Super Bowl referee Bill Vinovich started his pro career in the CFL during the U.S. expansion era, came back from near-fatal heart aneurysmAndrew Bucholtz at 55 Yard Line 1 day ago
There's going to be a substantial CFL flavour in Sunday's Super Bowl, including former players (Jon Ryan and Chris Matthews on the Seattle Seahawks, Brandon Browner on the New England Patriots) and Canadians drafted by the league at one point (the Seahawks' Luke Willson). One of the most interesting connections will be the man with the whistle, though; referee Bill Vinovich. As Drew Edwards writes, Vinovich's first experience refereeing professional games came in the CFL during the U.S. expansion era in the 1990s:
Vinovich survived, but doctors initially recommended he stay away from on-field officiating. That led to him working as a NFL replay official for three years. As ESPN's Kevin Seifert writes, though, surgery let him work his way back:
Correction: This piece initially referred to Chris Williams, not Chris Matthews. Williams also recently played in the NFL with the Saints and Bears.
Shea Emry takes part in Bell's Let's Talk campaign, shares his story of depression to raise awareness of and funds for mental health programsAndrew Bucholtz at 55 Yard Line 3 days ago
New Saskatchewan Roughrider Shea Emry did something bold Wednesday, sharing his story of bullying and depression with CBC Radio's Sheila Coles. Emry's talked about his battles with depression before, but his interview Wednesday is particularly interesting both for what it says about football and what he wants to encourage other men to do. Emry spoke as part of Bell's Let's Talk campaign, where Bell will donate five cents to mental health initiatives Wednesday for every tweet with #BellLetsTalk, every share of their campaign Facebook image and every call or text made on their network. He told Coles about his personal struggles, Bell's campaign, and his own foundation, The Wellmen Project, which seeks to help men discuss and deal with mental health issues. Go here to listen to the full interview, or read on for highlights and a discussion of his comments.
Video: Behind-the-scenes footage of how Mark McMorris, Olympic and X Games snowboarding medalist, started his career in flat Regina with skateboards and trampolinesAndrew Bucholtz at Eh Game 4 days ago
Mark McMorris has become one of the world's best snowboarders, but there was a time when he was rarely able to get to any sort of substantial mountain. McMorris and his brother Craig, also a famed professional snowboarder, grew up in Regina, Saskatchewan, well-known for its flat terrain. The nearest snowboarding hill of any size, all 292 feet of it at Mission Ridge Winter Park, was 72 kilometres away. Mark's managed to find remarkable success in the snowboarding world, though, winning five gold medals at the X Games (including both the slopestyle and big air golds at this year's event this past weekend) and a bronze at the 2014 Sochi Olympics (Canada's first medal) despite a broken rib, difficult qualification and a judging controversy. He and Craig have even had their own show on MTV Canada. So, how did such a dominant snowboarder come from such a lack of hilly terrain? A mini-documentary from Red Bull gives us part of the answer, using exclusive home video footage of the McMorris brothers at an early age practicing moves on their skateboards and their trampoline:
Arash Madani sheds light on CFL cheating, but the prevalence of CFL and NFL cheating is a bad reason to ignore it; why Deflategate still mattersAndrew Bucholtz at 55 Yard Line 5 days ago
The NFL world has been consumed by "Deflategate" for the last couple of weeks, and some are starting to get sick of the endless discussion of if the New England Patriots intentionally deflated their game balls before the AFC championship game. One in that camp appears to be Sportsnet's Arash Madani, who filed an interesting column from the Super Bowl Monday, citing past examples of how frequently the rules are broken from his time working for CFL teams and his time reporting on the league. Many of the cases Madani discusses are quite remarkable, and they deserve further analysis. He's also correct that moves like changing air pressure or illegally taping practices (as the Patriots were caught doing in a previous scandal) do not make for a dynasty in their own right. However, his conclusion that Deflategate is all a bunch of hot air because all teams cheat seems flawed from this corner, especially as the CFL cases he discusses don't seem to provide as much of an unfair advantage as adjusting the balls could. (Also on that front, Dan Ralph's piece on how the CFL inflates and protects its game balls is a valuable read.) Thus, the Patriots' scandal shouldn't necessarily be written off this easily.
Human rights tribunal investigating Toronto Argonauts over alleged threat to cancel men's rights activist's season tickets following White Ribbon criticismAndrew Bucholtz at 55 Yard Line 6 days ago
The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario is out of one sports arena thanks to foreign soccer players dropping their anti-turf lawsuit, but they're into another one, investigating a complaint by a self-described men's rights activist that the team threatened to cancel his season tickets after he complained about their support for the anti-domestic violence White Ribbon Campaign. Complainant Robert Heath argued to the tribunal the WRC "discriminates against men" and that his rights under the Ontario Human Rights Code were being violated by the team showing ads for the WRC during games. That complaint was dismissed earlier this month, but the tribunal allowed another one of Heath's charges (that the Argonauts threatened to cancel his tickets in reprisal, which they deny) to proceed, as The Toronto Sun reported Jan. 16. TSN, Deadspin and Matt English all weighed in on the story Monday, bringing it to a much broader audience, but it doesn't appear that the tribunal's issued any further decisions since Jan. 16. However, it's well worth examining this case, and just what it could mean for the Argonauts and the CFL.
Andrew Bucholtz at 55 Yard Line 6 days ago
This CFL offseason has seen more big trades than normal, with names like Maurice Price, Fred Stamps, Jasper Simmons and Kenny Stafford switching teams, but Sunday's deal that saw the Saskatchewan Roughriders send defensive end Ricky Foley to the Toronto Argonauts for linebacker Shea Emry might be the most remarkable yet. Both Foley and Emry have been league all-stars in the past, and if they can rekindle that form in their new cities, they might be huge additions for their respective teams. Even more importantly, though, both players are Canadians who play positions typically reserved for Americans. Thus, this deal may also have substantial impacts on how both teams set their import ratio this coming season.
Ticats release all-star corner Delvin Breaux, who's bound for the NFL, the next chapter in his remarkable comeback storyAndrew Bucholtz at 55 Yard Line 8 days ago
From Louisiana flag football player to CFL all-star, Hamilton Tiger-Cats' cornerback Delvin Breaux has had a remarkable journey, and now it looks like his path will lead him back south of the border. The Ticats announced Saturday that they'd released Breaux, who would have hit free agency Feb. 10. The move is presumably to let Breaux sign with an NFL team early (a smart approach), and he should have no shortage of options there; over 20 teams have brought him in for tryouts, including his hometown New Orleans Saints. That's impressive for someone who didn't even play college football thanks to a devastating injury, and it says a lot about both how well Breaux has performed in Canada and about how CFL players are becoming more attractive to NFL teams. What's most amazing is how a guy who was almost killed in a high school football game is now set to make it to the NFL, though.
Coach of the Year John Hufnagel cites turnover improvement and next-man-up mentality for the Stampeders' success, says farewell coaching season won't be about himAndrew Bucholtz at 55 Yard Line 11 days ago
Calgary Stampeders' head coach and general manager John Hufnagelwon his second Annis Stukus Trophy as the CFL's coach of the year Wednesday following a remarkable season where his team went 15-3 and won the Grey Cup despite incredible turnover of coaches and players, and he did a lot of different things to take his team to the next level this year. If you ask Hufnagel, though, the improvements were only in limited categories. On a media conference call Wednesday afternoon, he said the two differences that helped Calgary dominate this year were increased team health and decreased turnovers.
"Number one, we were more healthy, and number two, we took better care of the football," Hufnagel said. "The games we lost in the playoffs [in the past], the turnover ratio was embarrassing."
"It was frustrating for both Jon and myself," Hufnagel said. "I never expected it to be that long."
"That's an outstanding bunch of coaches."
John Hufnagel wins his second Annis Stukus Trophy as CFL coach of the year, another reflection of the Stampeders' historic seasonAndrew Bucholtz at 55 Yard Line 11 days ago
It's a good thing John Hufnagel didn't leave this year's coach of the year banquet early. Unlike in 2013, the Calgary Stampeders' head coach and general manager stuck around to the end Wednesday, and he was rewarded with the Annis Stukus Trophy as the league's top coach. Hufnagel's an incredibly deserving winner, considering that he put together one of the most dominant seasons in CFL history, and that he did so despite massive injury adversity. This wasn't a sure victory for him, though, as there was also a strong case for Edmonton's Chris Jones and the turnaround he performed (the Eskimos went from a basement-dwelling 4-14 team to 12-6 with a West Final appearance). In the end, however, Hufnagel's work with the Stampeders was tough to top.
International soccer players drop Women's World Cup turf legal action, but their language suggests they'll keep up this fight in the pressAndrew Bucholtz at Eh Game 11 days ago
The American-led group of international soccer players that took FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association to court last October over alleged gender discrimination in the plans to use artificial turf at the 2015 Women's World Cup announced Wednesday that they've dropped their case. This wasn't an unexpected outcome, especially considering the strong defences made by the CSA and FIFA that high-quality turf is permissible at (and used for) both men's and women's competitions, and considering thata much stronger complaint of gender discrimination (the women's ski jumping lawsuit ahead of the 2010 Olympics) wound up with a court ruling that international sports organizations were beyond the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This was always going to be a difficult case for the complainants to win in court, and the tight timeframe (the lawsuit was only launched eight months before the first games take place this June) made it even tougher for them. However, comments from the players involved and their lawyer suggest that there will still be plenty of complaints about the turf in the weeks and months ahead. The legal battle over turf is at an end, but the war of words is just beginning. From Reuters' Simon Evans: