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Monday, March 27, 2017

The Raiders Are Vegas Bound

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The Vegas Golden Knights have company!

NFL team owners voted to approve the Raiders' proposal to relocate to Las Vegas during the Annual League Meeting in Phoenix on Monday, The final tally to approve the move was 31-1,

The Raiders won't immediately move to Las Vegas since construction of their planned $1.7 billion domed stadium isn't expected to be completed until 2020. They will play this season at the Oakland Coliseum and have a contract option to play there again in 2018. After that, they likely will have to find a temporary venue to play in until their new stadium just off the Las Vegas strip is built.

Once they move, it will mark the franchise's third relocation since its inception in 1960.

It marks the third NFL team relocation in less than 14 months. The Rams moved from St. Louis back to Los Angeles last year and the Chargers announced their decision to move from San Diego to L.A. in January.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Something To "Mitch" About


14 MORE -  Am I surprised to see the Regina Pats going to Calgary with a 2-0 lead over the Hitmen in Round 1 of the WHL playoffs. Nope! I'm guessing most of you feel the same way too.  John Paddock's proteges shook off what I thought were a couple of tentative starts to beat Calgary 5-2 and 5-1 in front of sold out Brandt Centre crowds on the weekend,  Sold out crowds that had to be told by 620 CKRM's Brandon Basler to make noise and wave towels. Cmon people!!  It's OK to make some noise at the good old hockey game. Then again, you should be commended because you didn't do the wave!  I digress!

In the playoffs, your best players have to be your best players in the first two games that has happened as Adam Brooks controlled Game 1 and Sam Steel controlled Game 2.  Steel's performance, and yes you could say it on a nightly basis, just makes me shake my head as to why he wasn't a member of Team Canada at the World Juniors.  Kelly Remple tweeted Phil Andrews after Saturday's game saying it will be great watching Sam in Buffalo (the sight of 2018 World Jrs) at Christmas time. I had to ask if its a guarantee seeing he was snubbed this season before suggesting he have a chat with Warriors head coach Tim Hunter who will once again be an assistant to Dominic Ducharme at this year's event.  One would think Steel is an automatic, but who knows!

Back to the present,  Regina goes into Calgary looking to complete the sweep.  With all due respect to the Hitmen, I don't think I'll be seeing them on Sunday for a Game 5. A lot will have to go right for them at the Saddledome to make that happen.
 

One other thing, and it has been said before on this blog.

Pats photos Courtesy Keith Hershmiller

 What the Pats do for an intro is second to none as they salute their long-standing relationship with the military along with showing the young man skating from the Legislature to the Brandt Centre,   I don't know if Sportsnet is planning on doing any Pats playoff games from the Brandt as these playoffs go along, but if they do, I hope they show the opening ceremony from start to finish. As I said on Twitter on Saturday, if there is a better intro in junior hockey today in this country that is done on a nightly basis than I need to see it. The country needs to see it!   I have seen that intro countless times since it started, and it still captures my attention the moment it starts.

Oh yeah, one last thing. Was I the only one who thought the presentation of the regular season trophy before Game 1 was needed?   If I want to see Commissioner Ron Robison presenting a trophy to the Pats, it is at the end of the playoffs and not the start.  I had no problem with the banners being unveiled, but the presentation was something that could have angered the hockey gods. I don't think Bill Daly presents the NHL team that gets the most regular season points at the end of the regular season before the playoffs. Perhaps I'm just being a little nitpicky. I know of a couple others that felt the same way though as I patrolled the concourse in the intermissions of Game 1.

ALL TIME PATS FAVES -  A couple of posts below this one is a post on former Pat goalie Josh Harding and how life after hockey is going for him after his career was cut short due to MS.  If you haven't read it, go do so.  A couple of people came up to me at the games this weekend thanking me for putting that up, with one asking me where Josh ranks as I have said previously he is the best goalie I have ever seen wearing a Pats uniform. Please remember I was just a young lad attending my first ever games when Ed Staniowski was doing his thing. What a great question.  I had to think about it for a moment before concluding my favourite Pat all-time would be Jordan Eberle.  As I drove home Friday night, I started wondering about that and who my all-time faves are.  In no particular order,  Eberle, Harding, Rick Rypien, Dave Michayluk, Dale Derkatch, Josh Holden, Darren Veitch, Ron Flockhart are just a few.

CFL WEEK -  CFL Week is over, and as mentioned in Friday's column,  the league scored a touchdown. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if they do this again next year in Regina, although several places may bend the league's ear to have it in their city.  It was great walking around Evraz Place chatting with the likes of Wayne Morsky, Craig Reynolds, Steve Bryce, Farhan Lalji and Justin Dunk.  Seeing the guys do their thing at the combine was outstanding. You watch the combine on the NFL Network and it can seem somewhat mundane, but when you see this guys live looking to do their best in front of peering eyes, it is something to watch.. The one on one battles between o-linemen and d-linemen were fantastic. and by all accounts the work done between the receivers and defensive backs was just as great with both Noah Picton and Asher Hastings throwing ropes.  I wonder if any of the 9 teams noticed those two guys. I certainly hope so!



As Regina Rams offensive lineman Jeremy Zver told me Saturday after he was done. "This is the ultimate job interview if you want to continue playing the game".  For Zver, he has exhausted his university eligibility so he had to show teams why he can play at the next level. He succeeded as did many others.

I don't know how many people went through Evraz Place, but I think some in the CFL were even surprised to see the level of activity.  Can things be done better if they do this again in Regina? Absolutely it can be, but that is the case with anything that is done in its infant year.  If the league wants to come back, and the Riders want to host it again, why not? One suggestion, and this is a minor one, but it is valid.  Perhaps push the event back from Tuesday to Saturday and make it Wednesday to Sunday. It allows for those from out of town to come in and enjoy.  I ran into a gentleman and his 8 year old boy Saturday afternoon who had come from Saskatoon not knowing the fan-fest ended at 3. They had gotten to EVRAZ Place at 12:45. Having the fan-fest go Saturday until 9 and Sunday until 3 would have been a lot more feasible. Again, its a lesson learned for next year no matter where it is held.  At the end of the day, a tremendous job was done by those in the CFL office. Can the momentum be kept up now until draft day which leads us basically to training camps. I hope so!

It was also good to get a couple of moments with Darian Durant Friday afternoon.. Before heading inside the Brandt Centre, I went over to his autograph session which you can imagine was very popular, Many of Darian's fans showed up to perhaps say one last goodbye.




I was hoping just to catch his attention to say hi, but he was gracious enough to stop what he was doing for a second or two and come over to shake my hand.  I wish him nothing but success in Montreal. Say what you will about him Rider Nation, but he was all class when he was here and he showed that until the end with a heartfelt message to fans when his autograph session was over.  Would this team have gotten to three Grey Cups without his efforts? Nope!  And that includes 2013!



Chris Jones got me thinking Saturday afternoon.  (This just in---I did wayyyyy too much thinking this weekend)


When speaking to the local media about the combine, Jones was asked what type of questions they ask potential players. He said one of the things they ask is "What's the first thing you think about when you open your eyes?". What a great question! Do you even think about that when you roll out of bed?  Jokingly, I say god, I made it through another night.  That is something we perhaps should all ask ourselves.

The event wrapped up with the Canada West passing showcase as the Rams, Huskies, Bisons and Golden Bears went at it with the U of S winning. It was great seeing the up and coming stars of Canada West perform as the event was limited to first and second year players in what was a no-contact 6 on 7 event.  The future looks great. By the way Saskatoon, if Mason Nyhus isn't on your radar yet, he will be soon. The kid was throwing darts around the Eventplex during the event.


--NEED FOR CHANGE? - With the NHL's Metropolitan Division having three 100 point teams in it with the chance of the Rangers making it a 4th, there is talk about wanting to change the NHL playoff structure yet again.  Does the NHL want to go down this road?  If they do, can we make it simple and then just have it 1 vs 8, 2 vs 7, 3 vs 6 and 4 vs 5 in the first round and then go from there. I have no problem with the current playoff format, but admittedly 1 vs 8 might be better.  Remember, when it was 1 vs 16, 2 vs 15, etc etc in the first round. I would love to see that happen again, but it won't.  I say just leave it alone.  In the end, we will see the two best teams fighting it out for the Cup which is what we want.  Looking at the standings in both conferences, what a final two weeks we are in for.  I think Chicago is home and cooled as far as first in the Central goes, but the other three divisions are wide open.   It's a three way battle for first in the Metropolitan, and a three way battle for first in the Pacific with Calgary trying to make it a 4 way race.  The Islanders, Tampa and Carolina are trying to get a late surge to get an Eastern Conference wildcard spot while the Western spots seem to be taken care of. Once again, there can't be any clear Stanley Cup favourite. Isn't that what we want as fans?

--THE MADNESS CONTINUES  -  The NCAA mens basketball tournament is one of my favourite events of the year.   The emotion and passion can't be matched at times.  This weekend, Florida and Wisconsin had a classic as did North Carolina and Kentucky.  It just doesn't get any better than that.
How is my bracket going into the final 4. Pretty damn good if you ask me, especially on the right hand side.

 QUEEN RACHEL -  Canada is back atop the womens curling ladder thanks to Rachel Homan. What a week for her Ottawa crew in Beijing as they rolled through the world championship with a perfect record capping it off beating Russia in the final.  Its Canada's first gold at the event since Jennifer Jones in 2008.  It also tells me the only person who could beat Homan this winter was Regina's own Michelle Englot. She did it twice at the Scotties before dropping the final. Tells you just how good Michelle's rink was doesn't it!



That's all I got. Have a great week! 







WHL Playoffs Sunday Recap

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EASTERN CONFERENCE 

Lethbridge 5 Red Deer 2 --Igor Babenko (Leth) 3 goals    (Best of 7 series tied at 1) 

WESTERN CONFERENCE 

Prince George 5 Portland 2  -- Aaron Boyd (PG) 2 goals (Best of 7 series tied at 1) 

Jordan Eberle Reflects on NHL Career After Playing Game 500



If you ask Jordan Eberle, the first NHL playoff game he ever suits up for next month will mean a whole lot more than the 500th league game he played Saturday night against Colorado Avalanche.
But 500 is still 500, and only 20 Edmonton Oilers players in all of history can say they’ve played that many.

To put that in perspective, Paul Coffey only played 532 before he was traded to Pittsburgh. Esa Tikkanen played 522 in two different stints here.

Eberle’s played more Oilers league games than Sam Gagner and Georges Laraque, Dave Semenko and Bill Ranford. So, yeah, it means something for an organization that’s closing in 40 NHL years.
Eberle, who went into Saturday’s game with 27 points in 28 career games against the Avalanche, waxed philosophical as he tried to digest being about to reach 500 Saturday morning after practice.

“There’s been some long years,” he said. . “I’ve been here the whole time and it’s gone by quick.
“But the thing I’m most excited for is a playoff game. Took this much time to hopefully get into the post-season.”

Five hundred is a nice round figure, though no matter how you look at it, even if Eberle is keeping it in perspective.

“It’s obviously an accomplishment but it’s taken this long to get to the playoffs. What did Jaromir Jagr get the other day, 1,700 games? I’ve got a while to go” he said.

There have been far too many struggles than highlights for Eberle with the Oilers.

“The first six years really, with the exception of the lockout year, you get into this thing – probably what Colorado’s going through – where you’re out of it and you’re really just playing for pride and the season can be pretty long when it’s not going right,” he said.

“This season, just to have a taste of winning, it makes you excited for the years to come.”

Eberle’s first NHL game Oct. 7, 2010 against Calgary was one for the ages. He scored his first NHL goal on arguably the highlight-reel play of the season. Busting past defenceman Ian White with a great toe-drag, Eberle deked goalie Miikka Kiprusoff and threw a backhand up under the crossbar. A dream-like sequence of steps in the Oilers’ 4-0 victory.

“Exciting game, Hockey Night in Canada, but the best thing was having my family there to experience it with me. It was awesome. You always say, you’ll take your first NHL goal off your skate but it just worked out the way it did,” said Eberle.

Lots of NHLers were lucky enough to play 10 games or 25, but Eberle’s hit 500.

“You look at the Oilers and you’re around these hall of famers and icons a lot. Growing up, too, the alumni in the NHL is so good talking to the younger guys. I remember playing junior in Regina and running into Mike Sillinger (formerly of Oilers player development ) who kind of took me under his wing,” said Eberle. “He always told me it’s hard to make the NHL and harder to stay. That’s always stuck with me, especially now with all these young guys coming in”

Sillinger played on a slew of NHL teams though, not the one Eberle’s been on.

“Yeah, I think he’s got the record, 13 or 14 teams,” said Eberle, who was just off of the dozen teams Sillinger played on through trades or signings. “I’ve seen his silver stick for his 1,000 NHL games and there’s a lot of different teams on there. That’s a testament to him, though, on how many different teams wanted him and what a likeable guy he was. But we’ve definitely had different career paths for sure.

“I still remember my first shift, it was against Jarome Iginla. Shawn Horcoff and I were lined up against him. I think back and I’m lining up against guys like Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin too and you’re kind of star-struck. But it changes quickly.”
Eberle looks at his goals and assists and points, along with the games now that he’s hit 500. But also the guys behind the bench.

“Yeah, I might have the (team) record for coaches: Tom Renney, Ralph (Krueger), Dallas (Eakins), Todd (Nelson), Todd (McLellan) and I guess MacT (Craig MacTavish). I was at camp when Pat (Quinn) was here too but didn’t play for him,” said Eberle.“It hasn’t been the easiest 500 games for sure but now I’m starting to get a taste (of playoffs).

“I know if I line up for my first playoff game, It’ll be a weight off my shoulders. TSN always has this feature about players who’ve gone so long with no playoff games. Now, I won’t be in there. That’ll be nice.”

(Jim Matheson/Edmonton Journal)

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Pats Up 2-0 On Hitmen



It was almost a carbon copy of Game 1,  The Regina Pats looked tentative off the opening puck drop, but once they got their skates underneath them, there was nothing the Calgary Hitmen could do.

Sam Steel had a goal and 4 assists while Dawson Leedahl had a pair in Regina's 5-1 victory to take a 2-0 lead in the best of 7.

Game 3 goes in Calgary Tuesday with Game 4 on Wednesday.  If Calgary can win one of those two, Game 5 will go in Regina Sunday April 2 at 4:00



Calgary Hitmen 1 at Regina Pats 5 - Status: Final
Saturday, March 25, 2017 - Brandt Centre - Regina, SK

Calgary 0 1 0 - 1
Regina 1 2 2 - 5

1st Period-1, Regina, Leedahl 1 (Steel, Mahura), 11:44. Penalties-Leedahl Reg (boarding), 3:24; Brooks Reg (interference), 7:52.

2nd Period-2, Calgary, Fyten 1 (Mrkonjic), 2:16. 3, Regina, Brooks 3 (Hobbs, Steel), 4:17 (PP). 4, Regina, Leedahl 2 (Steel, Zborovskiy), 9:38. Penalties-Gennaro Cgy (hooking), 3:11; Fyten Cgy (hooking), 3:34; Kastelic Cgy (cross checking, cross checking), 9:14; Buziak Reg (inter. on goaltender, roughing), 9:14; Wagner Reg (slashing), 10:33; Ahl Reg (roughing), 12:57; Wagner Reg (inter. on goaltender), 12:57.

3rd Period-5, Regina, Henry 1 (Steel, Leedahl), 7:26. 6, Regina, Steel 1 (Hobbs), 17:00 (EN). Penalties-Fyten Cgy (slashing), 18:19.

Shots on Goal-Calgary 11-11-5-27. Regina 14-12-13-39.
Power Play Opportunities-Calgary 0 / 4; Regina 1 / 3.
Goalies-Calgary, Porter (38 shots-34 saves). Regina, Brown (27 shots-26 saves).
A-6,484
Referees-Fraser Lawrence (10), Kyle Kowalski (15).
Linesmen-Sean Dufour (50), Tarrington Wyonzek (137).

Other WHL Playoff Scores

EASTERN CONFERENCE 

Moose Jaw 3 Swift Current 2  -- Brayden Burke (MJ)  GWG  w/4:11 to go in 3rd. (Best of 7 Series tied at 1)
Medicine Hat 5 Brandon 3 -- John Dahlstrom (MH) 2 goals (MH leads best of 7 2-0)
Red Deer 4 Lethbridge 2 -- GWG w/1:57 to go in 3rd (RD leads best of 7 1-0)

WESTERN CONFERENCE  

Victoria 4 Everett 3  -- Tyler Soy (Vic) 2 goals  (Best of 7 series tied at 1)
Kelowna 3 Kamloops 2 --  Dillon Dube (Kel) 2 goals  (Kelowna leads best of 7 2-0)
Seattle 5  Tri Cities 2  -- Aaron Hyman (Sea) 1 G 1 A (Seattle leads best of 7 2-0)


Friday, March 24, 2017

The Captain Comes Through In Game 1





The WHL playoffs are underway and it was a nerve-wracking 30 plus minutes for the Regina Pats and a sold-out crowd at the Brandt Centre.

The Calgary Hitmen stayed stride for stride with the Pats and scored the first goal of the series when Jake Kryski beat Tyler Brown on the power-play at the 10:50 mark of the 2nd period.  Regina responded with a power-play goal of their own courtesy Josh Mahura at 16:28 setting the stage for Brooks.

The Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick deftly converted a Filip Ahl pass into the net to make it 2-1 4 and a half minutes into the 3rd and then added another under two minutes later as Regina took Game 1 by a score of 5-2.

The game was played in front of a sellout crowd of 6484--the Pats 15th sellout of the season.

Game 2 will go tomorrow at the Brandt Centre starting at 7. Phil Andrews will have the radio call on 620 CKRM starting with the pre-game show at 6:35 while those with Access can watch the TV broadcast with Rod Pedersen starting at 7.

***

Calgary Hitmen 2 at Regina Pats 5 - Status: Final
Friday, March 24, 2017 - Brandt Centre - Regina, SK

Calgary 0 1 1 - 2
Regina 0 1 4 - 5

1st Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Reagan Cgy (cross checking), 11:01.

2nd Period-1, Calgary, Kryski 1 (Bean, Stukel), 10:50 (PP). 2, Regina, Mahura 1 (Brooks, Hobbs), 16:28 (PP). Penalties-Mahura Reg (hooking), 9:55; Fyten Cgy (interference), 15:03.

3rd Period-3, Regina, Brooks 1 (Ahl, Hobbs), 4:25. 4, Regina, Brooks 2 (Ahl), 6:03. 5, Calgary, Kryski 2 (Mrkonjic, Reagan), 9:04. 6, Regina, Lockner 1 (Steel), 14:14. 7, Regina, Wagner 1 (Brooks), 16:59 (SH). Penalties-Hobbs Reg (holding), 10:50; Leedahl Reg (tripping), 16:27.

Shots on Goal-Calgary 2-9-11-22. Regina 9-11-12-32.
Power Play Opportunities-Calgary 1 / 3; Regina 1 / 2.
Goalies-Calgary, Porter (32 shots-27 saves). Regina, Brown (22 shots-20 saves).
A-6,484
Referees-Kyle Scrivens (77), Reagan Vetter (39).
Linesmen-Kelsey Mahoney (138), Devan Thiessen (94).

***

Other WHL Playoff Scores

Eastern Conference

Swift Current 2 Moose Jaw 0   --  Jordan Papirny (SC) 40 saves (Broncos lead 1-0)
Medicine Hat 7  Brandon 2  -- Mark Rassell (MH) 3 goals  (Tigers lead 1-0)

Western Conference

Portland 4 Prince George 2 -- Keegan Iverson (Port) GWG (Winterhawks lead 1-0)
Kelowna 4 Kamloops 0 --  Rockets outshoot Blazers 48-15 (Rockets lead 1-0)
Seattle 4 Tri-Cities 2  -- Keegan Kolesar (SEA) 2 goals 1 assist  (T-Birds lead 1-0)
Everett 4 Victoria 2 -- Patrick Bajkov (EVT) 2 goals 1 assist  (Silvertips lad 1-0)



Josh Harding Happy After Hockey



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Former Pats goalie Josh Harding had to cut his NHL career short after he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. 

The Regina native is doing quite well though as evidenced by this story from the Minnesota Wild. 

The Pats Playoff Road Begins Tonight





The Regina Pats (52-12-7-1) kick off the 2017 WHL Playoffs tonight, at home to the Calgary Hitmen (30-32-8-2). Puck drop is 7 p.m. at the Brandt Centre. The Pats wrapped up the regular season on Saturday in Brandon with an eighth straight win, 6-0 over the Wheat Kings. The Hitmen won their last two games of the regular season against the Kootenay ICE. The Pats went 3-1-0-0 against Calgary during their regular season series. The game can be heard on 620 CKRM with Bennett Dunlop Ford Pats Hockey beginning at 6:35 p.m. The game will also be broadcast on Access 7.


Lead Up: Pats Win 8th in a Row Saturday
The Regina Pats closed the 2016-17 season with a 6-0 win in Brandon over the Wheat Kings on Saturday night. The Pats got a 34 save shutout from Jordan Hollett while Adam Brooks led the offence with a goal and two assists. The Pats led 1-0 after 1, 4-0 after two and 6-0 at the end of the contest. Regina finishes the year on an eight game winning streak and a 52-12-7-1 record. Regina outshot the Wheat Kings 44-34 in the win, the powerplay was oh for one and the penalty kill seven for seven.

Head to Head
The Pats went 3-1-0-0 against Calgary in their four game regular season series. The Pats scored 19 goals in the four games to the Hitmen’s 13. Regina was six for 17 on the powerplay and the penalty kill 17 for 20. The Pats outshot the Hitmen 138-125 in the four games. Sam Steel scored seven goals and added five assists against Calgary. Connor Hobbs recorded eight points, Adam Brooks seven and Nick Henry and Dawson Leedhal each had six. Goaltender Tyler Brown was 2-0-0-0 with a 0.99 G.A.A., a .965 save percentage and one shutout. The Hitmen were led by Jake Bean, Matteo Gennaro and Luke Coleman who put up five points against the Pats. Three others had three points in the four meetings.

Franchise Record
Pats defenceman and Washington Capitals prospect Connor Hobbs set a franchise record for goals in a season by a defenceman in the final game of the regular season. Hobbs recorded his 31st goal of the campaign in the club’s 6-0 win over Brandon on Saturday. The previous record of 30 goals was held by John Miner from the 1984-85 season. Hobbs led all WHL defenceman in goals (31) and points (85).

WHL Awards
Five members of the Pats organization were among the WHL’s All-Stars and Conference Awards announced on Wednesday. Head Coach and GM John Paddock was named the Eastern Conference Executive and Head Coach of the Year. Sam Steel, who won the Bob Clarke Trophy as the league’s leading scorer, is the Eastern Conference Player of the Year, Steel was also named a First Team All-Star. Connor Hobbs was named the Eastern Conference Defenceman of the Year as well as a First Team All-Star. Forward Adam Brooks, who finished a point behind Steel in the WHL scoring race with 130, was also a First Team All-Star in the East. Finally defenceman Sergey Zborovskiy, who led the league at plus 72, was named a Second Team All-Star.

Upcoming Schedule
Game 2, Pats Vs Calgary – Saturday March 25, 7 p.m. – Brandt Centre (CKRM)
Game 3, Pats @ Calgary – Tuesday March 28, 7 p.m. – Scotiabank Saddledome (CKRM)
Game 4, Pats @ Calgary – Thursday March 30, 7 p.m. – Scotiabank Saddledome (CKRM)

(Phil Andrews/Regina Pats)


This And That


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




--The CFL has scored a touchdown! The lead-up to CFL Week may not have been the best, but the CFL has done a tremendous job this week with everything that has been going on over at EVRAZ Place.  It has been fantastic, and as one fan said to me on Thursday while I was touring through Fanfest, they should have this here every year. I don't know if that would happen, but I wouldn't complain, Good job CFL!



I don't know if the fans are enjoying this more or if the players are,  They have conducted many informal interviews with members of the media from across the country who have come. They have had a chance to socialize with one another in an environment where they can relax and not prepare for a game and have some fun they might not otherwise have when visiting Regina.  As for the fans, they are loving it and why wouldn't they.


Gainer is having fun, but does he realize whose neck he is squeezing. Riders chair Wayne Morsky could have him digging holes in Grand Coulee if he doesn't smarten up! Somehow, I don't think Wayne minds. Like everyone else, he's loving what has been happening at Evraz Place. 

While the players are enjoying it, Darian Durant may be enduring it.  It doesn't look right seeing him in the colours of the Alouettes and I am sure it is uncomfortable for Durant to be in Regina not wearing green-and-white. You can tell by listening to him that his heart is still in Regina. It will probably be that way until he heads to training camp, and it may never ever leave.  I think the same can be said for Weston Dressler.  He's had his  year away from it, but Darian hasn't.  You have to wonder if at some time those two have spoken about what could have been here,  They arguably could have ended up as the greatest passer-receiver combo in Riders history,

--Congrats to former U of S Huskies football coach Brian Towriss for getting named to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. That didn't take long!

--Congrats to former Rider Tyron Brackenridge who has joined Marc Trestman's coaching staff in Toronto. I get the feeling Brackenridge could join the likes of guys like Orlando Steinhauer, Barron Miles and Mark Washington as former CFL players who are going to go a long way in this league as a coach.

--The CFL love gets put on hold tonight as the Regina Pats start what will be hopefully a long playoff road as they take on the Calgary Hitmen to start the WHL playoffs. Playoffs are a different animal, and things can change from shift to shift.  There's no reason to think Regina won't skate to 4 or a 5 game win, but in the playoffs anything, and I mean anything can happen and we all know that!

--The Portland Winterhawks won 40 games this year and it was only good enough for a wild-card spot in the Western Conference. There is going to be some great hockey played across the mountain during these playoffs.

--The player who delivered a blind side elbow to former Edmonton Oiler Ryan Smyth during an Alberta senior league game leaving him with a concussion was handed a 16 game suspension this week.  I am guessing if this similar incident had occurred in the NHL, the guilty party would have had about 2 or 3 games. Would I be right NHL player safety?

--Would NHL player safety even consider calling Sidney Crosby? The Penguins captain left Ottawa's Marc Methot with a dangling finger after a two handed slash on Thursday. It was dirty. The slash shattered Methot's finger and he will be out for weeks. Should the NHL suspend Sid? Would the NHL suspend Sid? If it was Chris Neil doing that to Evgeni Malkin or Milan Lucic doing it to Nathan McKinnon, there would be a suspension. Your move NHL! Do you want to open this can of worms or not?

--Some in Edmonton believe Oilers goalie Cam Talbot is making a late run at being a finalist for the Vezina Trophy.  Is he? He has had a solid year, but he isn't one of the top 3 tenders in the league as far as I am concerned.  That would go to the trio of Bobrovsky, Dubnyk and Holtby.

--A massive investigation led to the discovery of Tom Brady's Super Bowl winning jersey in Mexico.  The FBI were involved in this.  The FBI? Local law enforcement is left to deal with missing persons and other more serious matters, but damn it when a Super Bowl winning jersey goes missing, the FBI is brought in.  I can't be the only one shaking my head on that one!  By the way, does this enhance Trump's argument to build a wall?

--The University of Regina's athletic review is out.  That's about all you can really say on it.  Let's just say I weeded through 21 pages expecting more. Did I miss a page or two?  The one thing that did stand out besides a new AD needs to be hired to replace Dick White is Cougar Athletics needs a re-brand. Yes, it does. I hope the U of R even after losing some money in the provincial budget can find the right amount of cash to do a proper job of marketing. I think a limited budget in that area hurts them a lot.  There are good people, and good athletes at the U of R who deserve more than they get.  I am also guessing there are many businesses in our fair city who would like to throw some dollars the U of R's way, but they don't get a call for whatever reason.

 --That's all I got. Enjoy your weekend. Get down to Evraz Place and take in some of CFL Week while catching the Pats in a sports weekend we haven't seen like this around here in a long time.  Maybe even go check out "Hoopla" if you can!


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Heavy Regina Rams Presence at Mark's CFL Week

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A total of 37 University of Regina Rams players will be participating in various segments of the first annual CFL Week being held this week at Evraz Place in Regina.

The list of participating Rams includes slotback Mitchell Picton and offensive lineman Jeremy Zver, who have both been invited to the CFL Combine to be held on Friday and Saturday. Picton was named a first-team All-Canadian this past season, while Zver started all nine games at left tackle for the Rams in his final season of U SPORTS eligibility.

“I’m very excited that the Rams are heavily ingrained in the first ever CFL Week happening in Regina,” Rams head coach Steve Bryce said. “We are involved in many of the facets of the week, including coaching, players participating in the combine, and volunteers. We’ve reached out to assist in any way possible to help make this week a tremendous success.”

The Rams also have six players in Thursday’s CFL Western Regional Combine, each hoping to gain an invitation to join Picton and Zver in the national combine. Wide receiver Andrew Bennett, offensive lineman Matt Degelman, linebacker Zack McEachern, defensive lineman Bryce McKinnon, defensive back Jeff Propp, and linebacker Michael Stefanovic will all participate on Thursday, while the Rams coaching staff will also get involved – they’ll run the position-specific drills at the regional combine.

Three Rams quarterbacks will also serve as throwers in the combines. Seb Britton, Noah Picton, and Tyler Vieira will all throw at the regional combine on Thursday, while Picton will also throw at the national combine.

CFL Week will also feature the Canada West Passing Showcase, a 7-on-8 non-contact tournament for players completing their first or second seasons of U SPORTS eligibility. On the offensive side of the ball, the Rams will showcase quarterback Seb Britton, running backs Scott Jones, Sam Varao, and Brayden Wagg, and receivers Colton Friesen, Kyle Moortgat, Adam Rask, Ryan Schienbein, Daniel Scraper, Michael Scraper, Josh Tipton, and Tanner Zaharia. The defensive roster features linebackers Aidan Anderson, Brody Dirk, Kaiden Jones, Marcus Kuling, and Alex Rorke along with defensive backs Cord Delinte, Dilan Elgert, Royce Hanna, Polis Koko, Liam Lerat, Braedy Will, and Luke Wilson.

The Rams will play three games on Friday night, taking on Saskatchewan at 4:30 before meeting Manitoba (5:25) and Alberta (7:15). The playoff round for the four-team Canada West Passing Showcase will take place on Saturday morning.

A total of five Rams will also volunteer as guest coaches for CFL Flag Football. Kuling, Rask, Blake Anaka, Eric Eads, and Jack Loisdort will all coach at the clinic, which will be held on Thursday night.

(Braden Konschuh/U of R Athletics) 

A-C Going To the Canadian Football Hall of Fame as is Geroy Simon & Brian Towriss




The Canadian Football Hall of Fame and Museum’s stellar Class of 2017 features the Canadian Football League running back with the most consecutive 1,000 yard seasons, the game’s leading passer, one of its top tacklers, its all-time leading receiver, an Alberta football stalwart and a legendary university coach from Saskatchewan.

“Every class is special and this one is exemplary,” said Mark DeNobile, Executive Director of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and Museum (CFHOF), as he officially announced the names of this year’s inductees at a celebration event at the new Mosaic Stadium.

“The Inductees are Kelvin Anderson, Anthony Calvillo, Mike O’Shea and Geroy Simon in the player category. In the Builder category, long time administrator Stan Schwartz and recently retired Coach of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies Brian Towriss have been selected.”

The introduction of the class is one of the highlights of Mark’s CFL Week, a new series of signature events that celebrate Canadian football and herald the approach of the upcoming Canadian Football League season, which kicks off this June. Formal induction ceremonies for this year’s CFHOF class will be held later this year, at the Hall of Fame game in Hamilton on September15th and during the week prior to the 105th Grey Cup presented by Shaw in Ottawa.

Here’s a closer look at its members:

KELVIN ANDERSON, PLAYER

Kelvin Anderson played for the Calgary Stampeders from 1996 to 2002 and joined the BC Lions for his final season in 2003. He was a CFL Rookie of the Year, a three-time CFL All-Star (1998, 1999 and 2001), and the West Division’s leading rusher four times (1997, 1998, 2000 and 2001). He was a league finalist for Outstanding Player in 1998 and 2001. He ranks first on the All-Time CFL list for consecutive 1,000 yard seasons with eight. Anderson also ranks first on the Calgary Stampeders’ All-Time list for carries, 1,000 yard seasons and consecutive 1,000 yard seasons.

ANTHONY CALVILLO, PLAYER

Anthony Calvillo played for three teams (Las Vegas Posse, Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and the Montreal Alouettes) during his 20-year career as quarterback in the CFL. He was a Grey Cup Champion three times during his career in 2002, 2009 and 2010, all with Montreal. Calvillo was a ten-time Eastern All-Star, a five-time CFL All-Star and a six-time CFLPA All-Star. Calvillo was the East Division’s Most Outstanding Player seven times and the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player three times (2003, 2008 and 2009). In 2002, he was named the Most Valuable Player in the Grey Cup. He threw for 79,816 yards, making him the CFL’s - and pro football’s - all-time leading passer.

MIKE O’SHEA, PLAYER

Mike O’Shea played in the CFL for 16 seasons with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the Toronto Argonauts. He was Rookie of the Year in 1993, a CFL All-Star Linebacker in 1999, and won the John Candy Memorial Award (given to the Toronto Argonaut Player of the Year) in 1999. He ranks second on the All-Time CFL List for defensive tackles with 1,151, seventh on the All-Time CFL List for special team teams with 169, and second on the All-Time Toronto Argonaut List for Most Games Played with 205. To that impressive total he added 22 interceptions, 11 fumble recoveries and 30 quarterback sacks. O’Shea is a three-time Grey Cup Champion (1996, 1997 and 2004).

STAN SCHWARTZ, BUILDER

Stan Schwartz has been part of Canadian football for five decades, dedicating himself to the Calgary Stampeders, the CFL and the game at various levels. He began his involvement in the 1970’s as the defensive coordinator for the Calgary Mohawks junior team and joined the Stampeders in 1976 where he served as assistant coach. He was the Calgary Stampeders’ President for eight years, starting in 1996. During his tenure, the Stampeders reached the Grey Cup three times and captured the trophy in 1998 and 2001. Schwartz was inducted into the Calgary Bantam Football Wall of Fame in 2003 and into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in 2005. He was awarded the Hugh Campbell Distinguished Leadership Award in 2009 in recognition of his contributions to the CFL.

GEROY SIMON, PLAYER

Geroy Simon’s 15-year CFL career brought him to three teams: the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (1999-2000), the BC Lions (2001-2012) and the Saskatchewan Roughriders (2013). A six-time CFL All-Star (2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2011), Simon appeared in four Grey Cup games and is a three-time Grey Cup Champion (2006, 2011 and 2013). In 2006, he was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player. He had 63 100-yard games and three 200-yard games. Simon is the CFL’s All-Time leading receiver with 16,352 receiving yards and 1,029 receptions.

BRIAN TOWRISS, BUILDER

A former defensive tackle for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, Brian Towriss coached at his alma mater for 37 years. Joining the Huskies as an assistant coach in 1979, he served as Head Coach from 1984 to 2016, when he retired. Towriss led his team to nine Vanier Cup appearances (1989, 1990, 1994, 1996,1998, 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2006) and three national championships (1990, 1996, and 1998). He was the CIS Coach of the Year in 1994. During his tenure, Towriss coached 71 All-Canadians and had 47 players join the CFL and one go on to have a career in the NFL.



“I would like to thank the Selection Committee for their commitment and dedication in selecting a truly excellent Canadian Football Hall of Fame class. This is the fifth class selected under the new terms of reference under which we recognize all levels of football in Canada. We are very pleased to see significant representation in the 2017 class,” said Mark DeNobile.

“On behalf of the CFL, our Board of Governors and our fans, congratulations to this year’s inductees on this great honour,” said CFL Commissioner Jeffrey L. Orridge. “Every one of these gentlemen had a tremendous impact on the growth of football in our country, and for that we are forever indebted to them. Thank you to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and the Selection Committee for helping us all recognize dedication and greatness.”

The new inductees will bring the total number of Hall of Fame members to 289 in the Hall’s Zone of Champions, which features busts of each member of the Hall, and which will be relocated to Tim Hortons Field in 2017.

The Canadian Football Hall of Fame and Museum operates as a non-profit registered charity. Located in Hamilton, Ontario since 1963, it is home to more than 80,000 Canadian football artifacts, ranging from equipment and trophies to photos and videos.

(CFL.ca)

CFL Rules Committee Recommending Changes


Image result for cfl penalty flag


 The Canadian Football League’s rules committee is proposing changing some rules and procedures around coaches’ challenges to improve the flow of the game and improve the fan experience.

“These measures would, in some instances, speed up when a coach issues a challenge, alter what he can challenge, and ensure more video reviews occur during commercial timeouts instead of on top of them,” said Glen Johnson, senior vice-president of football for the CFL and chair of the league’s rules committee.

“Finding the right balance between using technology to help officiate the game and protecting the flow of the game is a challenge facing all sports and leagues including the CFL. We are tackling that challenge with the best possible fan experience, in stadium and on broadcast, as a top priority.”

Specifically, a coach would no longer be allowed to challenge a play following a TV commercial timeout.

If the change is approved, a coach would have to throw his challenge flag within the first 30 seconds of the TV break.

Currently, where there is a TV timeout on the field, a coach can wait the entire duration of a break before deciding to challenge, as long as he does so before the next snap. The result can be a two-minute commercial break followed by a 90 second challenge, hampering the flow of the game.

The committee is also suggesting limiting the types of actions challengeable under Roughing the Passer to the pure definition of Rule 7.2.4. on page 56 of the CFL Rulebook, which applies to when a quarterback is in the act of passing or potentially passing the ball, and when the quarterback slides feet-first across the line of scrimmage.

Other unnecessary roughness penalties that may occur against the passer behind the line of scrimmage, such as grabbing the facemask or horse collar tackles, would no longer be challengeable.

As well, actions that occur when the quarterback is across the line of scrimmage running with the ball, a quarterback sneak and dead ball fouls on the quarterback would no longer be challengeable.

The committee believes this will reduce the number of challenges while still ensuring the quarterback is protected when in the act of passing or potentially passing he ball, the original intent of making roughing the passer reviewable.

It is also recommending retaining a rule change made at midseason least year, which put a timeout at risk for every coach challenge that is incorrect. The committee is also proposing that the replay official only a change a call where there is clear and indisputable evidence that it is wrong, rather than attempt to officiate plays to ensure they are correct.

Members believe these two combined measures, in place for a full season, will discourage coaches from using their challenges, especially as they put timeouts at risk. They estimate this can reduce the number of challenges by 20% or more while still allowing coaches to challenge big plays that have a material impact on the game.

Finally, TSN will go to commercial on every challenge it can. It’s estimated that 80% of challenges will now be done during a commercial, up from 20% last season. That will significantly reduce unnecessary stoppages in the game and improve the fan experience both in stadium and on broadcast.

The committee has also recommended increasing the duties of the video official in the Command Centre so they can correct errors when:

When a flag has been thrown for a line of scrimmage penalty (offside or procedure)
When a flag has been thrown for an unnecessary roughness penalty following a play and the video official sees other unnecessary roughness infractions
When a call for illegal contact on a receiver should be changed to defensive pass interference because the ball had been thrown


To further promote player safety, the committee wants to change all 10-yard illegal low block penalties to 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalties. The committee recognized the importance of signaling that such dangerous blocks have no place in the game.

The committee wants to prevent the return team on a kicking play from putting a player on the field a split second prior to the snap and trying to hide him so he can receive a lateral pass from the kick returner.

This sort of “sleeper play” would be subject to a 10-yard penalty.

All rules committee recommendations must be reviewed by the league’s competition committee and ultimately approved by its Board of Governors before they go into effect.

The rules committee includes representatives from every club, the Canadian Football League Players’ Association, the Canadian Professional Football Officials’ Association and the CFL.

(CFL.ca)

Several Pats Taking Home WHL Eastern Conference Awards




Sam Steel, Connor Hobbs and John Paddock are just three members of the Regina Pats being recognized by the Western Hockey League for year-end hardware. The complete story can be found right here.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Long Awaited Review of Cougar Athletics Released




A final report into a comprehensive review of Cougar Athletics has been  released.

The review, conducted by four individuals,  was done to reflect upon and evaluate the direction and performance of the Athletics department over the past decade and provide recommendations that foster progress towards the vision of creating a sustainable organization consistently characterized by excellence academically, competitively, and in the community.

The 21 page document highlights several areas:

-There is a lack of a clear strategy and vision and this has caused frustration among coaches and staff. Due in part to leadership issues, there is poor alignment between the athletic department, senior leadership and important internal university partners.

-The current departmental structure is not fit for purpose or able to keep up with
the demands of supporting 16 programs in an effective or sustainable manner.  This calls for the possibility of some programs being eliminated to more effectively use resources to support competitive excellence and fund a structure that is able to support coaches, staff and student athletes for many years to come

-Members of the University community, even if they are not inherently supportive
of the varsity sport agenda, are committed to working with Cougar athletics in
order to create a more competitive program

-The student population has an apathetic attitude towards Cougar athletics.

Recommendations include:

 -Hiring an athletic director which is something the University has not had since the retirement of Dick White

 - Developing a new scholarship strategy

 - articulate a mission and an objective for Cougar Athletics with a re-brand of Cougar Athletics occurring after that mission and objective is identified and created


The review states at present, there is no strategic plan for the athletic program and the majority of
people who participated in interviews commented on the lack of vision. This is an area
of significant concern that must be addressed before progress can be made.


It closes by saying the University of Regina has an unprecedented opportunity to take steps to set the
stage for success, both on the field of play and off, for years to come. This will require a
definitive mission and vision, a “fit for purpose” department structure and the
appropriate number of sponsored programs/teams, as well as a commitment to
regularly track the progress of the new plan and its alignment to strategic objectives.

The good news is that there is a desire to make changes and support this important
program. This extends from the athletes to the President’s Office and the motivation is
clear as well as ambitious.

The time is now to take action in order for Cougar Athletics to become an even
stronger point of pride for the University of Regina and the city of Regina.







Darian Durant Says Goodbye





Darian Durant is in Regina for more than CFL Week. He is packing up stuff from his Regina property seeing he no longer is a member of the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

The CFL's Chris O'Leary sat down and spoke with the former Rider who will continue his career as a member of the Montreal Alouettes.  That story can be found right here

Monday, March 20, 2017

CFL Notebook



The Saskatchewan Roughriders have announced national defensive back Graig Newman is retiring from the Canadian Football League.        

The 27-year-old Saskatoon resident spent three of his five CFL seasons with the Green and White. Newman spent the 2012 and 2013 seasons with the Riders before joining the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. He returned to Saskatchewan for the 2016 season after signing with the team as a free agent.

Through his three seasons with the Riders, Newman picked up 37 special-teams tackles, 10 defensive tackles and one quarterback sack in 44 regular-season games.

He also played in three playoff games and was a member of the Riders’ 2013 Grey Cup-winning team.

“First, I would like to thank the Saskatchewan Roughriders for providing me with the opportunity of a lifetime,” Newman stated. “It has been a dream come true for a kid growing up in Saskatchewan.

“I would also like to thank the best fans in the CFL, Rider Nation, for their support over the years,” added Newman. “To all the teammates, coaches and staff that I have had the pleasure sharing this amazing experience with, thank you! It has been an honour and a privilege to play in the CFL and I am extremely proud to retire a Saskatchewan Roughrider.”

Newman continues to live in Saskatoon where he works for ClearTech Industries.  

(Ryan Pollock/Riders PR)

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CFL Week festivities get underway Tuesday in Regina. Several players arrived at the Regina International Airport on Monday including new Rider Chad Owens,  Hamilton's Simoni Lawrence and the league's most outstanding player last season--Calgary quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell (getting interviewed by CTV's Lee Jones).  Many of the events will be happening at Evraz Place starting Tuesday morning with the big event being the CFL combine on the weekend as those who are draft eligible get put through the paces under the watchful eye of scouts, coaches and general managers from the 9 CFL teams in advance of the draft. 

----

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats have added former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to their exclusive negotiation list.
Kaepernick has played six seasons in the National Football League and made headlines last year for not standing for the U.S. national anthem. He has been a free agent since opting out of his contract earlier this month, after originally signing a $114-million, six-year contract with the 49ers in 2014.
The 29-year-old threw for 2,241 yards, 16 touchdowns and four interceptions in 11 starts in 2016. He's thrown for 72 touchdowns since joining San Francisco as a 2011 second-round draft pick.
Kaepernick rose to stardom under former Niners coach Jim Harbaugh, leading them to the 2012 NFC title, but he's struggled in recent seasons and was benched for journeyman Blaine Gabbert last year.
The Ticats currently have three quarterbacks on the roster, including starter Zach Collaros.
Kaepernick becomes the second big-name NFL quarterback added to a Canadian Football League negotiation list in recent months. Vince Young was added by the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Feb. 2 and ultimately signed with the team March 11. 

The Ti-Cats have also reportedly added another former NFL quarterback looking for work to their neg list.  That quarterback would be Robert Griffin III.

(Justin Dunk/Hamilton Spectator)

NHL Three Stars Of Week



Boston Bruins left wing Brad Marchand, Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby and Calgary Flames goaltender Brian Elliott have been named the NHL's "Three Stars" for the week ending March 19.



FIRST STAR - BRAD MARCHAND, LW, BOSTON BRUINS

Marchand led the NHL with 5-4-9 in three games - all multi-point performances - to power the Bruins (38-27-6, 82 points) to a pair of victories. He registered 3-1-4, including his second career hat trick (also Dec. 23, 2011 vs. FLA) and third four-point effort of the season, in a 6-3 triumph over the Vancouver Canucks March 13. Marchand added 1-1-2 in a 5-2 victory over the Calgary Flames March 15, halting the Flames' winning streak at 10 contests. He closed the week with 1-2-3 in a 7-4 loss to the Edmonton Oilers March 16, giving him multiple points in three straight outings for the third time this season (also Jan. 24 - Feb. 1: 6-3-9 in 4 GP and Feb. 23-28: 3-4-7 in 3 GP). The 28-year-old Halifax, N.S., native ranks second in the League with 37 goals and third with 79 points through 71 games this season, including an NHL-best 27 tallies and 48 points in 2017 (32 GP).



SECOND STAR - SIDNEY CROSBY, C, PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

Crosby paced the League with six goals and ranked second with eight points in four starts to guide the Penguins (45-17-9, 99 points) to a 2-1-1 week. He recorded 1-1-2 in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Calgary Flames March 13. Crosby was held off the scoresheet in a 4-0 loss against the Philadelphia Flyers March 15, but bounced back with 2-1-3 in a 6-4 victory over the New Jersey Devils March 17. He capped the week with his 10th career three-goal game (and third career natural hat trick) in a 4-0 win against the Florida Panthers March 19. The 29-year-old Cole Harbour, N.S., native leads the NHL with 40 goals and 80 points in 65 games this season. Crosby's 40 goals are his second-best single-season total, behind the 51 he scored in 2009-10 en route to sharing the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy.



THIRD STAR - BRIAN ELLIOTT, G, CALGARY FLAMES

Elliott went 3-0-0 with a 1.95 goals-against average and .926 save percentage to help the Flames (41-27-4, 86 points) maintain third place in the Pacific Division. He made 32 saves - and turned aside all three attempts in the shootout - in a 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins March 13. Elliott then made 24 stops in a 3-1 win against the Dallas Stars March 17 and 19 saves in a 5-2 triumph over the Los Angeles Kings March 19. In doing so, he earned his 11th consecutive victory (1.70 GAA, .942 SV%, 2 SO) to tie Mike Vernon (Jan. 17 - Feb. 27, 1989) for the longest such run by a goaltender in franchise history. The 31-year-old Newmarket, Ont., native owns a 23-13-3 record with a 2.46 goals-against average, .911 save percentage and two shutouts in 41 appearances this season, his first with the Flames.

Something To "Mitch" About




ITS REAL NOW -  The Regina Pats have concluded the best regular season they have ever had.  I think many people knew when this team left the ice after a tough Game 7 loss at the hands of the Red Deer Rebels in last year's playoffs that they would be back and be a powerhouse, but did we think a 52 win season?

The energy at the Brandt Centre is off the chart as was evidenced at Friday's home finale against the Brandon Wheat Kings.  Regina hockey fans are feeling a level of excitement they haven't been at in years. Dare I say it, it hasn't been like this since I graduated in 1984 when Regina played Kamloops in what was a heartbreaking final.

If the energy is off the chart now, what is it going to be like next Friday night when the doors open at 6 and people start filing in for Game 1 against the Calgary Hitmen.  I am sure there will be a nervous sense of anticipation as it is any playoff year, but the Pats are heavily favoured and for good reason.  I don't think the target on their back gets any bigger, but they will have pressure on their shoulders.

While the fortunes of this team have increased tenfold since Anthony Marquart and his Queen City Sports and Entertainment Group took over, the reason for this renaissance in Regina junior hockey can be traced back to one person.

Image result for john paddock

Would this team be where they are at right now if it wasn't for John Paddock?  I say the answer is no! I will be the first to admit I didn't know what was going on when the Pats were about to begin training camp in August of 2014 and they had just hired the former coach of the Winnipeg Jets and Ottawa Senators who had just been released by the Philadelphia Flyers organization. I don't think he knew the names of the players when he came in much less the staff he would be working with. Yes, I think it took him a while to get acclamated, but he came in with a plan and so far it has worked.  Rob Vanstone's article in the Leader-Post Saturday accurately depicts what Paddock has done and is doing to turn the fortunes of this team around. 

Does it relate to Adam Brooks being presented with the Ed Chynoweth Cup in a couple of months time? A lot of hockey has to be played between now and then, but if all works out, don't be surprised.  That being said Moose Jaw, Medicine Hat, Swift Current and whoever comes out of the West will be no pushover so Regina will have to be at the top of their game. If Friday was any indication, they are!

ITS REAL NOW (PART 2)  - 



 On Sunday afternoon, I got a tour of Mosaic Stadium.  I had been on one after the keys were handed over to the city and I was there when the Rams played the Huskies in the first ever event at the new digs.  On both of those occasions, work was being done on the place. That work has been done!  Amazing doesn't even start to describe it.   The picture above is of the reception area to the team offices. More can be found if you keep going down.

On the night the Riders played their last game at Mosaic Stadium 1.0, I was with the Rams in Winnipeg in what was my first visit to Investors Group Field.  This place has that place beat and then some and IGF is a tremendous stadium as well.   On the night Canada officially turns 150 years old, a new chapter in Saskatchewan Roughrider football will begin when play starts at the Riders new home.  What the 33-thousand in attendance will experience on that night and what those who have had to deal with less than ideal conditions over the past number of years will have at their disposal now is jaw-dropping.


Player meeting rooms 

The offensive linemen's room where legends are remembered. It's like this in every room!

This guy isn't forgotten----nor should he be



Same with this guy!

 The staircase which leads from the players entrance to the dressing/meeting room facilities


The entrance to the Riders dressing room

The Riders dressing room----just a bit better from what they had!



There are so many things about this place I just love and can't get over. I think the biggest is the fact the team is honouring its greatest players. Imagine some wet behind the ears rookie coming into Saskatchewan and seeing the names on the wall and what they have accomplished while representing the /=S=/.  Hopefully, they will aspire to the point that they too want their name up on that wall one day whether it be as one of the all-time greats or a Grey Cup champion. 

 What Craig Reynolds and his group have done over the past number of years to give you and themselves a shiny new toy is a credit to himself, the organization and Rider Nation. Without all 3, Saskatchewan football fans wouldn't have what they are about to get.

  I don't know if the team is giving to give public tours of the facility before the season starts so you can see this stuff with your own two eyes, but impressive doesn't even begin to describe it.  This team went to several pro and college stadiums and got many ideas to mix in with the ones they had to give you what you are seeing.  They have turned over every stone they could to give what might be one of the best facilities in football including the NCAA and NFL. It isn't like what Jerry Jones has for the Cowboys in Dallas, but that complex could basically house a college and a high school team and football in Texas is life.

  Make no doubt about it, a state of the art facility doesn't guarantee wins and a lot of work needs to be done by the players and the coaches in year 2 of the Chris Jones era.  If what we saw Sundaycould translate into on-field performance, just book the parade now!

ITS TIME FOR CFL WEEK -  The tour comes just hours before the CFL sets up shop in the Queen City in the first (and hopefully not the last CFL week).  The access to CFL'ers will never be greater from players to coaches to GM's.  It should be a fun few days as we see the established stars and the up and coming ones doing their thing at the combine. Enjoy!

ISN'T IT IRONIC!!! - The US national womens hockey team continues its protest against USA Hockey. They say they want many things like what the Canadian team has which includes TV coverage. USA Hockey says Hockey Canada's contract includes TV coverage for many games.  This is true. It comes despite the fact not many show up at games.  UBC complained this week that Sportsnet which is showing the mens hockey semi-finals and finals while doing a great job with basketball last weekend decided to forgo bringing the women's national final to the network citing many things including lack of marketing and crowds.  

I can't argue that, but SNET should be doing all or as many University championships as they can. For what its worth, I didn't see arguments coming from volleyball over the fact SNET didn't do their championships this weekend.  It also brings up the argument as to why CBC simply isn't doing these and that is a valid point. CBC could do a lot better with weekend sports programming and University sports, no matter the one, could fill that void.

THE NEW HAWKS? - I had to laugh on Saturday when the Hockey Night in Canada guys were talking about Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner being the new Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane saying the Leafs are built like the Hawks when they started their championship run---one that could continue this year.  The reason I laughed is because a Leafs fan told me the same thing about 48 hours previous.  No doubt Matthews and Marner are going to lead Toronto to the playoffs if not this year then next, but the difference is still vast.

The Leafs only have one marquee defenceman--Morgan Rielly.  Chicago has Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.  Chicago had grit guys like Versteeg, Byfuglien, Brouwer and Ladd.  Toronto doesn't have that. Not yet!

VOTE ITUNA -  Saskatchewan has never had a winner in the Kraft Hockeyville contest.  To my knowledge, they haven't even had a town be a finalist.  That has changed with Ituna being named as the Western rep for the final ballot.  You have until 10 o'clock Monday night to vote.  Do so right here.  Cmon Saskatchewan!

MARCH MADNESS -  Madness indeed.  My bracket was looking great after the round of 64. I went 29-3. That being said, I only have 11 of the 16 remaining teams and Duke was one of my final four with them getting all the way to the final before being ousted by North Carolina. At least the Tarheels are still there, and so is Michigan!! By the way, ESPN had 18 million brackets filled out and only 18 have all 16 remaining teams left.

?????? -   Who thought this was a good idea?  Who? WHO???


I don't want to know where this slide starts!

That's all I got.  Enjoy CFL Week everyone!  Between it and Pats playoff action, Evraz Place will be the place to be. See ya there!

















Saturday, March 18, 2017

Ituna Looking To Win Kraft "Hockeyville" Contest




No Saskatchewan community has ever had the distinction of being named ” Kraft Hockeyville“, but the small town of Ituna is hoping they can get that distinction.
On Saturday night during “Hockey Night in Canada”, it was revealed the town located 135 kilometers northeast of Regina is going up O’Leary, Prince Edward Island in the final vote.
The winner gets 100-thousand dollars for arena upgrades which would go towards a new roof along with having the right to host an NHL pre-season game next September.  
Voting starts Sunday morning at 7 AM and ends Monday evening at 10 PM with the winner being announced on “Hockey Night in Canada” April 1.
This is the 11th year of the contest.

Swift Current-Moose Jaw First Round Playoff Schedule

 
Photo Courtesy SC Broncos 


The Moose Jaw Warriors have announced the schedule for their 1st round playoff series against the Swift Current Broncos.  The series opens in Moose Jaw with Game’s 1 and 2 on Friday, March 24th and Saturday, March 25th, the series will shift to Swift Current for Game’s 3 and 4 on Tuesday, March 28th and Wednesday, March 29th.
Warrior playoff tickets are available now for season ticket holders at the Mosaic Place Box Office or at the Warriors Office.  Season ticket holders have until Saturday, March 18 to purchase playoff packages, tickets go on sale to the general public on Monday, March 20 at 10am.
The Moose Jaw Warriors and Swift Current Broncos 2017 WHL 1st round playoff series is as follows:
Game 1: Friday, March 24 @ Moose Jaw 7pm
Game 2: Saturday, March 25 @ Moose Jaw 7pm
Game 3: Tuesday, March 28 @ Swift Current 7pm
Game 4: Wednesday, March 29 @ Swift Current 7pm
** Game 5: Friday, March 31 @ Moose Jaw 7pm
** Game 6: Saturday, April 1 @ Swift Current 7pm
** Game 7: Monday, April 3 @ Moose Jaw 7pm
** If necessary **
  
(MJ WARRIORS)

Friday, March 17, 2017

Pats vs Calgary WHL First Round Playoff Sked


Photo: Courtesy Keith Hershmiller 





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Canada's WBC Failure: Who is to Blame?


Image result for baseball canada

By Bob Elliott
Canadian Baseball Network
MIAMI _ Big picture wise?

The Team Canada picture from the World Baseball Classic photo is a messy one.

Out of focus.

Someone has spilled coffee on one dog-eared corner.

The other corner caught the morning Florida sun and faded to a strange tint.

The first thing about the 2017 WBC Team Canada photo upon closer examination is the missing players.

Canada can’t win without all its horses. And this March they took what amounted to a $25,000 Mohawk claimer compared to the previous three events.

As the Canadian Baseball Network’s George Farelli documented before the start of the tournament this was the worst year yet for getting out the every day players or members of key pitching staffs

_ In 2006 Canada had 11: Jason Bay, Corey Koskie, Justin Morneau, Peter Orr, Matt Stairs, Erik Bedard, Rheal Cormier, Jesse Crain, Jeff Francis, Paul Quantrill and Chris Reitsma. There were 10 minor leaguers with zero major league time.

_ Three years later in 2009 Canada had Mark Teahen, Joey Votto, Russell Martin, Bay, Koskie, Morneau, Orr, Stairs and Crain. Plus 11 who had never seen a day of big league action.

_ In 2013 it was down to seven: Brett Lawrie, Michael Saunders, John Axford, Morneau, Orr, Votto and Crain. Plus 12 who had not made the majors.

_ And this year the count was down to three: Freddie Freeman, Jimmy Henderson and Morneau. And a dozen had not made the majors.

After thanking this year’s edition of Team Canada after it was eliminated with a 9-0 loss to Team Canada, manager Ernie Whitt was asked by Alexis Brudnicki about his retiring players Pete Orr, Chris Leroux, Jonathan Malo and Ryan Dempster who were all down the hall taking off a Canada uniform for a final time.

Whitt said he could not thank them enough “for giving up their time, coming and trying to help out and play for their country. There’s so much pride that you can’t say enough about it.”

And then Whitt went were we don’t ever believe he has ever gone since he first took over managing Team Cananda for the 1999 Pan Am Games in Winnipeg for the princely sum of an airline ticket and meal money, when others had turned down the job. His focus has always been on who was in the clubhouse, not who was missing. But on a Sunday night in Miami after a lopsided 8-0 loss to Team USA he went elsewhere.

“Unfortunately,” began Whitt, “we came up on the short end and it’s unfortunate but the guys are not going to change. They’re still great quality people that we have in this system. To be quite honest with you, for us to compete at this level at the WBC, we have to have all of our players, all of our pro players.

“We just can’t put our roster up against teams like the Dominican Republic and United States if we don’t have all of our big league players.

“And until they make a commitment that they’re going to do that, we’re going to struggle in the WBC. We can win a game every now and then, but it’s just not the same type of roster that you would have if you had all of your players.”

Well, there you have it.

BOOM!

No surprise. Just the facts.

Why does Ryan Dempster start two of three games? Even if he was well rested with 1,270 days -- three years, five months and 21 days -- between his final start with the Boston Red Sox Sept. 17, 2013 and the WBC opener ... and then the third game of the round robin?

Four Canadians combined to make 41 starts in the majors last season: James Paxton (Ladner, BC) had 20 for the Seattle Mariners, Jameson Taillon (The Woodland, Tex.), 18 for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Andrew Albers (North Battleford, Sask.), two for the Minnesota Twins and Rob Zastryzny (Edmonton, Alta.) started once after the Chicago Cubs had clinched. Only Albers committed to pitch. Taillon was coming off an injury. Both of Taillon's parents are Canadian and he had a scoreless start against USA four years ago.

Dempster started because he was Canada’s best bet according to Whitt and director of national teams Greg Hamilton.

* * *
It’s unfair to knock players who did not show.

Nor is it fair to knock those who played.

The real culprits for a depleted Canadian roster?

We say major league executives and farm directors who tell players not to go, threaten demotion or a lack of steady work when they return.

Paxton wanted to make the Mariners rotation. We have no idea how many times a manager or general manager said “are you really sure you want to play in the WBC?” to people like Paxton or his agent.

Same with Adam Loewen, a previous WBC hero. Loewen stayed in the Rangers camp attempting to make the team. The major-league minimum is $530,000 US and players on teams eliminated in the first round earn about $5,000.

Brett Lawrie stayed in camp with the Chicago White Sox because he was afraid of returning to discover he had lost steady employment. He stayed and was still cut. Now, he’s injured.

People knocked Joey Votto for “wanting to work on things?” What is there to work on when he hit over .400 the second half? Well, he hit .209 the first two months. Plus, if Votto had played there would not have been room for Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman. And some have suggested a Votto-Freeman combination would have been better than Freeman-Morneau pair. Yet, that is not the way Team Canada works. No one was going to say that Morneau could not play. He came without a job and set about to contribute and make Josh Naylor, 19, a better player.

Michael Saunders, Pool MVP four years ago in Phoenix, was going to play if he was a free agent. After he signed a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Phillies he decided to put himself on the no-fly list.

Jameson Taillon of the Pittsburgh Pirates had minor arm issues last year, so likely would not have been cleared to pitch.

Russell Martin wanted to play but was not given approval due to insurance problems since he had post-season knee surgery.

John Axford said he was withdrawing for both professional and personal reasons which caused him to be a late scratch, just days after telling Oakland A’s writers about the Mexico-Canada bench clearing-brawl four years ago.

Prospect Mike Sorotka was not given approval by the Atlanta Braves.

LHP Scott Diamond (Guelph, Ont.) signed with the SK Wyverns in Korea and had to withdraw, while LHP Evan Grills (Whitby, Ont.), new to the Colorado Rockies organization, wasn’t given approval.

Sean Jamieson (Simcoe, Ont.), of the Arizona Diamondbacks who played shortstop on the Pan Am team, had surgery, while C Kellin Deglin (Surrey, BC), new to the New York Yankees organization injured his hand.

Individually each were reasonable reasons for missing play, but put them all together and there were more than last time or any time.

Executives hate the WBC while owners and players from most countries love it. Pity the poor Kansas City Royals who saw Venezuela catcher Salvadore Perez injure his knee. Meanwhile, Colorado's free-agent sign Ian Desmond needs surgery on his broken left hand.

The difference is Perez was playing in the WBC, while Desmond was hit with a pitch from Cincinnati Reds' Rookie Davis. GMs and farm directors have to learn that baseball is baseball, whether it is the WBC or a spring game in Arizona or Florida. The WBC is not running on a beach full of hidden mines, while spring training is laying in a hammock.

Rather than discouraging more than encouraging, management should make attendance mandatory as long as a player is not coming off an injury.

Think about it as a farm director or GM ... does your player become a better player in a spring game in Clearwater, Fla. or Peoria, Az. compared to playing in front of a sold-out noisy Marlins Park as Team USA played the Dominican Republic?

* * *
The lack of Canadian talent wasn’t just obvious to those in Miami:

An umpire came off the field at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium after the Toronto Blue Jays-Team Canada game and asked me “Where are all the players? Don’t you think was a mistake for Canada to have a split squad.” Of course there wasn’t any split squad.

A veteran scout before the Canada-Colombia game said “This team will go 0-3. Is all the other talent from your country in the Mexico pool?” An example of scout humour.

And a GM emailed Monday “Ernie had the ass (upset). I don’t blame him.”

“Internationally, I see Canada on the same level as Puerto Rico,” said an international evaluator, “Puerto Rico would be in the same mess if you took that many people away.”

* * *
How much of a mess is Canadian baseball in?

Well, the 2015 Canada entry into the Pan Ams in Ajax won gold, defending their 2011 title won in Mexico. They finished third in the World Cup that year as well. Five years ago they lost to Team USA in the final of the world juniors and host the Worlds this September.

* * *
What do players say? Is there a solution? Why did the fourth WBC have so many no-gos, no-shows and cancellations? And how does Canada better its recruiting progress?

Second baseman Peter Orr, who came out of retirement to play: “I agree 100% with Ernie. Nothing against everyone that came out here and did it, but yeah, you look at the other countries ... it’s hard for me to say. I don’t want to call people out, they are my friends but Ernie’s right. For us to take the next step, that is what has to happen. The guys in there, that’s not for us to think about, we play and did what we could do, try to be as professional as we could doing it. We stuck together all the way through. It was just a bad week. Sorry, I can’t say any more.”

Right-hander Ryan Dempster, who didn’t play as an active player once because he had signed a new deal with the Chicago Cubs: “You do need those players. It seems like spring training, the guys are more and more ready than they used to be and maybe that’s an opportunity the next time the WBC’s around for all those guys to play, because it does make a difference when you have those all-star calibre players. But at the same time, to each their own and everybody’s got their own reasons. I’ve been there before.”

Manager Whitt: “Well, I think that players have to buy into it. I don’t know what else you can say or do to them. If they watch the games and they see the excitement and the fans getting into it, and the way that all the players are playing for other countries, I’m dumbfounded in a sense that I don’t understand. But you also have to get the GMs and the ownership to buy into it and encourage their players to go. I understand their point, they have got a vested interest in some of these players with a lot of money. But if they’re going to get this to go, I think they’re going to have to go all out to encourage their players to go and play for their countries.”

Scott Richmond (North Vancouver, BC): “I respect this group. These guys were staples and a new chapter is starting. We don’t have the depth the other countries have. Hey, you have to ask them. I got on a plane in Taiwan and flew over.”

All we know is that this was the worst of the four years for bringing in established talent. This is not 1987 when Canada’s contribution to the majors consisted of two players: OF Terry Puhl (Melville, Sask.) and OF Doug Frobel (Ottawa, Ont.).