CFL history has been coming to life in TSN's Engraved On A Nation documentary series (full videos of the films and behind-the-scenes information available here), and the latest entry, "The Crash," did an excellent job of exploring the 1956 Trans-Canada Air Lines Flight 810 crash that killed 62 people, including five Canadian football stars. Earlier, I spoke with director Paul Cowan about the film, which focused on current Calgary Stampeders' offensive lineman Edwin Harrison and his quest to learn more about his grandfather, Cal Jones, a star Winnipeg Blue Bombers' offensive lineman who was killed in the crash. It ended with some particularly poignant footage of Harrison and his wife hiking Chilliwack, B.C.'s Mt. Slesse to look at where the flight crashed. What's interesting is that the trail they took is accessible to the public, and it contains some notable memorials to the crash. I spoke to Ken Wolgram, who hiked the trail in the summer of 2010 with his son, Matt, and he said whileRead More »from Photos: What Mount Slesse, site of the Flight 810 crash, looks like from the ground today
55 Yard Line
- Andrew Bucholtz | 55 Yard Line – Thu, 8 Nov, 2012 2:49 PM EST
The CFL's most outstanding player finalists this year aren't quarterbacks, and only two of the eight candidates chosen to represent their team in the first round of balloting were pivots. On one hand, that suggests that voters are willing to look beyond just quarterback play, but on the other hand, it at least raises the possibility that maybe the state of quarterbacking in the CFL isn't all that great. When you throw in the Eskimos' indecision over naming a starter for Sunday's playoff game, it's worth asking if there are enough capable quarterbacks out there for eight CFL teams to have solid starters—and perhaps more importantly, if there will be enough in 2014 when Ottawa enters the league and many of the current starters are even older.
Focusing only on the present moment, the problem isn't actually as dire as it may seem. Yes, only Travis Lulay and Anthony Calvillo were selected as their team's top player this year, and yes, the stats of both were somewhat less impressive than what they did in 2011. However, both Lulay and Calvillo had excellent years, and injuries that forced each to miss some time (plus the insignificance of both of their teams' final stretches of games) played a role in keeping them from putting up statistical marks. Moreover, there were solid quarterbacking performances elsewhere; Henry Burris might have been the league's best pivot statistically this year (he led in passing yards and touchdowns, posted a solid completion percentage and recorded a career-high quarterback rating), while Ricky Ray was quite effective in Toronto despite the Argonauts' struggles, Darian Durant had a reasonably solid season in Saskatchewan, and Kevin Glenn and Drew Tate played well enough in Calgary to give the Stampeders a tough decision about who should start Sunday (they eventually settled on Tate). Really, the only places where real quarterback issues reared their head in 2012 are Edmonton and Winnipeg. That's two out of eight teams, which doesn't represent a league-wide crisis.Read More »from Does the CFL have a quarterback shortage?
- Andrew Bucholtz | 55 Yard Line – Wed, 7 Nov, 2012 5:26 PM EST
For years, the CFL's Most Outstanding Player award has been largely the property of quarterbacks. The last time a non-quarterback won was in 2006, when B.C. slotbackGeroy Simon took home the honour; all five winners since have been quarterbacks, as have been four of the five runners-up. That trend's going to change this year, though, as Calgary Stampeders' running back Jon Cornish and Toronto Argonauts' receiver/kick returner Chad Owens were announced as the divisional finalists Wednesday. As in 2006, when Simon faced off against Winnipeg running back Charles Roberts, we're guaranteed to have a player other than a quarterback named the top player in the league this year.Read More »from The Most Outstanding Player finalists are Jon Cornish and Chad Owens, not quarterbacks
- Andrew Bucholtz | 55 Yard Line – Tue, 6 Nov, 2012 8:52 PM EST
Of the four teams facing off in the first round of the CFL playoffs, it's only the two Alberta-based ones that had questions about who would be under centre heading into this week. For Toronto and Saskatchewan, the obvious and non-controversial choices at starting quarterback are Ricky Ray and Darian Durant respectively. In Edmonton and Calgary, the quarterbacking situations were a little more muddy. The Stampeders cleared things up Tuesday, announcing that Drew Tate will be under centre to start Sunday's game against the Riders, but the Eskimos' picture is still complicated, and they're apparently planning to use both Kerry Joseph and Matt Nichols regardless of which one's eventually anointed as the starter. It's hard to see the starters in either Edmonton or Calgary being on a long leash, but that may not be so bad.Read More »from Quarterback questions abound in Alberta following Stamps’ decision, Esks’ indecision
- Andrew Bucholtz | 55 Yard Line – Tue, 6 Nov, 2012 3:02 PM EST
One of the biggest stories of last year's Grey Cup didn't have anything to do with the game, but rather revolved around a cane-swinging brawl between septuagenarians Joe Kapp (a star quarterback with the B.C. Lions in the 1960s who went on to play for the Minnesota Vikings and coach at Cal) and Angelo Mosca (the legendary Hamilton Tiger-Cats' defensive lineman who went on to wrestling stardom) at an alumni lunch. The brawl reportedly started over simmering tensions remaining between the two thanks to Mosca's hit on Kapp's B.C. teammate Willie Fleming in the 1963 Grey Cup, and it certainly showed how CFL history remains a crucial part of the game; these guys don't forget. Now, thanks to Drew Edwards of The Hamilton Spectator, we have confirmation that there will not be a Mosca-Kapp II at the alumni lunch this year, as Kapp isn't invited (reasonable, as he did appear to start things last year). Don't worry, though, fight fans: Mosca will be there, and he'll reportedly be auctioning off the cane he slugged Kapp with!Read More »from Angelo Mosca will be back at alumni lunch, auctioning off cane from fight with Joe Kapp
- Andrew Bucholtz | 55 Yard Line – Tue, 6 Nov, 2012 2:08 PM EST
TSN reporter Farhan Lalji is also being recognized for his work as a coach.The shortlist of nine coaches for NFL Canada's 2012 NFL Youth Coach of the Year award was released Monday, and while all the coaches on it are worthy of recognition, one name will stand out to even those who don't closely follow high school or community football: Farhan Lalji. Of course, Lalji is mostly known for his work on TSN, which includes serving as a sideline reporter for B.C. Lions' games, but those on the B.C. football scene know the impressive amount of time he's contributed to high school football here over the years. He currently serves as the head coach of the New Westminster Secondary Hyacks and as the president of the B.C. Secondary Schools Football Association. He's a deserving presence on this list of incredible coaches, all of whom have done a terrific job of improving the quality of grassroots and high school football across Canada.Read More »from TSN’s Farhan Lalji one of nine coaches shortlisted for NFL Youth Coach of the Year award
- Andrew Bucholtz | 55 Yard Line – Mon, 5 Nov, 2012 2:59 PM EST
Half of this weekend's games didn't mean anything for the playoff picture, and it's interesting that most of the notable individual showings also took place in games with something on the line for at least one team. Of course, part of that's because the Winnipeg-Montreal and B.C.-Saskatchewan games saw plenty of substitutions, so many starters didn't see much playing time in those contests. The weekend had some great individual performances, though, including several that are recognized in the latest installment of our Three Stars series:
First Star: Maurice Price, wide receiver, Calgary Stampeders: A week after a frightening encounter with a sideline propane heater, Price was back in tremendous form Friday against Edmonton, recording 149 yards and a touchdown on just five catches. The second-year CFL man, a former Charleston Southern Buccaneer (Division I FCS), has been very impressive down the stretch, and could be a crucial weapon for the Stampeders heading into the playoffs.
Honourable mentions for offensive star: Henry Burris, QB, Hamilton; Fred Stamps, SB, Edmonton; Chris Williams, WR, Hamilton.Read More »from Three Stars: Maurice Price, Swayze Waters and J.C. Sherritt headline Week 19
- Andrew Bucholtz | 55 Yard Line – Sun, 4 Nov, 2012 5:52 PM EST
Mike Fortino and the Guelph Gryphons ran over the Queen's Golden Gaels Saturday.On the whole, the CIS conference semifinals went about as expected. Of the seven games, five of the teams favoured in Rob Pettapiece's point spreads won, and three of them covered. It's the two games where the underdogs won that proved the most interesting, though; #10 Sherbrooke (an 18.5 point underdog!) thumped #4 Montreal 42-24 on the road, while #5 Guelph (higher-ranked, but a five-point underdog at home) rallied from a 22-point deficit with five minutes left to stun #6 Queen's 42-39 in overtime. Although everything else went the way of the favourites, having Sherbrooke and Guelph in the conference finals instead of Montreal and Queen's does change the CIS playoff picture dramatically.Read More »from CIS Corner: Upsets by Sherbrooke and Guelph make for intriguing conference finals
- Andrew Bucholtz | 55 Yard Line – Sun, 4 Nov, 2012 4:10 PM EST
It took until Friday night for the playoff picture to finally clear, but it did; Hamilton's loss to Toronto Thursday and Calgary's win over Edmonton Friday ensured that the Eskimos would head east to face the Argonauts and the Riders would stay in the West and travel to Calgary to take on the Stampeders. The playoff matchups weren't affected by Saturday's results, but those two games still provided some notable information on many of these teams heading into the postseason. Now the regular season's over and done with, let's examine the matchups in the first playoff games, next Sunday's divisional semifinals.
East semifinal: Edmonton Eskimos (7-11 regular season) at Toronto Argonauts (9-9 regular season). Sunday, Nov. 11, 1:00 p.m. Eastern, TSN/NBC Sports Network.
As previously argued here, obtaining this crossover berth looks like a much more positive matchup for the Eskimos than staying in the West and playing Calgary would have been. The Argonauts have been a hit-and-miss team this year, and their .500 record and -46 point differential aren't exactly intimidating. However, that doesn't mean the Eskimos are guaranteed to win; in fact, they likely won't even be favoured. Yes, their -28 point differential's slightly better, and their worse record's partly thanks to playing more games against the strong West Division, but many of the matchups in this one don't bode well for Edmonton.Read More »from Playoff Primer: Argos set to host Eskimos, while Stampeders prepare to face the Riders
The B.C. Lions finished their season with a 17-6 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders Saturday night, improving their league-best record to 13-5, but it really didn't matter a lot for either side. There wasn't any playoff positioning at stake, as these teams were already locked into first and third in the West Division respectively. However, even meaningless games can still be rather notable at times, and while this one wasn't overly entertaining or reflective of these teams' capabilities, it did provide some interesting notes. Here are five observations from Saturday's game, focusing on where the Lions and Riders go from here.Read More »from Five observations from Lions-Riders
- Andrew Bucholtz | 55 Yard Line – Sat, 3 Nov, 2012 5:56 PM EDT
If the Eskimos were going to axe someone, why Eric Tillman (L) over Kavis Reed (R)?Eric Tillman's been at the centre of the two most bizarre CFL moves over the last 12 months. As Edmonton's general manager, he traded star quarterback Ricky Ray to the Toronto Argonauts for a hill of beans last December, prompting endless questions and conspiracy theories. That move had a rationale, even if it was a bad one, though, so it pales by comparison with Saturday's decision by Eskimos management to axe Tillman. Firing the general manager a week before the team's first playoff game, one with an easier matchup they're perfectly set up for? Now that's going to be difficult to explain.Read More »from Eskimos make the most bizarre move of this CFL season, firing GM Eric Tillman before playoffs
- Andrew Bucholtz | 55 Yard Line – Sat, 3 Nov, 2012 6:12 AM EDT
Stop me if you've heard this one before, but the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are planning to play their final game at Canad Inns Stadium Saturday (3 p.m. Eastern against Montreal, TSN/ESPN3). Of course, last season's pre-emptive closing ceremonies came before construction delays on their new home forced the Bombers to stay at Canad Inns this season; all indications are that Investor's Group Field will in fact be ready by 2014. On every other front, though, this is a much less positive closing of the stadium for Winnipeg. Last year's concluding game was the East Final, a 19-3 rout of Hamilton that sent the Bombers to the Grey Cup. This year? The team's 5-12, is already out of the playoffs and has already decided to bring back their general manager, head coach and offensive coordinator, so even a win here wouldn't exactly mean a whole lot. In fact, the guy this game might mean the most for is the man who will be under centre for the Alouettes: backup quarterback Adrian McPherson.Read More »from Adrian McPherson and the Alouettes look to spoil the final game at Canad Inns
- Andrew Bucholtz | 55 Yard Line – Sat, 3 Nov, 2012 12:42 AM EDT
Quincy Butler and the Stamps brought down Fred Stamps and the Esks Friday.The Edmonton Eskimos could have secured themselves an easier playoff date with a loss to Calgary Friday, and they eventually got it, but boy, did they ever make it difficult on themselves. The Eskimos put up a great fight behind the arm of backup quarterback Matt Nichols and the legs of backup running back Cory Boyd, and they almost took the Stampeders down, but wound up losing 30-27 thanks to a bizarre late sequence of events that included a botched field goal hold, an interception nullified by penalty, a fumble nullified by video review and a missed field goal nullified by their own attempt to ice Calgary kicker Rene Paredes. If any of those events had turned out slightly differently, the Eskimos would be 8-10 and still in contention to finish third in the West. Instead, they're 7-11 and in the West basement, but get to cross to the weak East Division and face the less-formidable Toronto Argonauts.Read More »from Edmonton Eskimos win by losing, earn crossover, but they sure made it tough
- Dustin Pollack | 55 Yard Line – Fri, 2 Nov, 2012 8:36 PM EDT
Greg Marshall is in his sixth season as head coach of the Mustangs. (Corey Stanford/Western Mustangs)Greg Marshall isn't afraid or hesitant to admit where his Western Mustangs stand heading into McMaster this weekend. Taking the field against the 8-0 Marauders in the OUA semifinal Saturday, Marshall knows his team is the underdog. However, taking on an undefeated opponent doesn't mean you prepare any differently.
"You prepare like you would prepare for anyone else," Marshall said in a phone interview Thursday. "Try to limit the things they do really well and it starts with there offence. They're a pretty confident group and that in itself makes it difficult because you're playing against not just good athletes, but athletes who believe they're going to win no matter what happens
The Mustangs-Marauders playoff rivalry has heated up over the past couple of years. Last season, McMaster stunned Western in a 41-19 blowout on the road in the Yates Cup, and in 2010 it was the Mustangs who defeated the Marauders in the playoffs, a 34-28 victory in the OUA semis. Western went on to win theRead More »from CIS Corner: Western looking to upset McMaster in OUA semifinal
- Andrew Bucholtz | 55 Yard Line – Fri, 2 Nov, 2012 7:05 PM EDT
The crash of TCA Flight 810 drew headlines for the five Canadian football stars lost.TSN's Engraved On A Nation series of CFL documentaries has produced some incredible films thus far, looking at everything from how the Saskatchewan Roughriders' legion of fans responded to the crushing 2009 Grey Cup loss to the against-the-odds journeys of quarterbacks Chuck Ealey and Anthony Calvillo to the journeys of star quarterback Russ Jackson and bomb-disposal expert Robert Cote ahead of the FLQ-threatened 1969 Grey Cup. Friday's film, "The Crash," (first airing at 8 p.m. Eastern on TSN, repeating Saturday, Nov. 3 at 7 p.m. on CTV Two and Sunday, Nov. 4 at 5 p.m. Eastern on CTV) is perhaps the one I'm most eagerly anticipating, though. It's about the 1956 Trans-Canada Air Lines Flight 810 crash on Mount Slesse near of Chilliwack, B.C., one of the worst plane crashes in the world at that time and an incredible story, but one that's unknown to many Canadians (although there's an excellent book on it). This is the tale of a remarkable event in Canadian history, and one CFL fans would do well to watch.
What makes this plane crash so relevant to the CFL? Well, this was even before the official formation of the league in 1958, but five Canadian football stars on their way back from the annual East-West all-star game in Vancouver were amongst the 62 people on board Flight 810, none of whom survived. There's an incredible connection to the modern CFL too, as Calgary offensive lineman Edwin Harrison's grandfather, Calvin Jones (the first African-American to win the Outland Trophy as the NCAA's top lineman during his career at Iowa), was one of the Canadian football stars killed in the crash. This film focuses on Harrison's journey to discover more about Jones and the crash. When renowned director Paul Cowan spoke with me about the film this week, he said that's what attracted him to the project.Read More »from Interview: Paul Cowan speaks about “The Crash”, part of the Engraved On A Nation series
- Andrew Bucholtz | 55 Yard Line – Fri, 2 Nov, 2012 5:38 PM EDT
The Toronto Argonauts' last-second win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats Thursday dramatically changed the stakes for the Edmonton Eskimos, who host the Calgary Stampeders Friday night (9 p.m. Eastern on TSN, tape-delayed to 12:30 a.m. Eastern on NBC Sports Network). If Hamilton had pulled off a win, the Eskimos would have needed a victory to make the playoffs. Thanks to the Tiger-Cats' loss, the Eskimos are already in, though, and there's a strong case to be made that they'd be better off by losing to Calgary.Read More »from Tankapalooza: Why the Edmonton Eskimos should play to lose (but why they won’t)
- Andrew Bucholtz | 55 Yard Line – Wed, 18 Jul, 2012 5:52 AM EDT
For Edmonton Eskimos' receiver and already-impressive 2012 first-round draft pick Shamawd Chambers, shootings in the Toronto area are much more than just statistics. Chambers' brother Jonathan was kidnapped, held hostage and murdered when Shamawd was just 17 in a 2007 incident later termed a "drug deal gone bad" by the judge who sent Lenworth Anthony Spence to prison for the killing. The Chambers family didn't know how Jonathan got into dealing cocaine, but they still miss him and have been tremendously impacted by the violence that claimed his life. That likely played a substantial role in Chambers' decision to speak out on Twitter about gun violence Tuesday in the wake of Monday night's Scarborough shootings that left Shyanne Charles and Joshua Yacey dead and saw 23 others injured. Here's what Chambers had to say:
For some context, here's an interview Chambers and his family did with The Score's D.J. Bennett in 2010 about how they were coping with Jonathan's loss:Read More »from Scarborough shootings, personal experience compel Shamawd Chambers to speak out