Friday, March 23, 2018

This and That

Welcome to Friday.  Here are the usual weekly thoughts running through my muddled mind. As always, they come in no particular order.

--Its playoff time!  Safe to say I will be either glued to my TV watching Access 7 or listening to Phil Andrews as the Pats and Broncos go at it in what should be one helluva matchup starting in Swift Current tonight.  If these teams even come close to giving us what they gave us last Friday at the Brandt Centre, you'll want to throw away the remote.  It will be a "ring-a-ding-dong dandy".  I said a long time ago that I liked Swift Current to win the Eastern Conference.  I can't go back on that prediction now. My heart wants the Pats to win, but my head says Swift Current.  If my heart wins this series, I won't be crestfallen.  At the end of the day, I see Portland playing the Broncos in the league final.  A lot needs to happen for both teams to get there.

 --Saskatoon wants a new arena. They say the 30 year old Sasktel Centre is at the end of its useful life.  Is that the age-limit on buildings now seeing the Saddledome is also around that age?  While the Brandt Centre certainly doesn't have the amenities that the newer rinks have, is it at the end of its useful stage?

One wonders if we would even be talking about this had Saskatoon done the smart thing many years ago and put then Saskatchewan Place downtown like it should have instead of screwing it up.  I think we know the answer to that question.  How will the building, which is pegged at 330-375 million when you add in a desired convention centre be funded?  The times are a little different now than they were when the shovel went into ground for Mosaic Stadium 2.0.  Does Saskatoon use some of the same template used when it came to who pays for what with Mosaic. Do they use their own template?

Saskatoon doesn't need a new rink if you ask just needs to have the existing one in a better spot.  That won't happen so a new facility will likely get built.  The mistake of many years ago is now coming back to hit Saskatoon in the wallet.

--There is no doubt Gerard Gallant is coach of the year in the NHL for what he has done with the Vegas Golden Knights but how much consideration should Yorkton's Jared Bednar get for what he has done in year 2 with the Avalanche. Speaking of the Avs, my vote for Hart Trophy goes to Nathan McKinnon if Colorado hangs on to make the playoffs.  As for the Connor McDavid-Hart Trophy talk---NOPE! I don't care if you lead the league in scoring again, if you are a player on a team that does not make the playoffs, you don't deserve the MVP honour. Sorry!

--Ilya Kovalchuk says he wants to come back to the NHL. Does the NHL really want Kovalchuk back though? I am guessing some team would pay whatever he wants to come back to North America, but his best before date has long passed.  I would just say thanks, but no thanks to Ilya.

--TSN asked this question this week. "If the Leafs are the lone remaining team in the Stanley Cup playoffs, will Canada cheer for them?" NO!!!! You can if you want, but I won't be and why would I even consider it. I wouldn't cheer for the Flames if they were the last Canadian team standing being an Oilers fan. A Toronto-Calgary Stanley Cup would be nightmarish for this blogger. I can live with a Grey Cup between those two cities, but not a Stanley Cup.  Why is there a thought process that we have to latch onto a Canadian team in the playoffs?  Montreal fans wouldn't cheer for Toronto and vice-versa, The same could be said for Edmonton and Calgary and everyone hates the Canucks still don't they?

--Will the play of the Winnipeg Jets have an effect on CFL Week? Will the event move the needle in Winnipeg with the way the Jets are playing the way it did in Regina last year.  For the league's sake, I hope it does.  They are excited about what the spring could bring when it comes to the Jets and they should be.  At what cost though.  I am thinking very few are thinking about the Bombers at this time,  You can't blame the CFL for this as they have no idea what is going to be happening in the NHL with the Canadian teams.  If hindsight was 20-20, they may have wanted to put it in Calgary or Edmonton this year seeing many are checking out from the Flames and Oilers-----and for good reason.

CFL Week is a great idea and it is something that Christina Litz and others in the CFL office should be commended for.  As we saw in Regina last year, it is a great way for fans to get up close and personal with the stars of the game with many other CFL-designed events happening to get fans ready for the season. If the Jets should overshadow this year's event, I hope the league doesn't decide to re-visit the idea.  It needs to continue, and yes at some point it will have to go one of the big three cities where an attempt will have to be made to make it as big as possible.

--Congrats to Scott Flory for going to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. Will the Regina native who played at the U of S and now coaches them want Sparky's to cater the meal at the induction dinner? Scott loves his Sparky's.  Can't really blame him!

--The CFL is talking about improving player safety.  The rules committee is proposing several changes aimed at that. I understand what is being done, but saying something and actually acting on it is another. Other leagues talk about player safety, but when push comes to shove player safety gets pushed aside.  What is good is the fact illegal contact on a receiver is no longer going to be challenged. There should be no more fishing expeditions now by a head coach who is searching for some illegal contact way away from the play.

--A lot of people are putting out their power rankings in this dead time for the CFL. I just go "MEH" to all of it. Let's talk about this some more once the draft is held and training camps are ready to get rolling.

--Jason Priestley (aka Brandon Walsh from Beverly Hills 90210) is coming to Regina for FanFest. Is he bringing Kelly Taylor with him? If that happens, I'll see ya there!

--When I spoke with Steve Laycock and Kirk Muyres after the Brier, they didn't give me a definite "we'll be back" statement which made me wonder if the most successful team we have seen in the 306 for the past little while would be back. They confirmed they wouldn't be on Wednesday night, I don't know what the plans for the four who thrilled the Brandt Centre crowd at the Brier, but if Kirk his brother Dallan and perhaps either Pat Simmons or Catlin Schneider joined Braeden Moskowy to form a Sasky super-team, I wouldn't be upset.  Moskowy told me the other night he would love to be the guy who ends the Saskatchewan Brier drought.  This would be a good start.  Moskowy also said the cost for a team each winter is around 150,000 dollars as they travel to event after event after event. Someone or some consortium of companies can surely step up to help make this happen.

-I am a WWE fan. Always have been, always will.  The Matt Hardy-Bray Wyatt "Ultimate Deletion" match was one of the stupidest things I have seen.  It was one or two levels above dumb! Anytime Matt Hardy comes on, I reach for the remote.  His schtick does absolutely zero for me.  With Wyatt being dumped into "The Lake of Reincarnation", I am guessing we will see a reboot for Wyatt since his character has gone nowhere.

--I don't know who is winning March Madness and frankly I don't care. I don't think anyone had the tournament going this way with one top seed after another going down. It's been fantastic! GO MICHIGAN or Mitchigan as I prefer to call them

Have a great weekend! 

What Did You Miss on Thursday?

--The battle for the Ed Chynoweth Cup is underway.  The Kelowna Rockets and Tri-Cities Americans got their Western Conference best of 7 series going.  It saw the Americans shock the Rockets at Prospera Place as Michael Rasmussen and Morgan Geekie each had a pair in a 5-0 win.

On Friday night, the other seven series will get underway including Regina at Swift Current and Prince Albert at Moose Jaw

--The Chicago Blackhawks were officially eliminated from the playoffs after losing to Vancouver 5-2. It means for the first time since 1969 the Stanley Cup playoffs won't have Detroit or Chicago in them. Meanwhile, Anze Kopitar scored four times as the Kings blasted Colorado 7-1

--A trade in the NFL. The Giants sent defensive lineman Jason Pierre-Paul to Tampa for the Bucs 3rd round pick (69th overall) with the two teams swapping 4th round picks. It is thought this could result in the Giants taking defensive lineman Bradley Chubb with the number two pick overall in the draft and forgo taking a quarterback that will eventually replace Eli Manning.

--After a strong start to his first round at the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship, Tony Romo struggled coming home as he shot a 41 on the back nine that included three bogeys and a double in his first ever PGA Tour round

Romo, the former Cowboys quarterback and current NFL analyst with CBS Sports, actually made three birdies on the front nine en route to an even-par 36, but his 5-over 77 cleared just one golfer, Guy Boros (who shot a 7-over 79), at the time Romo was finished.

--The first 9 vs 11 matchup in the history of the NCAA Mens Basketball Tournament will happen Saturday. Loyola-Chicago continued its Cinderella run as they edged Nevada 69-68. Loyola-Chicago has won their three games at "March Madness" by a combined four points. They will play Kansas State who beat favoured Kentucky 61-58

Thursday, March 22, 2018

CFL Rules Commitee Prioritizing Player Safety

  Proposed Canadian Football League (CFL) rule changes put an emphasis on player safety and improving the flow of the game.
The CFL’s Rules Committee is recommending changes on blindside blocks, expanding the definition of spearing, and eliminating low blocks by receivers, said Darren Hackwood, the CFL’s Senior Director of Officiating
“Our Commissioner and our Board of Governors have clearly mandated us to focus on promoting and protecting the health of our players,” Hackwood said.
“The Rules Committee has responded by recommending that the board approve several measures that would broaden or clarify rules designed to improve safety for players.”
In addition, the Committee proposes that illegal contact on a receiver no longer be subject to coaches’ challenges.
To further improve game flow, it suggests the replay official automatically review “potential touchdowns” – plays when it appears obvious a touchdown has been scored but the play been marked down short of the goal line.
These changes address issues raised by fans in a number of forums, including Commissioner Randy Ambrosie’s recent town halls across the country. Fans had expressed the view it was unfair to force a coach to use a challenge on what was an obvious touchdown and some had said challenges for illegal contact can slow down the game.
The Rules Committee, which includes several coaches and general managers as well as veteran official Al Bradbury and representatives of the Canadian Football Players Association, met in Winnipeg this week as part of Mark’s CFL Week. That’s the league’s off-season extravaganza that includes other football meetings and this weekend’s CFL Combine presented by adidas, as well as a Fan Fest, last night's Canadian Football Hall of Fame VIP reception to announce the Class of 2018, and other events for CFL Fans and the media.
Here’s a closer look at some of the rule changes the Committee is asking the Board of Governors to approve before the upcoming season. It suggests the league:
·     Make it illegal for any player to deliver a forcible block on an opponent while moving back towards his own goal line, sometimes referred to as “blindside” blocks.
·     Outlaw low blocks that occur outside of the “tackle box”, an area that extends from tight end to tight end and from the quarterback or kicker to two yards beyond the line of scrimmage
·     Widen the definition of spearing to include any situation where a player delivers a blow with his helmet as the initial or primary point of contact. This does not apply to a low running ball carrier.
·     Eliminate a loophole in the “sleeper” play rule by making it illegal for a player who enters the game and remains outside the numbers to receive the ball in any manner including a kick or lateral.
·     Simplify the rule on what constitutes a quarterback making a legal pass behind the line of scrimmage by defining it as the passer having at least one of his feet on or behind the line of scrimmage instead of requiring that the release point of the ball be behind the line of scrimmage.
·     Eliminate the “force out” rule by requiring a receiver catching a ball to place at least one foot inbounds regardless of whether he was contacted in mid-air.
·     Increase the penalty for “pyramiding” – the practice of using another player to elevate one’s self in an effort to block a kick -- from five yards to ten yards to deter the behavior.

(CFL Communications) 

What Did You Miss On Wednesday?

--The Canadian Football Hall of Fame inductees for 2018 were announced Wednesday night in Winnipeg.  Heading the list is current University of Saskatchewan Huskies Head Coach and long-time Montreal Alouette Scott Flory.  Others being inducted in the players category are former BC Lion teammates Brent Johnson and Barron Miles and punter Hank Ilesic.

Also going in are the late Tommy Hugo, Frank Cosentino and Paul Brule'

The inductees will also be honoured on September 15th at the Hall of Fame game in Hamilton, which features the Tiger-Cats and the Calgary Stampeders.  The announcement was made as CFL Week started in Winnipeg.  620 CKRM's Sportscage will come live from Winnipeg Thursday and Friday as Rod Pedersen brings Rider Nation the latest from CFL Week with many guests planned.

--The curling shakeup continues.  The team that represented Saskatchewan at the Brier is going their separate ways.  Steve Laycock's team announced Wednesday night they are dissolving their foursome consisting of Kirk Muyres, Dallan Muyres and Matt Dunstone.  The team says each of them will be exploring new opportunities in attempts to assemble a team which builds towards the next Olympics in 2022.

--The Cleveland Cavaliers sent the Toronto Raptors a message on Wednesday. The Raptors had a 79-64 lead at halftime, but Lebron James and company stormed back in the 2nd half to win 132-129. James had 35 in the win.

--General managers have recommended that video reviews for goaltender interference via coach challenges should be decided by the NHL situation room rather than by on-ice officials, who have made the final call since the challenges began in 2015. If approved, while on-ice officials will no longer have final say on these calls, the situation room will consult them to better facilitate input on reviews. Among the ex-referees expected to work in the situation room, pending approval of the change, would be NHL director of officiating Stephen Walkom, Paul Devorski, Don Koharski, Bill McCreary, Mick McGeough, Rob Shick and Don VanMassenhoven.

--Saskatchewan Rush owner Bruce Urban wouldn't mind seeing Saskatoon get a new arena.  Urban said Wednesday he is willing to contribute up to 10 percent of the cost for such a building to replace SaskTel Centre. A  report recommends the city consider a downtown replacement for SaskTel Centre. It estimates a combined new arena with a new convention centre would cost between $330 million and $375 million to build with the arena itself being in the $172-$178 million dollar range

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

WHL Conference Awards and All-Stars Named

WHL Player of the Year (Four Broncos Memorial Trophy)
Eastern Conference Player of the Year – Jayden Halbgewachs (Emerald Park, Sask.) – Moose Jaw Warriors
Western Conference Player of the Year – Carter Hart (Sherwood Park, Alta.) – Everett Silvertips

WHL Top Goaltender (Del Wilson Memorial Trophy)
Eastern Conference Top Goaltender – Logan Flodell (Saskatoon, Sask.) – Lethbridge Hurricanes
Western Conference Top Goaltender – Carter Hart (Sherwood Park, Alta.) – Everett Silvertips

WHL Top Defenceman (Bill Hunter Memorial Trophy)
Eastern Conference Top Defenceman – Kale Clague (Lloydminster, Alta.) – Moose Jaw Warriors
Western Conference Top Defenceman – Cal Foote (Engelwood, Colo.) – Kelowna Rockets

WHL Rookie of the Year (Jim Piggott Memorial Trophy)
Eastern Conference Rookie of the Year – Dylan Cozens (Whitehorse, Yukon) – Lethbridge Hurricanes
Western Conference Rookie of the Year – Bowen Byram (Cranbrook, B.C.) – Vancouver Giants

WHL Most Sportsmanlike Player of the Year (Brad Hornung Trophy)
Eastern Conference Most Sportsmanlike Player – Aleksi Heponiemi (Tampere, Finland) – Swift Current Broncos
Western Conference Most Sportsmanlike Player – Cody Glass (Winnipeg, Man.) – Portland Winterhawks

WHL Executive of the Year (Lloyd Saunders Memorial Trophy)
Eastern Conference Executive of the Year – Alan Millar – Moose Jaw Warriors
Western Conference Executive of the Year – Garry Davidson – Everett Silvertips

WHL Coach of the Year (Dunc McCallum Memorial Trophy)
Eastern Conference Coach of the Year – Manny Viveiros – Swift Current Broncos
Western Conference Coach of the Year – Dennis Williams – Everett Silvertips

WHL Eastern Conference All-Star Teams

Goaltender – Logan Flodell (Saskatoon, Sask.) – Lethbridge Hurricanes
Defenceman – Kale Clague (Lloydminster, Alta.) – Moose Jaw Warriors
Defenceman – David Quenneville (Edmonton, Alta.) – Medicine Hat Tigers
Forward – Jayden Halbgewachs (Emerald Park, Sask.) – Moose Jaw Warriors
Forward – Glenn Gawdin (Richmond, B.C.) – Swift Current Broncos
Forward – Aleksi Heponiemi (Tampere, Finland) – Swift Current Broncos

Goaltender – Logan Thompson (Calgary, Alta.) – Brandon Wheat Kings
Defenceman – Josh Mahura (St. Albert, Alta.) – Regina Pats
Defenceman – Colby Sissons (Edmonton, Alta.) – Swift Current Broncos
Forward – Tyler Steenbergen (Sylvan Lake, Alta.) – Swift Current Broncos
Forward – Jordy Bellerive (North Vancouver, B.C.) – Lethbridge Hurricanes
Forward – Brayden Burke (Edmonton, Alta.) – Moose Jaw Warriors

WHL Western Conference All-Star Teams

Goaltender – Carter Hart (Sherwood Park, Alta.) – Everett Silvertips
Defenceman – Cal Foote (Engelwood, Colo.) – Kelowna Rockets
Defenceman – Ty Smith (Lloydminster, Alta.) – Spokane Chiefs
Forward – Matthew Phillips (Calgary, Alta.) – Victoria Royals
Forward – Cody Glass (Winnipeg, Man.) – Portland Winterhawks
Forward – Jaret Anderson-Dolan (Calgary, Alta.) – Spokane Chiefs

Goaltender – David Tendeck (North Vancouver, B.C.) – Vancouver Giants
Defenceman – Henri Jokiharju (Tampere, Finland) – Portland Winterhawks
Defenceman – Juuso Valimaki (Nokia, Finland) – Tri-City Americans
Forward – Ty Ronning (Burnaby, B.C.) – Vancouver Giants
Forward – Dillon Dube (Cochrane, Alta.) – Kelowna Rockets
Forward – Patrick Bajkov (Nanaimo, B.C.) – Everett Silvertips

The following individual and team awards were won during the 2017-18 WHL Regular Season:

WHL Regular Season Champions (Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy)
Moose Jaw Warriors: 72 GP – 52 W – 15 L – 2 OTL – 3 SOL – 109 PTS

WHL Top Scorer (Bob Clarke Trophy)
Jayden Halbgewachs (Emerald Park, Sask.) – Moose Jaw Warriors
72 GP – 70 G – 59 A – 129 PTS – +43 – 12 PIM

WHL Plus-Minus Award
Glenn Gawdin (Richmond, B.C.) – Swift Current Broncos
67 GP – 56 G – 69 A – 125 PTS – +61 – 101 PIM

WHL Conference Awards for WHL Scholastic Player of the Year, WHL Humanitarian of the Year, WHL Top Official and the WHL Business Award will be announced at a later date.

What Did You Miss On Tuesday?

--The WHL Bantam Draft will go Wednesday morning in Calgary. The lottery will involve the six non-playoff teams (Edmonton, Prince George, Calgary, Kootenay, Kamloops and Saskatoon) from the 2017-18 season. A team may only move up a maximum of two positions in the WHL Bantam Draft. Edmonton has the best chance of selecting first after a league-low 52 points followed by Prince George at 58 and Calgary at 59.

--The Columbus Blue Jackets made it 9 straight wins as they beat the Rangers 5-3. The win streak has put Columbus in the discussion to perhaps finish first in the Metropolitan Division as they are four points back of Washington with eight games to play.

--Henoc Muamba won't be suiting up for the Bombers in 2018.  Winnipeg GM Kyle Walters says they gave Muamba their best sales pitch and offer, but he wanted to be paid more than Andrew Harris and the Bombers said no.

“We were certainly not prepared to offer Henoc Muamba a contract higher than Andrew Harris, which is what they were asking for,” Walters said. “It was not going to happen from our end on a multitude of reasons.“We had an offer on the table and we were prepared to make Henoc the second-highest paid Canadian on our team. Within our salary cap and what we deemed was fair, we thought it was a good, fair offer.

--The Riders let it be known on Tuesday just how much they are giving to amateur football in Saskatchewan., As one would expect, they are giving out a sizable amount of money.

“It is extremely important to our organization that we provide valuable support to amateur football programs throughout the province,” stated Craig Reynolds, Riders President & CEO. “Our partnership with Football Saskatchewan and its members has allowed us to help grow the game of football at the grassroots and amateur level, making football accessible to youth of all ages.”

In 2017, the Club assisted Saskatchewan-based football programs with financial support in excess of $600,000, provided thousands of in-kind donations and prizes, and participated with over 100 hours of Rider player appearances at youth camps, games and practices.

--Kevin Koe's rink now has two Saskatchewan people on it.  Like many other teams, the Koe team is changing things up for the next Olympic cycle. With third Marc Kennedy and second Brent Laing leaving, Koe has replaced them with former Mike McEwen third BJ Neufeld and Saskatoon's Colton Flasch.  Ben Hebert of Regina remains lead. Flasch had left the Steve Laycock rink prior to this season to skip his own team--one that lost to Laycock in the SaskTel Tankard final.   As for McEwen, he has joined up with Reid Carruthers and will throw fourth stones 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Another Competitor to NFL Is Announced

Generic American football

A new football league will be joining the ranks of the NFL and the soon-to-be resurrected XFL.

Two months after Vince McMahon announced he was going to start the XFL again in 2020, Charlie Ebersol, the son of McMahon's former XFL partner Dick Ebersol, said he was going to create the American Alliance of Football, reported.

According to Ebersol, the new league will debut Feb. 9, 2019, one week after Super Bowl 53. The league will have eight 50-man teams consisting of players who didn't make the NFL cut and run 10 weeks.

"There are 28,000 Division I football players. Only 1,700 have NFL jobs," Ebersol said. "We're looking for those Kurt Warners working in grocery stores and we think we will find them."

The cities where the eight teams will be will be announced over the next three months.

To help with planning, Ebersol brought on former NFL general manager Bill Polian and former Steelers safety Troy Polamalu will oversee the players operations. Former players J.K. McKay, Hines Ward and Justin Tuck will all serve as advisers.

Ebersol's father, Dick, will also serve as an adviser.

Financially, the new league will be backed by former Vikings linebacker Jared Allen, Peter Thiel's Founders Fund and The Chernin Group, which owns a huge portion of Barstool Sports.

Ebersol said he know the league isn't going to blow up overnight and that it will take time and patience for it to catch on.

"I think where businesses like this fail is that they expect to have ludicrous and unrealistic ticket and media deal projections in Year 1," Ebersol said. "Our investors here understand that it's a 7-10-year plan."

According to Ebersol, he plans on fully incorporating Fantasy Football and a media plan into the league. He said he was strategic in choosing the time of year the American Alliance of Football will play, since people still crave Fantasy Football and watching games once the season is over.

"Fifty nine million people play fantasy and 20 million people play only fantasy football," Ebersol. "We have to be able to take advantage of the people who just stop playing fantasy when the NFL season ends."