Thursday, August 30, 2007

Only three more sleeps

The atmosphere around town is absolutely electric in advance of Sunday's Labour Day Classic. The Riders and Bombers both come in at the top of their games, and it's shaping up to be a weekend to remember - or not remember, in some cases :)

I did a guest host stint on last night's Coaches Show on CKRM, and defensive line coach Ron Estay had some interesting comments. Estay acknowledges that it'll be tough getting to Bombers pivot Kevin Glenn Sunday, due to Glenn's ability to get the ball off quickly. In those cases, Estay is reminding his charges to get their arms up, and hopefully deflect or knock down passes.

The 'ole Swamp Dog also regaled us with stories of Labour Day contests from his playing days with the Edmonton Eskimos. I loved the story of how Estay and his three d-line colleagues converged on a Calgary quarterback, and Estay was the only defender to come out of the collision without a concussion!

Another broadcasting note: I learned yesterday that I won't be co-hosting the Regina Pats post-game show on CKRM this season. Dem's da breaks, I guess. I suspect I'll still be involved in the game broadcasts on an occasional, pinch-hitting basis - so it's hardly the end of the world.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

SportZone lineup for August 27th

Here's the lineup for the show, airing Wednesday at 6 p.m. and Thursday at 3 p.m. this week and next week on Access channel 7:

SportZone Guests for August 26/07
Community Co-Host – Carlo Palazzo

1. A Regina hockey player gears up for his first NHL training camp. Guest: Garrett Klotz (Philadelphia Flyers prospect).

2. A preview of the 2007 Regina Dragon Boat Festival. Guest: Allyson McDonald (Festival President).

3. An introduction to the U of R’s new men’s volleyball coach. Guest: Greg Barthel (Head Coach).

4. A profile of the 2007/08 University of Regina men’s basketball team. The team is holding a fundraising golf tournament in September. Guest: James Hillis (Head Coach).

5. Regina’s Prairie Fire rugby team celebrates a national championship. Guest: Jered Kirkland (Fire Captain).

6. An update on the Regina Thunder junior football team. Guests: Brett Lund & Stu Foord (Players).

7. An update on summer performances by members of Regina Excel Athletika track and field club. Guest: Terry Mountjoy (Excel Athletika Head Coach).

Monday, August 27, 2007

Riders go retro

The Saskatchewan Roughriders unveiled their new, retro third jerseys today. The early reviews from the message board faithful aren't overly positive. I'll reserve comment until I see the jerseys on the field Sunday in the Labour Day classic. Just six more sleeps!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The best of times

No question, this really is a great time of year to be a sports fan - especially in Saskatchewan this year! The Riders are in first place, and the Regina Pats look to be on the verge of a very successful WHL season. As long as I can still get a few more games of tennis in this season, what's not to love?

Today, I thought I'd respond to a couple of comments posted by one of our regular readers, Old Fan. OF's comments are in bold print, followed by mine. I invite you to join in by posting comments of your own.
Hey Pete, How's your summer been? Been reading you daily man.
The hysteria around the Riders fortunes is good for marketing but it is also the recipe for a huge letdown. A couple of years ago the Lions won like their first 10 games and went into the crapper after that. This squad has to get better d-zone coverage and the defense overall has to stiffen. The second half will test their metal. I am hoping for the best but its a bit too early to book for Toronto. I hope fans understand that but I doubt they do!

OF, OF, OF - such cynicism! Frankly, I say let the fans enjoy the ride! As a long, long-suffering fan of this team, surely you agree the people who buy the tickets are entitled to a little hysteria? Lord knows they've had their fill of disappointment in the past 30 years! With that in mind, I certainly know where you're coming from when you speak of great expectations leading to crushing disappointment.

And yes, I also agree that there's room for improvement - on both sides of the ball. However, what I really like about this year's team is that the players and coaches aren't getting caught up in the hype. They realize this team has been good, and occasionally lucky, this season - but needs to keep getting better if it has championship aspirations. In the meantime, Labour Day is going to be an absolute gong show - in the best possible way!

The Pats are in the 4th year of a 3 year building will have to really step up and prove they are real contenders. We have been rebuilding too long and the time for the meat is right friggen now. They still need a couple of quality forwards and will probably have to move a d-man. I can think of one or two that could be moved. Leflar will have to be better however he is an enigma. Eberle will likely be better but a 17 yr old can't be expected to carry the team. He will be watched a lot more this year. Parker and Hunt will have to prove they can build a winner and get the job done. If they can't after all this time, well, maybe its time to weigh the options!!

Again, I can't blame anyone for being a little skeptical about the Pats. However, I truly believe this team will be a contender, if they can find a first and second line centre. Maybe a couple of the players in camp are up to the task, or perhaps those holes will have to be filled through the trade route. If so, I would suggest the only "untouchables" on the current roster are Colten Teubert, Jordan Eberle and Logan Pyett. I suspect anyone else could be moved, if the deal makes sense.

Now, if the Pats stumble out of the gate and are well off the pace by Christmas - then I may have to rethink my optimistic outlook! Hopefully that's a bridge we won't have to cross.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Holmes coming home!


The Saskatchewan Roughriders (and Eric Tillman in particular) continue to plunder the roster of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The Riders have dealt underachieving receiver/returner Jason Armstead to the Tabbies. In return, Hamilton sends over all-purpose back Corey Holmes, and rookie Canadian receiver Chris Getzlaf. Holmes was the Riders MVP in 2005, and the CFL's special teams player of the year. Getzlaf, a native of Regina, has a huge upside. Maybe his presence will kick Andy Fantuz's game back into high gear. Nothing like a little competition to snap a guy out of a sophomore jinx.

If Hamilton wants to keep getting bent over the table in trades with Saskatchewan, I say we let them!

What a wild ride!

The Saskatchewan Roughriders rallied to beat the Edmonton Eskimos 39-32 last night, in a game that will be talked about for many, many years in these parts. Early in the fourth quarter a powerful thunderstorm hit Mosaic Stadium, knocking out power and sending the teams and fans scrambling for cover. Many fans - especially those with young kids - stumbled out of the stadium in the darkness and left for home. Not sure why some fans felt the need to spark up a few fatties in the concourses - but whatever keeps you calm, I suppose.

Apparently CBC felt the same way as many fans, as the host TV broadcaster cut away from the game (and apparently didn't return in some parts of the country). Thank goodness for CKRM, as Rod's crew stayed on the air and did a great job keeping the masses updated on what was happening. My old radio partner Perry Nyhus' reports were as good as you'll hear from any broadcast reporter in these parts - probably better, actually. An hour later, the game resumed with the Riders trailing 32-27.

A big thumbs up to the fans who stayed, and an even bigger thumbs up to the Riders, who rallied to win their fourth straight and improve their league-best record to 6-2. What a wild ride! The atmosphere for Labour Day should be absolutely electric. Hopefully the skies won't be!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Fire roll past Thunder

This super sports Saturday in Regina is off to a fine start. The Regina-based Prairie Fire rugby squad beat the Niagara Thunder 28-12 this afternoon, to capture the Rugby Canada Super League national championship.

Up next, the Riders host the Edmonton Eskimos!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Injury bug bites Riders

The Saskatchewan Roughriders have made a few lineup changes in advance of tomorrow night's home date with the Edmonton Eskimos. The most significant involves the loss of All-Canadian offensive lineman Gene Makowsky. Geno will be on the shelf for the next month with mono. Wayne Smith will likely take his tackle spot, with recently-acquired Val St. Germain sliding into Smith's guard position.

As well, Tad Kornegay gets the start at corner for the injured Airabin Justin and Zach Ville fills in for Marcus Adams at defensive tackle. Other Riders out of commision for this game include defensive end Kyle Mitchell, back-up defensive lineman Luc Mullinder, long-snapper Jocelyn Frenette, and back-up linebacker Dustin Cherniawski. And of course, that list doesn't even include the long-term injuries to starters Eddie Davis, Yo Murphy and Terrell Jurineack.

It'll certainly be a test of the green and white's depth tomorrow night. Here's hoping Kent Austin's crew is up to the challenge!

Geez, I almost forgot: Sincerest congratulations to Riders defensive tackle (and human quote machine) Scott Schultz and his wife on the birth of their first child! Anna Alivia Schultz checked in this week at a healthy 8lbs 2 oz. Way to go Schultzie! Do you think dad will be gunning for a sack for his little girl this week? Or two?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

SportZone lineup for August 13th

Here's the lineup for the show, airing this week and next week on Access 7 at 6 p.m. Wednesday and 3 p.m. Thursday:

SportZone Guests for August 13/07
Community Co-Host – Corey Matthews

1. A preview of the 2007 University of Regina Rams training camp/season. Guest: Teale Orban (Rams quarterback).

2. A review of the 2007 season for the Regina Red Sox. Guest: Bernie Eiswirth (Red Sox General Manager).

3. A review of the performance of the Saskatchewan Roughriders so far this season. Guest: John Lynch (Rider broadcaster).

4. A review of the performance of the Regina Thunder in their PFC season opener. Guests: Bryce McCall & David Rybinski (Players).

5. The Prairie Fire rugby squad hosts the Rugby Canada Super League final August 18th. Guests: Tim Young & Dick Cornish (Board members).

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Riders rolling

I may have to revise my pre-season prediction of a 10-8 record for the Saskatchewan Roughriders this season. The Riders notched their third straight win, and improved their record to 5-2, by knocking off the Argos 24-13 in Toronto Friday night.

The defense overcame some 1st half miscues to post another solid result. The offense wasn't sensational, but was efficient and opportunistic. And the special teams were pretty solid - the highlight being a Wayne Smith fumble recovery after a missed field goal by Luca Congi. Coupled with BC's loss to Winnipeg, the green machine is now tied for top spot in the west, and overall, with the Lions. Next up, the eminently beatable Edmonton Eskimos visit Regina Saturday night. There is no reason, no good one anyway, why Mosaic Stadium shouldn't be sold out for this one!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Friday night football

This has the makings of a very interesting game tonight for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. First, you have Head Coach Kent Austin returning to Toronto, where he was unceremoniously dumped as the Argos Offensive Coordinator last year. Next, you have the Riders rapidly gelling offense against an always-tough Toronto defense. And, you have to know Schultzie, Perry and the guys on defense are licking their chops at the prospect of going up against Toronto's 3rd string quarterback and 3rd string tailback!

It's also a test of the mental toughness of the Green Gang. Let's face it, the Argos are a wounded and stumbling opponent. This is a game the Riders should win. However, in the recent past, these were precisely the types of games the Barrett-led Riders inexplicably found a way to lose. Let's see if those days are really behind us.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The good, the bad and the...

Martine Gaillard's latest post on her blog at the site is an interesting read. Working in the sports media really does give a person a unique perspective on the people so many fans look up to. Most of the folks I've had the privilege of interviewing (especially Regina and Saskatchewan athletes and coaches) have been great. Then, there's the other side of the coin - sports personalities who leave you muttering "What a jerk!" as you walk away. Here's a partial list of the higher-profile folks who've made an impression on me:

The Good
  1. Darryl Sittler - I've never actually interviewed the man, but he dated my babysitter while playing junior hockey in London, Ontario. When we met, he treated this little drippy-nosed gaffer with warmth and respect. He set the standard for what I thought all athletes should be like.
  2. Paul Henderson - I interviewed the hero of the '72 Summit Series at a golf tournament in Regina a few years ago. Thoughtful, classy and engaging.
  3. Lorne Molleken - I interviewed "Mooner" many times when he coached the Saskatoon Blades (for the first time), and then again when we both landed in Regina. I'll never forget the sight of him stumbling out of the women's washroom at a Blades event. To quote: "There's no women here, so why the hell not?" Words to live by, really.
  4. Barret Jackman - the former Pats captain was mature way, way beyond his years. I was hosting a Pats broadcast on Access one night, and the intermission guest didn't show up. After a couple minutes of me fumbling and bumbling on-air, who should walk in but the (at the time) injured captain of the Pats! "I heard your guy jammed out on you, so I thought I'd drop in. Hope that's okay?" Uh, yes Barret. That's very okay indeed.

The Bad

  1. Wayne Maxner - a former NHL player and coach, "Maxie" was the head coach of the OHL London Knights when I was just a cub reporter in 1988. About an hour before the first Knights' game I covered, I tracked Maxner down and introduced myself and asked if I could ask him a couple of questions. The man looked through me as if I wasn't even there! Then he rolled his eyes, nodded his head and graced me with a couple minutes of his time. He warmed up over time, but that was a hell of a way to introduce someone to the world of sports journalism!
  2. "Neon Deion" - Deion Sanders was a rookie outfielder for the Class AA Albany Yankees in the summer of 1989. He almost had to be physically subdued to get him to take part in a scrum with the London media. Then, the player that would go on to be called "Prime Time" could barely string two words together! Suffice to say he got over that problem!
  3. Chris Chelios - I landed the opportunity to cover the annual NHL awards in Toronto in 1989. In a room full of the brightest stars of pro hockey, "Chelly" was the only player to blow off my interview request. At the opposite end of the spectrum, then-Flames coach Terry Crisp talked my ear off, and offered me a beer afterwards!

The Ugly

Only one example comes to mind. Saskatoon hosted an NBA exhibition game in the late summer of 1992. The Denver Nuggets took on the Seattle Supersonics. I swung by the Sonics practice to do a few pre-event interviews, including one with star forward (and prolific breeder) Shawn Kemp. A couple of media colleagues asked if they could take part in the interview, which was fine with me. And since I was the only one of the group with any knowledge of the Sonics (or the NBA for that matter), the arrangement worked out well for them too! So, I positioned myself in front of Kemp for the media scrum and started asking questions. Well, I don't know if he was nervous, but Kemp held a very large, and very heavy, warm-up jacket in his hand while doing the interview. Then, he started slowly swinging the jacket out in front of him while talking. Sure enough, that damn jacket lined up perfectly with my......well, let's just say the players weren't the only ones practising ball control that day! And of course my media colleagues, being kind souls, just smiled and enjoyed the show. Talk about suffering for your craft!

So, those are a few of my stories. Have any of you had brushes with greatness that you'd like to share? They don't have to be restricted to the world of sports - musicians, politicians, actors, whatever. Fire away!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

WHL schedule released

At long last (what was the hold-up anyway?), the 2007/08 WHL schedule has been released. The Regina Pats open the campaign with a home-and-home set with the Prince Albert Raiders. The Raiders host the Pats Friday, September 21st - the rematch goes Sunday afternoon (Sept. 23) at the Brandt Centre.

The preseason starts for the Pats Saturday, September 1st at the preseason tournament in Edmonton. The annual New Year's Day tradition continues, with the Swift Current Broncos coming to town on January 1st.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Riders play giant killers

Congrats to the Saskatchewan Roughriders for knocking off the previously unbeaten B.C. Lions 21-9 last night. In honour of the occasion, I allowed young Jacob to stay up waaaaaaaaay past his bedtime - actually I had zero choice in the matter, but I like to pretend I'm still in charge.

Wes Cates continues to impress as the Riders feature back. Which could really make things interesting if Kenton Keith fails in his bid to make the Indianapolis Colts roster. Nice problem to have, really. And fullback Chris Szarka has been very impressive running and catching the ball out of the backfield. And some deep thinkers on the message boards wanted to cut Zark loose in the offseason - as if!

Another dominating performance by the defense last night. Let's face it, Jarious Jackson isn't going to make anyone forget Dave Dickenson (or even Buck Pierce) anytime soon - but the goal is to shut down the opposing offense, regardless of who's playing. And the Green Gang achieved that goal rather impressively.

Now, just because there's no such thing as a perfect game:
  • Luca Congi - for the third straight game - missed a field goal of less than 30 yards. This is a disturbing trend, to say the least.
  • Kerry Joseph continues to sail the ball way over the heads of wide-open receivers. This is not a new development.
  • Big plays (offense and defense) continue to be negated by bone-headed penalties. Seriously, why does a receiver need to go offside on a running play?

Next up, a trip to Toronto to take on the reeling Argos. Will Rocky Butler get the start at quarterback for the Boatmen? Should the Riders defense be salivating at the prospect?