Good Tuesday, everyone. Hope you all had a fun and safe Canada Day long weekend!
The personal highlight for me was being able to watch all four CFL games from start to finish (two of which I watched on TV, the other two I attended in person). Sadly, I was 1/4 with my predictions (BC was my only correct pick). Here's how my initial power rankings look...
1. BC (1-0)
2. Saskatchewan (1-0)
3. Calgary (1-0)
4. Edmonton (1-0)
5. Toronto (0-1)
6. Winnipeg (0-1)
7. Montreal (0-1)
8. Hamilton (0-1)
A few thoughts...
- Geroy Simon became the CFL's all time leader in receiving yardage on Friday and has no intentions of slowing down anytime soon. If he manages to play two or three more seasons as he intends to, Simon could pull a 'Jerry Rice' and make the record virtually unbeatable. He's a credit to the CFL and we are all lucky to be able to watch him do what he does.
- Buck Pierce deserves a ton of admiration for his grit and determination.... but when is enough enough? He missed the second half of Winnipeg's 33-16 to BC with a knee injury. When healthy, Pierce is a very capable starting quarterback in this league. Unfortunately, seeing Pierce healthy is about as likely driving through Red Deer without seeing a lifted up 4 x 4 with a set of truck nuts. The Blue Bombers may have to turn the page with Pierce at some point and turn the reins over to Alex Brink.
- What up, Saskatchewan? After stumbling to a scoring average of 19 points per game in 2011, Darian Durant and crew lit up the new look (and apparently overrated) Hamilton Tiger-Cats defence for 43 points on Friday. This was largely due to Hamilton's refusal to try to cover Weston Dressler (180 yards, 3 TD's) at any point in the game. The complete domination of both sides of the line of scrimmage also was a huge factor. What a way for the Riders to start the Cory Chamblin era. It's pretty clear the new Head Coach has lit a fire under his new team's collective butts. Those white storm trooper helmets have to go!
- Apparently, the proclamations of greatness for the Ti-Cats were substantially premature. This much-hyped squad laid a rather large and rotten egg in their first home game of their final season at Ivor Wynne Stadium. Henry Burris and the offence showed flashes of brilliance in the first half (receiver Chris Williams especially) before the Riders front seven turned up the heat and took the game over. I think the offence will be fine in the long run. The massive challenge for Head Coach George Cortez and crew is to shore up a porous defence that allowed 43 points and well over 500 yards in offence.
- The Edmonton Eskimos were anything but dominant in their home opener but they did enough to earn a 19-15 victory over the Argos. While the offence struggled to find consistency under the leadership of Steven Jyles, the Esks defence was superb in keeping the double blue's offence in check. Ricky Ray did have nearly 300 passing yards in his return to Commonwealth Stadium (298 to be exact) but much of that yardage came outside of the red zone. And the Argos running attack was made non-existent by Edmonton's dominant front four. Grant Shaw had an excellent game when it came to field goals, going 4/4. This trend of solid D and special teams will need to continue in order to buy more time for the Eskimos offence to find its legs.
- Chad Owens had a brilliant game for the Argonauts, racking up over 300 all-purpose yards. Unfortunately, his performance was overshadowed by an otherwise putrid showing by his team in Edmonton. Cory Boyd, outside of his 5-yard TD reception, was a non-factor in rushing for less than 50 yards. Penalties were an absolute killer for the Argos and made life easy for the Eskimos as they pulled out the win at home.
- Drew Tate looked pretty darn comfortable in his opening game of the season. After looking shaky in his two preseason appearances, Tate orchestrated Dave Dickenson's game plan to near perfection as the Stampeders blasted Montreal on Canada. He was by no means perfect, throwing two interceptions, but he looked confident and comfortable. Definitely a good sign for Calgary fans. A stingy defence and fairly solid special teams performance should also have Stampeders fans smiling after week one.
- As for the Alouettes... that was the most uncharacteristic season opener I have seen them play perhaps ever. They certainly looked nothing like the team which won back to back Grey Cups in '09 and '10. Of course it's only one game out of 18. But Sunday's game raised plenty of red flags. I don't want to say that Anthony Calvillo looked old, but he certainly did not look like the Anthony Calvillo we've come to know. As for Shea Emry's bonheaded hit on Drew Tate, I'm sure (hoping) the league office will taking some money from his pocket.
Red Deer's Chris Mason is back in familiar territory. On Sunday, the 36-year-old goaltender signed a one year, $1.25-million contract with the Nashville Predators. Chris enjoyed his best stretch of success in his previous stint with the Predators and was more than glad to accept their new offer (he did receive an offer to return to Winnipeg but declined). It's a good fit. He'll provide a solid backup presence for Pekka Rinne who some felt played too many games last season despite being named as a Vezina Trophy finalist.
There is definitely a wide range of opinion when it comes to the Calgary Flames' free agent signing of Jiri Hudler. Some say he's just what the Flames need to boost their scoring attack both even strength and on the powerplay. Others say his success in Detroit was thanks mostly to playing alongside the likes of Zetterberg, Datsyuk and crew. Regardless, Jay Feaster had his sights firmly set on Hudler, who is definitely not the style of player you would have ever see Darryl Sutter pursue. It's a gamble for sure (all free agent signings are) but give Feaster for being bold and bringing in a player who has had good success in the NHL and has a chance to make a positive impact in Calgary.
The 76th annual Ponoka Stampede wrapped up last night highlighted by a special moment in chuckwagon racing.
Troy Dorchester won a nailbiter to claim this year's title and the $50,000.00 dash for cash. He becomes the third generation in his family to win at Ponoka, joining his father Dallas and grandfather Tommy (Ponoka's big money race is named after Tommy).
The rest of this year's event champions list looks like this (plenty of Alberta content!)...
Bareback - Dustin LaValley, Crooked Creek AB
Steer Wrestling - Tanner Milan, Cochrane AB
Saddle Bronc - Denver Daines, Innisfail AB
Bull Riding - Scott Schiffner, Strathmore AB
Tie Down Roping - Cliff Cooper, Texas
Team Roping - Clay Ullery/Riley Wilson
Ladies Barrels - Carlee Rae Pierce, Texas
More than 73,000 fans attended this year's Stampede.
The Red Deer Riggers (Senior AAA, Sunburst Baseball League) are hosting a free clinic for Central Alberta players today. The clinic is for players ages 9-18 of all skill levels. If you happen to see this and know of a kid who might be interested... call Alex at 780-850-6533.
The McLennan Ross Sun junior golf tour visits Innisfail today.