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CFL Referees in Spotlight Again for Some Questionable Penalty Calls



Just for the record, we will stop talking about the officiating when CFL fans, coaches and players stop talking about it.

Right now, it’s almost the only thing they’re talking about after a Labour Day weekend of entertaining football, but more than a few questionable calls.

The early stages of anything new are always rocky, and right now the three down loop is going through that stage as everyone tries to determine the standard for the eight penalties that can be challenged. A rule was changed two weeks ago in an effort to limit the number of challenges, and we’ve yet to see a drastic decrease. It should eventually work, though.

The problem over the weekend, however, was the number of weak pass interference penalties called. Saskatchewan’s Justin Cox, Edmonton’s Marcel Young and Toronto’s A.J. Jefferson all blanketed the receivers they were covering, yet each ended up getting a flag. Jefferson’s was especially egregious, because Ticats receiver Andy Fantuz appeared to flop to get the call.

Let’s hope that doesn’t set a precedent.

Let’s also hope CFL vice-president of football Glen Johnson spent Tuesday yelling at his officials, telling them to be better. Coaches have only two challenges, but if these phantom calls continue they’re going to need more than that.


Where do we start with Chris Jones this week?

The Riders general manager, head coach and defensive co-ordinator looked overwhelmed as the undisputed leader of the Green and White in the Labour Day Classic.

Whether it was trying an ill-timed fake punt, going for it on third-and-four at a terrible time, having too many defensive players on the field or throwing a premature challenge flag that he desperately could have used later in the game, he was a big reason why the Riders lost their first LDC to the Bombers since 2004.

Oh, and did we mention he signed Khalif Mitchell, who has been fined for — among other violations — antisemitism? The next person, other than Jones, who says that was a good move will be the first one to do so.

Jones better get it figured out quick because there is already speculation in Regina that the Riders board of directors will fire everyone, including president and CEO Craig Reynolds, if the Gong Show continues.

That seems unlikely, but the Riders are the laughingstock of the league right now and folks there take their football very seriously.


Speaking of the Roughriders, word emerged Tuesday that CFL commissioner Jeffrey Orridge will not be attending the organization’s Plaza of Honor ceremony next Friday night in Regina.

The voice of the Riders, CKRM’s Rod Pedersen, reported it was a mutual decision.

Orridge fined the organization $60,000 last month, took $26,000 off their 2016 salary cap for roster violations and said they compromised the reputation of the CFL. That, along with a few questionable officiating calls that every team gets, has led to belief that the CFL has a vendetta against the Green and White.

Orridge was supposed to do a Q and A as part of the program next Friday night, but it was likely scrapped so as to not overshadow the night’s honourees, Matt Dominguez and Ivan Gutfriend. Pedersen had hinted on his blog,, that Orridge would essentially be put on the hot seat if he showed up.


The best sequence of events from the weekend? Referee Tom Vallesi standing two feet away and watching Adrian Tracy hit Ricky Ray as he released the ball, then a minute or so later being proud to announce that, after review, the ruling on the play stood. It was tough to tell if the giddy look on Valesi’s face was extreme relief or a big, fat I-told-you-so … It will be nice when the CFL finally gets to a place where it doesn’t make teams play two games in six days. The Argos faced that situation last week and faded like a flower on Monday night in Hamilton … One name to watch for in the short term is that of offensive lineman Brett Boyko, who was released by the San Diego Chargers on the weekend and is B.C. Lions property after getting drafted by the club last year.


I hired a damn good assistant coach about 10 years ago. He was hurting my staff, though, because he had a drinking problem. I fired him after the year because he wouldn’t admit he had a drinking problem. What am I saying? We have an officiating problem. We need to admit it and fix it, or fire the causes of the problem and any people who are hesitant to make big changes in that group … Every week I look at the film, and I’m less sure what is and isn’t pass interference or illegal contact. It’s like flipping a (bleeping) coin. All I know is what my wife says. (The officials) are on TV more than any of us who are coaching … I’m the kind of coach who just focuses on who we’re playing next. But one of my guys who’s tapped into all of the gossip says Noel Thorpe will be interim head coach in Montreal before the end of this month and Danny Maciocia will be their head coach next year … I don’t know what the Bombers paid (Justin) Medlock, but he’s worth every (bleeping) penny … I’ve coached with Scott (Milanovich), and he’s a damn good coach. (Jim) Barker’s pretty good at what he does, too. But something’s wrong in Toronto. Look at their record over the last three or four years. The year they won it all they went 9-9 and got hot at the end. This year, with the crossover deal, they might not make the playoffs … We’re hoping Montreal beats B.C., but that’s probably a (bleeping) dream. (Kevin) Glenn is too old. That’s why (Rakeem) Cato is going to start, and they have too many other old guys on that Als team whose best days are long gone.


The Stampeders and Tiger-Cats will clash in the 104th Grey Cup, which was predicted in this space before the season. That is unless one of them loses a key piece to injury, like the Zach Collaros situation from last year.


“Maybe the @CFL should be fined this wk.Last DPI call takes away from great #LDC.Congrats Bombers.Great effort @dariandurant @sskroughriders”

– Saskatchewan grand poo bah Brad Wall (@PremierBradWall) is likely the only premier who can throw DPI into a sentence and sound legit.


Scott Milanovich proved on Monday night that you shouldn’t save your challenges for what may come.

It’s best to get what you need in the present.

The Argos head coach didn’t throw a challenge flag on a complete pass to Diontae Spencer that was ruled incomplete in the fourth quarter of the Ticats comeback win on Monday night. That allowed the Ticats to send the house on second-and-10, and John Chick’s pressure of Ricky Ray led to Emanuel Davis’ pick six that sealed the Tabbies victory.

Milanovich went on a fishing trip with his second and final challenge at the three minute warning, and of course he came up empty.


When Jerome Messam gets the ball, good things happen. Kudos to the Stampeders’ offensive coaching staff for realizing that on Monday afternoon.

The CFL’s top tailback rushed 18 times for 110 yards and two touchdowns in Calgary’s romp over Edmonton at McMahon Stadium, and he also caught six passes for 49 yards.

Messam’s 18 carries marked only the first time this season he has had at least 10 carries in three consecutive games. The man is averaging 5.4 yards per carry, including a 6.1 mark in Monday’s contest, so he should be getting the rock more.

When the Stampeders have a balanced attack, they’re nearly unbeatable.


4 – Consecutive losses for the Argos.

4 – Defensive touchdowns for the Bombers and Eskimos, tops in the league.

4 – Consecutive games in which the Roughriders have been shut out in the first quarter.

4 – Special teams tackles by Argos linebacker Kyler Elsworth on Monday night. That’s a lot.


1. (1) Calgary

They’re unbeaten in eight games, which is their longest streak since Doug Flutie won 10 straight in 1994 and 1995.

2. (2) B.C.

They completed their southern Ontario sweep with a tight win over the Argos to run their road record to 5-1.

3. (3) Hamilton

Zach Collaros has played only four games, but he’s already third in league passing touchdowns with 14.

4. (4) Winnipeg

They won their first Labour Day Classic since 2004 and five straight victories ties their longest win streak since 2001.

5. (5) Ottawa

The Redblacks barely beat the floundering Alouettes, which these days is akin to taking candy from a baby.

6. (6) Edmonton

The Green and Gold had their moments on Monday at McMahon, but the defence still isn’t where it needs to be.

7. (8) Toronto

Two losses in one week for the Boatmen, who are at four straight setbacks and counting. Ricky Ray looks tired.

8. (9) Saskatchewan

Have the football gods cursed the CFL’s flagship franchise for stealing the Grey Cup winning coach eight days after he won it?

9. (7) Montreal

Going to Rakeem Cato at this point is a desperation move that could have waited a little while longer.


Friday, 10 p.m. EDT

Montreal at B.C. (-9.5)

The Alouettes are in a state of quarterback flux, and the well rested Lions are lurking in the tall grass. Lions by 20.

Saturday, 4 p.m. EDT

Saskatchewan at Winnipeg (-7.5)

Winnipeg almost blew its first Labour Day Classic win since 2004, but it should cruise in the Banjo Bowl rematch. Bombers by 10.

Saturday, 7 p.m. EDT

Calgary (-2.5) at Edmonton

The Red and White haven’t lost since opening night and are firing on nearly every cylinder these days. Stampeders by 4.

Sunday, 4:30 p.m. EDT

Hamilton (-4) at Toronto

Zach Collaros is cooking, and they’re finally getting C.J. Gable to run the ball. It’s sweep time. Ticats by 8.

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Up and Coming Sports Stars to Look Out for in 2020



Every year, a raft of exciting new players come onto the scene across all of the major US sports. With the MLS season getting underway and the NFL and MLB drafts not too far away, now is a great time to look at the young sports stars that could have a very bright future ahead of them, and the ones that are already proving they are destined for greatness.

Theo Bair (MLS)

This MLS season is looking like it could be one of the best yet, with David Beckham’s Inter Miami team adding some extra dazzle to the league. Whilst Beckham might be able to attract a lot of new players to his MLS team, there are a lot of young stars on their way through such as Theo Bair at Vancouver Whitecaps. Bair has already made an impact on the first team and after impressing at under-20 and under-23 level for the national team, he has made two appearances for the senior team, well before his 21st birthday. This year could see Bair make a real name for himself in the MLS.

Source: Pixabay

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (MLB)

Montreal-born Vladimir Guerrero Jr has one MLB season under his belt but it looks like the best is still yet to come from him at the Blue Jays. He was heavily backed to take the league by storm but he failed to live up to the hype that surrounded him. Without the pressure of being the top-ranked prospect, this season could see Guerrero play with some weight lifted off his shoulders. He has been working very hard on his fitness over the offseason, something that his manager Montoyo has been quick to comment upon.

Baseball by andrewmalone, on Flickr

Baseball” (CC BY 2.0) by andrewmalone

Connor McDavid (NHL)

McDavid has already established him as a top hockey player but at 23, he has the potential to go on to do so much more. The player was born in Ontario and was the first overall draft pick, showing how much expectation was already on him at that stage but he has gone on to prove that he is one of the best players in the NHL. McDavid could go on to be one the NHL’s best-ever hockey players and this season could be the year that he shows the world, not just the NHL.

Chuba Hubbard (College Football)

The Oklahoma State Cowboys running back has been making the headlines for several years now. He continues to improve and grab more attention for his impressive stats and performances. He was close to being a sprinter and nearly made the Canadian Olympic team before switching over to football. He is passing up the 2020 NFL draft to play his senior season at Cowboys. He should give them a good chance of winning the College Football Championship, though they’re trailing at the seventh spot in the latest American football odds at +2400.00, with Clemson as the current betting favorites.

2020 will definitely be a very exciting time with some of these young stars looking to breakthrough in their respective sports and show the world what they are capable of.

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Bob Baffert is back at the Kentucky Derby – and looking to break the Curse of Apollo



Bob Baffert is back at the Kentucky Derby with early favourite Justify after watching the race from his sofa in Southern California last year.

The Hall of Fame trainer’s ability to produce Derby contenders year after year is an enviable feat and why his absence a year ago stood out. It was just his second since 2009 and occurred because his lone candidate got hurt.

Baffert will saddle Justify and 30-to-1 shot Solomini in Saturday’s Derby.

Justify is one of the greenest colts Baffert has brought to Churchill Downs. He’s won all three of his starts by a combined 19 lengths. If Justify wins, he’d be the first to do so since Apollo in 1882 without racing as a two-year-old.

“The thing about the Kentucky Derby, you have to have the right horse. It just happens. You can’t force it,” Baffert said. “All of a sudden, you have good horses and you’re there. So I’ve been really fortunate to have some really good horses.”

Baffert’s four victories are tied for second-most in Derby history. He’s finished second three times, too, including in 2012 with Bodemeister, also the last time he had two starters in the same year.

Like Justify, Bodemeister didn’t race as a two-year-old. He set a blistering pace and led the Derby until the final 150 yards when I’ll Have Another overtook him to win by 1 1/2 lengths.

Magnum Moon, the 6-to-1 third choice, also is unbeaten and didn’t run as a two-year-old.

“It’s going to happen,” Baffert said, referring to the curse being broken. “Whether it happens this year or whatever, but it will happen because Bodemeister almost got away with it. But I don’t really worry about that.”

Baffert almost had a third starter this year until McKinzie developed a hind-end issue that knocked him off the Derby trail.

“When McKinzie got hurt, I wanted to throw up,” he said. “I really think McKinzie would probably be second choice here. We’d really have a 1-2 here.”

Justify cleared the biggest pre-Derby hurdle by drawing the No. 7 post. Jockey Mike Smith can use the colt’s early speed to position him well for the long run to the chaotic first turn. Solomini ended up in the No. 17 post; no horse has ever won from there.

Baffert turned 65 in January, making him eligible for Medicare and retirement at most other jobs. However, he entertains no such thoughts.

“I work hard at it. I just don’t give up,” the white-haired trainer said. “I’m constantly meeting people. They’re sending me horses. If you don’t have success, you’re not going to get those opportunities.”

After a successful run in the quarter horse ranks, Baffert switched to thoroughbreds. He started with one horse.

“After 25 years, I’m finally getting horses that I don’t have to buy,” he said. “The big guys are sending me horses.”

None was bigger than American Pharoah in 2015. The colt swept the Derby, Preakness and Belmont to become racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.

Baffert has compared Justify to American Pharoah, citing the colt’s imposing physical presence and big stride. Still, Justify has yet to encounter the kind of traffic the Derby’s 20-horse stampede creates and the talent as he’ll run against on Saturday.

“I’d rather have a really talented horse than one who’s seasoned and just on par with the rest of them,” Baffert said.

Early on, Baffert knew Justify had the goods.

“The first time I worked him at Santa Anita, I knew he was a really good horse,” he said. “The track was really deep that morning, and he went around there effortlessly. His first race, he ran incredibly and showed how special he was.”

That kind of intuition is what separates Baffert from his rivals, fellow Hall of Famer trainer D. Wayne Lukas said.

“Bob’s got a great feel for it,” he said.

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Matthews ready to return to Maple Leafs lineup after missing a month



NASHVILLE — The hurtin’ tune that Auston Matthews has been singing for the past four weeks finally can be put in the remainder bin in Music City.

The Maple Leafs’ top centre on Wednesday declared himself set to return to the lineup after recovering from a right shoulder injury.

Wonderful timing, of course, considering the Leafs will take on the No. 1 club in the National Hockey League, the Nashville Predators, on Thursday night.

“In my mind, I think I’m ready to go and taking it as I’m getting ready to play (Thursday),” Matthews said after resuming his normal role, between William Nylander and Zach Hyman, during practice at Bridgestone Arena.

“It felt good, nice to get in all the reps and everything. (Wednesday) was a good step forward in that process, going through the line rushes.”

It seemed probable that the Leafs also will have defenceman Nikita Zaitsev, who missed the past five games as he recovered from an illness, against Nashville. Zaitsev was paired with Jake Gardiner, his regular partner, at practice.

For Matthews, it has been 10 games as a spectator with his latest injury, his third of the 2017-18 regular season after he missed four games in November with a back issue and then sat for six in December because of a concussion.

Thursday will mark four weeks since Matthews was hurt when he was sandwiched by the New York Islanders’ Cal Clutterbuck and Adam Pelech in a game at the Air Canada Centre.

A major bonus for Matthews in his recovery has been the fact he has been able to skate though much of his recuperation. That was not the case when he was out with his previous two injuries.

It’s worth noting that Matthews scored two goals versus the Montreal Canadiens upon returning on Nov. 18 from his back injury; in his first two games upon coming back from a concussion, he scored a goal in each.

Mike Babcock said a final decision on the participation of Matthews and Zaitsev against the Predators would be made on Thursday morning, but the Leafs coach was talking as though it would be a rubber stamp.

“This is going to be the best opportunity for (Matthews) because he has been able to skate and compete,” Babcock said. “The other times he was not able to do anything.

“To get him back … it’s still going to be going way faster than he has been practising, so there is going to be an adjustment period, but he’s a good player and he will figure it out.”

Defenceman Morgan Rielly didn’t think Matthews will take long to find his footing. Rielly missed six games in late January/early February with an arm injury, so knows what Matthews could be feeling.

“You’re nervous and you just want to get back into it,” Rielly said. “You play your first shift a bit hesitant, but after that it’s important you get back to yourself.

“It’s never easy, but Auston is one of those guys that I will imagine it won’t take long for him to get back into a rhythm.”

And there’s the trickle-down effect through the forward lines with Matthews in uniform.

“Guys are used to playing with certain players and when everyone is healthy, I think you get better chemistry throughout the entire lineup,” centre Nazem Kadri said. “Certain guys don’t have to play with different guys constantly and it’s just more of a set group, so I think it’s going to help us.”

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