Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Blue plan to exploit edge in new home

CFL club will open, close 2013 regular season at newly built digs at Investers Group Field

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They open at home and finish at home. And when a club is christening a new stadium and trying to re-establish itself as a playoff contender at the same time, that's always a solid starting point.

As for the rest of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' 2013 schedule -- released Tuesday by the Canadian Football League -- well, there is some good to it. And quite a bit of bad and ugly for an outfit trying to get back into meaningful November games after just one postseason appearance in the last four years.

"It's a good schedule for the fans," said Bomber head coach Tim Burke. "There's a lot of good dates and we know attendance will be good because it works around the schedule people keep in the summer and fall.

"And from our perspective as a team, it's going to be tough. But you have to adapt to whatever your schedule is. We're not the only team with challenges.

"The one advantage in Winnipeg is our crowd. I definitely think we have a home-field advantage because of our crowd and it will interesting because of the way the new stadium is designed it should be pretty loud -- even louder than Canad Inns Stadium was."

Here's a closer look at the Bombers' 2013 schedule:

THE GOOD

-- Bomber fans will get their first look at Investors Group Field during the pre-season, when the Grey Cup champion Toronto Argonauts pay a visit on June 12. And the curtain officially lifts on Winnipeg's 2013 season a couple weeks later, also at home, when the Montreal Alouettes visit on June 27.

-- After last year's debacle that saw the Bombers begin the season with four straight on the road, the club's faithful should be ecstatic with three of the first five games being played at home, including consecutive Friday nights in July, with the Argos here on the 19th and the Calgary Stampeders a week later on the 26th.

-- Of the Bombers four home dates before Labour Day, three will be held on Friday nights, with the opener on a Thursday. After Labour Day, three of the five remaining home games are weekend matinees; the other two consecutive Friday night dates in late September.

-- The traditional home-and-home dates with the archrival Saskatchewan Roughriders remains in place, with the Labour Day Classic slated for Sunday, Sept. 1 in Regina and the Banjo Bowl a week later in Winnipeg.

THE BAD

-- Opening with two in a row against the Alouettes hardly screams bolting out of the starting blocks. Consider that since the Als were reborn in 1997, the Bombers' record against their Quebec rivals is an ugly 17-31.

But there's more at play here this season: Not only are the Bombers going back-to-back with the Als, they are doing so against a new coaching staff -- with new philosophies, new wrinkles, etc. -- as rookie CFL head coach Dan Hawkins takes over for Marc Trestman, now the boss of the Chicago Bears.

"We aren't going to know what Montreal is going to do until we play them," said Burke. "They won't show anything but their base offence and defence in the first pre-season games.

"At least when we play Hamilton we'll have had a couple of weeks to see what they're all about."

-- The Bombers' third game of the season will also be against a new coach in a new locale -- although it is a familiar one, with Kent Austin now at the helm of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Austin, just to open up an old wound, was 2-1 against the Bombers as head coach of the Riders back in 2007 -- including a win over Winnipeg in the Grey Cup.

THE UGLY

-- The schedule not only features the traditional Labour-Day Classic/Banjo Bowl border war with the Riders but four other back-to-back meetings: Montreal on June 27/July 4; Hamilton on Aug. 16/24; Edmonton on Sept. 14/20 and Toronto on Oct. 19/24. Three of those back-to-backs are consecutive, meaning the Bombers will face only Hamilton, Saskatchewan and Edmonton over a six-game stretch from Aug. 16-Sept. 20. According to CFL stats guru Steve Daniel, this marks the first time in Bomber history they'll play five back-to-backs in one season.

In addition, there is also a stretch in October where the club plays three games over an 11 day stretch: Oct. 14 at Montreal and then the back-to-back with the Argos on Oct. 19 and 24.

Worth noting: Winnipeg has gone 11-23 (.324) in the 17 back-to-back sets since 2006. It's not just about gaining a split, but trying to avoid the sweep.

"But the team that gets defeated in the first game has a psychological advantage going into the second contest because they have something to prove," Burke said. "Look at our Saskatchewan contests last year: they beat the living daylights out of us in Regina and then if I wouldn't have screwed up at the end of the second game (the infamous punt rather than long field-goal attempt) we probably would have won that one.

"We're going to have to ask our team to be mentally tough and separate the two contests from each other from a psychological point of view."

-- PRETTY IN PINK: The Bombers announced Tuesday that just over $27,000 was raised through the sale of pink merchandise last October, with the money being donated to the Keeping Abreast Foundation for the third year in a row. Over the last three years the club has donated over $66,000 to the fund.

Ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

2013 BOMBERS SCHEDULE

PRE-SEASON

WEEKDATEGAME TIME

PS-AWednesday, June 12WINNIPEG VS. TORONTO7 p.m.

PS-BThursday, June 20Winnipeg @ Hamilton6 p.m.

REGULAR SEASON

WEEK

1Thursday, June 27WINNIPEG VS. MONTREAL8 p.m.

2Thursday, July 4Winnipeg @ Montreal6 p.m.

3Saturday, July 13Winnipeg @ Hamilton5:30 p.m.

4Friday, July 19WINNIPEG VS. TORONTO7 p.m.

5Friday, July 26WINNIPEG VS. CALGARY7 p.m.

6Monday, August 5Winnipeg @ BC6 p.m.

7BYE WEEK

8Friday, Aug. 16WINNIPEG VS. HAMILTON7 p.m.

9Saturday, Aug. 24Winnipeg @ HamiltonNoon

10Sunday, Sept. 1Winnipeg @ Saskatchewan3 p.m.

11Sunday, Sept. 8WINNIPEG VS. SASKATCHEWAN3 p.m.

12Saturday, Sept. 14Winnipeg @ Edmonton5:30 p.m.

13Friday, Sept. 20WINNIPEG VS. EDMONTON7 p.m.

14Friday, Sept. 27WINNIPEG VS. B.C.7 p.m.

15Saturday, Oct. 5Winnipeg @ Calgary5:30 p.m.

16Monday, Oct.14Winnipeg @ MontrealNoon

17Saturday, Oct. 19WINNIPEG VS. TORONTO2:30 p.m.

18Thursday, Oct. 24Winnipeg @ Toronto6:30 p.m.

19Saturday, Nov. 2WINNIPEG VS. HAMILTON1 p.m.

PLAYOFFS

WEEK

P1Sunday, Nov. 10East semifinalTBD

P1Sunday, Nov. 10West semifinalTBD

P2Sunday, Nov. 17East finalTBD

P2Sunday, Nov. 17West finalTBD

P3Sunday, Nov. 24101st Grey Cup (in Regina)5:30 p.m.

HOME GAME IN BOLD CAPS

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 6, 2013 C4

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