Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Bales Details

An extra-long Easter holiday weekend has concluded and that means it's time for the second edition of Bales Details! What a beautiful weekend it was despite some wrinkles in the climate and could it have been more busy in the world of sport? I guess it could have, but my schedule certainly was full of games from rugby to hockey playoffs. 

On Good Friday, the WHL playoff series between the Swift Current Broncos and the Regina Pats shifted back to Regina for game five after the Pats staved off elimination last Tuesday night in Broncoville. The Pats managed to eek out a 3-2 victory that night to send the series back west. The next tilt, on Saturday night at the Swift Current iPlex, ended in more convincing fashion for the Pats with a 5-3 score-line much to the chagrin of the dedicated Broncos fans. Game seven would be needed as the teams were deadlocked at three wins each. I'd describe how the tilt played out, but instead, I'll let the WHL's best radio play-by-play man Phil "the Thrill" Andrews describe the details with highlights here. Regina is extremely fortunate to have both Access Communications and 620 CKRM radio station covering our Pats and our football teams!

Rugby. Not one of Canada's favourite sports traditionally, but all-the-same a sport that has made gains with Canadian sports fans after the 7's (seven players on each side playing seven minute halves) was thrust into the spotlight at the Rio Olympics. Canada fared well at the games on the women's side earning a bronze medal, but failed to even qualify for the tournament on the men's side. Fast forward to this weekend at the Singapore Sevens where the Canadian men (including Centre, John Moonlight, and fly-half, Nathan Hirayama) took out three top sides en route to their first championship in the sport. The young squad showed that this could be the first of many for the Canucks. If you haven't watched sevens, you are missing out. Get on it! Highlights and photos here.

The NBA playoffs fired up on Saturday with Canada's team, the Toronto Raptors, losing game one of their series for the billionth time. I guess it's not how they play in game one that matters. That's a sentiment I'm sure they'll embrace going into game two on TSN. I still think it's Raptors in five or six games maximum. I won't go around the horn but I will mention that Boston Celtics guard Isiah Thomas and his teammates were clearly hampered by emotion in their first game against the Chicago Bulls. That's because news broke that Thomas' sister Chyna Thomas was killed in a single-car motor vehicle accident the night before. I expect them to be lifted by her spirit, and able to do some things they might not have otherwise, for the remainder of these NBA playoffs.

Just a quick shutout to two former Saskatchewan Roughriders, Khalif Mitchell and Korey Williams. Both currently play for the perennially dominant Sioux Falls Storm football team in the Indoor Football League. You can watch these men (or any of the IFL players/teams) go to work on Facebook/YouTube on game days thanks to a brilliant broadcasting strategy set-forth by the IFL. Who needs the big networks anymore!?! I have a lot of fun watching and I think most CFL fans would too.

A mucky final round took the pride of Weyburn, Graham DeLaet out of contention at the PGA's RBC Heritage tournament on Sunday. He finished in sixth place despite a stellar first three rounds that saw him at the top of the leader board more than once. Head here for final round highlights and the rest of the story.

The Toronto Bluejays just aren't worth talking about at this point as they continue to struggle and find themselves out of the MLB conversation with a 2-10 record thus far. I'll talk more about them if or when that changes. I hope they can get it together on Thursday for a friend of mine, Michelle B., who is in the Big Smoke for the game among other things.

The NHL playoffs are going pretty darn well for most Canadian teams. All but my Calgary Flames are ahead in their series on this side of the weekend. Most surprising are the Toronto Maple Leafs who, with some OT heroics, find themselves up 2-1 on the heavy favourite Washington Capitals who are the 2017 Presidents Trophy winners. How about those Nashville Predators??? Anyone who's like me, hates to see a perennial champion in any sport unless of course it's your team. The Chicago Blackhawks have been the most dominant team in the NHL's western conference over the last five-plus years and it's kind of nice to see Nashville slamming the 'Hawks backs up against the wall with a 3-0 lead in that series. That's it for today folks! 

TODAYS SHOUTOUT: A huge shoutout to those dealing with addictions and those who have found the strength to do something about it and re-build the path they are on in life! You know who you are. Also, on a completely different note, I'd like to express my condolences to Ryan, Brett and the LeBlond families upon the passing of their dad, Donald Gregory LeBlond. Rest in peace Greg, you inspired many.

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Wednesday, 12 April 2017

How Did the Edmonton Oilers Get Here?

This blog is less than a week old but I haven't touched the NHL. Allow me to indulge you now. It's been eleven looong years for fans in the Alberta capitol, but thanks to that failure they've rebounded quite nicely and the Edmonton Oilers playoff drive starts tonight. Let's see how long it lasts. In the meantime, let's understand what it took to get here with some help from Oilersnation. Their list deserves a second look and what better time?

"Will Acton, Mark Arcobello, Dean Arsene, Richard Bachman, Cam Barker, Taylor Beck, Eric Belanger, Shawn Belle, Matt Benning, Anton Belov, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Sebastian Basallion, Jesse Boulerice, Kyle Brodziak, Laurent Brossoit, Mike Brown, Gilbert Brule, Ilya Byzgalov, Drake Caggiula, Taylor Chorney, Adam Clendening, Andrew Cogliano, Eric Cole, Mike Comrie, Philippe Cornet, Adam Cracknell, Yann Danis, Brandon Davidson, David Desharnais, Jeff Deslauriers, Leon Draisaitl, Devan Dubnyk, Ben Eager, Jordan Eberle, Kurtis Foster, Colin Fraser, Sam Gagner, Mathieu Garon, Martin Gerber, Mark Fayne, Mark Fistric, Viktor Fasth, Taylor Fedun, Mark Fraser, Luke Gazdic, Tom Gilbert, Alexandre Giroux, Curtis Glencross, Boyd Gordon, Denis Grebeshkov (twice!), Josh Green, Matt Greene, Eric Gryba, Jonas Gustavsson, Taylor Hall, Curtis Hamilton, Ryan Hamilton, Teemu Hartikainen, Ales Hemsky, Matt Hendricks, Roman Horak, Shawn Horcoff, Darcy Hordichuck, Brad Hunt, Jean-Francois Jacques, Jesse Joensuu, Aaron Johnson, Ryan Jones, Zack Kassian, Nikolai Khabibulin, Jujhar Khaira, Oscar Klefbom, Rob Klinkhammer, Lauri Korpikoski, Alex Kotalik, Milan Kytnar, Jason LaBarbera, Anton Lander, Phillip Larsen, Adam LarssonMark Letestu, Charles Linglet, Milan Lucic, Joffrey Lupul, Steve MacIntyre, Martin Marincin, Patrick Maroon, Connor McDavid, Colin McDonald, Jussi Markkanen, Andrew Miller, Chris Minard, Alexei Mikhnov, Ethan Moreau, Johan Motin, Petr Nedved, Nikita Nikitin, Anders Nilsson, Robert Nilsson, Ryan Nugent-HopkinsDarnell Nurse, Ryan O’Marra, Patrick O’Sullivan, Jordan Oesterle, Linus Omark, Iiro Pakarainen, Adam Pardy, Theo Peckham, Dustin Penner, Steve Pinizzotto, Joni Pitkanen, Tyler Pitlick, Magnus Paajarvi, Toby Petersen, Lennart Petrell, Fernando Pisani, Alex Plante, David Perron, Richard Petiot, Jeff Petry, Corey Potter, Ryan Pultony, Benoit Pouliot, Marc-Antoine Pouliot, Jesse Puljujarvi, Teddy Purcell, Marty Reasoner, Liam Reddox, Griffin Reinhart, Bryan Rodney, Dwayne Roloson, Allan Rourke, Mathieu Roy, Geoff Sanderson, Rob Schremp, Justin Schultz, Nick Schultz, Ben Scrivens, Andrej Sekera, Dillon Simpson, Anton Slepyshev, Ladislav Smid, Jason Smith, Jerred Smithson, Ryan Smyth (twice!), Sheldon Souray, Steve Staois, Jarret Stoll, Ryan Stone, Zack Stortini, Jason Strudwick, Andy Sutton, Petr Sykora, Danny Syvret, Cam Talbot, Dick Tarnstrom, Colten Teubert, Patrick Thoresen, Daniel Tjarnqvist, Raffi Torres, Brad Winchester, Jim Vandermeer, Chris VandeVelde, Lubomir Visnovsky, Ryan Whitney, Nail Yakupov, Bryan Young, Kevin Lowe, Steve Tambellini, Craig MacTavish, Peter Chiarelli, MacT, Pat Quinn, Rom Renney, Wreck-It Ralph Krueger, Dallas Eakins, Todd Nelson, Todd McLellan, Bill Moores, Craig Simpson, Charlie Huddy, Rob Daum, Kelly Buchberger, Steve Smith, Keith Acton, Rocky Thompson, and Craig Ramsay".

Wow! 184 players, GM's, and coaches including todays personnel. I feel like that list should be accompanied by I've Been Everywhere by Johnny Cash! Oh hell giv'r a try if you like. 

Enjoy these playoffs Oiler fans! This is a very different NHL but it could be another ten before this happens again. Plus, I don't think I'll pen another Oilers article unless my Calgary Flames see you in the next round. So "Go Oilers"!

Thanks to www.oilersnation.com for the list.

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Jeffrey Orridge to Step Down Prior to Start of 2017 Season

Good day Canadian football fans! No, really. It's a good day for CFL fans. This morning the league issued a statement that Jeffrey L. Orridge will step down from his position as CFL commissioner on June 30th, 2017. 

The news deserves and will receive much comment and speculation from fans and analysts around the league. I'm way too negative regarding his tenure as the CFL top-dog to do so in a fair and just manner. Lucky for me, and you, my good friend Mark Stephen has nailed both and has graciously allowed me to quote his opinions on the topic. Here's his analysis:

"So that was quick. After barely two years on the job, Jeffrey Orridge is leaving as CFL Commissioner. Officially, he resigns. Unofficially, he just wasn't meshing with the board and it was time to move on.
There had been quiet rumblings about his situation almost from the start. However, with the wildly successful CFL Week in Regina, I thought those questions had been addressed and he would proceed on the job.
A few thoughts.

First, Orridge, his predecessors and his successors will always have a difficult task. Entering a board meeting, you are dealing with a group of people who all believe they are the most important people in the room. Tough crowd.

Orridge was off to a slow start with few accomplishments in 2015 and a poor performance at the State of the League news conference at they Grey Cup in Winnipeg. It should be noted the board wanted him to address the issue of attracting younger fans. The league, under his direction, set out a more aggressive social media policy and redesigned the logo. I could live without the logo change, but Orridge was following his mandate.
In 2016, he pushed through some player safety rule changes and more comprehensive drug testing policy. However, he seemed slow to react to a player lawsuit over CTE. This issue is the big cloud on the league's horizon.
Part of Orridge's issue was the fact, he was not the big persona of his predecessor, Mark Cohon. Orridge, in my dealings with him, is a pleasant and soft-spoken individual. However, Cohon just seemed to be everywhere all the time, meeting with fans. This is not a knocked on Orridge, but a reflection on Cohon setting the bar very high.
Orridge seemed to be fitting into his position and the recent CFL Week in Regina may well have been his high point.
However, there was always a feeling he just didn't fit in to the football culture. Maybe it was time for a break."

Stephen, a veteran sports broadcaster from Calgary, goes on to speculate about who may be next in line.

"Now the speculation game begins. Who is in line for the opportunity to succeed Jeffrey Orridge as CFL Commissioner?
First, if offered, I would take it! But, just in case they don't see the merits of my candidacy, here are some others thoughts.
One name that just jumps off the page for me, is Glen Grunwald. Grunwald is currently Athletics Director at McMaster University in Hamilton, but has a very deep and varied athletics career.
By virtue of being at McMaster, he has been exposed to a high-level USport football program, so has some familiarity with the sport. However, most of his sports experiences comes in basketball. He has been a high-level executive with three NBA teams, including the Raptors (during his time with the Raptors he became a Canadian citizen). That means Grunwald has extensive professional sports experience, combined with insight to Canadian Football League.
Prior to taking the position with McMaster, he was head of the Toronto Board of Trade. (He took this posting after being fired by the New York Knicks. Compared to the dysfunctional Knicks, the CFL Board of Governors looks like a playground squabble). Head of the Board of Trade in Toronto means Grunwald met many of the country most influential business leaders.
Plus, he has a law degree from Northwestern University, a trait that would help navigate some thorny issues that will face the league.
I have never met the man, so have no idea of his interest in this position. However, his resume screams an interview.
Others that have been suggested include Toronto legend Pinball Clemons, former Stampeder and current TSN analyst Duane Forde plus current CFL V-P Glenn Johnson. I am sure all would have their strengths but they should be approached only after Grunwald is vetted."

I couldn't agree more with the analysis and his suggestions. What do you think fans? Let us know in the comments!

- If you'd like to read more from Mark Stephen, he can be found on Facebook (Mark Stephen, Sports Broadcaster), and on Twitter (@markonfootball) -

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Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Unified North American FIFA World Cup Bid Raises Questions

As a life-long soccer fan, it's truly amazing to hear that Canada, U.S.A., and Mexico have united to bring the FIFA World Cup to our continent. However, not even two seconds into the discussion, that's where the unified North American FIFA World Cup bid raises questions.

A lot will occur in the soccer world over the next nine years, so let's set the scene for the 2026 World Cup. There will be two World Cup tournaments played between now and then. In 2018, Russia will host the 32 team tournament in 12 venues across 11 cities. They beat out joint bids from Belgium/Netherlands and Portugal/Spain to earn the right to host. In 2022, Qatar (of all places) will host in eight or nine venues across seven cities. They ousted Australia, Japan, South Korea, and the United States along the way to being awarded the top bid. I won't get into the corruption that saw that happen. Now that you know where the tournament will have been located leading up to 2026, let's get back to the questions pertaining to the North American bid.

How many games will be played in each country?

Remember, in 2026 the FIFA World Cup expands to 48 teams from the current 32 team format. That means more games! According to CBC.ca, the bid includes a plan that would see 60 (or 75% of) matches played in stadiums across the United States. It also states that 10 (or 12.5% of) matches would be played in Mexico, and the other 10 matches in Canada. That clearly illustrates, to me, that Canada and Mexico were added to an American bid to strengthen it and to help avoid the potential embarrassment of losing another bid. I'll go out on a limb and say that's not likely to happen with World Cup bid rules banning bids from the Asia/Qatar (AFC) or Europe/Russia (UEFA) regions as a result of the next two world cups going to nations in those regions. That leaves open bids from any country inside the CONCACAF/North America, CONMEBOL/South America, OFC/Oceania, or CAF/Africa regions. I suppose a case could be made for some countries within those regions but, the fact is, none have been aggressive and stepped forward with a bid yet and that bodes well for the North American bid.

Which Canadian cities will be chosen as hosts?

This is the big one for me. Canada has hosted three FIFA tournaments recently so we have an idea of the potential host cities based on where those events were held. Will it be the usual suspects of Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, and maybe Hamilton, Edmonton, or Winnipeg? Or will they look at it based on suitable facilities and then include Ottawa and Regina (and likely Calgary by then) as a result? Only time will tell us which cities will host but if anyone important is reading this... consider this a bid for Regina! No actually don't because I don't make those calls. It sure would be nice to have an opportunity to be on the world stage as a World Cup host city and Saskatchewan is dying to be a destination for elite level soccer events.

I'll let up for now because I've already gotten way further ahead than I likely should have as this bid is in it's infancy and there are no guarantees that this bid will be a successful one. Very exciting day for The Voyageurs though and just this news itself somewhat raises the profile of Canada Soccer. Soccer fans can expect CONCACAF and MLS related articles on my blog in the future.

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Monday, 10 April 2017

Bales Details

Like a lot of my family and friends growing up, I could talk or write all day about my opinions on the sports that I watch. Trust me that's boring. Instead, I'll write a short comment on topics that are relevant today. These are Bales Details and you can expect to see them here every Monday.

I swear, something possessed Sergio Garcia to win the first major of his illustrious 18 year PGA career. Before Sunday, Garcias best efforts were a quartet of second place finishes at the PGA and Open Championships. Even as a moderate golf fan it was satisfying to watch he and his beautiful fiancee embracing after the, now infamous, final birdie putt. Congrats Sergio!

James Hinchcliffe. Who is that? We don't hear much about Canada's best IndyCar driver and that's a shame. I get a boost in National pride when Hinch' does something great. He did just that on Sunday winning his fifth Verizon IndyCar Series championship at the Long Beach Grand Prix in California. So why aren't more Canadians talking about 'Hinch? Who knows! He's a pretty good dancer too folks!

The boys of summer are back! The Toronto Bluejays have had a less than flattering start, but optimism still wins the day for me. This team isn't so dramatically different than the 2015-'16 versions of the blue birds when they subsequently earned an AL East pennant and a wildcard spot in the MLB playoffs. They play 162 games before October and I believe the Jays are built to win about 100 of those in 2017 and make the playoffs again. Okay (okay) Bluejays (Bluejays)!

On the topic of Toronto, the Raptors have had a tough run of games with some injuries and have struggled meshing as a team post trade deadline. Head coach Dwayne Casey's hard-working group is coming around though and should push so-called superior teams like the Boston Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the playoffs should they meet. I'm very excited to write an article or two on Canada's only and favourite NBA team. Coming soon!

Who knows what to make of the dismissal of CFL GM Ed Hervey about a month before the draft and mini-camp. We all heard what Edmonton Eskimos President/CEO Len Rhodes said and the sum of it doesn't really justify the actions that were taken IMO. There's something more to this and I'd sure love to find out if it's coming from the top! That's what's been suggested by some of my sources on the inside. Stay tuned! This year the Eskimos will steal much of the controversy that plagued the Saskatchewan Roughriders in consecutive years.

Speaking of the greatest team there is, was, and ever will be — the Riders have buried their heads in preparations for their April 25th-27th mini-camp at Dodgertown in Vero Beach, FL.. I hope good-guys Rod Pedersen, Dan Plaster, and Luc Mullinder will be down there again to give us their perspective on what's happening with the potential Riders and some vets. One recruit in particular, QB Vince Young, should attract a lot of eyes!

The Regina Pats and Swift Current Broncos resume their best-of-seven (currently tied 1-1) WHL playoff series tonight in "Speedy Creek". Most WHL experts would agree that the Credit Union iPlex is the hardest place to play a road game in the league. I don't doubt it either! Bronco's fans are very similar to Rider fans in knowing that their cheering is more than a contribution to a good night out for all. They'll do it all again on Tuesday night before the series shifts back to Regina for game five on Good Friday. Happy Easter everyone!

The Pats/Broncos series itself has been some pretty intense hockey. A lot of players on both sides were really gripping their sticks in game one, and a few too many Broncos played a bit loose in game two. Seems, so far, that the club that makes the most mistakes and commits the most penalties has lost. The Pats should get it done from here. Maybe one more win for the Broncos before the Pats ultimately move on to face the winner of the Medicine Hat Tigers and Lethbridge Hurricanes series. It's also knotted at one game each. This might shock some but I've got the 'Canes taking out the heavily-favoured Tigers. Just call it a 'Hinch... err... hunch!

As usual on Monday and Wednesday's, I'll be on the Candid Frank Live: CFL Show podcast tonight starting at 10PM ET. Join us at the link I provide in the FB group @kellysblogspot or on Twitter @kbaleblog. Podcasts are a great way to relax, listening in as you do whatever it is you do after the last meal of the day or on a longish drive. Cheers!

TODAYS SHOUTOUT: Goes to the group, WHL Talk, on Facebook. There you'll find all kinds of smart, dedicated WHL fans from Victoria to Brandon and down through the United States. I love how few people there take things past fun and into the personal realm. I just wanna talk hockey!!! Thanks for having me ladies and gents!

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Sunday, 9 April 2017

The Saskatchewan Roughriders Don't Have the Luxury of Time

If there wasn't already enough pressure to keep pace with the other eight CFL clubs who seemingly improve year-after-year, the Saskatchewan Roughriders don't have the luxury of time and it's a lot of their own doing. "Time for what?", you ask. After consecutive losing seasons without a playoff birth, the Riders need to make the playoffs in 2017 for this season to be considered a success.

We have all seen beautiful, shiny, new Mosaic Stadium by now. When the sun is on the horizon, it casts its beautiful profile and our prairie pride over a few older venues around the league. Yeah, Dave Dickenson, I just went there. If the Riders were looking to keep a low profile, they've really shot themselves in the foot with the new state of the art facilities. The CFL media, and the league community in-general, all had a teaser with CFL Week in March. The upgrades that the league scribes and analysts enjoy when they visit Regina now, compared to in the past, is something they hope will extend to the on-field product to make their storyline that much easier to compose. How hard was it watching the 2013 Winnipeg Blue Bombers open Investors Group Field with a 3-15 season after a year of costly delays? Another example is last year when the narrative could have read success at BMO Field for the re-born Toronto Argonauts. Instead the story was empty seats and a then record high of optimism was lost by the organization. The Ottawa Redblacks only won two games at TD Place Stadium in it's inaugural year, but the optimism wasn't lost on the brand new franchise.

Then there's of course all the ironic luxury worked into the stadium design that should allow the players to be their best selves throughout the season. Mosaic Stadium will work for the Riders, but only if they don't let it work against them which is apparently fairly easy to do by losing the majority of their games. First impressions mean a lot and the Riders would do themselves a huge favour winning the majority of their home games in 2017.

To go with the new ballpark, athletic facilities, and offices the Riders have had to recruit, sign, and acquire some players to overcome the potential sting of another losing season. Have they ever. Where do I even start with the again monster list of high-profile signings this offseason? I suppose the light has shined none brighter than on former third-overall pick in the NFL draft and 2x Pro Bowler, Vince Young. His signing brings an entirely new dimension to the media coverage that will be involved with the CFL, but particularly the Riders, should he make the football team. Bo Levi Mitchell can go right ahead and be flippantly optimistic about facing one of his idles. Maybe he's got a method to his madness though and hopes that any media circus in Regina that could arise would be a negative thing for a west division rival? It's not just Vince Young either. It's new players all over the depth-chart in Kevin Glenn, Duron Carter, Kienan LaFrance, Derek Dennis, Bakari Grant, Glenn Love, Chad Owens, Eddie Steele, and Ryan White. That's replaced almost a quarter of the roster with guys that have been in a position where they have won. That's happening right now, so can they win together with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2017? Attached to a pretty strong core of players assembled in 2016, the first of Chris Jones seasons as chief cook and bottle washer of the Riders, anybody can feel pretty optimistic about that happening. Mind you, there are eight other teams also looking to hold their heads under water. These players and any to be added before the season have got to integrate well and prove that they were good acquisitions for the club. The pressure only builds with the outstanding additions the club has made.

The time could be sooner than later for changes off the field if the Riders don't breed some sustainable success soon. I'd hate to think in retrospect that folks like me gave guys like Jones and fourth-year President/CEO Craig Reynolds too little time to prove they can turn the trick, but you can't wait too long either. While they have a luxury stadium and some luxurious new players, it's time that is not their luxury. Win or people will and should start screaming for changes up at the top.

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