Recruiting the captain of the Memorial Cup champions is pretty good little score for the Acadia Axemen.

Chris Bruton, who raised the trophy back with his Spokane Chiefs teammates after beating the Kitchener Rangers in the final on May 25, was a 63-point man in the WHL last season. (While he's heading to Acadia, the other captain from the Memorial Cup final, Kitchener's Matt Pepe, is headed to the other coast -- UBC recently announced his signing.)

Acadia's incoming hockey players also include Kristofer Westblom, a one-time Minnesota Wild third-round pick who was a rookie backup goalie when the Kelowna Rockets won the WHL title in '04-05. He could end up facing his former netminding partner from that team, Derek Yeomans, who's the only returning netminder for last season's CIS runners-up, the UNB Varsity Reds. (Westblom's deal is one of those "I'll come if I don't sign a pro deal" arrangements.)

New Brunswick has added Travis Fullarton, who had a good season (2.98 GAA) with Saint John of the QMJHL this season. (Hands up, everyone, who's kind of glad that they won't be getting the Saint John and St. John's junior teams confused now that the latter has relocated to Montreal.)
"Saint Mary’s Huskies quarterback Erik Glavic, last year’s winner of the Hec Crighton Trophy, says he is no better than 50-50 to play this year. He still has pain in his surgically repaired left knee and is certain he will be unable to participate in contact drills when training camp opens Aug. 23." -- Monty Mosher

Talk during the winter was that Glavic would miss at least the first or second game for the Huskies. It's a shame to hear this, since he's so fun to watch.

The obvious question is who would end up being SMU's starting quarterback. Ted Abraham was put in a tight spot in the Vanier Cup, making his first career start against a veteran Manitoba defence, so it's hard to make a judgment call on him. Newcomer Nathan Beeler, who was with the Calgary Dinos in '06, could be a real X factor. Beeler had a great year in junior football with the Ottawa Sooners last fall, running a pro style-passing attack that's not unlike Saint Mary's (one of his receivers, Jon Delahunt, will be playing in the Big East with the UConn Huskies this fall).

What about the Hec Crighton race? Between Gary Ross possibly not returning to Mount Allison and Glavic maybe missing the season, the front-runner to be the Atlantic nominee is wide-open. Mount A QB Kelly Hughes might have a shot, although his team had its own setbacks this off-season.

Glavic could miss ’08 season (Monty Mosher, Halifax Chronicle-Herald)
The latest dot-orger buzz is swirling around the whereabouts of Ahmad Jaradat, a highly touted football lineman from London who went down to North Carolina State.

Jaradat, like most guys who play at the bulk positions, went down in January to enrol early at the ACC school — he was rated the top O-line prospect in this country by All Canada Gridiron. The talk among N.C. State fans is that he's gone home.

Anyone want to place bets on whether we'll see him in a Western Mustangs uniform this fall?
"The exodus of Canadian athletes south of the border has long annoyed B.C. writer Alan Watson. In his new book, A-Plus in Disconnect: How Canadian Universities Dropped the Ball, Watson tackles some tough questions:

"Why do Canadian athletes often fail to perform at a high level on the world stage? Why is university sport in Canada so little regarded by spectators? Why do our best young athletes head to the U.S.?

" 'The biggest thing we are lacking is scholarships throughout our university system,' Watson said in an interview. 'There is no depth in the system.' "
Watson's self-published tome, which you can buy here, presuming it's done well and isn't a book-length diatribe, attempts to force some long-standing issues about the CIS on to the frontburner. The article alone draws out a number of our prejudices.

Why is it, when someone says Canadian university sports should be more like the NCAA down in the U.S. -- more professional in outlook, more intense rivalries, more media coverage, the rebuttal almost always will touch on the Big-Time College Sports Horror Stories. Someone will launch into the whole litany of American excesses -- the basketball team with the 0% graduation rate, the "the corrupt grassroots basketball system that typically dices up far more players than it benefits" (Yahoo! Sports, Dec. 6, 2007), the head football coach who makes $2 million a year while his players can't accept someone paying for their meal at Applebee's, schools covering up criminal behaviour, current NFL quarterback Matt Leinart having a course schedule consisting entirely of ballroom dancing during his final semester at USC, and so on and so on. (Then there's all those Dec. 27 bowl games between teams with 6-6 and 7-5 records. That's the worst.)

What about our excesses, though -- restraint, modesty, and last but not least, something-for-everyone syndrome? That should not go unchecked.

Offering little for the best and brightest -- unless they play hockey -- should be seen as perfectly normal. It should be unacceptable that a basketball prodigy such as Toronto's Tristan Thompson has to attend high school in the U.S. to use his gifts, while his peers in hockey such as John Tavares and John McFarland get to stay much closer to home and become household names at age 16. The mere likelihood that only a degenerate hoops nut living in Southern Ontario has even heard of Tristan Thompson, even though he stands to be a future NBA multi-millionaire, kind of makes the argument.

The response is to Watson is fraught with an all-too-Canadian anxiety about abandoning the middle ground. We want the big shiny things but, but, but while keeping it in perspective.

One response is to try and have a few Canadian schools join the NCAA for select program. Let UBC and Simon Fraser be in the Pac-10 for baseball, softball and swimming. A women's hockey team playing out of Calgary (where the national team is based) would probably win the NCAA title inside of five years. There's enough top-end basketball talent in the GTA that a team based at a Toronto university could eventually be competitive in the Big East or Big Ten. (Of course, there's the whole issue of whether athletes getting federal funding would be considered pros by the NCAA.)

A better tomorrow, for this CIS nut, would mean that a basketball team which is used to playing in front of 500 fans on a Saturday night would play in front of 2,000. The football team would get the same crowd every week that it only gets at Homecoming (and in Queen's case, students wouldn't leave at halftime). The CIS website wouldn't be down for an entire weekend, as is the case at this writing. There would be more fans keeping blogs about their teams and more year-round media coverage like the kind Greg Layson in Guelph and Howard Tsumura in Vancouver, among others, offer their readers.

It's moving like molasses in January, but there are stories here and there about a promising high school student-athlete who's getting her/his education paid for in Canada instead of far away at a NCAA Division 1 school. It's far-fetched to believe the day when someone such as Devoe Joseph chooses to go to the University of Toronto instead of the University of Minnesota is going to happen in the next 10 years.

Watson should get credit for attacking our Canadian mindset head-on, even if his remedy, ironically enough, is to "have Canadians pay a small tax that would go towards providing full athletic scholarships." It's not likely to happen. In Ontario, spending on university education has remained flat for more than 25 years, even though enrolment has doubled. (Even the author admits the hope of that happening is slim and none, and slim just stepped out for a smoke.)

The point here is that no one should be closed-minded to thinking it could change. Our university sports are light-years removed from the reality of the NCAA, for good or ill. The CIS has its charms, but it's ignorant to lose sight of what it means to our best and brightest.

(Cross-posted to Out of Left Field.)

Canadian universities stuck with old beliefs, says author (The Canadian Press)
"We’ve got a guy that knows what it takes, the calibre of player, the commitments, all of those things that are required to run a program with that success. He comes from a community that is a little bit smaller than Prince George, about 50,000, and considering where it is and the climate, I don’t think we’re getting somebody who won’t adapt to our city or the climate.

"Potentially we’ll have a guy who will put his roots here and can build here for a long period of time." -- UNBC athletic director Len McNamara
The man's he talking about is Mike Raimbault, who was at Brandon the past three seasons, two as assistant before taking over as the head man last season. (BU ultimately hired former Bobcats star Keith Vassell as the permanent coach.)

UNBC, in Prince George, is angling to join Canada West in 2010-11. Ideally, being able to tap into Raimbault's experience at a leading basketball school such as Brandon -- where you have to know how to recruit nationally, since it's a smaller community -- will help them show they're legitimate.

Come 2010, the two most recent Brandon coaches, Raimbault and Fraser Valley's Barnaby Craddock, could be matching wits on the sideline.

New UNBC men’s coach brings CIS experience (Ted Clarke, Prince George Citizen)
Canadian hoopheads should be mildly abuzz over the post Michael Grange wrote on Wednesday, where he wisely gave a couple of basketball guys, including player agent Bernie Lee, carte blanche to say what a lot of us are thinking:

"During the high days of the Canadian national team one constant theme of the teams were role players and stars who adopted a team-first theme. Guys like Jay Triano stayed at Canadian schools and had outstanding careers where they developed and had guys of lesser talents fall in behind them to round out the team. Now our national team is made up of 12 star college players and no role players, the role player coming out of high school signs with mid major US schools instead of going to great CIS schools and receiving great coaching and learning to play a role ... Of the 5 youngest outstanding Canadian high school kids right now, all 5 attend US schools and I would say, without speaking to them, they would feel hard pressed to feel an attachment to the Canadian program.

"The Canadian National program needs to develop a system that allows our best players to stay at home and have consistency thru the program and support to achieve their goals without having to attend diploma mills in small towns in the US living away from their families and mentors who truly care about them as a whole person and not just a 16 yr old basketball player. Our truly talented kids need 1 point of contact to mentor and assist them without an ulterior motive thus removing the layer of nonsense between them and the schools and teams they ultimately choose. Too many unqualified people are becoming part of the equation and a lot of truly talented kids are being hurt for it and never developing.

"In the end not squeaking thru and qualifying on an outstanding tournament from a guy like Rowan Barrett or Juan (Mendez) might end up being the best thing that ever happened to the team because it will cause change at the bottom and improve the entire process."
Grange's post touches on a lot of areas: "There has never been a Canadian on the roster of the Raptors. Imagine if there was one starting, with no favour of his passport? And he was someone whose talent had been polished to some degree by his participation in the national program starting as a teenager? That would be cool, for lack of a better word (and if you wonder why MLSE is taking an active interest in the health of Canada Basketball, that's as good a reason as any.)"

It's been said before that the CIS will have to be a big part of a true overhaul of Canada Basketball. Lee hit the nail on the head -- the goals of the player who's trying to get to a NCAA D-1 school and the goals of Canada Basketball are counter-intuitive. Granted, there are many reasons for why Canada struggles in international hoops beyond where the players attend college, but man, aren't we tired of making excuses?

(Cross-posted to Out of Left Field.)

Passions ignite over national team (Michael Grange, From Deep, July 23)
“It’s a blessing from God that I’m able to play again, the determination I’d had without a doubt, with the support I’ve had from family and friends and the Blue Bomber organization supporting me 100%. I wasn’t stressed one bit through my surgery or recovery.” — Obby Khan
Courageous is an overused word in sports. It definitely applies for Ibrahim (Obby) Khan — the one-time No. 1 overall CFL draft choice and anchor of Simon Fraser's 2003 Canada West championship team lost almost one-third of his weight, dropping from 305 pounds to 205, during his ordeal, while also dealing with the loss of his father.

It doesn't need to be said that we should be proud Canadian football shapes and is shaped by people with Obby's determination.

(Cross-posted to Out of Left Field.)

Thru hell, now back; Courageous lineman hopes return will inspire troops (Jim Bender, Winnipeg Sun)
There isn't much to add about the U of T football coaching situation, other than to say it would be a kick if The Streak ends on Bob Howes' watch.

Greg DeLaval would actually get credit, since he's the interim coach. Howes knows the game backward and forward, so he's bound to do some good for a program which needs something positive in a bad way.

(Howes' final season as Queen's head coach, 1999, coincided with yours truly's turn as sports editor of The Queen's Journal, so obviously, there's a bias.)

For U of T, coach is in the Howes; Former Queen's mentor asked to 'guide' Varsity football program (Kingston Whig-Standard)
Band-Aid for ailing Blues (Toronto Star)

"The purpose of reporting game scores and meet results on a regular and timely basis is primarily to enhance the credibility of Canadian Interuniversity Sport and our Regional Associations."
-- section 30.30.1 of the CIS Bylaws, Policies, and Procedures.

And what about reporting player names correctly? (Like anyone needs to ask.) Here are some more names from 2007-2008 boxscores that were spelled in creative ways:

Jasmine Parent / Jasmine Parents
Anne Murphy / Alex Murphy
Alysia Rissling / Aylsia Rissling
Madeleine Magni / Madaline Magni
Jacquelyn Richardson / Jaquelin Richardson
Stephanie Wakeham / Sephanie Wakeham
Amanda McDonald / Michael McDonald

The last one is priceless. Don't believe me? It was on February 13, 2008:

Seriously, do scorekeepers at women's basketball games ever look at the team roster? There is or was a Michael McDonald on Laurier's men's team, but I'd like to think the people who are apparently watching these games can tell the difference. And who knows, maybe there are two Murphys on the Golden Gaels. Anne played virtually every day except November 24 and Alex played only on November 24. Makes sense, right?

Anyway, it won't matter to the majority of basketball fans, who probably skip right over "Sephanie" (if they ever see the boxscore in the first place). And I'm not sure what my point is, other than "the CIS is small-time and its record-keeping is a disaster."

But we knew that already.

(Originally posted May 31.)

So far (I'm only at the first names starting with M), we had the following players stepping on the court at different points with the same team last year:

Chelsey Cassano / Chelsea Cassano
Caity Purvis-Collins / Caity Purvis Collins
Feleshia Watson / Felisha Watson
Hue Yo / Hue Vo
Janet Hatfield / Janet Hatfiled
Jenna Clarke / Jenna Clark
Jillian Sipperell / Jillian Sipprell
Ketty Cadat / Ketty Cedat
Leigh-Anne Legal-Young / Leigh-Anne Legal Yong
Madison Zilikie / Madison Zilkie
Mary Catherine Connolly / M C. Connolly / Mary C Connolly / Mary Catherine Conno

I wish I was making that last one up.

There are two possibilities: the scorekeepers are incorrectly copying the names from the roster sheet, or the spellings on the team rosters are inconsistent from game to game. Neither mistake is hard to fix; neither mistake should happen as often as these do.

And this is just one sport--or, actually, about half the female players in one sport. Wrong names have also appeared in hockey (if not everywhere else) and it's not acceptable for a sports league that wants to be taken seriously. We won't even mention the statistical mistakes.

So, to whoever's screwing this up: Can we please see some kind of improvement next year? This is getting quite tiring.

UPDATE (June 1):

Men's basketball:
Christopher Pereira / Christopher Perira
Courtney Clawson / Courtney Clawsen
Daniel Purvis Collin / Dan Purvis-collins
Nick St John / Nick St. John
Philip Nkrumah / Phillip Nkrumah
Rob Iszak / Rob Izsak
Vlad Farcash / Vlad Farcas

Who knew "Purvis-Collins" was so hard to get right? Check out Winnipeg's team stats: three different versions of Caity's name. (Also, if you follow that link, you'll find out why she presumably goes by Caity.) Fewer misspellings here than with the women, possibly because men's basketball is more popular. I'm not including the Cam/Cameron or Pat/Patrick cases in these lists, but those should be dealt with as well.

Men's hockey:
Greg O\'brien / Greg O'brien
Iain Macphee / Iain Mcphee

Well, that's better. Just a few misspellings out of 420-some games with two full hockey rosters in each game. Presumably, the hockey officials don't enter the names manually for each game, but their basketball cohorts do, and that explains the difference.
Nigel Johnson-Tyghter, an OCAA all-star power forward at Toronto's Sheridan College the past two seasons, has landed with the Windsor Lancers.

Greg Layson, who does realize better than most reporters that there is some reader interest in recruiting stories, reports that Johnson-Tyghter likely had long odds to be admitted by Guelph.

Johnson-Tyghter, who's 6-foot-7, 240 lbs., should help Windsor make up for the graduation of Greg Allin, their second-leading rebounder last season. I'll have to double-check to see if their main post player, Greg Surmacz, is coming back for a fifth season.

Gryphons lose transfer; Grades an issue, player chooses Windsor (Greg Layson, Guelph Mercury)
Farther down the story about Melody Davidson returning as coach of the Canadian women's hockey team is that Ryerson's Stephanie White will pilot the under-18 team this season.

Curiously enough, the entire coaching staff is from the newbies to women's hockey. Former national team stalwarts Danielle Goyette (Calgary) and Caroline Ouellette (U de Montreal) will be assistant coaches. Ideally, though, the coaches having Hockey Canada duties will impress prospective players and their parents, helping the new teams get up to speed quickly.

Ryerson still has two years to go before it begins full-fledged OUA play in 2010-11. White, with 20 years coaching on her CV, including a gold medal with the Mississauga Chiefs at the Esso Nationals, seems eminently qualified to start a team from scratch.

The big buzzword (judging by the press release, anyways) when Toronto native Ivan Joseph was hired as Ryerson's director of athletics was "renewal." Being a commuter school and a relatively young university works against the varsity teams earning OUA banners and CIS berths on a regular basis, but that could change under Joseph's direction. He did oversee an upgrade in facilities and a NAIA title in soccer in his previous job at Graceland (Iowa) University.

(As for the senior nationaal tema, Davidson replaces McGill Martlets bench boss, Peter Smith, whose team lost in the final at the Worlds in the spring. In the gold-or-bust reality of the national team, that was to be expected. Some would say, that not unlike his counterpart in soccer, Even Pellerud, Smith coached an overly defensive style of play that hamstrung his team almost as much as some of their opponents.)
Chris Bauman's season debut for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats likely got lost in the shuffle amid the controversial fumble-at-the-goalline call that allowed the Saskatchewan Rough Riders to pull off a last-minute win on Saturday afternoon.

Bauman, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 draft from the U of Regina, accumulated 90 yards on eight catches. The pressure was on him to produce last night and he came through big-time, even what ultimately turned out to be a heartbreaker down in the Hammer.

Did everyone hear Jesse Lumsden's on-field quote that the game "got taken away" from the Tiger-Cats? The rule that saved Saskatchewan should be changed, but don't forget Hamilton couldn't close out the game. Lumsden fumbled the ball away at the Saskatchewan 20-yard line and that his offensive line couldn't clear enough of a hole for him to pick up a second-and-2 with 1:31 left in the game.
Following up on the Darnellia Russell story with some of the more interesting bits from here and there:

  • Lakehead's Tasia McKenna is looking forward to the fall, to say the least: "I'm unbelievably excited. I'm not going to lie, when coach first told me about even having her come up for a recruiting trip, I kind of didn't believe him because I'd already seen the movie last year."
  • Roger Ebert's review of The Heart of the Game is still worth reading, two years after the fact, especially for those of us who haven't seen it yet.
  • Russell's former high school, Roosevelt HS in Seattle, seems to have two spellings for its nickname, depending on the source. This is unimportant but amusing because those versions are "Rough Riders" and "Roughriders."
  • Full marks for head coach Jon Kreiner. It's tempting for people in this country to gush about Americans coming to town, but he questioned her ability as a "consistent shooter" (in a polite Canadian way, of course) and reminded everyone that this isn't a Thunder Bay vacation: "She knows that this is basically her last chance that she has to achieve her dream." Kreiner treats her like a student-athlete instead of a movie star and provides a more complete look at this rather unlikely situation. Kudos to him.
  • And like any good coach, Kreiner makes sure to mention everyone in his short-but-incredibly-detailed Q&A with Rethinking Basketball (worth a click, and deserving of a hat tip for most of this post).
It's only going to get harder from here on out for the Nipissing Lakers to prove a viable program, especially since they won't have that two-year buffer zone of playing an exhibition schedule like some new programs have.

The North Bay school is going to give it their best shot to give Northern Ontario the prescence it's lacked in the OUA since Laurentian left the league in 2000 (Lakehead is Northwestern Ontario). All the best to them.

There's been no news about any other school (i.e., McMaster) starting up hockey. The OUA could operate with an odd number of teams, 19, beginning in 2009-10.

Council hands Gardens to Nip. U; Future of junior hockey in city in serious jeopardy (North Bay Nugget)
Understatement of the year: Lakehead's press release announcing its incoming women's basketball recruits is a little out of the ordinary.

Darnellia Russell, a one-time phenom point guard in Washington state, now a 24-year-old mother of two with WNBA aspirations (the league requires players to have a degree), has signed with the Thunderwolves for the upcoming season.
"Without question, she'll be the only 24-year-old athlete in Canadian Interuniversity Sport to have been featured in a dozen or more major U.S. newspapers (such as The Seattle Times and The Washington Post), on television (Spike and ESPN), online (with Bill Maher) and at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival, where The Heart of the Game garnered glowing reviews for chronicling Russell's plight, pluck and perseverance." -- Allan Maki,

Please click through and read Maki's piece; cutting-and-pasting one paragraph doesn't really seem to Russell's story justice. Lakehead SID Mike Aylward, according to the article, took it upon himself to initiate contact with Russell. Most sports information directors in Canada regularly go beyond the call of duty, but actually starting the recruiting process is something else.

Lakehead was 9-13 and missed the playoffs in the OUA West last season, but who knows, maybe they'll make be able the division a little more interesting next winter (Thanks goes to Dale Stevens for the link.)

Road to glory passes through Lakehead (Allan Maki,
Mr. Mirtle's Globe & Mail colleague, Michael Grange, floated a little trial balloon in a post today:

"... the first basketball event at Ricoh Coliseum shows promise. They've got a curtain draped across one end of the floor to shrink it a bit and they could probably have done the same to the other end to further the effect ... The one thing that jumped to my mind was that this will be a perfect venue for the CIS Final Eight one of these years."

This leads to questions over whether the championship tournament will be even be a Final 8 after Capital Sports/Carleton's contract expires in 2010. The women's championship will be a 16-team event starting that season and typically, in team sports, both leagues use the same format.

The beauty of holding it in Toronto is that it would do away with the host-team berth that's rankled a few people over the years -- it could be the same deal as when the AUS hosted in Halifax for all those years.
Saw this snippet in an early Canadian Press story from the Canadian Olympic track & field trials, making note of the Olympic hopes of Adrienne Power, the Dalhousie track star who was a BLG Canada winner in 2004-05 (co-honoured with Jesse Lumsden, who apparently made out pretty well in the CFL last week):
Several athletes may be named to the team in the “rising star” category including Adrienne Power of Halifax, who won the women’s 200 metres in 23.09.
Go, Adrienne, go. (It's always nice to be able to point to an Olympian and say you interviewed them way back when.)
Repeatedly finishing behind Queen's in the OUA women's hockey standings for the past few seasons has apparently motivated the Western Mustangs to fire a little YouTube montage across the Golden Gaels' collective bow.

Mustangs goalie Brittany O'Halloran is the mastermind behind the clip. There's no harm in a little good-natured trash talk back and forth on the Internets and besides, if it takes a YouTube clip to get you motivated for a game, you're probably beyond getting motivated.

A word to the wise(r): Pleease don't use this to make generalizations about Western folk, who are some the best folk around (Stephen Brunt graduated from its J-school, whereas some of us couldn't get in).
Just another day in the life for the gong show masquerading as a football team: Steve Howlett has resigned as U of T football coach, just nine weeks before the start of the season.

Duane Rollins already has a post up at Out of Left Field. It's unclear how this is going to help the Varsity Blues ended The Streak (49 games and counting).
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