Sunday, June 26, 2005

Long Night for the Big Blue, will the season be even longer?

If Saturday nights match up with Saskatchewan was any indication, the 2005 season may be one to test the faithful at CanadInn stadium. The Bombers opened up the season by renewing acquaintances with the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Riders weren't particularly hospitable.

Nealon Greene took control of the Green riders offence and gave fans of the Green and white cause to forget about that guy named Henry. Greene launched a number of drives down the field during the course of the 42-15 victory finding receiver Matt Diminguez as a favourite target, Corey Holmes found success with both his running game and his special teams play and the Riders defence made life as miserable as the weather for the Blue in front of over 23,000 Rider fans (at least we assume they were Rider fans, the Bomber fans were quite quiet on the night).

The game started horribly for the Bombers and never really got any better, 12 seconds into the play Corey Holmes was in the endzone celebrating his first touchdown of the contest. Three minutes later Holmes collected 63 yards in a punt return setting up another Rider scoring play as Green carried the ball in for a touchdown himself from the four.

By the time the first quarter was over the Riders were up 16-0 and seemingly on cruise control. One of the few bright spots for Winnipeg was Keith Stokes 69 yard punt return for a touchdown for the Blue. That would account for almost half of the Bomber points on the night.

Saskatchewan look dominating on Saturday, which should give the "experts" cause to possibly reconsider the order of finish in the West. Most prognosticators have picked the Riders to finish in third, Saturday they gave notice that they just might not be willing to settle for that.

The take their undefeated record on to Hamilton on July 2nd, while the Bombers find life doesn't get any better as on Thursday night, they take on the Eskimos at their home opener in the Peg .

While it's probably not time to panic with just one game under their belts a poor performance at home against the Esks will certainly provide plenty of conversation material for the football talkshows in Winnipeg.

Lions begin their quest with a win over Grey Cup champs

The reunion of 2004 Grey Cup finalists went nicely for the boys in White and Orange. Having to sit through a banner unveiling, a Grey Cup Ring presentation and a smoke and laser show just gave BC time to focus on the pictures of Argo greats in the upper decks and on job at hand on the field. That of sending a message to the Argonauts, that the road to a Grey Cup repeat will be through their house at BC Place.

Dave Dickenson guided his offense successfully down the field to finish the game with a 27-20 victory over the defending champions. But this was no easy romp down the field. Dickenson was sacked and pressured all night long as the Lions offensive line seemed to take advice from that of Ottawa's and let the Argos roam the Lions backfield at will. If Jacques Chapdelaine doesn't get his O line on the same page as his receivers and running backs then Casey Printers may get his wish to be a starting QB. Dickenson is not mobile enough to face the onslaught of defenders night after night, he had a decent night of avoidance on Saturday but eventually those odds get shorter and shorter.

The game was an entertaining affair and delivered as promised as a rematch between division champs should provide. The Lions seemed to be in control at the half as they took an 18-6 lead, but the Argos did not back down and fought their way back into the contest, taking the lead half way through the fourth quarter at 20-19. However, Dickenson went to work marching the Lions downfield 89 yards before handing the ball off to Antonio Warren to score a major with just over a minute to go. A two point conversion added to the score and handed the game over to the Leo's defence to keep the Argos in check.

Damon Allen almost pulled one off again as time dwindled in the fourth taking the Argos down to the Lions 17, a toss to Arland Bruce III just slipped through is fingers in the deep endzone and that in the end would be the closest the Argos came to sending the game into OT. On the very next play Allen fumbled the ball after a hit by Chris Wilson, recovered by the Lions the offence took to the field and closed the game off on two plays.

The largest opening day crowd since 1992 went home disappointed no doubt, but a lack of entertainment is not something they could complain about. BC gets the bye for Canada Day weekend while the Argos head west and celebrate the nation's birthday with the folks at McMahon stadium. Their mood won't be very celebratory however, having let a home opener slip away they may wish to ruin Calgary's Canada celebration!

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Rens burned by Ray

Ricky Ray returned to regular season duty in the CFL on Friday night and put in a pretty good night's work on behalf of his Edmonton Eskimos. Taking fifteen minutes to get untracked Ray finally began moving the ball for the Esks in the second quarter and didn't look back until the final gun.

Edmonton kicked off the 2005 season in fine style with a 41-16 win over a game but outmatched Ottawa Renegades team. Joe Paopao's boys kept their heads up for the first half of the game, but by the third quarter it was apparent that on this night the Esks were far and away the better team.

Things started horribly for the Renegades who fumbled a punt deep in their own end of Commonwealth stadium giving the Eskimos a chance they really didn't need to put seven points on the board. But new Defensive coach Greg Smith would watch with pride as his D held up their end of the bargain by making a goal line stand, sending the Eskimos to the field goal unit, a bullet dodged for the moment, but as the game progressed there would be many more shots directed Ottawa's way.

Ray who has returned to the CFL from his NFL experiment, picked right up where he left off, throwing for 354 yards on 34 completions, throwing for two TD's and running for two on his own, he was a dominant player Friday, much like he was before he left for the US.

The problem for Ottawa was that of protection, Renegades QB Kerry Joseph was sacked seven times by Edmonton defenders, rushed for many more times resulting in incompletions, interceptions and sideline interviews explaining the breakdowns.

The Renegades won't have much time to figure out what to fix, the face Montreal at Frank Clair Stadium next Friday night and then travel to Vancouver to take on the Lions. A trifecta of hell for Joe Paopao who if nothing else will see how his team stacks up against the top echelon squads of the CFL. However the cost of these three games could be heavy, if game one is any indication points for and against may start to run wild by the time they play an improved Calgary squad in week four. By then they may very well be 0-3, something that Paopao and Marshall will be working hard to avoid.

For the Eskimos week one has been a good experience, Ricky Ray seems to be ready to roll, the defence is solid and the crowds are once again large, over 36 thousand taking in the season opener. The Esks have Winnipeg twice, Montreal and Ottawa again on their dance card for the next four weeks, many more chances for Ricky Ray to roll up the yardage and put some points on the board.

Thursday, June 23, 2005


Damien Cox of the Toronto Star put together an interesting look at the 2005 CFL season finding that the current lineup of teams promises some long sought after balance.

The column in the Star is a good sign for the CFL which has made great strides in rebuilding the brand in the Big Smoke.

The attention the season kickoff has received shows that progress continues, a few years ago the CFL season was greeted with a collective yawn by Toronto sports fan and media observer alike. But with a number of stars aligning properly this year the CFL has found itself back in the media spotlight. A good omen for a league that has struggled over the years in reclaiming a portion of the Toronto sports market for itself.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Alouettes hit the record books in season opener

Montreal sure knows how to kick off a season. Even before the season opener between the Als and Ticats took place the night had a special feeling to it. The Alouettes brought back Mike Pringle to the scene of some of his greatest successes, as in a sign of class and history they signed the former Alouette back to a one day contract so he could retire from the Canadian game in a Montreal Uniform. Pringle took to the field during the opening introductions took his bows, had his sweater number retired and made a prescient comment about everyone sitting back and watching an Alouette victory.

From there it was an Anthony Calvillo show and what a show he put on. Calvillo went into the Alouette record books by passing Sam Etcheverry in the pass completion category, registering his 1,989th completion by games end, passing the Rifles' tally of 1,969. Ben Cahoon joined in on the rewrite, catching his 500th pass as an Al, one more than 50's legend Red O'Quinn. The Ti-Cats Danny McManus even got into the record books (all be it in a losing effort) as he surpassed his own GM, the lengendary Ronnie Lancaster in total yards passing, McManus moves into second place overall with 50,632 all time passing yards.

With all this destiny in the air on Wednesday, it's not surprising that for the most part the Als were in control of the game, though it wasn't until the third quarter that they got fully untracked. And once again a change of possession would prove to be a costly error for the Cats.

While you have to admire Greg Marshall's gutsy calls on third and short, perhaps taking the gamble early in the third quarter when you're still only 7 points behind may not have been the wisest choice. Marshall's gambit didn't pay off, as a Danny McManus handoff didn't get the required yardage to move the chains past the Montreal 44. The Als took over on downs and Anthony Calvillo went to work with a laser like focus. A touchdown pass to Kenny Watkins into broken Ti Cat coverage resulted in the Als taking a 14 point lead. By the end of the third quarter it appeared that the Als were home and clear with their first victory of a brand new year.

But these Ti Cats aren't the team we remember of days gone by, this crew doesn't seem to have any quit in them. Despite Calvillo hooking up with local favourite Sylvain Girard for a touchdown and a 28-7 lead these Cats came back. A remarkable punt return by Craig Yeast as time ran down in the third cut the Als lead to 14 points and put the brakes on the Als offensive momentum.

In the fourth quarter an early interception by Jason Goss moved the Cats even closer to the Alouettes as Goss took the ball all the way to the Als endzone and within ten points of a typical CFL comeback. But on this night the 55th consecutive sell out at McGill would not be denied their celebration, as the Als held off a late Ti Cat charge to win the season opener 31-21.

While the game took a bit of time to develop in the first half, the second thirty minutes was full value for the money. Montreal showing signs that they may once again be the dominant team in the East, while the Cats proved once again that with their defence the game isn't necessarily over while they're still on the field.

All in all a pretty good season opener for 2005, a rather nice preview of what is ahead for us all summer and fall!

Welcome back boys!

For the sport deprived Canadian, the opening theme to the CFL on TSN was the sweetest sound in a long time. It was like an old friend coming back from a lengthy vacation ready to entertain you with some great tales. Man if we had a Wendy's in this burg, I'd have run out and bought a burger and a Frosty in celebration. The CFL returned to our TV's on Wednesday night, kicking off the 2005 Regular season and what a welcome guest it was.

After a winter of discontent courtesy of our absent hockey obsession, the green field of McGill University was a most welcome sight. Finally something to invest our time in with a rewarding payback. A sport where money doesn't carry as much weight, where the game is still a game and the players seem to give 110% for the sheer joy of the competition. Indeed after listening to the dinosaurs in the NHL and the NHLPA try to take their league to extinction, the return of the CFL is a signal that all is well again above the 49th.

Perhaps now this league will never be taken for granted again, for it means much more to us than we may have realized. The CFL represents community and continuity of tradition, a place where Canadian homegrown college grads can line up and make the big play, just as easily as a highly touted American import. It's a league for those just beginning a professional journey, or a place for those looking for a second chance. A spot where yes, you can come up and star for awhile and take your chance on a dream in the NFL, but also a place where you know you can return and find the fun in the game again.

Yes the CFL has made some blunders over the years, they stumble, shoot themselves in the foot and give one cause for headshaking at how good a game it must be to survive those that have run it in the past. But it's also a league that rises to the occasion time and time again, with bitter rivalries that have lasted through the decades, memories of Grey Cups and Labour Days, Thanksgiving Classics and Divisional nail biters, through the years the CFL has offered up the memories for the taking.

And now more than ever perhaps we'll give it a bit more of the respect it deserves. Hockey lost a year of it's life and most likely more than a few fans with their little turf war this past winter.

For now Canadians want only to watch the wars on the Turf. As Hank Jr. might put it, "we're ready for some football"

Welcome back guys, glad you're back in the house!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Fearless Twelve Man Forecast

With the start of the CFL Regular season less than 24 hours away, it's time for the Twelve Men on the Field fearless forecast. A bit of sooth saying that will be handy to throw in my face come Grey Cup Sunday in November.

From the West we suggest the following.

First Place-BC Lions, with Dave Dickenson sercurely in at number one now the Leos will be ready to roar all season long. As the Lions host the Grey Cup this year at BC Place this is THE year for them to get this done. Close last year but just a little too short a healthy Dickenson will go a long way to pacing them all the way to a first place finish. A strong defence, balanced offence and superior coaching should help this team along the way through the West standings. Only possible cloud on the horizon is a dis-satisfied Casey Printers who having had some success this year is making a fair amount of noise about wanting a better deal and a chance to hold down a number one QB spot. Pointing to Ricky Ray, Printers has been quite vociferous in the Leos camp the last week or so, it could prove to be a distraction if it continues on into the summer.

2nd Place--Edmonton Eskimos, two top pivots and a new coach with a new direction the Eskies have reloaded and are ready to challenge once again. Never far from the top even in their lean years this Eskimo team will keep the pace with the Lions all season long. Danny Maciocia begins his career as a CFL head coach by taking on the challenge of one of the CFL's most revered franchises. Every night there will more than 30,000 other coaches watching each and every play, Edmonton is a pressure city for CFL coaches it won't be long for us to see how he handles the magnifying glass.

3rd Place--Saskatchewan Roughriders, they had their shot at glory last year and came up a little short, since then they've lost the QB that they waited patiently for after an NFL experiment. With Henry Burris' s departure for the Stamps, Nealon Greene is thrust into the pressure cooker that is a Rider QB, with memories of Ron Lancaster still seared upon the prairie mindset, being a QB in Saskatchewan is a bit like following the pope to deliver a mass. It's been over three decades since Ronnie L strapped on the pads but he's still the gold standard in Regina. How Green fares will go along way to determine the success of the Riders. The running game will again be strong and the Green Defence will prove to be a stingy bunch, Edmonton could be within sight if things go right early in the season.

4th Place--Calgary Stampeders, a laughingstock no more the rescue from the Feterik clan is complete and finally football fans can concentrate on the game and not the circus. The first thing the new owners did was shore up the football angle of the team, Jim Barker is back in the Corrall as a player development guy the perfect spot for him, Tim Higgins brings his many years of Eskie knowledge down the Queen Elizabeth Highway as he takes over the coaching and GM reins. Two high profile acquisitions in the off season showed right away the new crew means business as Henry Burris was lured across the Saskatchewan/Alberta border and Jermaine Copeland was brought in to play catch with him. Already the offensive output in Calgary should jump. It won't be a banner year in Calgary but it's a sure bet to be a more enjoyable one than the last one was.

5th Place-Winnipeg Blue Bombers, for the Big Blue and their fans 2005 may be a very long year. The Blue stumbled badly through the year last season and while they've tried to improve their core group of players and look to revamp both offence and defence it will be a long season at CanadInn stadium. Kevin Glenn gets the ball to start the season, with Tee Martin and Spurgeon Wynn the designated followers, yet the name Khari Jones popped into conversation today when Jim Daley gave his state of the Blue talk. Suggesting that should injuries arise or a problem develop requiring immediate assistance he would have no hesitation in bringing Khari back to the scene of his greatest CFL success. If the Blue go 0-5 or so one wonders how long it takes the Jones' to pack and come home, we also wonder if they sold their home in the Peg. Regardless things seem to be rather tentative in Winnipeg a slow start there will be a death knell for the season.


1st Place- Toronto Argonauts, Damon Allen's swan song (then again the ageless one seems to be like the Energizer bunny, he keeps going and going and going). As defending Grey Cup champs the Argos will be a year older, bolder and ready to defend. Solid in the receiving corps, a dangerous running game and one of the best Defences in the league defense of the Grey Cup begins with pretty much the same crew that won the thing. Pinball Clemons seems to have a way with his players and shows no ego by delegating offensive and defensive duties to his respective coaches. Kent Austin and Rich Stubler. As long as Allen stays healthy the Argos are in a great position to repeat as East Champs.

2nd Place-Montreal Alouettes, Anthony Calvillo gets another year older and his Alouettes age with him. The dominant team in the East the last ten years shows signs of slowing down from time to time and then ramp things up to dominate again. Never count out a Don Matthews team as he badgers, bullies and motivates his teams to take on challenges they haven't thought of yet. The loss of Jermaine Copeland and Bruno Hemmill may be a worry, though the running game seems secure with former Argo Michael Jenkins picking up the slack. The big question mark for the Als will be Calvillo's back up, Ted White saw little to no action last year and it cost the Als in the playoffs. An injured Calvillo could send the Als tumbling fast, for the sake of the football fan at Molson stadium the O line had better be up to the task.

3rd Place-Hamilton Tiger Cats, everything seems positive for the Black and Gold in Hamilton, the fans are back and football is once again a vital part of the entertainment scene along the Horseshoe. Ivor Wynne Stadium is no longer a graveyard for the CFL but indeed a celebration of it's success and importance to a community. With Greg Marshall's amazing run last year under his belt this is a wiser more stable Ti Cat squad which is showing some confidence as the season begins anew. Danny McManus is back to prove the nay sayers wrong as the long reigning CFL QB takes charge of his Ti Cats offense for what may be his farewell tour. The Cats caught a lot of teams by surprise last year and that won't happen this year and McManus' age is of concern. Not to mention the sour feelings that developed when the Cats were courting a Flutie family reunion. Whether that has any long term effect on the teams make up will show through early on.

4th Place, Ottawa Renegades, the good news is the franchise survived it's neglect of the off season as the CFL desperately tried to find someone to take over the financial mess that developed in Ottawa. The jury will be out for a while as to whether the return of the Gliebermen will have been the best move, but to their credit, they did step up with their cheque book ready and plan to polish up their image from the last stay in the Capital. As for the football, Joe Paopao has done an amazing job of keeping this team focused on football as training camp started. From virtually no work in the off season Paopao has at least brought in a strong group to challenge for positions. Kerry Joseph will once again be the QB for the Rens and Rens fans hope he can return to form and pick up some early wins. It will probably be a long year for the Renegades but at least they're still in business. The ball shifts to the Gliebermen, to prove their dedication to Ottawa they will have to head to the bank a few times as the season progresses to bring in some help. Ottawa fans who have for far too long had to live with substandard teams are watching intently, a show of good faith on the part of ownership may help sway some of the negativity that seems to permeate the CFL in Ottawa.








Thursday, June 16, 2005

Controversy? What Controversy?

Three hundred yards in passing, done in less than 45 minutes of play pretty well solidified the starting QB job in BC tonight. Dave Dickenson took to the field ( a new player friendly field by the way) at BC Place Stadium and directed an awesome display of Lion offence on the way to 32-16 pre season victory over the Calgary Stampeders.

Dickenson had listened patiently during the off season and through training camp as the Vancouver media worked the QB controversy angle at the Lions den. But on Thursday night he did some talking of his own, all of it on the field and most of it at the expense of a shell shocked Calgary secondary. Dickenson completed 22 of 27 passes for his 311 yards, including a TD toss to Geroy Simon on the third play of the game. Calgary got one pass back with an interception as the first half was winding down. In addition to the aerial assault on the Stamps the Leos used the run to full advantage sending Antonio Warren into the endzone twice on short runs for fourteen points. Duncan O'Mahony tallied the rest of the Lion points of his foots with three field goals and singles off of impressive punts. With his domination over the Stamps complete, back up Buck Pierce took the ball in the third, sitting in for the ailing Casey Printers.

Henry Burris continued to work on his game plan for the Stamps, once again finding Jermaine Copeland's hands to his liking as he launched a fifty yard rocket to Copeland for a TD. Sandro DeAngelis kicked three field goals to wrap up the Stamps scoring, all of it in the first half as they were shut down by the Leos in the second half.

The tune up for both teams completes the pre season, the Stamps can kick back relax (and practice) until the Canada Day holiday when they open their season at home to the Argos. The Leos now put the finishing touches on the roster lineup, with the QB situation taken care of quite nicely at the moment. With Printers nursing a sore shoulder and an occasional toe problem, the ball is going to be Dickenson's to take charge of for the next little while, with a display like the one tonight, one suspects that he won't be relinquishing the job upon Printer's return to full health.

Eskimos beat up on Big Blue

Jason Maas returned to the Green and Gold lineup on Thursday night and concerns over his off season shoulder surgery recovery were put to a quick rest. Maas took charge of the Eskimo offence as he passed 9 of 11 times successfully for 120 yards including a 22 yard TD pass to Trevor Gaylord, for a final exhibition of readiness Maas ran the ball himself four times for fourteen yards giving his reconstructed shoulder a solid workout. Maas began the scoring for the Eskies but it was Khari Jones who received the bulk of the work Thursday at his old stomping grounds of CanadInn stadium.

Jones took over with seven minutes to go in the second quarter and went 11 for 15, tossing for 151 yards giving up one interception and feeling the heat from a Bomber defence that put him on the turf five times, including a safety.

The former Bomber pivot played through until late in the fourth quarter when he turned the ball over to Jason Johnson, leaving the game with a 20-9 lead. Johnson took the Esks down to the four yard line before coach Maccocia settled for a Sean Fleming field goal to finish off the scoring for the night and securing the 23-9 victory for the Eskies.

Troy Westwood accounted for the bulk of the Bomber scoring, nailing two field goals while the safety and a single wrapped up the scoring for the Blue in their final pre season game.

Kevin Glenn started the night at QB for the Blue, tossing 12 passes, 6 of them successfully for 90 yards. One of his unsuccessful passes ended up as an interception for Donny Brady who took advantage of a stumble by receiver Wane McGarrity, Brady's pick turned into a turnover quickly capitalized on by Jason Maas.

Tee Martin and Spurgeon Wynn took turns to finish off the night at QB for the Blue, as they battle it out for the back up spot behind Glenn in Winnipeg.

The Bombers now prepare for the regular season opener on Saturday night June 25th at Taylor Field in Regina, a game featured on TSN. The Eskimos will await the arrival of the Ottawa Renegades who kick off the 2005 season at Commonwealth Stadium on June 24th, the debut of Friday Night Football on TSN for another year.

Als to Rens: Curb your enthusiasm

With the Renegades riding a one win streak heading into Thursday nights CFL exhibition contest at Frank Clair Stadium, the Montreal Alouettes felt it proper to remind them of the pecking order in the East.

With Anthony Calvillo taking the helm at QB for three quarters the Alouettes launched an air assault on the Rens on the way to a 37-16 victory. The tune up for Calvillo provided him with ample opportunity to test his arm as he passed for 280 yards, completing 20 of 36 passes, one of which went for a TD and Calvillo kept the interceptions at zero. Free agent acquisition Michael Jenkins tallied up fourteen points one on the TD pass from Calvillo the other on a run, field goals and a fumble recovery in the Ottawa endzone accounted for the other Alouette points. Back up Ted White was handed the ball for mop up duty in the fourth quarter.

Kerry Joseph played one half of football for the Renegades as Joe Paopao continued to experiment with his lineup against a pretty set Montreal roster. Joseph's numbers on the night were 10 passes for 82 yards and no interceptions, Joseph hooked up with Jason Armstead on the second play of the game to pick up the first seven points of the night for the Renegades. Darnell Kennedy fresh from his return from Calgary saw action; as did rookie Paul Peterson as they spelled Joseph in the second half.

For the Rens it was an important barometer for how they shape up against a perennial powerhouse in the CFL east, for Montreal it was vindication after last weeks surprise loss to the Rens at Molson stadium.

Montreal now prepares for the season opener on Wednesday when the Ti-cats make the trek to the McGill campus, Ottawa will travel west to Edmonton to take on the always daunting Eskimos.

The final snaps of June

Like my entries in the opening kick off, we'll also recap all our final snap features for the month right here. Some of the quotables that make the CFL interesting will be offered up for your perusal.

June 28 "I don't know why you can't have fun"
June 26 "We've got to find a way to protcet our Quarterback better"
June 24 "He understands my situation and has no problems with me"
June 22 "I know I can't jump in a game this week. But I want to start preparing"
June 21 "I hope people pick us to be dead last all the way up until the playoffs"
June 20 "We're rewarding him"
June 17 "We had our highs and lows tonight"
June 16 "This is the most I've ever played in pre-season, ever!"
June 15 "They've treated me like a first class citizen"
June 14 "Sometimes you get wear and tear!"
June 11 "Between myself and the Board of Governors we''ll do what's right"

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Hey Halifax! Moncton begs to differ.

With all the post mortems of last weekends Exhibition game at Halifax's Husky stadium apparently very positive, one would think that a tenth franchise for the CFL is not far away for Halifax.

But hold on a minute say the folks in New Brunswick, (to read more you have to pay, so get the gist and save your cash) as the group looking to bring a franchise to Moncton says they're on the ground running and running hard. And while Halifax may have won the first skirmish, could it be that Moncton will win the war.

Moncton is about to put in a bid to place a ten thousand seat stadium for the 2008 IAAF track and field championships, once up and established it won't be a stretch to expand that structure to the 25,000 seats required to make a go of a pro franchise. Add to the mix that Moncton while less populated, is actually more central to the entire Atlantic region and well dream the dream folks. Moncton by its location can bring more people to the game in a shorter traveling distance than Halifax can from it's far southern locale.

In addition to those basic points, the New Brunswick government seems more inclined to offer assistance to the fledgling group, which is always a positive moves in the eyes of the cost wary CFL.

While the competing groups make their noise and set up their ducks, the prospect of one city or the other landing the franchise has Atlantic Football fans talking, talking and talking.

So while Halifax put on a terrific show and has been patiently waiting for the CFL to arrive for over fifteen years, there is still a lot of work to be done. The stadium issue is the Achilles heel in any bid, indeed this is one situation where if they build the CFL will come, all that remains to be seen is if they keep on traveling down the road to the port city, or hang the CFL shingle in the middle of New Brunswick.

The Opening Kickoffs of June

We begin the 2005 season with a return to our Opening kickoff format for those stories that give us a snapshot of the CFL that day. This will link you up to the stories as the season progresses, each story archived here for the month listed.

So as we head to opening day, here are the Opening Kickoffs of June.

June 28 Khari from afar
June 28 Perhaps add this to the skills competition
June 28 Talkin' tough if not looking it in Winnipeg
June 26 Rens begin job of putting bums in the seats
June 26 Icons in the upper decks
June 26 No Maas for the media
June 24 The flight home will be a dry one!
June 24 Ready to put a bad memory to rest
June 24 Argos want to show Leos who's the boss
June 22 The Lions Cup to lose?
June 22 In praise of Pringle!
June 22 The weakest link?
June 21 Wallys' door is always open
June 21 Pringle to retire as an Alouette
June 21 Peek a boo time in the Peg
June 20 Stamps look forward to work these days
June 20 Casey takes his bat
June 20 If they build it, who will pay?
June 17 A flag before the play
June 17 The long, long road
June 17 A roast, a toast and a Ring!
June 16 Boys on the Bubble
June 16 This guy is no dog!
June 16 Est ce que tu prepare pour le football?
June 15 Stegall in Blue and Gold for Life
June 15 A well done (and well done) Leo the Lip
June 15 Addition by suspension
June 14 Who gets all the reps?
June 14 In BC it's what have you done for us lately!
June 14 Count Kerry as a believer
June 11 Argos and Ti-Cats kiss their sisters in Halifax
June 11 Ricky X-ray
June 11 Stamps add to the air attack in their arsenal

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Ray's returned marred by injury

The return of Edmonton Eskimo Ricky Ray to the Green and Gold provided for a brief show Friday night, as Ray left the game in the first quarter with a leg injury. A huge pre-season crowd of over 37,000 watched on at the Eskimo pre season debut, as Ray was helped off the field, surrendering the QB duties to Khari Jones who has quickly returned to number one status with Jason Maas still on the sidelines due to injury.

After further review it was determined that Ray has suffered a hyper-extnded knee and will most likely miss the rest of training camp and perhaps the season opener. For Jones the game presented an opportunity to remind football fans that he's still starting material and certainly should not be pegged as the number three guy as he was prior to the game.

Facing his old team the Bombers the Esks pivot quickly got into the groove of the game leading the Esks down the field to take a 13-10 lead into the half. Kevin Glenn and Spurgeon Wynn split the duties for the blue and Gold while Jason Johnson finished the game for the Esks, leading Edmonton down the field to set up the tying field goal by Sean Fleming with not time left in the fourth.

With the 20 - 20 tie both teams picked up a few ideas on what needs to be addressed in training camp before the two sqauds renew acquaintances on Thursday night in Winnipeg. With Ricky Ray out for the camp and Jason Maas still on the Injured list it will Khari Jones taking the snaps as he returns to the city he once owned.

For both teams Thursday will provide one final test before rosters are set for the regular season, suddenly Edmonton's depth at Quarterback has proven to be a bonus. Something rookie head coach Danny Macocia didn't think he'd need this early in the season, but must be thankful for as the Esks continue to work off the off season rust.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

One win does not a season make, but……………….

For Joe Paopao, Father’s Day has arrived early. Papa Joe’s boyos from Ottawa tossed aside the disorganized start of a training camp and gave the coach cause for hope for the 2005 CFL season.

The Renegades went into Montreal and took advantage of some uncharacteristic giveaways and penalties to take the first win of the 2005 campaign, albeit a pre-season and thus meaningless game but a win is a win is a win. And for a team that finished 2004 in a flameout of epic proportions, the win on Thursday at Molson Stadium is certainly a sign of better days to come.

Granted Anthony Cavillo the Al’s perennial all star and accomplished starter didn’t get much work, but neither did Rens QB Kerry Joseph for the first half so on this night it would seem that the Renegade auditions outperformed their Montreal counterparts. Joseph however, would enter the game in the third quarter and be the determining factor on this night.

Paopao must be particularly pleased with the effort of his players for it has been he and he alone that have held this Renegade squad together through the training camp and the swirling mess that was the ownership transfer. With new bosses only in place by a couple of weeks, Paopao managed to keep his players focused on the football a task that surely must have tested him often.

For the new (then again are they the old?) owners the Glieberman’s the victory of game number one must surely give them cause for celebration. It may be that their investment may not be a rusty old car after all but just something that needs a bit of attention in the garage, a tune up, a couple of coats of paint, some new tires and brakes and hey this baby is ready for the road.

Ottawa fans that have been burned a few times by the numerous teams that called the capital home have been hesitant to jump on the team’s wagon this time. But perhaps this team will win them over. The work ethic seemed to be in place Thursday, the defence in particular taking the play to the Al’s offence time and time again. Listening to the game on the Team 1200 you got the impression that talk of the Rens being pushed around this year may not be quite on track.

Cut down day comes up on Monday at midnight, 18 players will be issued their walking papers at that time as the team pares down to a 50 man interim roster. Part of the hard fought battles on Thursday were with that deadline in mind, players trying to make that lasting impression on the coaches to perhaps tide them over from the initial cuts. It no doubt will be a gut wrenching time for Paopao as he shakes hands and wishes the eighteen his best, it’s the nature of the game. But with the effort of his team Thursday the job just got a little bit harder, a situation that Papa Joe will no doubt be glad for.

The players in camp battle for positions while the team battles for a little respect from its CFL peers, for one game anyways they earned some respect. One game does not a season make, but it’s a hell of a start….

Waiting for Noah to lead the animals two by two

The Calgary Stampeders kicked off their 2005 season with a splash, possibly a tidal wave. Torrential rains played havoc with the Stamps and Saskatchewan Roughrider plans for Tuesday night as the nasty weather made playbooks seem irrelevant for the debut of the two teams this year.

Henry Burris returned to Calgary and faces high expectations as the Stamps retool for the New Year, his first play from scrimmage a surprise play that saw him flip the ball off to newcomer Jermaine Copeland who tossed the ball downfield to Nik Lewis catching the Rider secondary sleeping. Considering the state of the conditions it was possibly the perfect call, rather than feeling out the Riders defence the Stamps went right at them. Perhaps it serves as an announcement to the Stamp faithful that last years miscues won’t be repeated, the Stamps are going to go for it from the opening whistle and they did. With a TD reception before the folks could wipe off their seats, the Stamps were 7 up on the Green Riders.

From then on it was like a prize fight as each team slogged through the rain to put points on the board and showcase their talents for the coaches. With CFL training camps limited to two pre season games, the amount of time to impress your coach and secure employment for the year is limited.

Rocky Butler gave comfort to the Rider faithful engineering a 60 yard drive capped by a one yard dive into the end zone to take the lead in the third quarter, but in the end the Stamps would take the lead for good.

The horrid conditions resulted in the kicking game making a difference and Calgary’s Sandro DeAngelis had a heck of a baptism by fire as he nailed four field goals to ensure the Stamps would prevail 18-14 at McMahon Stadium.

The Stamps who are trying to erase the misery of last years debacle are off to a good start, with Burris back in Cowtown and Copeland joining the offence the Stamps have some threats for downfield success. The Riders who just missed heading for a Grey Cup berth last year will once again compete in the West, but the question now may be did they miss their chance at the prize last year. With a rejuvenated Stamps squad and some powerhouses in Edmonton and BC the Riders may be in tough this season.

One game into a preseason and every play seems to count. Not a bad way to kick off the 2005 season!