A new season, a new regime, a new sense of hope for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
The local footballers wrapped up their final full practice of the week Wednesday afternoon in advance of Friday’s 2010 home opener against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (7 p.m. kickoff) and, as is always the case in advance of Week 1 of the Canadian Football League season, there is a great deal of enthusiasm in Bomberland.
And there’s also a lot of fascination about new head coach Paul LaPolice, the former Bomber offensive coordinator who replaced Mike Kelly as head coach this past winter.
So, what kind of squad will Bomber fans see in the 2010 debut?
"I hope they see a team that competes, that plays hard, that plays physical and that will attack on a number of fronts," said LaPolice Wednesday. "You never want to be one-dimensional in anything. We need to run the football to be successful, we need to throw the ball to be successful. Defensively we need to stop the run, we have to be able to play zone coverage and man coverage. And we have to pressure the quarterback, too.
"You want to make sure you can do a few things very well. We want to show the same plays but from different looks."
The Bombers were 1-1 in the preseason, beating the Montreal Alouettes at home before falling to the Ticats in Hamilton back on June 20th.
Since then LaPolice and his staff have been trying to get their charges up to speed on a new playbook for a game against at Ticat team most pundits believe the Bombers will be chasing for second in the East Division behind the Als.
"We’re prepared," LaPolice said. "It’s been a long time since the last game. We’ve got our legs back and we’ve had a long time to talk about Hamilton, especially since we play them in the first game. I’m sure they’re going to have their wrinkles that are different and new and so we’ve got to be able to adapt to those and recognize them when they come up.
"(Hamilton) is a good football team. We have to make sure we do a good job of stopping the run and make sure (quarterback) Kevin Glenn doesn’t get into a rhythm. And offensively we need to get some first downs on first down (and not be in second and long). (Ticat defensive coordinator) Greg Marshall does a good job of being prepared and ready to go.
"The funnest part of the week, obviously, is playing the football game. So to go through everything we’ve gone through — it’s been a long offseason — to be at the point where we can step on the field and play and compete... that’s what we’re excited about."
The Bombers annual Legacy Dinner is scheduled for Wednesday night when several icons from the past will be honoured, including coaches Bud Grant, Cal Murphy and Mike Riley, along with players Ken Ploen, Leo Lewis, Buddy Tinsley, Don Jonas, Dieter Brock, Joe Poplawski, Bob Cameron, Chris Walby, James Murphy and Milt Stegall.
LaPolice is big on recognizing the franchise’s past. All the current players will be in attendance at the Legacy Dinner and all have been made aware during training camp that the club’s ‘Blue Bomber’ nickname — courtesy sports writer Vince Leah — comes from a reference to ‘The Brown Bomber’, former heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis.
"Today at the start of the meeting we talked a little bit more about Joe Louis and had some more Joe Louis clips and about what we are and what we want to be," said LaPolice. Our goal for this week is to go compete for two points and not worry about anything else."
Ticket sales for the home opener have been slow — around 23,000 had been sold as of early Wednesday — and the Bombers want to remind their fans the box office will be open from 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. on Canada Day.
BLUE NOTES: Brandon Stewart and Alex Suber were the two defensive halfbacks manning the middle of the secondary along with Ian Logan in the No. 1 defence on Wednesday... Rookie Cory Watson and Aaron Hargreaves are to share one starting receiver spot in the offence.