The Canadian Football League regular season kicks off this week and there are usually a few signs early on that allow us to determine which teams will be incompetent over the summer. For years, we laughed at Winnipeg. Whether it was Mike Kelly and his bonehead coaching, or his bosses and their head scratching decisions, you just knew the Blue Bombers had no hope of competing, let alone contending. Well, I think Winnipeg is finally on the right track. I’m not sure what that means as far as wins, but I feel as though there is now a sense of direction and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them return to respectability in the near future.
If Winnipeg is on the upswing, who is on the down? Well, news out of Edmonton on Sunday that new head coach Chris Jones has banned the media for the entire season should be a big clue that these guys are going nowhere if not south. Name me a professional sports team that has had success on the field and off it by doing something like this. It’s stupid. Shortsighted. And, a real good indicator of what to expect. To me, ownership should act now and punt General Manager Ed Hervey and Jones out of town. If you think about it, the media represent the fans who don’t get every day access to the team. By shutting out the media, you are basically giving a royal salute to your fans. Fans should respond to this by spending their extra dollars at a venue other than Commonwealth this season. I think I could write an entire article on Edmonton and how far their sports teams have fallen over the years, but I won’t. I’ll simply suggest they tear down their City of Champions signs and go with something that isn’t sports related to promote their city. It’s a toss up as to whether it’s the Eskimos or the Oilers that are more poorly run.
I don’t think Montreal is going to be one of the better teams either. The cutting of Jamel Richardson is puzzling and one that doesn’t stand to do them much good. I’m thinking they will need a guy like him at some point and there will be another team in the CFL that will, gladly, take his production. It’s reminiscent of when Arland Bruce was sent packing by Hamilton and ended up being a very good player for the BC Lions. I will grant you Bruce had a lot of character issues and I wouldn’t really want him on my team either, but the Ti-Cats weren’t flushed with talent. They struggled and BC won a Grey Cup.
As far as the Riders go, they will be just fine as long as nothing happens to Darian Durant. After Durant, the quarterback cupboard looks close to bare. Keith Toston should, eventually, emerge as a quality running back. I think Brett Swain and Chaz Schilens have a real chance at helping replace the missing production of Weston Dressler and don’t be shocked if Taj Smith (as long as he stays off the police blotter) has a monster season. I’ve got the Riders finishing 12-and-6 and in the mix for a repeat Grey Cup title. I also have a hunch John Chick delivers a career year on defense.
There’s been some grumbling about the lack of fan support for the Riders in their two preseason games, well to that I say this: don’t tell me it’s not as important as the regular season (which you already do by saying preseason) and not dangle a carrot to get me to go. Why should I pay regular season prices for tickets, parking, concessions, and drinks for two preseason games? I’m no genius, but I wonder if more money couldn’t have been made by offering tickets for 50% off, and selling alcohol for $5 (instead of $6.50). Frankly, the whole $6.50 thing is a little silly to me. Make people spend $25 and they get four tokens. Most people go in pairs, so that’s two drinks each. Most of the fans I come in contact with by the end of the third quarter will have spent a good $75 just on themselves anyway.
Rogers announced its NHL schedule on Sunday and there still seems to be some confusion as to what will and what won’t be available to watch. Here it is in a nutshell (and if I’m wrong, then Rogers is really screwing up how they are marketing this): anyone who has a good cable package will see national televised games on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday. You will still get the Oilers and Flames games on Sportsnet West and you still will not get the regional games on Sportsnet Pacific/East/Ontario (Canucks). You will also not get the regional games offered by TSN (Jets, Habs, Sens, Leafs). That’s the whole purpose behind the NHL Centre Ice package. If you want to see everything, then that’s what you need to buy. For most of us, I think the healthy dose of what Rogers offers up on their nine channels will be more than enough.
Sorry for all the sports this week. Nice person mentions to Craig Geisler, Curtis Stepp, Chad Ror, Brian Munz, and Don Chesney.