... I believe it's at least nine people from my hometown of Milestone, SK (pop. 640) - including Mick AND my Dad - who passed away in 2018. Make it stop.