Andrew Bucholtz

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Andrew Bucholtz is a Canadian football blogger for Yahoo! Sports.

  • The Saskatchewan Roughriders trained in Florida in 2013, and are back this year.The CFL is coming to the Sunshine State—for real this time. Two attempts were made to put teams in Florida during the league's USA expansion era in the 1990s, which didn't work out, but four of the league's current nine teams are heading to Florida's IMG Academy for offseason camps this year. The Saskatchewan Roughriders' camp is already underway this weekend, with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers following from April 12-15, the Edmonton Eskimos heading there April 22-25 and the Calgary Stampeders taking over April 26-28.

    It's interesting to see such an extensive CFL presence in the US, and all at one facility. These aren't free-agent tryout camps of the sort just about every team runs; they're the three-day offseason voluntary workouts for current members of the team that we've discussed before. There are huge advantages to doing these in Florida rather than in the team's own city as they've often been in the past, though, and they go well beyond just getting sunshine instead of snow. One of the biggest factors is geography and the cost and availability of flights; as explored in 2011, it was extremely difficult for teams in more isolated cities such as Regina and Winnipeg to get their American players in for a minicamp. At that time, Edmonton was the only West Division team holding an offseason voluntary workout, and that was a short one. Now, teams like Saskatchewan and Calgary have elected to do these in Florida, making it much easier (and cheaper) to bring in their players from across the States. That's a way around geographic isolation, and one that will likely work out well for those teams.

    Read More »from Florida’s IMG Academy is hosting preseason camps for almost half of the CFL’s teams
  • Panel to explore Rams/URegina partnership, an unusual one that might work elsewhere

    Regina football has produiced plenty of solid players, including Marc Mueller.The Regina Rams have perhaps the most unusual situation in CIS football; they compete as part of the University of Regina, but the team predates university affiliation and still has a distinct status within the athletic department. That's why they're still known as the Rams, the moniker used in their junior football days, rather than the Cougars, the name used for the rest of the university's teams. The arrangement that saw the Rams join forces with the U of R in 1999 is 15 years old this year, and the university is bringing it up for review. According to what athletics director Dick White told The Regina Leader-Post, though, this isn't a situation like UBC's where cutting football was briefly discussed. Instead, the university seems quite happy with the arrangement, and is exploring ways to make it better:

    White expects the panel will hear a lot of positives about the school's relationship with the Rams, but he also believes there will be suggestions about potential improvements.

    "(The relationship) is in a pretty good place," White said.

    "But it would be absolutely crazy to not listen to all the stakeholders that are involved in this organization and hear how they think it's going and how we can make it better."

    A respected three-person panel, composed of Jim Hopson (the Saskatchewan Roughriders' president, who also played with the Rams while they were still a junior team), Clint Hamilton (the University of Victoria's athletic director) and Jim Weese (a former university employee who's now the dean of health sciences at Western University), will run the review. They're going to meet with stakeholders, including Rams' players, coaches and sponsors, other people in the athletic department, Regina faculty and administrators and representatives from other Regina football programs. Community members' submissions are also being accepted via e-mail to Kinesiology and Health Studies dean Harold Riemer, khs.dean@uregina.ca. It's going to be interesting to see how this review plays out and what changes are made to the Rams-Regina relationship, but evidence from around CIS football suggests that other schools may be watching closely, as the model in place at the U of R could potentially work elsewhere.

    Read More »from Panel to explore Rams/URegina partnership, an unusual one that might work elsewhere
  • BMO Field could soon be home to the Argonauts.The Toronto Argonauts' decade-plus search for a new stadium appears to be drawing to a close. Thursday saw Toronto city council vote 39-3 in favour of loaning Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment $10 million to help with the estimated $120 million cost of renovations, a deal previously approved by the Exhibition Place board and the council's executive committee. A crucial part of the planned renovation involves expanding the stadium so a Canadian football field can fit inside and striking a lease deal with the Argonauts. (Funnily enough, two of the three dissenters were Mayor Rob Ford and Councillor Doug Ford; the mayor's affinity for the Argonauts and football doesn't appear to have come into play here despite his previously-stated support for finding them a new building.) Thus, if the deal goes through, the team should have a new home. All that remains is for the remaining $20 million in funding (MLSE is putting in $90 million) to be found.

    That money is expected to come from provincial and federal government coffers, but there hasn't been much discussion of how likely that is just yet. It's certainly possible; after all, both of those levels of government contributed over $90 million (combined) to build a new stadium just down the road for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. However, that was a new stadium rather than renovations, and much of the funding there came through the Pan-Am Games process. MLSE president Tim Leiweke did mention the Pan-Am Games (held in Toronto in July 2015) in his remarks to council Thursday, so it's possible the renovations could be done by then and the stadium could be used for that, which might help motivate the federal and provincial governments to pitch in.

    Read More »from BMO Field expansion endorsed by Toronto council, making Argos’ new home a step closer
  • The new Ottawa mascot is Big Joe/Grand Jos following a naming controversy.While the Ottawa Redblacks changing their mascot's name from Big Joe Mufferaw after people took offence may seem funny at first to the rest of Canada, the Big Joe/Grand Jos compromise actually makes plenty of sense, as Neate Sager detailed here earlier this week. The Ottawa franchise needs to appeal to both anglophones and francophones to have a chance at long-term success, and the new name should do that. There's been an unexpected side benefit to this controversy, though; it's proven to be a chance to discuss the history of both the largely-fictional Mufferaw and the very-real Jos Montferrand, whose life inspired many of the Mufferaw legends. Tom Spears explores the history behind the name in this excellent Ottawa Citizen piece:

    Nearly lost in tall tales of Jos Montferrand’s strength, beating up 50 Irish raftsmen and all that, is this perspective on why his heritage matters: “Unable to realize their visions, French Canadians, between 1840 and 1880, built a symbolic country in their ideology, their legends, their literature, and their art. In the struggle they continued to wage against the English and against nature, French Canadians found hope and greater self-respect in the Montferrand legend.

    “The legend has not died out. It still lives in town and countryside, and reappears with more vigour than ever in difficult periods.”

    That’s written by historians Gérard Goyer and Jean Hamelin in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography. ...

    Young Montferrand first drove a cart, but was eventually lured by money, or love of the outdoors, to work for the Hudson’s Bay Company.

    After a few years he moved on to shanty work for various lumber barons. Logging took him along the rivers of Lower Canada and also the Upper Ottawa River, working in the camps all winter and driving the logs downstream to the mills in spring.

    Once back in town there was always another fight to win. He won most of them.

    Tales of his strength and agility spread:
    • He could hold up a plow at arm’s length with one hand.
    • In a hotel bar beside the Le Lièvre River he once jumped up and left the mark of his boot heel mark on the ceiling, landing on his feet.
    • He beat maybe 50, perhaps 150, “Shiners” who attacked him on the bridge between Hull and Bytown.

    Shiners were Irish workmen brought to Canada to build the Rideau Canal. Once the canal was finished they looked for work as shantymen and raftsmen, which put them in competition with French-Canadian raftsmen.

    (The word Shiner comes from the French chêneur: Someone who works with oak.)

    There was violence between the groups for several years, and the Montferrand story claims he picked up one Shiner by the legs and whirled him around as a weapon to deal with the rest.

    There's much more in there, including about how the knowledgeable Montferrand excelled with his brains as well as his brawn, finding great success as a raft guide and shanty foreman. It's a fascinating piece that shows there's plenty of reality as well as legend to the story of Montferrand, and it explains why many francophones were annoyed to see a mascot named "Mufferaw", a deliberate Anglicization of the real French-Canadian hero. However, the English tradition of Mufferaw's story isn't all bad, either, and in particular, the song from Canadian music legend (and noted CFL fan) Stompin' Tom Connors stands out as a way to pass on tales of "the best man in Ottawa" to a new audience:

    Read More »from Big Joe/Grand Jos compromise shows multiple sides of history, could help build Ottawa fanbase
  • Calgary RB Jon Cornish (9) pranked Twitter with a fake trade to Saskatchewan Tuesday.Calgary Stampeders' running back Jon Cornish has a long history of controversies with Saskatchewan players and fans, including arguments with Kory Sheets about who the better back was and mooning the Roughriders' crowd, so his decision to come up with an April Fool's prank tweet that had those fans and players thinking they'd have to get to like him was pretty perfect. Here's what he tweeted Tuesday morning:

    That's pretty well done by Cornish, especially considering that he went to the lengths of acquiring (or making a photo of) a Saskatchewan jersey with his name on it. No doubt he managed to take some people in. (Although, the jersey really should have been another indication that this is false; a player who just switched teams wouldn't have a new jersey on hand at his house.) Calgary fans can relax, though; the league's reigning most outstanding player and most outstanding Canadian is still set to wear red and white this coming season. If Cornish can keep pulling pranks like this, he might be set to add most valuable tweeter to his titles, too. Meanwhile, inspired by Cornish, here are 10 other CFL headlines making news today:

    Read More »from Jon Cornish pranks Twitter with April Fool’s tweet about being traded to Saskatchewan
  • New CFLPA president Scott Flory is taking a hard stance in CBA negotiations.It appears the under-new-management CFL Players' Association has decided to start getting their message out. Following Friday's leadership elections that saw Alouettes' guard Scott Flory elected as president, replacing incumbent Mike Morreale, the organization sent out a release Monday morning listing their full new executive team and discussing their plans for the contentious collective bargaining negotiations ahead. That's much more forthcoming than the organization has been in the last few months, which is a positive step, and there's plenty of interesting information in that release. Perhaps the most notable part is that Flory and his new executive (former Calgary guard Jay McNeil returns as first vice president and Ottawa centre Marwan Hage returns as second vice president, while Toronto centre Jeff Keeping is in as third vice president and Edmonton centre Brian Ramsay is the new treasurer) have made it clear they won't play the 2014 season under the previous CBA, an option some had discussed to allow negotiations to continue during the year and avoid a potential work stoppage. That could well mean that some games are missed if the sides don't come to an agreement before June.

    What are the deadlines to keep in mind here? Well, preseason action starts June 9, with the regular season beginning June 26. Full training camps start even earlier in June, and the existing CBA expires before the first day of training camp. Those dates aren't all that far off, so we're going to have to see substantial progress to avoid missed games, especially considering that there appears to be a philosophical impasse between the sides at the moment on whether the salary cap should be a flat number or a percentage of league revenues. With the league and the players' association that far apart, it may not be easy to come up with a new CBA. Refusing to play under the previous agreement while a new one is hammered out is an escalation from the players' side, and it's one that does make the chances of a work stoppage more likely, but they shouldn't necessarily be blasted for taking this tack.

    Read More »from CFLPA says they’re not prepared to play under previous CBA, which could lead to lost games
  • Als' guard Scott Flory has been elected as the new CFLPA president.There's a new man in charge of the CFLPA, even if the organization itself hasn't yet confirmed it. According to Drew Edwards of The Hamilton Spectator, who first reported that the CFLPA was holding a leadership vote Friday in Las Vegas, that vote resulted in Montreal Alouettes' guard Scott Flory defeating incumbent president Mike Morreale. After a 12-year CFL career with the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Morreale went to work as the CFLPA's marketing director in 2007 and became president in 2012. Now, it seems the organization has decided to go in a new direction with Flory. It's going to be interesting to see what impact that has on the contentious ongoing collective bargaining agreement negotiations with the league.

    It isn't particularly known what approach Flory plans to take, and that speaks to a central issue with the CFLPA at the moment. At the moment, the organization isn't communicating much to the public. Their website (which is still titled "CFLPA 2011") doesn't appear to have been updated since Feb. 14, and their Twitter feed hasn't posted anything since Thursday; there was no discussion of their meetings this week, the existence of a leadership vote, when that vote was set for, what each candidate stood for, or the results of that vote. If not for Edwards' reporting, the public wouldn't have known the CFLPA was having a leadership vote (or who won it). Granted, the CFLPA exists primarily to serve its members rather than the public, but there still needs to be better communication with the outside world, especially considering that the association is locked in a labour dispute.

    Read More »from CFLPA goes in a new direction, electing Scott Flory as president, but will he communicate?
  • Friday’s vote could decide CFLPA leadership, prove crucial in CBA talks

    Scott Flory(seen with the 2009 top offensive lineman award) is running for CFLPA president.For one of the first times since the Las Vegas Posse folded in 1994, something that happens in Vegas could have a critical impact on the CFL. The CFL Players' Association is conducting its annual meetings in Vegas this week, and those meetings are likely to determine how the CFLPA proceeds in this latest round of contentious collective bargaining negotiations with the CFL. As Drew Edwards of The Hamilton Spectator writes, those meetings could even see a change in CFLPA leadership:

    With contentious negotiations over a new collective bargaining agreement on the horizon, there is a major power battle taking place among the leadership of the CFL player's association. The CFLPA has been meeting in Las Vegas since Wednesday and a vote is scheduled on Friday that could see the ouster of current president and former Hamilton Tiger-Cat Mike Morreale.

    Morreale took over from former president Stu Laird in 2012 after Laird enjoyed a 12-year run as the head of the organization. A former defensive lineman with the Calgary Stampeders, Laird played 13 seasons in the CFL.

    Morreale is being opposed by current Montreal Alouettes offensive Scott Flory. More than a dozen players reps are scheduled to vote on all executive positions on Friday.

    It's difficult to tell how Flory's approach would differ from Morreale's, as their platforms aren't public. However, regardless of who wins, the vote on executive positions is likely going to determine how the CFLPA approaches negotiations going forward. The candidates will offer their plans, and whichever one is endorsed by the majority of player reps will then have a mandate to carry out negotiations in that fashion. If Morreale keeps his position, that might suggest players are happy with the stance the CFLPA's taken thus far, insisting on getting a percentage of league revenues rather than a flat salary cap and breaking off negotiations when that wasn't offered. If Flory takes over, though, that could signal a shift either towards a more conciliatory approach (getting back to the table and agreeing on a flat cap, just debating what it should be set at) or a more hard-line one (upping the players' demands and perhaps even threatening a strike).

    Read More »from Friday’s vote could decide CFLPA leadership, prove crucial in CBA talks
  • Can Pat White translate the success he found at West Virginia to the CFL?Thursday's news that former NCAA star quarterback Pat White has signed with the Edmonton Eskimos is certainly intriguing, as he's anything but your prototypical CFL quarterback. White threw for 6,049 yards over four years at West Virginia from 2005-2008 (with an impressive 64.8 per cent completion mark), but was perhaps even more prominent for the rushing ability that saw him rack up 4,480 yards during that span. Miami took him in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft, and while his career never really took off south of the border (the Dolphins cut him in 2010, which led him to a brief UFL stint in 2011; he was then out of pro football for two years before a preseason stint with Washington last season), he has an interesting mix of skills that could potentially help him succeed in Canada. The key question is if there's a fit for a running quarterback in today's CFL, though.

    The ability to pick up yards on the ground has been crucial for a lot of great CFL quarterbacks over the years, including Damon Allen (11,920 career rushing yards) , Tracy Ham (8,043) and Kerry Joseph (4,470). However, the league hasn't seen nearly as much rushing from quarterbacks in recent years, with most teams focusing on pocket passing rather than scrambling. Last season saw only one quarterback record over 500 rushing yards, and only two others record over 300. White may have found the right destination, though, as the Eskimos were more willing than most to let their quarterback run last year; Mike Reilly led the league's pivots with 709 rushing yards.

    Read More »from Can Pat White replicate his NCAA success in Edmonton, or will he be another big-name flop?
  • Vanier Cup appears headed to Montreal in 2014, and perhaps to its own weekend at some point

    Montreal's Percival Molson Stadium seems set to host the 2014 Vanier Cup.Big CIS football news broke Wednesday, thanks to a report that the 2014 Vanier Cup will be held in Montreal. (Thanks to Yahoo's Neate Sager for that find.) The above piece, from Charles Payette of Montreal's 98.5 FM news station, indicates that this fall's Vanier Cup, which will be the historic 50th edition of the game (it started in 1965 as an invitational championship game before going to a playoff format in 1967) is going to be held at Percival Molson Memorial Stadium, the home of both the CFL's Montreal Alouettes and CIS' McGill Redmen. That could be an excellent decision, and one that could make for a memorable Vanier.

    Heading to Montreal is a bit of a change for the Vanier Cup. Three of the last five championships (including last year's) have been held at Laval's stadium in Quebec City, with the other two in Vancouver and Toronto as part of the short-lived Vanier Cup-Grey Cup pairing. While the dominant defending champion Rouge et Or (who have won three of the last five championships and appeared in four of them) will still likely be favoured to make it to the Vanier, they won't have quite as much of a home-field advantage this time around. Perhaps even more importantly, Montreal's more of a destination, one closer to a lot of CIS schools, and it's one that should inspire plenty of students from the competing schools (and perhaps even from neutral ones) to make a road trip for the Vanier. That could lead to a great atmosphere.

    Read More »from Vanier Cup appears headed to Montreal in 2014, and perhaps to its own weekend at some point

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