Canadian Football League 2017: Labour Day Weekend talking points

Andrew Kitchener Roar Guru

By Andrew Kitchener, Andrew Kitchener is a Roar Guru & Live Blogger


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    The NFL kicked off again this week. Image: Wikicommons

    Labour Day Weekend, home of the best rivalries in the Canadian Football League and the start of the stretch run to the playoffs.

    It’s always a big weekend, and the 2017 edition was no different. Plenty to discuss in my Week 11 talking points:

    The Art Briles to Hamilton disaster
    And you thought the only place the Tiger-Cats franchise was clueless in 2017 was on the field! Well, the Hamilton powers-that-be proved that to be incorrect at the beginning of the week, announcing the hiring of disgraced former Baylor coach Art Briles as an assistant to the recently-installed head coach June Jones.

    Briles, you might remember, was fired about a year ago after the lid was lifted on a shocking sexual assault culture at Baylor. He’s a toxic character in America, a guy who put football wins before everything else in a reprehensible manner, and I can’t imagine what was going through the minds of those in Hamilton who thought this would be a good idea in the first place. And to announce it on the same day as they held a football camp for women? You can’t make this up.

    It was only a social backlash of epic proportions – sponsors jumped off, fans threatened to not attend games, brilliant opinion pieces from women involved in the game, the works – that forced the Canadian Football League to step in, and a few hours following a terse press release from Commissioner Ambrosie that indicated the front office was talking to the TiCats and a few hours after that, Hamilton released their own statement saying that the decision had been reversed.

    Coming hot on the heels of the CFL’s ‘Diversity is Strength’ campaign that was so lauded, the TiCats decision to hire Briles in the first place – no matter that it was reversed; that isn’t the point – is a stain on the entire league.

    Saskatchewan is for real
    I’ve suspected that this iteration of the Riders is different to the squads that have teased us in previous years, but it’s hard to know for sure with this franchise.

    The big home win against the BC Lions was followed up by a huge road win against Edmonton where Chris Jones’ men dominated all three phases of the game and left Commonwealth Stadium huge winners. But there were still doubters, because the Riders have promised so much so often before, and let us down.

    Sunday night in Regina, against their hated rivals from Winnipeg, Saskatchewan showed us a new side of themselves, jumping the Blue Bombers early, recording a 38-24 win. It was another complete team performance. Quarterback Kevin Glenn has the offense humming and the defence, led by the ball-hawking Ed Gainey seem to take a quantum leap each week.

    For the first time in 2017, the Riders are above .500 and turning sceptics into true believers. The next few weeks are going to be interesting. Saskatchewan have Winnipeg on the road next week, which looms as a trap game, and welcome Calgary to New Mosaic Stadium in week 14. We’ll know for certain about the Riders after those two contests.

    Hamilton finally get a win
    It was a strange old Labour Day night, with a lighting storm that saw teams leave the field for more than two hours, and about five hours after the game started, Hamilton came out on top, notching their first triumph of the season, 24-22 over arch-rivals Toronto, ensuring that the Argonauts remain winless at Tim Hortons Field. Clearly, it took a weird old situation to give the TiCats the necessary mojo to score their first win of the year.

    Jeremiah Masoli looked okay as Hamilton’s new starting quarterback, but I think we should hold off a few weeks before we anoint him the next coming of Anthony Calvillo. Still, positive signs under new head coach June Jones.

    Calgary dominate Labour Day
    Take twelve fourth-quarter points off the board, and the Stampeders home win against Edmonton looks even more impressive. Nonetheless, the 39-18 win was a statement to the rest of the West, as the Stamps took over first place in that cut-throat division.

    Calgary fans will be happy (and fans of other teams will be unhappy) to see that despite quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell not throwing a touchdown pass, the Stamps still scored 39 points. The Brampton Bus, Jerome Messam, had two rushing scores to help pick up the slack and Roy Finch had yet another dazzling return touchdown. Calgary are good enough at this point to be able to win and win comfortably even when their best player isn’t at his peak. That’s a scary thought.

    Ottawa is starting to roll
    The Redblacks showed what they can do on Thursday night, belting Montreal 32-4, chasing Darian Durant in the fourth after the Als quarterback tossed an interception and completed just 12-21 for 140 yards.

    It was an impressive defence performance, and – it feels like I write this most weeks – Trevor Harris was his usual spectacular self, throwing for 343 yards and two touchdowns. He completed passes at 78 per cent, an incredibly efficient outing, and his pinpoint accuracy helped Greg Ellingson become the first receiver in the league to eclipse the 1000-yard mark this season.

    You look at the (admittedly-understrength) East, and if Ottawa aren’t the best team there, it’s a close-run thing with the Toronto Argonuats, despite that team’s hiccup this weekend. The last nine weeks of the season are going to be interesting.

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