• The Canadian Press

    Canadian Patrice Rene appears set to return to North Carolina's lineup after injury

    Canadian Patrice Rene appears set to return to North Carolina's lineup in time for the No. 15 Tarheels' rivalry game against Virginia and a potential all-Canadian showdown. The redshirt senior defensive back didn't play in North Carolina's 41-23 win over then No. 13 North Carolina State last weekend due to an unspecified injury. But head coach Mack Brown said earlier this week he expects both Rene and safety Cam Kelly to play Saturday when North Carolina (4-1) faces Virginia (1-4). "Their rehab was delayed because of COVID because they couldn't be at the office and couldn't work with our training staff," Brown told reporters his week. "They're better now, I do think they'll both play this weekend, really for the first time.  "Usually, it takes about nine months for a knee and with theirs, it took more like a year just because of the lack of being able to work out with our training staff and our strength staff like they wanted to." The six-foot-three, 205-pound Rene, of Ottawa, played in two games last year, starting one, before suffering a season-ending knee injury. Rene made his first start for North Carolina in 2017 and started all of the team's contests in 2018, recording his two career interceptions that season. The return of Rene and Stewart is certainly timely for North Carolina as sophomore cornerback Storm Duck will miss a fourth straight game with an undisclosed injury. On Saturday, Rene could find himself having to defend against Virginia senior receiver Terrell Jana, a Vancouver native. The six-foot, 195-pound Jana is Virginia's second-leading receiver with 25 catches for 303 yards and a touchdown. Jana, a Cavaliers team captain, had three catches for a team-high 60 yards in last weekend's 19-14 loss to No. 11 Miami. Since starting the season with 39-20 win over Duke on Sept. 26, the Cavaliers have dropped four straight. A 41-23 decision to top-ranked Clemson on Oct. 3 started the team's losing streak as Virginia's defeats have come against teams with a combined 18-5 overall record. Both Jana and Rene appeared on the CFL Scouting Bureau's fall top-20 list for next year's draft. Terrell was ranked third overall while Rene appeared at No. 8. --- ROLLING ALONG: Upstart Coastal Carolina and Canadian linebacker Enock Makonzo look to keep their breakout season going. The No. 20 Chanticleers (5-0) are in The Associated Press Top-25 rankings for the first time. They'll chase a sixth straight victory Saturday when they face Georgia State (2-2). The five-foot-11, 195-pound Makonzo is third on the team in tackles with 29 (20 solo), five tackles for a loss , two sacks, a forced fumble and fumble recovery. The redshirt junior from Lachine, Que., started the team's first two games in 2019 before suffering a season-ending injury. --- DIFFICULT PROPOSITION: A tough bounce-back proposition for No. 18 Penn State and Canadian linebacker Jesse Luketa. The Nittany Lions were upset 36-35 in overtime by Indiana in the season opener for both teams last weekend. On Saturday, Penn State takes on No. 3 Ohio State, which is coming off a lopsided 52-17 victory over Nebraska. Luketa, a six-foot-three, 242-pound junior from Ottawa, had three tackles against Indiana. The criminology major made his first career starts for the Nittany Lions last year after seeing action as a true freshman in 2018. Safety Jonathan Sutherland, a five-foot-11, 202-pound redshirt freshman also from Ottawa, had a solo tackle against Indiana. Luketa and Sutherland comprise half the Canadian content on Penn State's roster. Tight end Theo Johnson, of Windsor, Ont., and receiver Malick Meiga, a freshman from St. Jerome, Que., are also with the Nittany Lions. And in April, quarterback Christian Veilleux, another Ottawa native, committed to Penn State in April. --- UNBEATEN COWBOYS: Don't look now but the sixth-ranked Oklahoma Cowboys are the Big 12's only unbeaten team. Albertans Chuba Hubbard and Amen Ogbongbemiga have helped stake the Cowboys to a 4-0 record heading into their game Saturday versus Texas (3-2). Hubbard, a six-foot-one, 208-pound running back from Sherwood Park, Alta., has run for 478 yards on 94 carries (5.1-yard average) and five TDs this season. The redshirt junior has run for at least 100 yards in 18 of his past 21 games, including his last three straight. Hubbard rushed for over 2,000 yards last season. Not surprisingly, the Cowboys are the Big 12's top-rushing team, averaging 216.3 yards per game. But the defence has also been solid, allowing just 12 points per game, tops in the conference and eighth nationally. Oklahoma State has also held opponents to a combined total of 11-for-57 on third-down conversions (193 conversion rate, third in FBS). Ogbongbemiga is third on the team in tackles with 25 with 1.5 sacks. The six-foot-one, 235-pound senior from Calgary was named Oklahoma State's top defensive player last year after registering 100 tackles. He's also the second-ranked prospect on the CFL Scouting Bureau's top-20 list for next year's draft behind Iowa offensive lineman Alaric Jackson. --- NEXT MAN UP: Canadian John Metchie III showed last weekend he's capable of picking up the slack created by the loss of Jaylen Waddle. Waddle, regarded as one of the most explosive players in U.S. college football, suffered a broken ankle in No. 2 Alabama's 48–17 rout of Tennessee last weekend. Metchie, a six-foot, 195-pound sophomore from Brampton, Ont., was the Tide's leading receiver in the game with seven catches for 151 yards. The loss of Waddle is a huge blow to Alabama's championship aspirations. The five-foot-10, 182-pound junior remains the Tide's leading receiver with 25 catches for 557 yards (22.3-yard average) and four TDs. But Metchie is third on the team in receiving with 21 receptions for 499 yards and three TDs. His 23.8-yard average per reception is tops with the Tide and he's averaging a stellar 99.8-yards receiving per game. As a freshman, Metchie had four catches for 23 yards while appearing in all 13 of Alabama's games. Alabama (5-0) faces Mississippi State (1-3) on Saturday. EXTRA POINTS: This week, Pro Football Focus College listed Alonzo Addae of Pickering, Ont., a senior at West Virginia, second in its highest-graded power five safeties. The five-foot-11, 189-pound Canadian was 10th on the CFL Scouting Bureau's fall Top-20 prospects for the league's '21 draft. PFF also listed Metchie second among in its highest passer rating when targeted. . . Montreal's Bruno Labelle, a tight end with the No. 7 Cincinnati Bearcats (4-0), needs just one reception Saturday against Memphis to establish a career high. The six-foot-four, 248-pound senior has seven catches for 47 yards and a TD this season, matching the career best he first established at the school in 2018. Labelle comes in having registered 17 career catches for 116 yards and two touchdowns. He earned his bachelor's degree in communication last year and was named to the 2019 AAC All-Academic team. Earlier this year, he was ranked No. 17 on the fall CFL Scouting Bureau of the top-20 prospects for next year's CFL draft . . . The 13th-ranked Michigan Wolverines and Michigan State Spartans renew their long-standing rivalry Saturday. Luiji Vilain, a six-foot-four, 253-pound senior defensive end from Ottawa, will suit up for Michigan. Vilain was ranked No. 15 on the CFL Scouting Bureau's top-20 fall list for next year's college draft. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 30, 2020 Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

  • The Canadian Press

    CFL unveils Grey Cup Unite, a virtual program to celebrate traditional Grey Cup week

    TORONTO — There will be no Grey Cup game in November, but that's not stopping the CFL from celebrating its annual championship week. The league announced Thursday it will be staging Grey Cup Unite from Nov. 16-22. Many of the events that are usually held during Grey Cup week will be presented virtually. In August, the CFL cancelled the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Grey Cup game was scheduled to be held in Regina on Nov. 22 but the iconic trophy won't be presented for the first time since 1919. Hamilton is scheduled to host the 2021 Grey Cup, with Regina slated to stage the 2022 contest. "It's an acknowledgment that our fans are connected to our league and want to feel that connection," CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie said. "We have a place on the Canadian sports calendar and our biggest stage for that is Grey Cup week . . . it's important we continue to emphasize we own that week. "That's the CFL's week, that's Grey Cup week and it's Canada's week. We're excited to have a chance to talk to our fans and get them engaged. I'm hoping we're getting to the back end of this pandemic to start to look forward to the future." Some of the events planned include: - A fan state of the league. Ambrosie will kick off the week with a virtual town hall Nov. 16. Ambrosie hopes to be in position to provide fans with an update on the league's future plans. - A virtual summit will be held Nov. 17 to examine key issues currently facing Canadian businesses. Participants will include Bruce Croxon, Managing Partner, Round 13, and former Dragon's Den investor; Girish Ganesan; Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion, TD Bank Group, and Head of Talent, TD Bank; and Trinh Tham, Senior Vice-President, Marketing and E-Commerce, Harry Rosen. - All nine CFL head coaches will be showcased in groups of three in the head coaches' conference Nov. 18. Also that day, the CFL and CFL Players' Association will participate in a roundtable featuring alumni, coaching personnel and current players and discuss their experiences with prejudice and discrimination. - Instead of the traditional player awards, the CFL will unveil its all-decade team (2010-2020) on Nov. 19. The league will also make some of its top performers available to media that day. More events and details will be revealed leading up to Grey Cup Unite. Those wishing updates or to register to attend can do so by visiting GreyCupUnite.ca. "We went through Labour Day with a lot of people missing that Labour Day feeling," Ambrosie said. "We said we weren't going to let that happen again, we're not going to let Grey Cup pass without a chance to bring people together and share that spirit that's such an important part of Grey Cup week. "I'm excited about it, quite frankly, and I think CFL fans will be excited about it as well." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 29, 2020. The Canadian Press

  • The Canadian Press

    CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie says league exploring all options to hold 2021 season

    TORONTO — CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie says the league is examining all options — including a resumption of talks with the federal government, playing in hub cities and holding games with no fans or limited spectators — to get back on the field in 2021.The CFL cancelled its 2020 season Aug. 17 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a decision that came after it was unable to secure financial assistance from Ottawa. The league had hoped to play a shortened campaign in Winnipeg.The CFL had maintained it required government funding to stage a shortened season. In April, it presented Ottawa a three-tiered request that began with $30 million initially, more in the event of a shortened season and up to $150 million for a cancelled campaign.In July, the CFL modified that request to $44 million before asking Ottawa for a $30-million, interest-free loan on Aug. 3. However, the two sides couldn't agree on a deal."When we didn't succeed in August in our discussions, the federal government did leave the door open to ongoing discussions," Ambrosie said in a telephone interview Thursday. "My strong feeling is that part of the responsibility is to be optimistic that conversations can restart and take us somewhere."You have to be thoughtful about it, you have to be realistic. But in the end I believe there was a genuine interest in resuming conversations and you have to hope that will lead us to an outcome that helps us to get back on to the field."Ambrosie believes the relationship between the CFL and federal government remains strong."Look, I believe it would be foolish not to acknowledge the overwhelming challenge it takes to govern in this time," he said. "To be negative and hostile towards them would be, I think, a mistake."You acknowledge we weren't successful, then you just have to dust yourself off and be willing to open up a new set of discussions. Frankly, that's how I've approached this, just to be a person with a positive energy and bring that energy to every discussion we have."But the CFL isn't pinning all of its hopes for 2021 solely on Ottawa. Ambrosie said the league and its nine teams are considering all options for a return to the field.That includes playing in a hub city, staging games in an empty stadium or before reduced crowds. All of those options would be difficult ones for CFL franchises, which all rely heavily on ticket sales to generate revenue.Ambrosie expects to have some answers about the CFL's future Nov. 16. That's when he'll hold a townhall with fans to kick off Grey Cup Unite, an initiative where the league will hold many of the events usually held during Grey Cup week virtually.However, a big challenge facing the CFL is the uncertainty surrounding the novel coronavirus. It's unclear what the numbers will be like next summer or when a vaccine might be widely available."We are looking at a no-fan scenario, we're looking at a couple of levels of limited fans," Ambrosie said. "The most optimistic version of our plan is the vaccine is out and taking a positive footing and we're looking at hub city again because you have to account for all of these things as possibilities."But the challenge we're all facing, not just football, is that we don't know where the pandemic is going to take us in the short to medium term. We're going to look at every possible way to get back on the field . . . one way or the other we're going to try to the best of our ability to figure out a way to do it."Another issue for Ambrosie and the CFL is the state of the B.C. Lions following the death Monday of owner David Braley. "Obviously it's a conversation we'll have with his family about the future of the team," Ambrosie said. "We're going to have to work through the challenge of David's passing in the middle of this pandemic . . . but I really believe there's a bright and great future for the B.C. Lions."I spent a lot of time with David as commissioner and I'll tell you this: He'd give me a hard time because he liked to give me a hard time. But then he'd remind me at the end, 'Randy, remember. You're the commissioner. You've got a job to do and go get it done.' I feel in my head and heart that what David wants from me today is to find solutions and to get this league going."The CFL has been one of the lone major sports leagues not to operate during the pandemic. Ambrosie admits that doesn't sit well with him."It will always be, for me, disappointing that we didn't but I do think it's important to make some distinctions," he said. "First of all, the NHL was largely through most of its regular season . . . when it went into the bubble to finish it off. Similarly with basketball."We'd not started and faced the daunting task of bringing together the largest group that we have to bring together every year, that being your pre-training camp roster. That made our situation considerably different than what some of the other leagues were facing. Now, it is what it is and you can't moan about it but we did face some unique challenges. I can honestly say we tried everything we could to try to get back on our feet and came up a little short."A burning question remains what the CFL's future will be if it can't play again in 2021, especially considering the league reportedly lost between $60 and $80 million because of the cancelled season. That's a scenario, Ambrosie said, he's not considering."I just feel like we're going to find a way," he said. "Would it be good not to play in 2021? No way."But I know how much our fans want us back on the field and its through that lens I'm looking at all of our activities so that we make sure we have a good outcome in 2021."Ambrosie said the CFL has to examine how it does everything."Quite honestly I'm optimistic about everything," he said. "I have to believe the work we're doing, the appetite I feel for our game, the importance of football in Canada, the importance of the game itself and all that it stands for will lead us to being back on the field in 2021. "Right now we're looking at many scenarios. That's a word we used a lot in the spring and summer. The time we sadly haven't been playing has given us a chance to do that kind of work and come back not just in our previous version but in a new and really re-energized version of our league."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 29, 2020. Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

  • Wayne Gretzky reflects on the life, legacy of Joey Moss: 'He gave parents hope'
    The Canadian Press

    Wayne Gretzky reflects on the life, legacy of Joey Moss: 'He gave parents hope'

    Wayne Gretzky and his teammates used to joke that Joey Moss would be a staple with the Edmonton Oilers long after their playing careers were finished. Turns out those future Hall of Famers had it spot on.Gretzky looked back Wednesday with sadness, humour and appreciation after Moss — the team's legendary locker-room attendant born with Down syndrome — died earlier this week at 57. "(The Oilers) traded me," the Great One said with a smile. "Joey was a lifer."Moss, who got to know Gretzky when the superstar was dating his older sister in the early 1980s, was welcomed by the NHL club to help out around the rink at the time.And he pretty much never left."(Moss) brought a ray of sunshine and a lot of fond memories to all of us," Gretzky said on a video conference call with reporters. "I've had so many people reach out, talk about how exciting Joey was to be around, and that Joey had probably lived a really wonderful life. "But as I said to them, 'He made our lives better. It wasn't just us making his life better.' Without question, he made our lives better."The 12th of 13 children, Moss also worked with Edmonton's CFL club in a similar capacity, bringing smiles to the faces of players in both sports for more than 30 years."There was nothing better than having a cup of coffee before practice with him," Gretzky said. "He's a special man."Gretzky, whose aunt had Down syndrome when he was growing up in Brantford, Ont., said Moss did more than simply open doors for children with disabilities."He gave parents hope," said the NHL's all-time leading scorer. "Parents who had kids that are mentally challenged saw Joey Moss living a relatively normal life, fitting into society and being accepted as a regular person. And I think that gave parents of kids with handicaps a great deal of hope."That's the biggest thing Joey Moss brought to his life as far as helping other people. It was an honour for me to know him. He was a great friend. He lived with me off and on for a lot of years. We spent a lot of time together. Just a wonderful young man, and we'll truly miss him."Gretzky, who captained Edmonton's powerhouse teams of the 1980s to four Stanley Cups, recounted the story of how he floated the idea of including Moss to Oilers head coach and general manager Glen Sather after seeing the teenager waiting in the cold to catch a bus for his job at a bottle depot."I remember standing there and thinking, 'Gosh there's got to be something I can do or we can do as a society that's going to make his life — not better — but maybe easier and more comfortable,'" Gretzky said. "The only way it wasn't going to work was if he didn't fit in, but from the first moment he walked in that locker room he understood that (trainer Lyle Kulchisky) was going to be the guy that was going to guide him. "He was comfortable, he knew his responsibilities, he didn't step out of line. He was genuinely excited to come to work every single day. It worked out from Day 1 that he was great for us, and I think we were great for him. It was sure always a breath of fresh air when you'd walk into the locker room and he'd be sitting there."Gretzky reminisced about his friend's fondness of singing — Moss would belt out O Canada at Oilers games and La Bamba at team functions to raucous applause — the frigid street hockey they'd play during Edmonton's long winters, and his love of wrestling."Guys like (former Edmonton enforcers) Georges Laraque and Dave Semenko would play wrestle with him in the locker room," said the 59-year-old. "He thought that was the greatest thing in the world. "Those are memories we can never replace."But don't for a second think Moss, whose cause of death wasn't disclosed, didn't take his duties seriously."After a game, I could have eight or nine media guys around me, but if it was 10:45 p.m. and (Kulchisky) said, 'It's 10:45, we vacuum the floor,'" Gretzky recalled with a chuckle, "(Moss) would vacuum every guy's shoe that was around my stall."Everyone treated him with a great deal of respect."And when the Oilers traded Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings in August 1988, he never doubted there would still be a spot for Moss with the organization."He was in the right place," said Gretzky, who now serves as Edmonton's alternate governor. "He made a lot of people happy."The Oilers will no doubt honour Moss, either with a statue, banner or some other final tribute.But Gretzky would like to see the people of Edmonton involved in the decision because of what he both accomplished and represented for generations of fans, players and citizens."We made people excited by winning championships," Gretzky said. "He made people happy ... he gave them hope for their kids. I can't say enough about what he did to raise awareness, to show people that somebody with a handicap can still be part of society. "We've got to figure out the right way to honour him that'll last a lifetime. He deserves that."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 28, 2020___Follow @JClipperton_CP on Twitter Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press