Sunday, January 16, 2005

Shine time at the Shrine!

Three Canadians took to the field in San Francisco Saturday afternoon, taking part in College Football's East/West Shrine game, a mixture of exhibition football and talent pool combine. And while they didn't rack up much in the way of points, they did make a contribution to the highly competitive talent pool of US college football.

Nick Kaczur from Brantford, Ontario plays his college ball in the States and was representing the University of Toledo at Saturday's affair. Kaczur an offensive tackled held his own in the muddy bog that became the field saturated by rains the last two weeks or so. Kaczur is expected to be drafted in the first few rounds of the upcoming NFL draft, so his performance today certainly didn't do any damage to that potential scenario.

Nick Johanson of the UBC Thunderbirds represented the Western half of Canadian college ball, the defensive lineman found the talent pool rather impressive and got a full aerobic workout chasing the running game during his stint on the field. While he got a look see by the NFL scouts it's expected he'll begin is pro career somewhere in a CFL city.

But the most heralded of Canucks invading the US field on Saturday was McMaster Marauder's Jesse Lumsden, who dominated Canadian college ball this year. Lumsden accounted well for himself on the US field today, leading the East in rushing, picking up 41 yards on five carries. Lumsden was not put into the game until the third quarter, but once in the line up certainly made the best of his "show time", one run in particular highlighted his power running status as he blasted through the line and galloped for 21 yards.

He more than likely opened a few eyes in the scouting world and probably has increased his draft potential in the upcoming NFL draft. Lumsden has made no secret of his hope to at least get a shot at an NFL training camp, and he may get his wish. ESPN seemed to have a lot of his stats and background on hand for the broadcast, a sure sign that there is some interest in his name below the 49th.

Well worth the trip to the city by the bay!

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Farewell to the F troop!

Football sanity has returned to the Stampede city. With the stroke of a pen and the transfer of a few million dollars the days of the Feterik's in Calgary have come to an end. Hallelujah Stamp fans, and indeed CFL fans, the F troop is no more!

The Stampeders were sold Wednesday to a group of local Calgarians, who plan to do something that hasn't been seen in Calgary for three years, allow the football people to run the football team.

Michael Feterik made his farewell bows, ran to the bank and cashed his cheque. Leaving behind a bending, but not broken football team in his wake. Feterik a self made millionaire a number of times over will return to the box building business from whence he came. Leaving behind a football team that seem to lurch from one crisis to another during his three year tenure. Chasing away to the shores of the Pacific, one of the most successful football minds in the country while taking a Grey Cup championship squad and turning it into a West division doormat. All while telling anyone to listen just how smart a business mind he had.

And while the bills were paid on time and no salaries were ever missed, the sense of turmoil never seemed far from the surface during the Feterik years. From insisting that his son Kevin be on the depth chart at Quarterback, to the many questionable personnel decisions over the three years the Stamps went from a template franchise to a tumbling franchise.

As Feterik exits the Stampeder stable, the new crew have a great deal of work to do and fortunately for Calgarians hard work is something the new ownership group thrives on. Led by John Forzani, Dave Sapunjis, Doug Mitchell and Ted Hellard the new ownership has deep ties to the city and will be quick to bring the franchise into good books with a city that has remained loyal if worried about their team.

It's expected that Head coach and GM Matt Dunigan will be bought out of his commitment to the franchise as will team President Ron Rooke. Expected to join the Stamps shortly are former coach JIm Barker who is expected to be given charge of the team personnel department. Joining him at McMahon stadium will be Tom Higgins who spent the last three years as Head Coach of the Edmonton Eskimos. Higgins of course has a deep history with the Stamps, having been an assistant coach in Calgary for nine seasons before hopping on the Red Arrow north.

While the Feterik funhouse was in full operation, Higgins was busy winning in Edmonton. Something that the Calgary faithful will forgive quite easily, should he deliver their first winning season since Wallyball played on the turf at McMahon.

CFL Commissioner Tom Wright said it all with some simple words, said Wright "I'm excited about this". Football fans across the country can share in his excitement, a proud CFL Franchise has been delivered to some sure hands. Whether you're a Stamps fan or not, the circus days are gone in Calgary, for that all CFL fans should say Thanks.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Huge Hole to fill in Hamilton

Welcome to the job to Hamilton's newly hired Personnel Director Craig Smith, the recent hire from BC has just been handed his first official headache. Find a replacement for Tim Cheatwood!

The Cats lost their dominant defensive player Friday, when Cheatwood signed a deal with the Houston Texans of the NFL. Cheatwood had been showcased for the Denver Broncos prior to signing his contract with the Texans.

The sack leader for the CFL in 2004 was in his option year with the Cats, so if the Texans don't keep him around after training camp in September he could be back in Ti Cat black and gold. However, not too many are expecting him to be making the trek to Ivor Wynne in 2005.

Smith's first goal is to increase the scouting staff in the USA, the first job they probably will be given is to identify some hidden gems for the Defensive Line. Cheatwood became a diamond, the Cats have to get back into the mine and find another one.

Confusing signals from the Renegade brigade

Just when you think things are going oh so smoothly, up pops a bit of confusion to make you think oh, oh here we go again.

With the glow of the good times, good football and positive vibes of Grey Cup weekend now long gone. It's the cold wind off the Rideau canal that blows through the Renegade offices. With ownership in apparent disarray, the Rens at least managed to get someone onboard to make a few player personnel decisions for the CFL team.

Welcome Back Joe Paopao, we guess that Winnipeg Head Coach Jim Daley can now scratch your name from his possibles list, with your decision to not only return as head coach of the Rens, but to add on the duties of General Manager to your resume.

With some massive indecision that had started to resemble a rather sad joke, the Rens finally made up their mind regarding the status of former GM Eric Tilman and the hanging in the wind Paopao. Tilman was left to explain that no he hadn't been negotiating for another job (though as things turned out he might have wished he had tried a little harder one guesses) and had unfinished business in Ottawa. It would seem now that the unfinished business is to pack up the house and buy the tickets back to the States.

With Tilman exiting, Paopao takes centre stage of the Rens. His task now is to reassure the current Rens that things are stable, that the team has a plan and probably most importantly that the paycheques will keep flowing.

Now the last one is a pretty easy one, Brad Watters co-owner (for now) of the Rens has said that there is no question of the Renegades continuing on with their CFL experience in the next year. Which will be welcome news from the once jilted CFL fans of the capital.

Of course the rumours of the return of the Glieberman's will keep the team in the headlines over the cold cold months of winter. Lonnie and Bernie are ready and willing to pony up the cash to take on equity with the team that was once theirs. And perhaps that is the most tangible signal that things may not be all okey dokey in Ottawa. With a reported loss of 2 million dollars (and that comes on the heels of hosting the money making Grey Cup) the Rens are in a bit of a cash squeeze it seems. Some owners want out, but are holding up their departure for just the right deal.

For now fans of the Rens should just be thankful that the throwin' Samoan is back in the game, it's a signal of some stability and the popular coach will offer a calming influence to things while the business details work out. With players to sign, players to scout and on field plans to make, Paopao may be the busiest guy on Bank street for the next few months.

Keeping a watchful eye on things is the league office in Toronto, Commissioner Tom Wright has been prodding the current owners to get on with the job, lest the noise of a league on the cusp of trouble start to get louder. So far the only other forward move besides signing Paopao has been to jack up the price of tickets, not exactly a reward for loyalty for the long suffering Rens fans.

For the CFL it's run of positives of 2004 are still being used to create some buzz about the league, the last thing they need is an internal feud breaking out into the open taking the franchise to the mat with it.