Neate Sager

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Neate Sager is a blogger for Yahoo! Sports.

  • Redblacks players hit the field in front of a sold-out TD Place stadium on Friday (Justin Tang, CP)

    Kierrie Johnson got a clean release at a critical moment, and gave Ottawa a release its football fans have not had in decades.

    It was an oftentimes-chaotic opening night on the field — and off — for the Ottawa Redblacks, but the essence of the CFL is that everything can be vapourized by a big finish. For the Redblacks, for the sold-out TD Place stadium crowd of 24,326 and the once-was-lost generation(s) of fans in the nation's capital, the night was defined by Johnson's 43-yard catch over cornerback Jalil Carter in the final minute that set up Brett Maher's field goal that sealed an 18-17 win over the Toronto Argonauts. Who better to be a vessel for a city's renewed optimism about the CFL being back for good this time than a first-year slotback, whose dropped touchdown pass on a beautiful bomb from Henry Burris loomed large for much of the night?

    "This feels great not just for the team, but the city and the owner, he put so much into this," Johnson said, referring to Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group president of sports Jeff Hunt. "We can actually celebrate. The last couple weeks we have been letting games slip away.

    "We were messing up for a lot of the game and I knew I would have an opportunity coming my way — I didn't know when," the 26-year-old Johnson said. "It came at that time and I made sure by any means that I made the play. Hopefully we get momentum from this that will carry us for the rest of the season."

    The game typified the CFL so far in 2014. Not enough touchdowns — one. Too many penalties — a combined 23 for 207 yards. Yet there was reason to watch to the end, with Maher's winning kick providing the fourth lead change of the fourth quarter.

    The Redblacks (1-2) have a lot to clean up, as Burris being sacked five times on a night when his offence mustered a meagre 288 yards and was saved by Maher going 6-for-6 on field goals. Yet they banked a win. The coaches and players fed off the crowd's energy.

    "We continue to do the things we're supposed to do as a team, this fanbase will come back," said Burris, who was 17-of-30 for 216 yards to fellow future Hall of Famer Ray's 21-of-37 for 298 with one TD and two interceptions. "We definitely have some winners in the stands. I know the people who didn't make it in for this game, they're going to be pushing to get in for the next game.

    "This crowd was raucous tonight, they were loud and rambunctious," added Burris, whose offensive group has only one TD in 11 quarters since scoring on its first three drives in its opener. "They made it tough for those [Toronto] guys to operate communications-wise down the stretch."

    Read More »from Ottawa Redblacks’ first win ‘great not just for the team, but the city and the owner’
  • (Photo by The Canadian Press/Justin Tang)(Photo by The Canadian Press/Justin Tang)

    No touchdowns for a half, and no beer for half the stadium?

    The Canadian Football League returned to our nation's capital on Friday when the first-year Ottawa Redblacks hosted the Toronto Argonauts at TD Place stadium, which underwent extensive renoativations over the past 2 1/2 years. There were bound to be some opening night glitches. As spectacular as TD Place (the centrepiece of the revitalized Lansdowne Park) looked on TV, there were patches of unoccupied seats throughout the stands due to extremely long lines at concession stands. Problems with cash registers and beer taps on the north side of the sold-out 24,000-seat stadium led to some upset fans through the first 30 minutes of football, which ended with Ottawa holding a slim 9-7 lead. Seasoned CFL chroniclers such as Sportsnet's Arash Madani (a former employee of the city's previous franchise, the Renegades) noticed the snag.

    One major logistical concern in Ottawa revolved around the lack of parking at the stadium. For the most part, fans seemed to have little trouble getting into the stadium.

    Read More »from Ottawa CFL fans carp about long lines for beer, food unintended feature at Redblacks’ home debut
  • Laxdal leaves Oil Kings for Texas Stars: the coast-to-coast

    Combing all corners of the country and the blogosphere for your junior hockey headlines ...

    WHL

    When Steve Hamilton took his name out of consideration for the Vancouver Giants coaching job, this seemed inevitable. Memorial Cup-winning coach Derek Laxdal is moving up to the pros, going from one reigning champion to another, the Texas Stars. (Austin American-Statesman, Dallas Morning News, Edmonton Journal)

    Regina Pats star Morgan Klimchuk will be under extra scrutiny during the Calgary Flames development camp, what with being a 2013 first-rounder and all. (Calgary Herald)

    Prince Albert import pick Simon Stransky was a 20-goal scorer in the Czech junior loop last season; not a bad fallback if the Edmonton Oilers keep Leon Draisaitl. (Southwest Booster)

    Saskatoon will have three imports in the kitty while it waits to see how Montreal Canadiens first-rounder Nikita Scherbak fares at training camp. Plus they need reinforcements everywhere. (Saskatoon StarPhoenix)

    The Victoria Royals do not expect 20-year-old goalie Patrik Polivka to return as an overage. (Victoria Times-Colonist)

    The Seattle Thunderbirds dug deep to spot import selection Florian Baltram, a native of Austria. (Kent Reporter)

    Read More »from Laxdal leaves Oil Kings for Texas Stars: the coast-to-coast
  • Buzzing The Net’s first annual CHL import draft all-name team

    Alexander True was the Seattle Thunderbirds first import pick (Seattle Thunderbirds photo)To be honest, perhaps seven people in the entire world can comprehensively evaluate the Canadian Hockey League import draft with any authority.

    Very little of the process actually involves simply drafting the best available player for straight-up hockey reasons. Junior hockey teams working through various contacts and channels to line up an arrangement with a player it believes is interested in reporting to training camp and playing in either the Ontario, Quebec or Western league.

    What it does have is names, names that, to North American ears, sound like things we like. Or lend themselves to puns and nicknames. Obviously, one of the reasons the CHL no longer allows teams to draft goalies from Europe is because people were having too much fun referring to then-Barrie Colts stopper Mathias Niederberger as Niederburglar and former Ottawa 67's star Petr Mrazek as either Mrazzle-Dazzle or Mrazician. Hockey is only fun if you're being deathly serious about it.

    The import draft took place on Wednesday. Here's the best names.

    Read More »from Buzzing The Net’s first annual CHL import draft all-name team
  • Nylander is unsigned for next season (Matt Slocum, AP)

    The shock Toronto Maple Leafs fans felt when William Nylander was drafted over Ontario-bred bruiser Nick Ritchie is nothing compared to them learning there is an Ontario Hockey League in their area.

    Sorry/not sorry, had to. The stunner of the first round of the CHL import draft is, at first blush, the Mississauga Steelheads taking a stab in the dark by selecting Nylander, who on Friday pulled on another blue-and-white jersey when the Leafs selected him No. 8 overall.

    The key phrase is "at first blush." Nylander, of course, wants to make the Maple Leafs, but his alternatives are very up in the air.

    Read More »from Why Mississauga Steelheads drafting William Nylander, Toronto Maple Leafs top pick, isn’t that outlandish
  • Zacha could be the first top-10 NHL pick from the Czech Republic since 2007 (AP)With any import draft selection, it is only a good get if the team gets the player to report. Conversely, the intention behind the Canadian Hockey League proscribing teams trading a first-round import selection or trading a player's rights for at least one year are meant to encourage teams to draft based on ability, not signability. (The jury is out on whether it will help or hinder small-market teams.)

    The Sarnia Sting, without a doubt, drafted the best player available with the first overall selection on Wednesday by taking 6-foot-2, 200-pound Czech goal scorer Pavel Zacha, who's been touted as his country's best NHL prospect since San Jose Sharks bright young hope Tomas Hertl. Hertl stayed home to develop; by and large, many top Czech top teens of late are doing the same or are looking to other countries in Europe (for instance, Washington Capitals first-round pick Jakub Vrana, who played in Sweden for the past three years). Suffice to say, Zacha's adviser, Allan Walsh, went on the offensive minutes after the Sting's Zacha pick was official.

    The hashtag #RookieGM refers to new Sting GM Nick Sinclair. The Memorial Cup-host Quebec Remparts took left wing Vladislav Kamenev with the No. 2 overall pick. Remparts coach-GM Philippe Boucher said he had Zacha as his top-ranked available prospect.

    How is that for a plot-thickener?

    Read More »from Sarnia Sting ripped by Allan Walsh for taking Pavel Zacha No. 1 overall in CHL import draft
  • McDonald shone at the CHL Top Prospects Game in Calgary in January (The Canadian Press)

    PHILADELPHIA — Mason McDonald went first, and Thatcher Demko put it best.

    For second NHL draft in succession, two Canadian teams threw a second-round dart at at a young goalie that might grow up to be a fully-padded flashpoint for an entire fanbase one day. The Calgary Flames made the Charlottetown Islanders southpaw McDonald the first 'tender taken at No. 34 overall, two spots before Boston College's Demko went No. 36 to Vancouver Canucks. The Plymouth Whalers' Alex Nedeljkovic also went No. 37 to the Carolina Hurricanes.

    Gentlemen, prepare for life under a microscope.

    "It's a great hockey environment — different from California," is how the 6-foot-4 Demko described going to a Canadian team. "Hopefully I can appeal to the fans up there and make them love me instead of hate me.

    "I was just so happy," Demko added. "Vancouver's a great organization. They drafted Corey Schneider who also played at BC, so a little bit of a trend there."

    Read More »from Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks make Mason McDonald, Thatcher Demko first goalies taken at NHL draft
  • Miles Gendron’s path to Ottawa Senators started with a toe-drag

    Gendron is committed to play for the Connecticut Huskies in 2015-16 (Senators.nhl.com)

    PHILADELPHIA — Shawn McEachern was at the rink to perform a clinic, and young Miles Gendron tried to hold an impromptu one of his own. That chance encounter led to the defenceman being drafted by the Ottawa Senators on Saturday.

    With no first-rounder thanks to the 2013 Bobby Ryan trade with Anaheim, the Senators skewed toward high-ceiling European and NCAA-track players with their Day 2 picks. That included third-rounder Gendron, whose prep coach at The Rivers School was McEachern, who played on the Senators' first playoff teams in the late '90s and early aughties.

    Their association began with a then 13-year-old Gendron toe-dragging McEachern while the former pro was conducting a skills clinic in the Boston area. That led to McEachern recruiting the Shrewsbury, Mass., native to Rivers.

    "He was playing hard and I wanted to impress him by making a couple of moves and one of them worked," said Gendron who turned 18 on Saturday. "He liked it.

    "He's been so great for me," Gendron said of playing for the former NHLer. "He knows the game so well, the knowledge is not just on-ice, but off ice as well. He tells a lot of stories so I've heard a lot about the city of Ottawa as well.

    "Coach McEachern tells a lot of stories so I've heard a lot about the city," Gendron added. "This is a pretty incredible birthday present, I love it.

    Read More »from Miles Gendron’s path to Ottawa Senators started with a toe-drag
  • Wesley was one of two Whalers drafted by Carolina, where his former coach is now assistant GM (Terry Wilson, OHL Images)

    PHILADELPHIA — Josh Wesley wears 20 for the Plymouth Whalers and is eager to work toward creating Wesley 2.0 with the Carolina Hurricanes.

    Following in the footsteps of a former-NHLer father with a legacy with a franchise can redefine fraught. At the 2011 NHL draft, Keegan Lowe, the son of Kevin Lowe, asked the Edmonton Oilers not to draft him. On Saturday, though, Wesley, who held the Stanley Cup on the ice in 2006 after his dad Glen Wesley won with the Hurricanes in 2006, had no reservation about extending the family tie. Carolina took him with its No. 96 overall pick in the fourth round.

    "I hope I can I do [hold the Cup] again, but I got to make the team first," a grinning Wesley. "When the 'Canes won in '06 I had tears running down my face because I felt the sense of how hard it is to win the Cup. To play on the team, I'll work my tail off.

    "There's going to be a little pressure, playing under his banner," adds Wesley, whose father's No. 2 sweater has been retired by Carolina. "I'm going to make my own player out of myself and I'm going to work hard all the time. We're two different people and I'm going to play my own game and he played his own game.

    Read More »from Plymouth Whalers’ Josh Wesley drafted by Carolina Hurricanes, his father’s team: ‘There’s going to be a little pressure, playing under his banner’
  • The Bolts see DeAngelo as the best 'pure offensive defenceman' in the draft (Matt Slocum, AP)

    PHILADELPHIA — That 10-dollar word — polarizing — affixed to Anthony DeAngelo long ago.

    That tends to happen with junior hockey's offensive-minded defencemen whose plays fosters speculation about how their derring-do will transfer up to the next level. With DeAngelo, of course, the debate fodder went beyond him occasionally overdoing it offensively or having the odd turnover end up in the Sarnia Sting net. The 18-year-old was also disciplined by his Sarnia coach Trevor Letowski during the season and was suspended this winter for violating the Ontario Hockey League's diversity policy. That led to speculation that DeAngelo, who had 71 points in just 51 games on the OHL's worst team, might fall out of the first round. Yet the Tampa Bay Lightning, who stayed keen and regularly had scouts at Sarnia's RBC Centre, took the South New Jersey native No. 19 overall.

    "They liked me, I liked them," an ebullient DeAngelo said minutes after being drafted at Wells Fargo Center, where he had 125 family and friends in the crowd. "We got to know each other pretty good. Coming into today, I was pretty confident that this was a possible destination.

    "The suspension is definitely in the past," he added. "It's been in the past for me for a while. But obviously I still had to explain myself and be honest because these teams need to do their homework. It was a mistake. I'm going to learn from it. I'm going to change. I'm going to bring a high character, highly competitive guy to this organization.

    "Being asked about it wasn't bad for me. I didn't back down from any of it. I was just as honest as I could be with each and every team, each and every general manager."

    Read More »from Sarnia Sting’s Anthony DeAngelo goes to Tampa Bay Lightning: ‘We’d rather try to settle him down a little bit than try to jack him up’

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