Saturday, July 28, 2007

138, 139 and counting…

He has complied thirteen years with one team and 139 touchdowns all with the blue and gold. And on Friday night, in front of a sold out crowd at CanadInn stadium, the players and fans of the Blue Bombers celebrated excellence as Milt Stegall set a new CFL record for touchdowns.

Passing such legendary CFL names as Mike Pringle and George Reed, Stegall made the record his own in the second quarter of play, off of a Kevin Glenn shovel pass on the one yard line. It was a long awaited achievement for the Blue and Gold and their fans, an opportunity to finally break loose and celebrate a great success that was only a matter of time.

And as would be expected, he was involved in much of the play leading up to it. Stegall had carried most of the freight on the record setting touchdown drive, involved in four of the six plays for most of the yardage, capping it with the one yard toss to cross the goal line.

Once Stegall broke that goal line, the sold out crowd, the third consecutive sell out at CanadInn stadium this year broke out in a thunderous chant of the name of the Bombers star, the game suspended play for five minutes while Stegall basked in the accolades of the crowd as TSN’s Brian Williams handled the on field salutations. Classy as ever, the new record holder first thanked Ti Cat head coach Charlie Taaffe and the Tiger Cats for allowing the interruption to the game, from there he thanked all the usual characters, from God through his family and on to CFL fans across the country and of course the faithful of CanadInn stadium who have been on the journey with him for thirteen years now.

Milt Stegall arrived in the CFL in 1995, after three seasons with Cincinnati and a cup of coffee with the Green Bay Packers of the NFL. Originally on the Tiger Cat negotiation list prior to 95, they dropped his name when they thought the chances of his moving north had come and gone. As events would turn out, unfortunately for the Black and Yellow they were a little premature and the Bombers snapped up his rights, the rest as they say is history.

For good measure on Friday night, the Bomber receiver picked up another touchdown with less than two minutes go, makring number 139 in the record book and putting some distance between him and the previous record holders.

139, it’s the new CFL benchmark. It means a new entry for the CFL record books, a new record that will list a name of Stegall for quite a few years.

(Above picture can be found at the Globe and Mail website)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Week Five

Saturday, July 28--BC Lions 32 - Calgary 27
Saturday, July 28--Saskatchewan 54 - Edmonton 14
Friday, July 27--Winnipeg 36 - Hamilton 18
Thursday, July 26--Montreal 26 - Toronto 13

Attendance on the rise after two home games

With all CFL teams having now had two home gates, things are looking promising for the 2007 season.

Only the Hamilton Tiger Cats had some serious slippage from this time last year. The Cats second home gate, which came on the heels of an 0 and 2 start, saw 5400 fans less in the Ivor Wynne Stands for the second game. Hamilton attracted 21542 to game number two, down from last year’s crowd of 26944 for the second game of the year.

BC and Calgary saw slight drops in attendance for the second home gate, though nothing of consequential value as the Stamps found 194 less in attendance from last year, while the Lions gate crowd was down 1469 from game number two a year ago.

The Big success of the numbers belonged to the Edmonton Eskimos who attracted, 46704 to game number two an increase of 13000 from last week and up 11699 from their second game gate of last year.

Winnipeg attracted 6000 more from last years gate for game two, while the Argos and Riders each found 2000 new friends from last years second game crowds.

With Hamilton showing some success against the Lions and Calgary totally dominating the Argos in their last home game there should be some more increases to come for home date number three for both of those teams.

By the numbers after two home gates:

Average attendance per team.

Montreal......... 20202
Hamilton.......... 24870
Saskatchewan.. 26422
Edmonton......... 39871
Calgary............ 28653
BC.................... 30969


Doubts about Dave

Dave Dickenson will remain on the sidelines for the foreseeable future, that after consulting a concussion specialist in Toronto on Wednesday.

Dickenson suffered his fourth concussion in the last two years on July 13th, on a hit from Saskatchewan end Fred Perry, who put Dickenson out of the game in the second quarter, the Lions starter hasn't taken a snap since, relegated to watching games on the sidelines off to the side and wearing sunglasses so as not to be bothered by the lights.

Dr. Karen Johnston, a neurosurgeon at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute conducted the examination of the Lions QB, Johnston is best known for her work with a number of NHL players who have suffered concussions over the years including Eric Lindros and Scott Stevens.

At 34, Dickenson may soon have to make that ultimate decision of any pro football player who has suffered repeated trauma to the head. There comes a time for any player when you have to decide whether your quality of life is worth the danger present from the violent aspect of the sport.

A number of past and present CFLers have expressed concern over this latest concussion, with Matt Dunnigan providing the most detailed and knowledgeable discussion on the topic. Dunnigan of course is no stranger with concussions having been forced from the game from repeated events during his career.

For Dickenson, who has been a mainstay in the CFL for ten years it could be a hard but necessary choice to step aside and take his final bows. There are more things important than football and family man Dickenson probably knows that best.


The CFL announced it's Rogers players of the week for the fourth week of play in the 2007 season.

Runner Up: Charles Roberts, Winnipeg

Runners Up: Tom Canada, Winnipeg, Fred Perry Saskatchewan

Runners Up: Kyries Hebert, Winnipeg

Unanimous selection

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Signs of hope for early strugglers

Last week’s action provided a bit of hope for fans of the Hamilton Tiger Cats, Calgary Stampeders and Edmonton Eskimos, many of whom may have been facing the 2007 season with a bit of trepidation after some stumbles out of the gate.

The surprise of the week was the ability of the Hamilton Tiger Cats to run through a previously pretty solid BC Lions defence. Jesse Lumsden made frequent statements through the night as he bulled his way through the line and galloped for maximum yardage, while Quarterback Jason Maas threw for over 200 yards all to no avail in the standings. While the Lions were beat up and probably ripe for take down, the Cats couldn’t in the end put the points on the scoreboard and at the end of play were still without a win in 2007.

For Lions fans there was the knowledge that depth at QB is going to be a strength for the Leos this year, Dave Dickenson didn’t even dress for the game still feeling the effects of a concussion, Buck Pierce who started had to leave the game with tender ribs, leaving the controls to Jarious Jackson who directed the Lions on to victory. As its unknown how long Dickenson will be out, the fact the Leos can find success with both of the understudies must bring a bit of confidence to the defending champs.

For Hamilton, the solid effort in Vancouver should give the team some enthusiasm for the weeks to come. They came close last week to sending a message that all is not lost for the Steel City. With a bit of finish and more of Lumsden’s rumbling they may very well start climbing the standings through the summer.

In Calgary, after two horrible weeks on the road, the Stamps turned things around with a vengeance against the Toronto Argonauts. The Stamps dominated their game last week against an injury depleted Argo squad. The McMahon Stadium crowd saw none of the misplays, mental errors or poor judgment calls of the previous two weeks, instead a confident looking team that controlled the play from the very opening of the game and didn’t let up until the final gun went off. It was a total Jekyll and Hyde act for the Stamps who could do nothing right in the previous 120 minutes of football, but found they could do nothing wrong against the double blue. It was the kind of performance that Stamps fans had been expecting and was a long overdue performance of control, one that Stamps fans will hope continues on through the season.

Finally the Eskimos rewarded their fans for their patience with a remarkable come from behind win over the Roughriders. Saskatchewan which had what appeared to be an insurmountable lead at half time, collapsed completely in the second half. Allowing Ricky Ray to get his offence back into the game and showing Eskimo fans that the games aren’t over until the last play has been run. What appeared to be a potentially embarrassing disaster quickly righted itself much to the delight of the Eskimo faithful, who have become used to the Esks defeating the Riders in Edmonton. While the final margin of victory was only one point, it still provided proof that the Esks won’t fold when faced with a setback early on, something that might come in handy a little later in the year, say in November.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

From the video room July 21

They've got a catchy little tune in Edmonton and the dance moves are something to behold...

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Week Four

Saturday, July 21-Calgary 33 - Toronto 10
Friday, July 20- Edmonton 21 - Saskatchwean 20
Thursday, July 19- BC 22- Hamilton 18
Thursday, July 19- Winnipeg 20-Montreal 18


The CFL announced it's Rogers players of the week for the third week of play in the 2007 season.

Unanimous selection

Unanimous selection

Runners Up: Paul McCallum, Ian Smart, both of the BC Lions


Runner Up: Javier Glatt, BC Lions

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Forty seconds of fame on PTI

Despite some snide comments about "nobody cares about the CFL", the Stamps and Argos gained a bit of fame on ESPN.

Their match up last week found some room on the Pardon the Interruption run down.

You can start, but they may not finish…

That could be the mantra for this early 2007 season in the CFL. The starting quarterback position has been one of the most studied and discussed topic of the first three weeks of the regular season.

Whether through impatience or injury, starting a game doesn’t guarantee a QB to be on the field by the sound of the gun after 60 minutes.

Injuries have played a prominent role in two locations.

Michael Bishop who finally won the long coveted job of Argo starter found that his second start this year was star crossed, as a crushing hit sent him from the field to the emergency ward for further examination, after further review as they say Bishop is gone for six to eight weeks. It’s an unfortunate development for the long time Argo understudy who had felt that this was his year to take the controls and claim the starting position for himself. Michael McMahon will now move up a notch on the depth chart, from second to first team getting the start in Calgary this week, while CFL legend Damon Allen will once again find himself inserted into action, his time as mentor apparently to be delayed for just a little while longer now. As added bit of insurance the Argos reached into the list of ex Ticat QB’s, signing Rocky Butler who was released prior to this season, Butler spent five years in Saskatchewan before his time in Hamilton.

The BC Lions took a double hit on Friday Night, as a hard hitting affair found both Dave Dickenson and Buck Pierce relegated to the sidelines by the time the third quarter rolled around. Dickenson received his third suspected concussion in the last two seasons, leaving him a Led Zeppelin fans as he most likely heard dazed and confused running through his head for most of Friday night. Understudy Buck Pierce tempted the football gods with a run into the end zone for which he received a game ending crack on the wrist, leaving Jarious Jackson to take the helm for the remainder of Friday night’s action. Jackson no doubt under strict instructions to hand off the football, hand off the football and hand off the football before he even gave a thought to running. Dickenson is most likely out for this weeks Hamilton game, while Pierce has been working the starting unit in practice in order to be ready to start this week’s game.

If they’re not getting injured they’re getting the early hook, as struggling teams consider ways to spike the offence when the wheels begin to fall off. Hamilton has started Jason Maas in each of their games so far this year, only to try and get a spark from Timmy Chang. The last effort saw Chang have a fair amount of success on the field, but no push to win column. He is still learning the game, and while he believes he’s ready to start and said as much to Charlie Taaffe prior to Saturday’s game with the Als, it will be a bit longer before he yanks the reins from Maas. Despite the Cats horrible start to the season, Maas is still one of the more experienced quarterbacks in the CFL a bit of patience may be required for a turn around in Hamilton, but whether the Steel City’s long faithful fans will want to wait is the big question.

Montreal fans might have been getting a little nervous about Anthony Calvillo, the first two starts this year were frustrating for the Als and their fans, unaccustomed as they are to losing streaks at the start of the year. Calvillo regained some of his form on Saturday, claiming his share of the top of the record books with his scaling of the 50,000 + yardage club, staking his claim to fourth overall and now in hot pursuit of Danny McManus and Ron Lancaster while Damon Allen’s record is probably safe for now. As for Marcus Brady, with Calvillo starting to get back on track, Brady will remain an insurance premium for coach Jim Popp.

Winnipeg hasn’t had much of a controversy at all in the QB ranks, they’ve left that to the kicking game. While Kennard and Pikula battle it out for the kicking job, Kevin Glenn has secured his spot as the Bombers go to signal caller. Neither Ryan Dinwiddie or Justin Holland are expected to see much action in the near future. While the Blue have provided some entertaining football in the first two weeks, the sooner Milt Stegall can claim that magical touchdown the better. The quest to earn Stegall his due, is at times distracting the Bombers and they’re approach on the field. While they might say it isn’t so, the record bid seems to be the elephant in the room at the moment. A forced pass here, an overshot attempt there, they all add up in the course of the game. The record will fall soon enough, but for the sake of Doug Berry and the offence hopefully sooner than later.

Saskatchewan and the legions of faithful at Taylor Field at Mosaic Stadium, were thinking they were on track quite nicely with Kerry Joseph, as they had rattled off two pre season and two regular season wins prior to Friday night’s showdown with the Lions. But the team with what arguably may be the best defence in the league shut down Joseph and punished the Riders quite handily on Friday. Marcus Crandell was given his shot during Friday night’s game and while he put in a decent effort, the Lions defence seemed just as content to tee off on him as they did on Joseph. There certainly wasn’t any kind of revelation that they had been on the wrong path with Joseph in the first two weeks, so he’ll no doubt be back behind the centre come game time this week.

Edmonton most likely have no plans to move Ricky Ray downward on the depth chart. As he gets more comfortable with new offensive coordinator Jacques Chapdelaine’s offence the receptions will come, the yardage will add up and the touchdowns will happen. The Esks had already begun to shake off some of the jitters on Friday with the Bombers game, holding on to give the Bombers a defeat, deny Milt Stegall his record and have their offence begin to move the ball with a bit of authority. Last year was a nightmare year for Ray and the Eskimos, things look a bit more organized this year, there is less a sense of panic and more one of patience, if they’re going to make a move this season it will be Ricky Ray leading the charge. One thing is certain, Stefan LeFors or Steven Jyles won’t see much in the way of activity unless the Esks completely fall apart, an unlikely scenario this year.

If there is going to be a nightmare, look south of Edmonton , Calgary is in full meltdown alert after a string of disasters for the Red and White. Handed their helmets two weeks ago in Regina, they moved on to Toronto last Thursday only to have an even more hard to watch spanking be administered. The Argos dominated the Stamps in every aspect of the game, Henry Burris looked lost on the field at times, unsure of who to trust, where to throw or of any confidence that his plays were going to work. Calgary’s fans are most likely getting a little anxious at the developments, with the Stamps returning home this week, Burris will have to move the offence fast and frequently. The calls for his understudy, former NFLer Akili Smith, may become louder and louder should the Stamps drop another dog of a game onto the turf at McMahon Stadium. Burris came with much promise upon his arrival in Calgary, the last two years were ones that many thought were sure fire bids for a Grey Cup championship, instead they were early exits and disappointment. The first three games seem to have the Stamps heading in the wrong direction, there won’t be many hiding their feelings should things continue down that path for long. The rematch with the Argos this week promises to be a key moment in the short season of the Stamps thus far.

There has been an unusual amount of grousing from the second and third stringers as the season got underway this year. Not a bad thing actually, you want people thinking they can lead, you want them anxious to get their shot and try to make a difference. As it has turned out, there’s really no need to express frustration at your station in the line up, your only one nasty hit or one bad series of downs from getting your shot. Like few seasons before, depth a QB is suddenly a matter of not one, or two but three solid options, each ready to take to the field at a moments notice.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Calvillo joins select company

50,000 yards and counting.
Saturday night saw Anthony Calvillo reach a CFL milestone, becoming only the fourth quarterback to reach the Fifty thousand Plus club for career yardage.

Calvillo, who had been struggling in the fist couple of weeks of the season hit his stride on Saturday night against the Hamilton Tiger Cats. He got a good start for his assault on the record in the early going of the game, pacing the Alouettes down the field for an opening drive score that brought him 55 yards on three completions on three attempts.

He would eventually break the fifty thousand yard barrier later in the first quarter as the Als got out to an early lead that they held through out the game, though the end result became much closer than it really should have been. In the end the Als would prevail, thanks to the talents of their quarterback who led them to the 29-20 victory.

With fourteen seasons in the CFL, Calvillo now joins such legendary names in the CFL as Ron Lancaster who compiled some 50,535 yards, Danny McManus who gaind a good portion of his 53,255 yards in air miles and Damon Allen of the Toronto Argonauts with his pro football-high 72,109 yards and still counting, providing he once again can fight his way back onto the starting roster in Toronto.

Calvillo is one of the last recognizable names of the era of American expansion for the CFL, having broken into the league with the then Las Vegas Posse. When that southern drive for security came up short and the CFL retrenched back above the 49th Calvillo came north, starting his Canadian adventure in Hamilton, spending three years in the Steel city before signing with the Als in 1998.

His relocation to Montreal seems to have worked out well for him, having taken the Als to five Grey Cup appearances in seven years.

With the Als beginning to regain some of their more successful form of past seasons, we can probably expect that this 50,000 mark will become a memory as the season progresses and should he regain his earlier form, there's a very good chance that he'll be adding to the totals for a few more years to come.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

From the video room July 14

Some sideline footage of the trainers working on Michael Bishop, his injury was serious enough that he now will miss six to eight weeks of the season.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Week Three

Saturday July 14--Montreal 29 @ Hamilton 20
Friday, July 13-- Edmonton 19 @ Winnipeg 15
Friday, July 13-- BC 42 @ Saskatchewan 12
Thursday, July 14--Calgary 15 @ Toronto 48

Thursday, July 12, 2007


The CFL announced it's Rogers players of the week for the second week of play in the 2007 season.


Runner Up: DJ Flick, Saskatchewan Roughriders


Runner Up: John Chick , Saskatchewan Roughriders


Runners Up: Greg Bearman, Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Maurice Lloyd, Saskatchewan Roughriders


Runners Up: Jason Clermont, BC Lions, Rob Cote, Calgary Stampeders

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

From the video room July 9

Hey Doug, here's some film!

A golden moment from the Troy Westwood collection, as the Bombers kicker plays receiver back in 95...

And of course it takes place against the Riders!

Spare a thought for the forgotten heroes of the game!

They play for little pay, take some of the meanest hits you’ll ever see and game in and game out, they sweat it out with the biggest of linemen and run as fast as the fleetest of receivers.

Yet for the most part, they go about their business in total anonymity, larger than life to many, but invisible to the fans after than final gun goes off.

Scott Radley of the Hamilton Spectator weaves a tiger of a tale of hard work and dedication to the game that surely should be saluted.

It's not easy being Stripes
Scott Radley
The Hamilton Spectator
(Jul 7, 2007)

Stripes doesn't wear a protective cup.

So, for those who've ever wondered about the nether-region safety features on a professional mascot, there you go. Mystery solved.

For the others of you wondering why the topic would even come up, consider this your chance to spend a few moments feeling for the big cat. Or at least, for the man inside him.

Because he may be close to seven-feet-tall with the costume on, but he takes a beating over the course of an entire football season. Nowhere more than one particular section of the anatomical real estate .

"Kids are right at the level of my groin," the man inside the fur suit whimpers in a surprisingly non-soprano voice. "There's a lot of head butts."

And you thought being a living plush toy was all fame, fortune, mini-bike riding and high fives.
His identity won't be revealed here, because that's something of a state secret. But you could probably figure out who he is pretty quickly simply by hanging around Ivor Wynne Stadium after a game. He'd be the 32-year-old guy looking like he'd just been through a war inside a microwave oven.

It's like this. People love mascots. Trouble is, they see them as cartoon characters who can survive an anvil to the head without anything more than a few bird chirping sounds. So, well-meaning but over-excited fans think it's funny to punch, pull, slug, push, trip, hit, and otherwise generally abuse him. They're not trying to be malicious. But sometimes, even gigantic felines feel pain.

An example? Last season, while working the crowd in a private box, a 13-year-old who thought it would be a laugh, tried to rip off his head from behind.

"It sounds funny," the man inside says. "But it was strapped to my chin."

He never goes into the end zone sections because he fears he might never make out alive. He's ripped open his knee falling off his unicycle, smashed his head on door frames he couldn't see, and has been nearly de-tailed more times than he can remember.

That's just at games. In each of the past three seasons he's dressed up in the suit hundreds of other times at local events to promote the team and the city. Sometimes doing three events in a day. Not always smoothly.

Last summer he was helping with a function at a bar. Unfortunately, through the limited sightlines in his costume's mouth, he couldn't see the turbocharged ceiling fan whizzing like the blade of a food processor above his head as he stood up. You can guess the rest.

But nothing -- not even the near-decapitations or knee-buckling crotch smashes -- rival the heat. During a game in sticky conditions last season, he stuck a thermometer under his arm just to see if he was merely imagining feeling like a Thanksgiving turkey. He wasn't. The temperature in the suit was nearly 64 degrees. Celsius.

"People who make shoes in Asia have better working conditions," he quips.

All that heat -- and no way to get water -- melts up to seven kilograms a game off him. Which is also why he's driven from one public event to another, steering his car with his wrists because he was unable to bend his cramped fingers. And why he often wakes up in the middle of the night screaming with his legs in excruciating knots.

And frankly, why he has to wash the costume after every single wearing. Because one missed cleaning and ... well ... "you're putting a jock strap on your head," he winces.

What's most amazing is that he does it all for a few bucks here and there from the team and some gift certificates. There's no fame involved. He does it anonymously, never getting any thanks for his efforts. Last year he even got robbed of his rent money at the Canadian Football Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.

So if you're down at the game tonight and Stripes passes by, be sure to whisper thanks into his mouth. He deserves it.

Oh, and tell your kid not to drill him in the 'nads. He'd appreciate it.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Somewhere east of Moosimin a banjo player tunes his instrument for a farewell salute!

It was a lonely looking Troy Westwood on the sidelines last week in Winnipeg, the 17 year veteran of the CFL was banished to the fringes of the Big Blue last Thursday night, not quite a punishment but certainly not a reward as Bomber head coach Doug Berry weighed his options in the kicking game. It’s an option that apparently might include ending Westwood’s long association with Bombers.

Last weeks kicking duties were handled by the new arrival, kicker Rob Pikula, who compiled a 39.5 yard punting average and went 1 for 2 in field goal attempts, not enough to force Westwood out, but apparently good enough to warrant a second look this week in practice. The third wheel of the kicking roulette session, Clinton Greathouse was let go over the last few days.

Doug Berry isn’t tipping his hand, but both Westwood and Pikula are being put through their paces during the week leading up the Friday night’s game against the Eskimos. If Pikula proves to Berry that he can handle both punting and place kicking duties then Westwood may once again be found in the coffin corner of the end zone watching the proceedings perhaps for the final time in the blue and gold. It's of interest to note that decision day may fall on Friday the 13th, an ominous theme if ever there was one.

Should that historic moment come to pass, it will bring to an end one of the most unusual rivalries that the CFL has ever seen. It was back in 2003 that Westwood in apparently a playful mood made disparaging remarks about the followers of the hated rivals the Saskatchewan Roughriders. The Winnipeg Sun archives reported on the fateful words from Westwood this way: Before last season's Labour Day Classic, Winnipeg Blue Bomber place kicker Troy Westwood referred to Saskatchewan fans as "banjo-pickin' inbreds." He followed that up with a feigned apology before last year's western semifinal versus the Roughriders, saying they could not even play the banjo.

And with that a war was on and Westwood became about as tolerable in Saskatchewan as a prairie dog at harvest time.

The back and forth between the provinces went on through that season and into 2004 when the whole Banjo Bowl thing took life thanks to the National Post newspaper which sponsored the event in a light hearted way with the traditional Labour Day classic as the pivotal moment in Banjo Bowl history, The Post donated $10,000 to the United Way campaign of the winning team's city. The winner also received something called the Banjo Bowl Trophy. And Westwood himself added $100 for each field goal he kicked during that match.

The Banjo Bowl has become one of the touchstones of the CFL, part of the lore of the game as they say. It’s almost melancholy to think that it all that history may come to an end by Friday.

As all kickers know, the day will come when the boot doesn’t send the ball where its supposed to go anymore. A younger new hired gun will walk into camp, boot a fifty yard shot into the wind and through the uprights and a new legend will be born and maybe even a new song will be sung.

But alas, the writing may be on the wall as these stories will suggest:

July 1-Kicker sent to Bombers

However, many of the CFL’s traditionalists must be hoping that Westwood has one or two more kicks in his boot, that this report from Winnipeg is true. A chance for one more year of Labour Day Banjo hits and along with them one or two more tunes on a Saskatchewan banjo!

(above picture of Troy Westwood from the Winnipeg Free Press website)

CFL attendance up over last season’s openers

With the exception of Edmonton and Montreal, all CFL home openers were played in front of larger crowds than this time a year ago. As 8,152 more fans picked up a ticket to a CFL home game in the first two weeks of the 2007 season.

Montreal of course neither loses nor gains in the crowd department as their stadium has been packed to the last seat game in and game out ever since Bono evicted them from the Big O. They are a faithful (if somewhat dispirited of late 20,202) group who have been making the Molson Stadium trek for a part of their party planning for a while now. Mind you with an 0-2 start though, we may soon start to see some empty seats and sad scalpers on the McGill campus (not to mention a long face or two in Larry Smith's office as he looks at those stadium expansion plans and goes hmmm) .

More disturbing for the CFL is the slight decline in the City formerly know as Champions, the Eskimos who left their fans watching from the sidelines at the end of last season, found that there was a dip in the opening night crowd at Commonwealth. With an opening night crow of 33,038 they were down some 7,453 seats from last years first game of the regular season. Perhaps all those Eskie fans had decided to save up their money for Canada’s Golden run at the World Cup U20, with Canada quickly eliminated from further pursuit of that round little ball, perhaps the discretionary family income will return to the Green and Gold Of course it might help to throw a few touchdowns and make a few sacks to show the folks you’re back in business.

But it isn’t all concern in the accounting department on the Monday morning following week number two of the regular season. There are more than a few positive signs coming out of the remaining six ball parks.

The BC Lions led the way in the gate increases with 32,893 taking in the first home game of the year, an increase of 5,354 from last year. With the Lions defence playing that mean ole smash mouth football and an offence loaded with weapons the crowds should remain high at BC Place during the season.

Saskatchewan had the second highest jump in attendance after the home opener. Sunday’s witnesses to the Slaughter of the Stampeders totaled 25,862 (and if the locals had any inkling of the carnage that was to come there would no doubt have been even more cramming the turnstiles) which came hot on the heels of the sold out pre season game in Regina. Kent Austin and Eric Tillman seem to have brought a winning focus to the riders and as the wins pile up we’re thinking that good seats will be hard to come by on the not so lonesome prairie.

Milt Stegall’s pursuit of the TD record, combined with opening night brought out 3,009 more fans than last years debut. The Big Blue performed in front of 29,533 at the home that the Asper’s bought (and hope to renovate). Already early favorites to fight the Argos for first in the East it’s shaping up to be a good year for the Blue’s players, fans and new owner.

The Double Blue had a bump on opening day, partially helped by the fact they’re hosting the Grey Cup this year and have sold more season tickets this year. Still the team found itself in the news a fair amount in the weeks leading up to the opener, a QB controversy always helps to generate the headlines and the ticket sales. 1,468 more visitors dropped into the Rogers sports emporium for opening day, pushing the beer concessions to work harder to fuel the 29,157 Argo fans in attendance.

Calgary had an increase of 707 fans on opening day at McMahon. With expectations still high in the Stampede city the followers of the Red and white took up their usual posts in the Northwest Stadium, some 29,103 strong. However, with a rather embarrassing thrashing in Saskatchewan on Sunday there will be a bit of hand holding required of the Stamps fans for the next home game July 24th. Perhaps it’s a good thing that they stay on the road this week, who really wants to listen to Calgary talk radio after that mess.

Wrapping up the attendance patrol are the Hamilton Tiger Cats who managed to attract an additional 287 fans into Ivor Wynne Stadium for Saturday’s (uhm, barn burner of a?) game with the Argos. We suspect that a few of the 28,198 in attendance were undercover Argo fans, but there was enough yellow and black in the stands to make the home side represented well. Though a few more beatings like the one the Argos provided and Ti Cat fans may be looking for a new cause to support.

Still, for the CFL having their two biggest stadiums hosting winning football this year surely won’t hurt the total attendance count by the time November rolls around. Both Toronto and BC are putting points on the board and fans in the seats, which combined with a rebirth in the heartland of the game in the West will prove to be a recipe for success.

By the numbers after one home game each.

Average attendance per team.

TORONTO 29,157
CALGARY 29,103
BC 32,893

CFL AVERAGE – 28,499

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Stegall stopped, Eskies Eradicated, Ticats tortured, Stamps Stomped

In three decisive weekend games the BC Lions, Toronto Argonauts and Saskatchewan Roughriders put the feet squarely on the back sides of the Edmonton Eskimos, Hamilton Tiger Cats and Calgary Stampeders.

In rather stunning fashion Friday, Saturday and Sunday were nightmares for the losing sides as they suffered some severe punishment in games that were thought to be of a challenging manner heading to kick off.

Friday night's Leos / Eskimos game set the pace, with the Lions exacting revenge on an Eskimo team that had spent a good portion of the week leading up to the game complaining about how dirty the Lions were.

In the kind of material usually seen on a bulletin board leading into a championship game, the Lions fed off the love and took it to an Eskimo team that couldn't seem to find the right approach to dealing with the Grey Cup champions.

BC controlled the play for most of the game with ferocious tackling, some superb play in the defensive secondary and an offensive burst that must have made Jacques Chapdelaine proud (oh wait, he was on the other sideline for this one wasn't he, hmm, apparently the Esks haven't learned the entire Chapdelaine repertoire yet).

Dave Dickenson who got off to a rough start, threw for 230 yards and one Jason Clermont TD as the Lions took control in the second half and never looked back. It was the BC Defense however which had the monster game, frequently rushing into the Edmonton zone, knocking bodies everywhere and picking off three Ricky Ray passes, while Ray threw for a fair amount of yardage, there was no finish to their drives and the picks and two Brent Johnson sacks, took their toll on last week's player of the week honoree. By the end of sixty minutes, the fistfights were outnumbering the Eskimo points on the board as the Lions soundly dismissed them 29-9.

As if picking up the vibes from BC, the Toronto Argonauts went into the Tiger Cat lair and laid on a whupping that won't be taken well by the Ti Cat faithful. With Michael Bishop anointed as the starting QB, the Argos began to roll early and often as Bishop provided perhaps the exclamation point for his quest to keep the starters job for good. With a huge crowd of over 28000 at Ivory Wynn, Bishop and the Argonauts made it a long and uncomfortable night as they took a commanding 22-2 lead early in the third quarter and never looked back, finally calling it a night with a 30-5 victory.

Defense would appear to be a problem in Hamilton as they have given up some 67 points in their first two games. The secondary was scorched and the defensive line had trouble holding back the rush as the Argonauts began to get on a roll that should help to defuse any problems regarding the Quarterback controversies of the last two weeks.

When Hamilton had the ball Jason Maas had little time to do anything as the Argo line would crash through the ticats O line and send Maas running in fear of his life. With little time to set up his passes proved to be problematic as there was little time or space for his receivers to reel anything in.

It's said that Ti Cat owner Bob Young made one of his few pre game speeches to the team, perhaps that will be a tradition that goes by the wayside until the Cats get their act together.

Sunday afternoon brought us the expected treat of a Calgary / Saskatchewan showdown, with a huge Mosaic Park at Taylor Field crowd basking in the sun, the Riders gave their fans everything they could hope for.

What appeared to be a tight and controlled game in the first quarter gave way to a wild ride of an affair halfway through the second as the Riders exploded from an 8 - 8 tie to score 17 points in the final five minutes of the first half.

Kerry Joseph tossed for four touchdowns and recent acquisition Wes Cates (cut adrift by the Stamps) haunted his old team with two touchdowns on the rush. Once the floodgates had opened there was no holding back the Green avalanche of points, with the Riders knocking off the Stamps 49-8.

Henry Burris had a particularly painful time of it at the stadium he once called home, as the Rider defence made his day an uncomortable affair, with sacks, interceptions and hurries that left the Stamp QB scrambling and just a little confused. He gave way to Akili Smith as the former Cincinnati Bengal pick tried to regain some ground in the fourth quarter, throwing six completions on 15 attempts but suffering a couple of dropped passes by his receiving corps.

The game was best summed up by Calgary coach Tom Higgins, who obviously didn't like what he had seen. "They beat us on field position, they beat us on turnovers, they beat us pretty much every which way, so hats off to them."

Compared to the weekend massacres, the Thursday game was a veritable barn burner, as the Alouettes managed to at least not lose by more than 9 points. Thursday's game had the Milt Stegall story as its central focus as Stegall attempted to snap the CFL record for touchdowns, it didn't turn out to be Milt's night on Thursday, but compared to the carnage of the weekend, he and the Bombers will take a win and another shot at the record anytime.

From the video room July 7

Some fine open field running, anybody have a pen and a contract...

Friday, July 06, 2007

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


The CFL announced it's Rogers players of the week for the first week of play in the 2007 season.


Runner Up: Milt Stegall, Winnipeg Blue Bombers


Runner Up: Eddie Davis, Saskatchewan Roughriders


Runner Up: Barron Miles, BC Lions


Runners Up: Brent Johnson, BC Lions, Riall Johnson, Toronto Argonauts

From the Video room July 3

The Als Dave Stala heads back to St. Mary's University to help out at a local football camp.

Monday, July 02, 2007

One league closes, one lays its foundation...

The NFL experiment in Europe came to an end over the weekend, as NFL Europa closed up after years of multi million dollar losses. The NFL determining that a change in strategy was in order, preferring to concentrate on staging regular season event games around the world, rather than funding a league that was struggling to find its niche.

Some will eventually end up with CFL teams, though most CFL GM's don't expect a giant flood of talent this year, but the 2008 season might find a few of the Europa refugees arriving in CFL outposts. Most observers suggest that the Arena Leagues will be helped out more by the sudden influx of football resumes.

The main change for CFL scouts and GM's will be a reduction in the International travel budget as the five German and one Dutch franchises offered up a bit of a change from the normal routine of bird dogging though the US and Canadian college ranks.

While the CFL may benefit from some of the migration, a new American Football league is finding the timing of its development to be rather spot on. If filling rosters is a priority with them, the shutting down of NFL Europa may just help out.

Officials of the All-American Football League, hope to be up and running in the Spring of 2008 with plans to aggressively pursue former college players who may have stepped away from the game after graduation, in fact many of the franchises will be located in the big college cities hoping to cash in on the demand for football after the Bowl games have all been resolved.

It's another attempt at a Spring league in the US, which has seen more than a few attempts fall short and end in failure. But hope as they say, springs eternal, especially when it comes to football. They have an interesting spin on things at the AAFL however, building on the success and savvy of the US college programs, many of the proponents of the league come from the big machines of football and are no doubt hoping to extend the fan's interest into a new season.

What will be interesting to watch will be the impact that the league has on the Arena leagues in the US and what effect it may have on CFL teams that will open up their camps after the AAFL season is launched. The plan is to start the league up in early April and have the Championship Game played on the fourth of July,

As far as taking away CFL talent, the chances are probably quite slim. There were reportedly some 2000 applications for tryouts for the Orlando franchise mini camp, so there is apparently an insatiable supply of talent out there. Some of it good, some of it still developing and some of it just dreaming the dreams of the dreamer.

The ambition of the AAFL is to become the second most popular league in the US, which means that the promoters at least aren't lost in their own rhetoric. Second place would be a pretty good spot to be after the Big show of the NFL, but there's probably a lot of work to do and a lot of old football grave sites to think about before they get to boasting too much.
But if it is successful, at least all those college marching bands will have something to do after January.

After the glory fades...

The Edmonton Journal has done a heart wrenching piece on the life and times of Bill Stevenson, the once long time lineman for the Green and Gold. A hard nosed player who was part of many of the Glory Days of the Eskimos and a guy who collected his share of Grey Cup rings.

But once the cheering faded and the skills were gone, Stevenson's life spun wildly out of control lost in drink and lost opportunities.

It's a hard article to read, it seems every aspect of his life is detailed but all of it is required to get a better understanding of the demons that chased him in his days in and out of football.

It's an informative piece and should be passed around all eight of the CFL's dressing rooms and alumni groups, a barometer for those to watch over the players that blazed the trail for today's CFL but may have fallen into troubled times and need a helping hand.

For the new Commissioner it may make for a valuable bit of research and maybe a cause to promote to the eight owners of the CFL's franchises, the league is fortunate that its size and importance to Canadians offers it a chance to take care of the players of the past who made their mark and may now be forgotten.

For the fans, it offers up a look at the other side of the game that few talk about, the inability to cope after all that adulation, the dark hole that some fall into some with tragic results. It helps to put the game into perspective for all.

It's well worth the read, as disturbing as it is. It's quite a project that the Journal took upon itself, you can view the full article from this link.

The final snaps of July 2007

July 31- "It's exciting and a little bit scary"
July 30- "If guys get embarrassed by (the loss) that is good"
July 29- "This is what we're looking for"
July 28- "Because football is a tough game and specifically the quarterback position may be the toughest to play in sports"
July 27- "It was supposed to be a run play,"
July 26- "What record? What record? What record?"
July 25- "We are going to wait and be patient and let our medical staff inform us"
July 24- "Somebody was saying afterwards that every receiver that was out there made a first-down catch."
July 23- "When we draw up the 2008 schedule, we will ask for all home games"
July 22- "You don't take that personally. I'm not going to ask a team to lay down"
July 21- "That is where you find out what kind of team you've got when you are down 20-1"
July 20- "I don't know if this guy ever was a rookie,"
July 19- "We're a goofy bunch"
July 18- "It's just a matter of focus"
July 17- "I love it here in the CFL, even if the paycheques aren't nearly as big."
July 16- "I feel close to what I felt at age 34 old"
July 15- "The thing is we’re improving every week. I think we’re going to be fine"
July 14- "And they call us dirty"
July 13-"It was like watching a child run out into the street and you can’t do anything about it" July 12-"The minute that Montreal was in, the other guys were in, too"
July 11- "everything is status quo"
July 10-There is no way this is considered normal because there is no off-time
July 9- "It all depends on how they do. It really all depends on how Pikula does"
July 8- "They beat us on field position, they beat us on turnovers, they beat us pretty much every which way, so hats off to them"
July 7- And then we had some turnovers. Clearly it hurt us"
July 6- "The buzz is there"
July 5- "Personally, I think the rule has gone too far the other way"
July 4- "All that matters is the bottom line and the bottom line was that I was 1-for-4"
July 3- "I don't like the way they act. That's what I'm saying"
July 2- "Is it the new (offensive) system? Rust? I don't know"
July 1- "We're in the process of trying to get the Grey Cup"

Opening Kick offs July 2007

July 31-You think you were upset?
July 31-Scaredy Cats won't gamble
July 31-Salary cap squeezes Als
July 30-No reason to panic
July 30-Ordinary air guard
July 30-Hank's still the guy
July 29-Pierce could use some time to heal
July 29-Saskatchewan Stinker
July 29-Burris gives game away
July 28-Lions stay undefeated
July 28-Roughriders pummel Eskimos
July 28-Milt's the man
July 27-Stegall sets CFL record
July 27-Dickenson recovering from concussion
July 27-Time's up for McMahon
July 26-Als pull even with Argos
July 26-Esks ready for hostile crowd
July 26-Defence looking to bounce back
July 25-Wanted: One new rule
July 25-Clemons defends his team
July 25-Lumsden rushes to award
July 24-Lions ink tough quarterback Guidugli
July 24-Alouettes don't have right chemistry to succeed: Truluck
July 24-Riders out for revenge versus Esks
July 23-Simon says he's fine with slow start
July 23-Argos sign two for the practice roster
July 23-Bishop eyes early return
July 22-Hand off to Allen too late
July 22-Als all talk when it comes to containing Roberts
July 22-There's no I in team: Geroy
July 21-Stampeders avenge blow-out loss to Argos
July 21-Eskimos’ character on display against Riders
July 21-A nation in moaning
July 20-Fleming boots winner for Eskimos
July 20-Johnson, Vaughn to retire as Stampeders
July 20- A 'season' to believe
July 19-Bombers fend off Als
July 19-Lions sink claws into Tiger Cats
July 19-Riders bosses made for each other
July 18-Struggling Ticats face uphill struggle
July 18-Perry avoids suspension for Dickenson hit
July 18-Lions try to stay unbeaten
July 17-Murphy centre of attention on B.C.'s offensive line
July 17-Players changing tune about concussions
July 17-Veteran Montreal receiver knows days are numbered
July 16-Concussion will keep Dickenson sidelined indefinitely
July 16-Bombers tired of talking about Stegall’s record pursuit
July 16-Season's first win erases desperation
July 15-Bombers lick wounds
July 15-Esks ahead of Oil in rebuilding
July 15-Lack of experience makes Stamps road kill
July 14-Calvillo cracks 50,000
July 14-Lions quarterbacks hurting
July 14-McMahon's time to shine
July 13-Bishop out six to eight weeks
July 13-Stegall still searching for TD title
July 13-Lions remain unbeaten
July 12-Argos show no mercy
July 12-'Riders show strength on both sides of the ball
July 12-Lions have their own heroes
July 11- Mitchell set for Argo return
July 11- City agrees to back Alouettes' plan to expand Molson Stadium
July 11- Backfield braces for Ray barrage
July 10-New Ticats brass finding it difficult to rebuild
July 10-Murphy involved in altercation with Braidwood's father
July 10-Benched QBs air it out
July 9-Ridden into submission
July 9-Canada vows to be more disciplined
July 9-Home sweet home
July 8-Roughriders bury Stamps
July 8-Winnipeg shows that coming from behind is no problem
July 8-Low, Low Times for Ticats
July 7-Bishop throws three TD's to lead Argos past Ticats
July 7-Lions’ Murphy tagged with another label
July 7-Roughriders' Cates anxious to face Stamps
July 6-Lions do just enough to beat Eskimos
July 6-Als looking for first win
July 6-Bombers like their view
July 5-Als shut down Stegall but can't handle Bombers
July 5-Lions offence looks for improvement
July 5-Allen disappointed by demotion
July 4-Stegall poised to set new TD mark
July 4-Rolling with the punches
July 4-A great catch for Esks
July 3-Allen tackles new role with Argos
July 3-Cortez's offence works, by George
July 3-Has concussion cost LaRose?
July 2-Damon to "mentor" this week
July 2-Private practices hid QB's injury
July 2-Murphy, Jimenez called 'dirtiest' players
July 1-In Bishop the Argos trust
July 1-Westwood on the bubble
July 1-Lumsden confident that Ti-Cats can bounce back