There it is, happening right before our eyes, the creation of a civic myth. Funny thing is, like most myths, it may contain a kernel of truth but the bulk of it crumbles under scrutiny. Because, this heroic tale of Rider Nation (and the “people of influence” who lead it) building themselves a football home brick by brick with their own brawny hands only works if you leave out a bunch of numbers.
But I seriously don’t have time to get into the weeds on this on the blog right now. But! All day, as I’ve been prepping for vacation, I’ve been jotting down thoughts on Twitter (read: angrily ranting). And I’ve compiled those thoughts below…
The Regina Red Sox opened training camp last Sunday, and as of mid-week players were still trickling into town after winding up their college seasons down in the U.S. So until the team gets a few more practices in, and actually takes the field in a few games, it’s pretty much impossible to tell how they will stack up against the rest of the teams in the Western Major Baseball League.
Last season, the Red Sox didn’t post the best regular season record, finishing just below .500 with 23 W and 25 L, but they caught fire in the playoffs, making it all the way to the WMBL final before being swept by the Lethbridge Bulls in three straight games in the best of five series.
Regina baseball fans will have their first chance to see the 2016 Regina Red Sox in action when they host the Weyburn Beavers in their home opener at Currie Field on Sunday May 29 at 2 p.m. The Sox play their first three games at home before they hit the road, in fact, so fans will have a great opportunity to get an early read on the team. Following the home opener, there’s games against the Yorkton Cardinals on Tuesday May 31 at 7 p.m. and the Moose Jaw Miller Express on June 2 at 7 p.m.
To find out more about the 2016 Regina Red Sox coaches and players visit the Red Sox website.
The Regina Red Sox play the home opener of their 2016 Western Major Baseball League season on Sunday May 29 against the Weyburn Beavers. That game goes at Currie Field at 2 p.m.
Before that happens, the Sox are holding their annual fundraising dinner and auction. That’s on Saturday April 23 at Turvey Centre. You can get more information on the ticket price and start time on the Red Sox website. The guest speaker for the evening is former Toronto Blue Jays all-star second baseman Roberto Alomar.
Alomar had a storied career in major league baseball. He started out in San Diego playing for the Padres in the National League, then came to Toronto in a 1990 trade with Joe Carter for Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez. Both Carter and Alomar subsequently played major roles in the Jays’ winning back-to-back World Series in 1992-93.
In game four of the 1992 American League Championship Series the Jays were down by two runs against the Oakland Athletics in the ninth inning with A’s reliever Dennis Eckersley on the mound. Devon White led off with a triple, then Alomar came to the plate and delivered one of the biggest homers in Jays history to tie the game and send it into extra innings. The Jays ended up winning 7-6 in 11 innings, which put them up 3W-1L in the series, and paved the way for their victory in six games, permitting them to advance to their first World Series against the Atlanta Braves.
Only, this isn’t an April Fool’s Day joke. The Leicester City Foxes, a perennial doormat on the football pitch in the English Premier League, are within striking distance of their first league title in their 132 year history.
I’m no expert on the English Premier League. But I do know that it is comprised of 20 teams. It’s not the same 20 each year, as the league does have a relegation mechanism where three bottom-dwellers in the standings each year are dropped to a second tier league, while three teams from the second tier get promoted to the EPL.
After winning the second tier title in 2013-14, the Foxes got promoted to the Premier League. Prior to then, they had toiled in the second tier league for ten years.
Even if you’re not a football fan, you’re likely familiar with teams such as Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal. Typically, they’re the ones at the top of the standings. In fact, since the current EPL format was created in 1992, those four teams have claimed every title but one. The lone exception is the Blackburn Rovers, which were league champs in 1994-95. The Foxes previous best finish in Division One football, conversely, was second place in 1928-29.
The teams play a 38 game schedule, with home and away matches against each of their 19 rivals. There are no playoffs, so the team with the top record claims the title. The league is fair that way. But there’s a significant disparity in the amount of revenue the teams earn, and the amount of money that owners dole out to stock their rosters. Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal all have wealthy owners who spare no expense in acquiring the top football talent from Europe and other football hotbeds around the world.
Yet with only seven matches left in the 2015-16 season, Leicester City sit atop the EPL standings five points ahead of the second place Tottenham Spurs. At the start of the year, the Foxes odds of claiming the league title were listed at 5000 to 1. And some sports commentators are calling their current run the biggest upset in modern sports history.
In fairness, Leicester City apparently did shell out more money than it typically does to sign talent last summer after it was nearly relegated to the second division following the 2014-15 season. But at $91.1 million, its team payroll only ranks 17th in the 20 team league, and it’s absolutely dwarfed by teams such as Chelsea and Manchester City which spend in the neighbourhood of $400 million.
So if Leicester City holds on to its lead in the standings and claims the EPL crown, it looks like the joke will be on those teams — at least for this season. You can read more on the Foxes historic run in this Sports Illustrated report.
In our Feb. 18 issue we ran our first Rider Fan Forum of the 2016 season. That gave our esteemed panelists Earl Camembert, Ron Mexico, Cal Corduroy and John’s Chick a chance to weigh in on all the off-season moves the Riders made to revamp their coaching staff and roster.
Following last season’s 3W-15L debacle, the panelists all felt major changes needed to be made, and that so far the team is moving in the right direction. John’s Chick gave a special shout-out to team president Craig Reynolds for the decisive moves he made in bringing GM/coach Chris Jones and talent scout John Murphy aboard.
On Wednesday 30, Reynolds is the guest-speaker at this RCC luncheon. It goes at Conexus Arts Centre with registration at 11:30 a.m., and you can find more details on the RCC website.
For a lot of sports fans, the World Junior Hockey Championship is always a highlight of the holiday season. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the tournament. It’s being held in Helsinki, Finland and gets going on Boxing Day, with the gold medal game on Jan. 5.
After a five-year drought, Canada is the defending champion. They’re in group A along with Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States. Group B, meanwhile, consists of Belarus, Czech Republic, Finland, Russia and Slovakia.
If you’re looking for something to do in the run up to the tournament, or are just a hockey fan in general, the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame has the exhibition Break Away With Minor Hockey on until Jan. 18.
Currently, Saskatchewan has five junior hockey teams (located in Regina, Saskatoon, Swift Current, Moose Jaw and Prince Albert), so you can bet junior hockey plays a pretty big role in the exhibit.
But minor hockey encompasses a lot more than just junior age players, coaches and teams, so the scope is much broader than that. And with the growth in girls and women’s hockey in the last few years, it’s not just limited to boys and men either.
Break Away With Minor Hockey is on display at the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame until Jan. 15.
Courage Rider fans, there’s only three more games left in the 2015 season. Currently, the team sits at 2W-13L, and with two games against tough opposition in the Eskimos today, and the Stampeders in Calgary on Halloween afternoon (along with a season-ending tilt against the Alouettes in Montreal on Nov. 8), the Green & White seem destined to post one of the worst records in the franchise’s 105 year history.
I don’t really have a lot to say at this point. The season’s been a disaster, and with many of the Riders key players getting on in years, and a shortage of picks in the Canadian college draft beyond the #1 overall which the team is currently in line for, I wouldn’t anticipate a quick turnaround in 2016.
In our Nov. 12 issue, we’ll give our Rider Fan Forum panel of John’s Chick, Earl Camembert, Cal Corduroy and Ron Mexico one last kick at the can. They’ll conduct a post mortem on the 2015 season, plus look ahead to the playoffs and offer their thoughts on whether the Eskimos or any team from the East can derail the Stampeders in their quest to claim the Grey Cup for the second year in a row come Nov. 29 in Winnipeg.
Today’s game goes at Mosaic Stadium at 5 p.m. You can find out more on the Riderville website.
Canada’s men’s basketball team is currently competing in a tournament in Mexico that’s a route for teams from North, Central and South America to qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.
As a global basketball power, and defending Olympic champions, the United States is already assured an Olympic berth, so they’re not in Mexico. But plenty of other top teams from the region are including Argentina, Mexico, Venezuela and Puerto Rico.
Heading into the tournament, hopes were high for the Canadian team. Over the last ten years or so, basketball has really taken off as a sport in the country, with more players being recruited out of high school to attend top tier NCAA schools in the U.S., and that’s served as a springboard for them to be drafted into the NBA.
Andrew Wiggins, who was drafted number one by the Cleveland Caviliers in the 2014 NBA draft (before subsequently being traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves) is the highest profile member of the team assembled by GM Steve Nash and coach Jay Triano. But roughly two-thirds of the 12-player roster currently play in the NBA, while several others play professionally in Europe.
Still, the team is young, and had only a limited amount of practice time before heading to Mexico, where they’ve faced hostile crowds while playing eight games since the tournament began on Aug. 31.
Team Canada got off to a rocky start, losing 94-87 to Venezuela on the strength of 35 points for 35-year old NBA veteran Luis Scola. Since then, though, they’ve been on a roll, scoring victories over Cuba (101-59), Venezuela (82-62), Puerto Rico (112-92), Panama (103-66), Uruguay (109-82), home town Mexico (94-73) and Dominican Republic (120-103).
Canada’s 7W-1L record was good enough to give them first place in the tournament, and later today they’ll tip off against Venezuela in one of two semi-finals. Mexico and Argentina will play in the other semi-final, with the winners meeting in the final on Saturday. But with two Olympic qualifying berths at stake, a win later today would assure Canada of a spot in the Olympics for the first time since 2000.
With plenty of players in their early to mid-20s, Team Canada, should they qualify for the Olympics, promises to be even stronger next summer. In this tournament, they’ve struggled at times, but have had a balanced attack and reasonable depth off the bench. In the Dominican Republic game, for instance, seven players hit double figures in points.
Hey! What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be watching football? Or, depending upon the hour, watching pre/post-game analysis?
Where’s your Rider Pride? Today is Labour Day Classic Day! Without your drunken cheers, how can our boys in green-and-white ever hope to prevail in their noble battle against the dastardly Winnipeg Blue Bombers? You should be buffing your Rider-wear with jersey polish and cutting a head-sized hole into a watermelon, not watching seditious internet videos like the one below.
What are you? A traitor to Rider Nation?
Of course, if you find that video at all convincing, perhaps you’d like to join a group I’ve started? It’s called the SSSSSOS — The Super Secret Stadium Skeptics Society Of Saskatchewan.
Send me a message via Twitter (@pauldechene). We’ll work out a secret handshake.
Apparently, you have to go back to 1986 to find a precedent for what the Riders did last Monday when they parted ways with GM Brendan Taman and coach Corey Chamblin — although even then the dual firing of a GM (Bill Quinter) and coach (Jack Gotta) that year didn’t occur until after the season was over. So the move is more like a combination of the sacking of Greg Marshall as coach in 2011 and Roy Shivers as GM in 2006. Both were mid-season moves that, as it happens, also occurred in August.
To find out what Earl Camembert, Ron Mexico, John’s Chick and Cal Corduroy thought about all the drama in Riderville this week check out Rider Fan Forum which ran in our Sept. 3 issue.
The consensus seems to be that Chamblin’s ego had got the best of him and he was making a lot of ill-considered and capricious decisions both on and off the field that, while not the sole cause of the team’s woeful record (0W-9L this year, and 2W-16L since Darian Durant’s elbow injury in the 2014 Banjo Bowl), were a major contributing factor.
As for Taman, he seems to have been caught in the cross-fire a bit. Also the consensus of our panel is that the Riders Canadian depth is weak and that the team hasn’t done a great job lately of drafting young Canadian talent.
Heading into the Labour Day Classic, which goes at Mosaic Stadium today at 2 p.m., Winnipeg hasn’t exactly been playing well either. Starting QB Drew Willy is out with an injury, and earlier this week the team traded for former Edmonton starter Matt Nichols. He’s likely available to play, but the Bombers will started Brian Brohm at QB.
After a dire weather forecast earlier this week, it seems that conditions won’t be that bad (sunny, with a chance of a shower, high of 14, although the wind is projected at 40 kph out of the southwest). The game is sold out, and I would expect the crowd to be pretty supportive of Rider QB Brett Smith. It was Chamblin’s benching of Smith in last Sunday’s Ottawa game that was the final straw that led to him being fired.
Even in seasons where the Riders were outmatched by Winnipeg, they have a history of coming up big against the Bombers in the Labour Day game. This year, while the Blue & Gold have a better record than the Green & White, they’re hardly a dominant team, so this might well be the game where the Riders notch their first victory of 2015. If they do, it won’t turn their season around, but it will be something positive to build on heading into the second half of the year.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders opened their season in late June, followed by the Regina Thunder in mid-August, now it’s the turn of Regina’s third upper tier football team the University of Regina Rams to start their season with a game against the Alberta Golden Bears at Mosaic Stadium tonight at 7 p.m.
If the Rams had their druthers, they’d presumably prefer a start like the Thunder, who currently sit tied for first with a 3W-0L record in the PFC with the Saskatoon Hilltops, as opposed to the Riders, who have yet to record a victory in 2015.
The Rams schedule is only eight games long, so there’s no way they’ll be able to match the Riders current level of futility of 0W-9L. But they’re not likely to go undefeated either as the Thunder currently are heading into a home and home series with the Hilltops on Sept. 5 in Saskatoon and Regina on Sept. 12.
Ramville will have a new look this fall with the retirement of long-time head coach Frank McCrystal. McCrystal and the Rams enjoyed great success at the junior level, but were only so-so once they shifted to the much tougher Canadian university ranks in the late 1990s. To replace McCrystal, the Ram braintrust selected Mike Gibson. Gibson has CFL and NCAA experience, and will be a veteran hand steering the team.
I don’t have a handle on the Ram roster at present, but looking at the team’s Canada West schedule this year, it looks pretty daunting with home and home series against perennial powers Calgary Dinos and Saskatchewan Huskies, along with a home and home against the Manitoba Bisons who won the conference championship last year with an upset victory over Calgary in the conference final. Aside from this game against Alberta, and six games against Calgary, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, the Rams also play the UBC Thunderbirds in Vancouver on Sept. 12.
To find out more about the Rams and their prospects for 2015 you can visit the Ram website.
“Row, Row, Row, Your Dragon Boat//Gently Across Wascana Lake//Merrily, Merrily, Merrily, Merrily//Life Is But Dream”
That’s right, everyone, it’s time for one of Regina’s more popular Labour Day weekend traditions the Regina Dragon Boat Festival.
You can find out more information on the festival website, but this year’s oarfest goes Friday Sept. 4 and Saturday Sept. 5 in Wascana Centre.
There’s an opening ceremony Friday at 4:30 p.m. That’s followed by some 200 m sprint action. Then on Saturday there’s heats running between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. with some family and cultural events mixed in. And to top it all off, there’s apparently some fireworks that will be set off from Willow Island at 10 p.m. on Saturday.
Labour Day weekend is always a busy one in Regina. And while the Riders putrid performance so far in 2015 has taken some of the sheen off the traditional Labour Day Classic against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, there is an opportunity to revisit more pleasant times through this event on Saturday Sept. 5 that’s being presented by the Saskatchewan African Canadian Heritage Museum.
The focus is on football players of African American heritage who came up to Saskatchewan to play football for the Riders, and despite dealing with various levels of culture shock and racial tension, ended up putting down roots and staying in the city.
Similar to Jackie Robinson in major league baseball, the colour barrier in professional football was broken in the mid-1940s. Lineman Herb Trawick is regarded as the first African American player to suit up in the CFL. He signed with the Montreal Alouettes in 1946, and played his entire 12-year career with the team.
Although there is supposed to be a team photo that shows a rail porter named Robert “Stonewall” Jackson who may have played for Regina Roughriders in 1930. Aside from him, running back/kicker Gabe Patterson was the first Saskatchewan Roughrider of African American descent. He played in 1947-48, and was named an all-star both seasons. Still, for decades after that, African American players remained relatively rare in Riderville.
One of the iconic names in Rider history is a feature guest at this SACHM event. That would be fullback George Reed (pictured), who was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, and played for the team from 1963-75. With both his play on the field, and wonderful community spirit off the field, Reed has made a massive contribution to Regina and Saskatchewan since he moved here following his college career at Washington State University.
They Played & Stayed includes a symposium on Saturday at Orr Centre (4400 4th Ave.) from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Reed will be joined by his wife Angie, their daughter Georgette, along with Matt Dominguez and other Rider alumni. At 6 p.m. at Evraz Place there will be a banquet with guest-speaker CFL commissioner Jeffrey Orridge.
We’re a day away from going to press with our Sept. 3 issue. One feature will be the second installment of Rider Fan Forum in advance of the Labour Day Classic against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Sept. 6. I sent the questions out on Aug. 27, and the panelists sent back their replies after the Riders imploded in Ottawa on Sunday.
One question I asked for their input on was the current state of the Green & White’s management, coaching and scouting system in light of this year’s winless season, and something like a 2W-20L mark since Darian Durant’s elbow injury in the 2014 Banjo Bowl.
I had to send the question back to them for a rewrite this evening though after the Riders shocked the Canadian sports world by severing ties (less than two years after a stirring 2013 home Grey Cup victory) with GM Brendan Taman and head coach Corey Chamblin.
Later today, the Toronto Blue Jays will take to the field at Rogers Centre for the final game in a three-game set against the Detroit Tigers. After that, the Cleveland Indians will be in town for a three-game series of their own.
Following that series, the Jays, outside of three games in Atlanta in the middle of September, will wind up the 2015 regular season with home and home series against their four rivals in the American League East: the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays.
There’s about 28 games in total left, with the Jays ending the regular season in Tampa on Oct. 4. A couple of months ago, the Jays were well off the pace in the AL East, and it seemed that the team was destined to play out the string as they’ve done for over two decades since the team’s back-to-back World Series championships in 1992-93.
In fact, the Jays apparently “boast” the longest playoff drought in professional sports. When you think of all the crap franchises out there in the different leagues, it seems hard to believe. But every team in every league, at some point since 1993, has found a way to make it into the playoffs. While the Jays have been close (a few times anyway) they’ve always come up short. This year, though, the drought may finally end.
Heading into the season, the offense, as it’s been for a number of years now, seemed strong. Pitching, though, with plenty of young prospects in the mix, was expected to be a weak point. For the first half of the year, that’s pretty much how it played out. Lead by MVP candidate Josh Donaldson, veteran catcher Russell Martin, and sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, the Jays were pretty adept at putting up runs. But too often pitching and defense would let them down, and they’d ring up a loss instead of a win.
Things started to turn around at the all-star break though. The Jays were eight or so games back of the Yankees at that point, but suddenly the pitchers were holding the opposition at bay. Buoyed by the progress the team was making, GM Alex Anthopoulos pulled the trigger on a couple of huge trades prior to the July 31 trade deadline, acquiring all-star shortstop Troy Tulowitzkifrom the Colorado Rockies and perennial left-handed ace David Price from the Tigers.
Since then, the Jays have been on a tear. They’re 20W-5L so far in August, and have a 1.5 game lead over the Yankees in the AL East race. As noted above, they still have seven games against the Yankees, and I’m sure the Pin-Stripers and the other teams in the AL East would like nothing better than to derail the Jays’ pennant bid. But if the pitching and defense stay strong, and the Jays continue to hammer the ball like they’ve been doing, they’re not going to be an easy team to beat.
This two-day festival features free Xtreme sports competitions and demonstrations (skateboarding, MotoCross, wakeboarding, etc) during the day in Wascana Centre, and ticketed concerts at night. Last year, a deluge forced the Saturday show to be moved indoors. Hopefully, the rain stays away this year.
Headliners on the music side for Friday night include the Toronto electronic duo Torro Torro and a DJ set from Lil Jon, along with a free show by the Dead South on something called the SGI Stage which is different from the Main Stage.
On Saturday, the Main Stage acts include Lights and Dear Rouge. There was also a battle of the bands thing going on so whoever won that will be on the card as well.
You can get all the line-up and ticket info on the SaskTel Summer Invasion website. To close, here’s the SF-themed video for Lights latest single “Same Sea” off her 2015 album Little Machines
Heading into the 2015 CFL season this game, which goes at Mosaic Stadium today at 5 p.m., along with a rematch in Calgary on Halloween afternoon, were likely seen as potential first place showdowns between two traditional CFL West powers.
Seven games into the season, the Stamps, at 5W-2L, are definitely in the hunt. They sit one game back of the 6W-2L Edmonton Eskimos pending the outcome of last night’s game in Edmonton where the Eskimos hosted the CFL East leading Hamilton Tiger Cats. After their horrible 0W-7L start, the Riders, though, are pretty much done for 2015, and are now in a position to start the rebuilding process for 2016.
How far the Riders will go in rejigging their roster is a hot topic among fans these days. Do they hang on to fading veterans who are still capable of performing, but who command high salaries, and whose best days are behind them? Or do they either release and/or trade some of these veterans to contending teams to make room for younger players and hopefully stockpile some draft picks.
The Riders play their ninth game of the season on Aug. 30 in Ottawa against the Redblacks. After that, they are on the hook for the salary of any player with six or more years of CFL service. After the Labour Day and Banjo Bowl games against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, that protection extends to players with five and four years of CFL experience respectively. So if Rider GM Brendan Taman and head coach Corey Chamblin are going to make any big moves now would seem to be the time to do it.
As for this game, the Stamps are still missing their star RB Jon Cornish who is on the six-game injury list with a broken thumb. But unless the Riders have found a way during the bye week to solve all their self-destructive tendencies tied to penalties, turnovers, poor tackling and shaky defence it’s hard to envision them notching their first win of the season tonight.
You can find out more information on today’s game on the Riderville website. And in our Sept. 3 issue, we’ll have our mid-season installment of Rider Fan Forum where Cal Corduroy, John’s Chick, Earl Camembert and Ron Mexico will offer their prescriptions to cure what currently ails the Green & White.
Here’s a heads up about an event the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame is hosting on Saturday, Aug. 22. The event runs from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., and includes sports-themed games and crafts, a multi-sport simulator and a BBQ.
You’ll also have the opportunity, of course, to tour the SSHF. Chalk, Wheat and Diamonds: Saskatchewan ‘Ball is the current feature exhibit (photo above), and there’s also displays related to various athletes, teams and builders who have been inducted into the SSHF over the years.
Just like the Saskatchewan Roughriders did earlier this season, the Regina Thunder kick off their Prairie Football Conference schedule with two straight games at home. Tonight at 7 p.m., the Thunder will take to the turf at Mosaic Stadium to play the Winnipeg Rifles. And following that tilt, the Thunder will host the Edmonton Wildcats at Mosaic Stadium on Sunday Aug. 23 at 1 p.m.
Unlike the Riders, though, I don’t think the Thunder will find themselves sitting at 0W-2L at the conclusion of the home stand. In fact, if I was a betting man, they’ll probably be at 2W-0L.
The Riders (and their fans) had high hopes heading into 2015 too, of course, but all that more or less unravelled when Darian Durant went down with a season-ending Achilles tendon injury just before the end of the first half in in the home opener against Winnipeg.
The Thunder lost a QB to injury last year too. That was Jaeden Marwick, and he’s back with the team again this year. In a training camp profile that appeared in the Leader-Post in late July, Thunder head coach Scott MacAulay said he was very satisfied with the quality of the team’s recruits this year, and credited the solid minor league and high school football programs in Regina for producing a lot of quality players.
That talent, and depth, will likely spell bad news for most Thunder opponents this year. As always, of course, the Saskatoon Hilltops will prove a stiff test. And year-to-year, there’s usually another PFC team or two that qualifies as a contender. But come playoff time, the Thunder should be in a position to host one of the two semi-finals.