2 - WHAT DID I MISS?: There's been plenty of news over the past couple of weeks in the 306, leading off with the announcement that the NHL's Heritage Classic will be played at Regina's Mosaic Stadium next October between the Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets. I've gotta give Scruffy credit on that one, as he saw that 3-week road trip in the Rider schedule and surmised the announcement was imminent. He was right. Turns out the months-long rumour was only half right, as many thought the Edmonton Oilers would be featured. But this match-up should make Regina fans happier: these are two really good, star-loaded teams. Thumbs-up.
3 - OVIE: While on the topic, Friday's USA Today is slamming the NHL for suspending Washington's Alex Ovechkin for skipping this year's All Star Game in order to rest. Specifically, columnist Christine Brennan. How stupid! Has she - and anybody else who defends Ovechkin - ever heard of the term M-A-R-K-E-T-I-N-G? What if every All Star player did this? It would be calamitous for the National Hockey League. If Ovie wants to opt out, that's fine, but he needs to face the music.
4 - JONES TO NFL: Some Rider fans are panicking because of the report from NFL Insider Jason LaCanfora this week that Roughriders boss Chris Jones is being eyed by at least two NFL teams who are looking for a head coach. My take? I've been prepared for this moment since the day Jones was hired in December of 2015. I expected the Jones-hiring would be a success (which it has) and before long the NFL or NCAA Div-1 would be calling. But LaCanfora's report doesn't mean Jones is gone. Sometimes "sources" throw these things out as a smokescreen. I've never known why.
5 - BLACK MONDAY: Beginning last Sunday night and continuing through Monday, NFL teams started throwing head coaches overboard. In all, 8 NFL teams fired their coaches this season (1 in 4). Here's my take on coach firings: at elite levels of sport, all coaches are good or else they wouldn't have gotten hired in the first place. This includes NFL, CFL, NHL, etc., NCAA and even major junior hockey. Newsflash: great players make great coaches and coaches can only coach the players they are given. Most times teams' failings are a result of a breakdown by the GM and/or his scouting system. That's just my $0.02. This isn't ALWAYS the case, but most times it is.
6 - E.T. LEAVES HOME: If I owned an expansion CFL team, my first hire would be Eric Tillman. That appears to be the case with the Atlantic Schooners, after Thursday's news that Tillman will not return as G.M. of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2019. Are there still any doubters that the Halifax team is going to happen? There seems to be some naysayers in the media but I'll say it for a 100th time: Schooners owners Anthony Leblanc, Gary Drummond and Bruce Bowser aren't big on wasting time or money. Theirs or anyone else's. This has been a fun ride to watch.
7 - GLOBAL BRANDING: We gazed at the New Years fireworks in Biscayne Bay, FL along with a family of 5 from Germany. They wondered why they'd heard of the NFL, but not the CFL? Then they realized it's because NFL games are on German television, but not the CFL. And maybe that's why we're seeing CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie open the league's doors to Mexico and Europe. And don't forget there's a pro league in Italy where CFL stalwarts Adam Rita and Ken Miller coached the past few years. Don't dismiss Ambrosie's plan until we see it all unveiled!
8 - OH CANADA: The 2019 World Junior Hockey Championship wasn't big news in FLA, or anywhere outside of Canada for that matter. Therefore I didn't get to see any of the playoff round on TV but I saw enough of Team Canada before we left. Pundits are saying Canada's quarterfinal faceplant in Vancouver could torpedo Tim Hunter's shot at landing an NHL head coaching job. Hogwash. Canada's roster just wasn't good enough compared to the others (see Point 5). However Hunter's Moose Jaw Warriors are ranked 13th in the 60 team Canadian Hockey League right now. THAT's where Hunter needs to make hay if he desires to move up to the next level.
9 - FEEL THE RUSH: Saturday night will be exciting at SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon! The 2018 NLL champion Saskatchewan Rush will raise their banner ahead of their home-opener against the expansion San Diego Seals. There are still some seats available, but not many. In fact the lower bowl is sold out for all 2019 Rush home games! Staggering. It's killing me not to be there for the banner-raising, but there will be other games.
10 - GO PATS GO: The Regina Pats barged out of the Christmas break on a 3-game win streak which included handing the P.A. Raiders their first home loss of the season. The Raiders got revenge on New Years Day in Regina, but there seems to be reason for excitement in the Queen City around their hockey team right now. On Thursday the club pulled the trigger on three trades that will likely set the team up well in the short- and long-term. The Pats visit Saskatoon Friday and Swift Current on Saturday before hosting the Seattle Thunderbirds on Sunday at 4:00 pm.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Every guy in Miami goes “tarps off” and looks like either Pitbull or Luc Mullinder (and Luc’s basically a bigger, browner Pitbull!). ... 2 thumbs-up from the MMG 👍🏼👍🏼 for the movie The Mule starring Clint Eastwood and 1 thumb up for Second Chance with Jennifer Lopez 👍🏼. They’re both good but if you need to pick just one, go with Clint. ... We sold 3,300 copies of Heart & Soul of the SJHL in the first 17 days after launch which is over 3/5 of the way to a national best-seller! After this weekend, it’ll be available at all The Cooperators locations province-wide. Thanks to SJHL fans and our great friends in the media! ... I forgot how much I loved Curtis Joseph until I got his book CUJO from my kids for Christmas. What a great dude! And he’s a proud SJHL alum with a photo in the book from the SJHL All-Star Game in 1988. Cujo, Kory Sheets and I did the Red Wings sports dinner in Weyburn years ago and I’ll never forget how nervous he was at the podium. What a true, humble guy!
Happy New Year,