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  • Samuel Giguère goes for a pass in Ticats' practice.

    One of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats' most intriguing additions this offseason was a Canadian receiver beyond the one who got all the press. The team was finally able to sign Samuel Giguère, their second pick in the 2008 CFL draft (eighth overall, at the end of the first round), who's been bouncing around the NFL with Indianapolis and the New York Giants since then. Giguère hasn't seen much game action since his CIS days with the Sherbrooke Vert et Or (where he was a first-team all-Canadian in 2007), but has demonstrated impressive speed and athleticism throughout training camp and in their first preseason game (where he recorded a 52-yard reception). He should be an important part of the Tiger-Cats' impressive receiving corps, and he certainly looks the part of the star athlete, complete with massive forearms and a built physique. As Giguère told The Hamilton Spectator's Steve Milton, that physical form comes from something different than the typical athlete's training regimen: chopping wood.

    "In my first year of CEGEP (Quebec post-secondary, pre-university, school), my dad bought a wood lot on the outskirts of Sherbrooke, and said I could chop down the hardwood trees and sell the firewood. It would be great training and I could make some money, and keep my own schedule."

    So Giguère bought a good Makita chainsaw, grappling hooks and a splitting axe and felled, sawed and split every available tree. By the end of his first summer, there were no more appropriate trees, so he replanted trees and started buying truckloads of raw logs.

    "They were eight-foot logs, and some were 16 feet. Some were small, but some were so big around that you had to cut from both sides to get to the middle.

    "When they put the truck loads down, it's just a big pile of wood, eight or 10 feet high, and from 30 to 50 feet long, depending how much you buy, and you have to move them.

    "It's always heavy lifting. You're tossing the logs around and cutting, you've got your heavy chainsaw in one hand and a grappling hook in the other, and you're unbalanced with those two things, too. All day long … heavy stuff."

    Read More »from Samuel Giguère is a lumberjack, and he’s okay
  • Bombers' president/CEO Garth Buchko addresses Winnipeg's stadium issues Friday.

    It's no secret that there have been construction issues with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' new stadium almost since it was announced, with the team already shifting from opening it at the start of the year to targeting Sept. 9 to discussing a late-September opening. Still, Friday's news that the team won't be opening the new stadium until 2013 is stunning; while players like Jovon Johnson who weren't fans of moving mid-year will be happy, this is a concerning development for the organization, and one that will likely substantially hurt from a revenue perspective. It also may be seen as breaking a promise to fans. The Bombers are quite fortunate that they didn't demolish Canad Inns Stadium, as they'll still have an acceptable local place to play, but this still seems like a major setback for them and one that could have significant repercussions down the road.

    The key to understanding why the time the Bombers move in to their new stadium matters comes from the specific terms of the stadium deal. Unlike many other CFL stadium deals, the Bombers are on the hook for $85 million, a massive 40 per cent portion of the total (stadium and attached recreational facility) costs here. Even more importantly, that's not money they actually have, but rather money they're borrowing from the provincial government, and it comes with a couple of critical dates. They have 45 total years to pay off the loan, which isn't bad, but if they pay the first $15 million by 2016, that portion is interest-free (which could lead to huge savings). However, in order to do that, they'd have to pay $3 million a year, and considering that $3.1 million was a record profit for Saskatchewan (generally seen as the most financially successful CFL club) in 2009, finding $3 million annually isn't easy for any CFL club. (For comparison, Winnipeg made a $2.3 million profit last season, which was a club record.) That task gets much harder when you're forced to play one of those seasons in an older stadium that will likely feature lower ticket prices, less suites and less naming-rights revenue.

    Read More »from What will Winnipeg’s stadium delay mean?
  • Yes, the LFL is getting a video game.The Lingerie Football League may not have eclipsed the CFL in any of the typical metrics (attendance, teams, stadiums, TV ratings, revenue, etc) just yet, but they are ahead on one smaller front. Despite recent reports that Madden's developers have built an internal mod for that game that simulates the CFL, the league still has been without an officially licensed video game since CFL' 99, and it doesn't look like that's about to change any time soon. (There have been efforts since then that allow you to play football by Canadian rules, including Maximum Football, but they haven't been officially licensed by the league). Meanwhile, the LFL announced Thursday that they've partnered with Japanese gaming studio Yuke's to develop a lingerie football video game. Why has the LFL been able to find a way to get into the video game arena while the CFL hasn't?

    Well, for starters, it's important to point out that the LFL game isn't likely to be Madden in lingerie. Developer Yuke's is most famed for their wrestling and UFC titles, so football's going to be a new challenge for them. It's also not clear if they came up with this idea and approached the league for a license or if the LFL is contracting (and thus, paying) them to come up with a game, figuring to use it as a marketing tool. However, while the CFL is a vastly more successful league at just about every level than the LFL (which won't even have a U.S. regular season this year), the LFL might just pose a more attractive video game property; as discussed before, the market for a CFL title is relatively small on a global scale, and while there may not be a ton of people who actively care about the LFL, video games featuring scantily-clad women playing sports have been massively successful before.

    Read More »from The CFL can’t get a licensed video game made…but the Lingerie Football League can?
  • B.C. QB Mike Reilly runs for a first down against Saskatchewan Wednesday.

    The CFL saw some game action for the first time in 2012 Wednesday night, and the first round of preseason games had plenty of offence, with the Toronto Argonauts besting the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 29-24 and the B.C. Lions downing the Saskatchewan Roughriders 44-10. Of course, in the preseason, how players perform is generally much more notable than the final score. To that end, here are five players who stood out amongst the crowd Wednesday.

    —Mike Reilly, quarterback, B.C. Lions: Some questioned the Lions' decision to let veteran backup Jarious Jackson leave for Toronto in the offseason and elevate Reilly from third-string to the primary backup to Travis Lulay, but the former Central Washington quarterback suggested that he can handle the CFL game with his showing in the Lions' blowout win. Reilly doesn't have much of a CFL track record and didn't see a snap during the season last year, but he shone in last year's preseason action and continued that trend this year, completing 16 of 24 passes (66.7 per cent) for 189 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Impressive. A quarterback's stats aren't in a void, and Reilly was largely facing a second-string (or worse) defence, but he didn't have all of B.C.'s stars at his disposal either. Even in context, that's a solid effort.

    —Cory Boyd, running back, Toronto Argonauts: Boyd followed up his dominant 2010 campaign (1,359 rushing yards, 6 yards per carry, six rushing touchdowns, 363 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns) with a strong 2011 one, where he recorded 1,141 rushing yards and six touchdowns while improving his rushing average to 6.1 yards per carry. It looks like Boyd will be set to follow that success this season; although he only received five carries and picked up 10 rushing yards Wednesday, he made them count, recording two touchdowns. He also looked solid as a receiver out of the backfield (an area where his game took a bit of a step back in 2011), and hauled in one pass for nine yards. Like most starters, Boyd didn't see a lot of touches in this game, but he took advantage of his opportunities and gave the Argonauts some crucial points, and that bodes well for what he can do this year.

    Read More »from Five players who stood out in the first two games of CFL preseason action Wednesday
  • Travis Lulay (L) and Darian Durant celebrate West Final wins in 2011 and 2010 respectively.

    The CFL preseason officially gets underway Wednesday with the Toronto Argonauts facing the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (7 p.m. Eastern, TSN) and the B.C. Lions hosting the Saskatchewan Roughriders (10 p.m. Eastern, TSN), and although there's plenty of hype about displaced Alberta quarterbacks Ricky Ray and Henry Burris facing off in the first game, the late-game pivot battle between B.C.'s Travis Lulay and Saskatchewan's Darian Durant may be just as intriguing. At first glance, the two quarterbacks seem to be in very different places; Lulay's coming off a Grey Cup win, a Most Outstanding Player award and a contract extension, while there were enough questions about Durant's play last season that the team had to reaffirm their commitment to starting him this year. With a little historical perspective, though, their careers are much more similar than they initially appear, and that can be seen as either boding well for a potential Durant resurgence or suggesting a possible downturn for Lulay.

    Read More »from Travis Lulay and Darian Durant, two similar young QBs discussed very differently
  • Demond Washington defending Oregon's Lavasier Tuinei in the 2010-11 BCS title game.

    The world of professional football is a pretty small one, and we're frequently reminded of that when tragedies from south of the border have impacts on CFL players. The latest example is the horrific shootings at Auburn University Saturday, which killed two former Tigers' players (and another man) and injured a current player (and two other men). Winnipeg Blue Bombers' rookie defensive back Demond Washington played at Auburn, and he told Paul Wiecek of The Winnipeg Free Press that he was close to the two former players killed in the shootings, offensive lineman Edward Christian and fullback Ladarious Phillips:

    "I played with them and they were my friends," Washington said following practice on Monday. "It's devastating for their families and for the whole Auburn family.

    "They were all like brothers to me on that team," said Washington. "My heart goes out to their families."

    Perhaps one of the most difficult things for Washington is that he doesn't really have much time to grieve. He's in a tough training camp battle for a roster spot, as last year's import starters at DB (Alex Suber, Brandon Stewart, Jonathan Hefney and Jovon Johnson) appear to have their positions locked down, and veterans Deon Beasley, Johnny Sears and Darrell Pasco are in the mix for backup jobs. The team seems likely to keep three backup import DBs at most, so there's a very real chance Washington could lose out here. It has to be brutally tough for him to try and keep his focus on the field while thinking about the friends he's lost.

    Read More »from The Auburn shootings’ impact on Bombers’ DB prospect Demond Washington
  • These Blue Bombers-branded cowbells will still be allowed at Winnipeg home games.

    Cheer up, fans of the Blue Bombers; you can still get your fever-curing prescriptions. After the Winnipeg Free Press reported early Monday that the Bombers were planning to ban artificial noisemakers (excluding vuvuzelas for some reason, but even including the team-branded cowbells sold in the club's store), a massive backlash took place across Twitter and forced the club to reverse course within a few hours. Here's the statement they released late Monday morning:

    The Winnipeg Football Club would like to clarify security policies regarding artificial noisemakers at Winnipeg Blue Bomber games this season:

    "After listening to our fans, we would like to inform everyone that over the counter purchased cowbells will be permitted at home games this season, but homemade noisemakers such as empty paint cans with rocks inside or any other device that may be deemed unsafe by our security staff will not be permitted. It was never our intention to diminish the fan experience, and we do encourage fans to bring thunder sticks, clappers and plastic horns powered by human voice, however, all of which will be at the sole discretion of the football club," said Vice-President and COO Jim Bell.

    Read More »from Winnipeg fans want a little more cowbell
  • Andy Fantuz with a bottle of the parody shampoo made in his honour.The original Fantuz Flakes cereal remains one of the Saskatchewan Roughriders' most famous marketing moments, and the subsequent Hamilton Tiger-Cats' dandruff commercial parody of it is still one of the cleverest interteam jokes the CFL's seen. Now that Fantuz is a Tiger-Cat, though, he's completed the circle, obtaining a bottle of the old shampoo made at his expense. From CFL.ca's Kate McKenna, who did the original parody and is now travelling around doing training camp videos for the league, here's the inside story of how Fantuz got a bottle of the shampoo named in his honour.

    "I actually ended up meeting Fantuz for the first time on one of my very first Transat adventures, while at a resort in the Caribbean," McKenna said. "What are the odds—of all the weeks, of all the resorts? I was there working. He was there for a wedding. I saw him earlier this year at a Ticats event and we started talking about the whole Fantuz Flakes video and he asked if I still had a bottle—which I did. It was sitting, unused, under my sink. Needless to say, when I went to Ticats' practice as part of my training camp tour, he asked if I'd remembered and was pleasantly surprised to find out I had."

    Read More »from Andy Fantuz acquires a bottle of “Fantuz Flakes” as a great CFL joke comes full circle
  • LFL commissioner Mitch Mortaza (centre) at Lingerie Bowl VII in Vegas in February 2010.

    It's no secret that the Lingerie Football League has big Canadian dreams. Despite the less-than-stunning success of their initial venture into Canada with the Toronto Triumph (a team which saw 22 of its 26 initial players quit over safety concerns) in 2011, the league elected not only to bring the Triumph back for 2012, but also to add teams in Abbotsford, Regina and Saskatoon and start a Canadian league. In fact, Canada will be the only place where the LFL will have a regular season this year. Still, despite that intense focus on Canada, it's still a little surprising to hear exactly how optimistic Mortaza is about how his product will sell north of the border. At the end of an excellent piece Vancouver Courier sports reporter Megan Stewart wrote about her experiences trying out for the LFL thus far, there's a notable passage about Mortaza's Canadian ambitions:

    Make no mistake, the LFL uses sex to sell football. (Hopefuls are instructed to wear "cute gym gear" to try-outs and must bring a head shot to what's essentially a casting call.) But without football-fast, smart and tough tackle football-the league has no leg on which to strap its lacy garter belt.

    When my No. 15 was called at the end of the first try-out in Richmond, I fist-bumped my new teammates. "You're B.C. Angels now," said Mortaza and he pitched us on the aspiration that the LFL would eclipse the CFL in Canada. That's his ambition. The Angels want to play football.

    While it's worth noting that that's coming from a pep talk Mortaza was giving to a team rather than an official media statement, that's still a pretty ridiculous comment for the moment. The CFL's in one of the strongest places it's been as a league in decades with eight current teams, several new and renovated stadiums either completed or planned, an Ottawa franchise coming in in a few years and other expansion possibilities. Sure, there are concerns that remain, particularly in Southern Ontario, but this is a league that occupies a prominent place in the Canadian sporting landscape. In 2010, TSN's average of 876,000 viewers per CFL game was higher than for any of their other sports properties, and even last year's down ratings were still strong in the overall scheme of things.

    Read More »from LFL commissioner Mitch Mortaza says lingerie football will eclipse the CFL in Canada
  • Brendan Taman will be running the Roughriders through 2013 if all goes well.

    What's most interesting about the Saskatchewan Roughriders' decision to extend general manager Brendan Taman's contract through the 2013 season is that they haven't yet seen the results of what he can do as the unquestioned personnel boss. Taman's been with the team since 2009, of course, but as Dave Naylor points out, he didn't have full authority over personnel decisions until after Ken Miller stepped down at the end of the 2011 campaign. Taman, Miller and Joe Womack (now with Hamilton) combined to run the Riders' operations day-to-day in 2009 while then-GM Eric Tillman was still on paid administrative leave, but Tillman's presence was still very much felt, while 2010 saw divided power between Miller and Taman and 2011 saw Miller's promotion over Taman (to the unusual role of vice-president of football operations, creating a leadership controversy that may have been part of the team's 2011 struggles). Thus, a Saskatchewan team solely put together by Taman hasn't yet played a single game, so it's notable that the Riders' leadership has already determined him worthy of an extension. However, that isn't necessarily a bad move.

    Read More »from Riders decide to extend Brendan Taman’s contract before his work can really be tested

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