From Ed Tait of the Winnipeg Free Press:
It's a big deal, a momentous occasion many in this country have had circled on their calendars for months.
It's a celebration of Canada that brings together thousands and thousands from sea to shining sea.
It's regal. It's steeped in history. And it's a can't-miss experience for those who can be there live and in person.
The Royal Visit? Think again. C'mon, this is a sports page...
It is, of course, the opening of the 2010 Canadian Football League season and for the loyal followers of the three-down game it's akin to Christmas in July.
And, as is custom at this time of year, we humbly submit our best guesses/predictions in our annual Five-Minute Guide to the CFL season. (Remember, please, no wagering):
FIVE BOLD PREDICTIONS
1. Kevin Glenn, not Anthony Calvillo, will not only be the East all-star quarterback, he'll be the division finalist for Most Outstanding Player while throwing for more than 5,000 yards and over 30 touchdowns. Hey, we did say these would be 'bold predictions.'
2. Jesse Lumsden, the former Hamilton/Edmonton running back we pegged as the league's leading rusher and top Canadian a year ago -- oops -- will resurface in Toronto as a bit player before pushing for work in the backfield. And here's the juicy part: he WON'T get hurt.
3. Winnipeg Blue Bomber head coach Paul LaPolice will be a coach-of-the-year finalist. Hey, three of eight coaches earn that honour, so the math works in his favour. But there will be no mistaking his immediate impact on the offence and the franchise.
4. David Braley, the man who already owns the B.C. Lions and Toronto Argonauts, will kick the tires on owning a third squad -- in Atlantic Canada.
5. New Argo starting Cleo Lemon won't be a bust, but he will be squeezed out of the starting job by Dalton Bell before August. Bell, who dressed for 18 games last year in Saskatchewan but did not throw a single pass, will emerge as a bona fide QB prospect.
FIVE CAN'T-MISS GAMES
1. Montreal at Saskatchewan, Thursday, July 1, 6 p.m.: A Grey Cup rematch in front of the sold-out crazies in Regina? Pure heaven.
2. Toronto at Hamilton, Monday, Sept. 6, 1:30 p.m.: Forget the records, the Battle of Ontario is always a little more intense than any other game on the Ticat or Argo schedule. We're also taking odds on how many penalties Argo defensive tackle Adriano Belli takes in this tilt (the over/under is three).
3. Calgary at Edmonton, Friday, Sept. 10, 8 p.m.: The Battle of Alberta, Part Deux. These storied rivals get after each other on Labour Day Monday and then do it all over again four days later in a classic old-school doubleheader. Leather helmets, anyone?
4. Saskatchewan at Winnipeg, Sunday, Sept. 12, noon: The Banjo Bowl. Say no more, right? But the 55-10 massacre by the Riders last year is one the surviving Bombers -- and their faithful -- won't soon forget.
5. Edmonton at Saskatchewan, Saturday, Nov. 6, 6 p.m.: If the season unfolds as it should -- and we realize that rarely happens -- this could be a battle to determine first in the West. Even if it isn't, it's the final week of the regular season and undoubtedly the West standings will be affected somehow by the result.
FIVE PLAYERS WORTH THE TICKET PRICE
1. Arland Bruce III, slotback, Hamilton: Makes more remarkable receptions and does more after the catch than any receiver in a long spell. Plus, he'll throw in the occasional wacky wrinkle in his post-TD celebrations that sometimes work and sometimes make him look like a dumb-ass, but are as entertaining as heck.
2. Jovon Johnson, corner back/kick-returner, Winnipeg: Solid, shut-down corner is also a dynamic return man. He'd line up at receiver if the coaching staff would let him.
3. Weston Dressler, receiver, Saskatchewan: He's listed at 5-8 -- maybe in really tall spikes -- but puts the oohs and aahs in the weekly highlight package.
4. Korey Banks, defensive back/linebacker, B.C.: Talks a great game and almost always backs it up on the field.
5. Avon Cobourne, running back, Montreal: If he can stay healthy, he could legitimately push to achieve this juicy standard: finishing the season as both a 1,000-yard rusher and receiver.
FIVE PLAYERS POISED TO BUST OUT
1. Andre Durie, running back/slotback, Toronto: New coach Jim Barker has big plans for the York University product as a skill player who'll get touches at receiver and running back.
2. Adarius Bowman, receiver., Winnipeg: Working through a case of dropitis in the pre-season but he's 6-foot-3, 223 pounds and has the potential to do huge damage after the catch. Had 925 yards and six TDs a year ago in a horrific offence. Those numbers should skyrocket.
3. Khari Long, defensive end, Hamilton: Had 10 sacks in 13 games for the Ticats last year and, coupled with Justin Hickman, gives Hamilton great pressure from the end.
4. Chris Getzlaf, slotback, Saskatchewan: Tough to get a lot of touches in a receiving corps that features Dressler, Andy Fantuz, Rob Bagg, Jason Clermont and now Prechae Rodriguez, but the brother of Anaheim Ducks/Team Canada star Ryan Getzlaf just continues to make plays. He had 41 catches for 531 yards and six TDs in spot duty last season and has a knack for making the huge play in critical moments.
5. Brandon Smith, defensive back, Calgary: Missed all of last year after suffering a knee injury in the pre-season but in '08 showed flashes that hinted at his ability to be a dominant force.
TAKING HOME THE HARDWARE
Most Outstanding Player
-- Ricky Ray, QB, Edmonton: His passing totals are always juicy and the Esks will challenge for first in the West.
Most Outstanding Canadian
-- Andy Fantuz, receiver, Saskatchewan: He'll stay injury-free and put up huge totals in the Rider offence.
Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman
-- Josh Bourke, OT, Montreal: He was our pick a year ago, but lost out to teammate Scott Flory. A dominant tackle who is just 27.
Most Outstanding Defensive Player
-- Jamall Johnson, LB, Hamilton: Led the CFL in tackles last season and will continue to play a pivotal role in Greg Marshall's defence.
Most Outstanding Special Teams Player
-- Dominique Dorsey, KR, Saskatchewan: Won this award in 2008 and parlayed that into an NFL tryout with the Redskins. Now he's back to haunt opposition special-teams coordinators.
Most Outstanding Rookie
-- SB Terence Jeffers-Harris, Winnipeg.: Very, very raw. But the athleticism is already evident. Some have already suggested he's the best find at receiver for the Bombers since Geroy Simon and Arland Bruce III.
Coach of the Year
-- Marc Trestman, Montreal: His attention to detail keeps the Alouettes at the top of the heap. He'll be the first repeat winner of the Annis Stukus Trophy as the top coach since Montreal's Charlie Taaffe in 1999-2000. Then the question will be whether he heads south to the NFL.
Grey Cup champs
-- Montreal edges Saskatchewan in another dandy -- minus the 13th-man debacle -- at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton.