WHEN Steve Hladio's phone rang earlier this week, he knew the football guys at the other end of the line.
But what they would ask came as a perfect surprise: Would Hladio, a longtime college coach, be interested in taking a brand-new gig as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers running backs boss?
As one can guess, Hladio said yes. Four days later, the Bombers made it official.
"It's been a whirlwind," said Hladio Thursday as he bustled between errands to prepare to move from Troy, N.Y., where he will be leaving his coaching job at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, to Winnipeg. "It's professional football, it's a level up. To be at that level is not an easy thing to do. I'm excited."
Although Hladio, 45, has coached most of his career in the United States, he'll come up to see some familiar faces. He worked with Bombers offensive co-ordinator Gary Crowton at Boston College and actually coached current Bombers assistant Pat DelMonaco at the University of Albany. Those connections helped earn him an invite to Bombers training camp last year as a guest coach.
"I was very impressed by size and speed of the guys," Hladio said. "And the organization was first-class. Those are important things in the coaching world when you take a new job."
It's not just a new job for Hladio, but for the Bombers too: they didn't have a dedicated running backs coach before, though Kyle Walters handled it as part of his coaching portfolio.
"The organization is trying its best to give football operations the tools, resources and capabilities to be successful, and we felt adding another coach to our staff would continue to facilitate that," said Bombers head coach Tim Burke.
While Hladio hasn't had a chance to review film of his new backs yet, he said he'd heard praise about the Bombers' group from staff. And while he's coached his whole life with the American game, Hladio said he expects a straightforward adjustment to the CFL.
"You're still going to have to hold onto the football, still going to have to protect Buck Pierce and pass protection," he said. "The motions will be a little bit of an adjustment, but when you slice it down, football is football."
Fish add hurlers Hardy, Smith
THE Winnipeg Goldeyes have inked two Canadian players -- both World Baseball Classic alums -- to a growing 2013 roster.
Outfielder Tim Smith and left-handed pitcher Mark Hardy will join the Fish this year, the team announced Thursday.
Smith, 26, hails from Toronto and was drafted by the Texas Rangers in the seventh round of the 2007 MLB amateur draft. He played in the Rangers system for three years and the Kansas City Royals organization for two, before putting in a year with the Atlanta Braves organization last season.
In 2012, he hit .320 with a home run and six RBI in 15 games in the advanced-A Carolina League, and .279 with two home runs and 22 RBI in 55 games with Mississippi of the AA Southern League.
Hardy, a 24-year-old from Campbell River, B.C., was drafted by the San Diego Padres in 2010 and played three seasons in their system. He played at four levels last year, but spent most of the season split between the advanced-A Carolina League and the double-A Texas League.
Both players were on Team Canada's roster at the 2013 World Baseball Classic, and were on the gold-medal winning 2011 Pan Am Games team. The signings bring the Goldeyes roster up to 23 players, including 14 pitchers and nine position players. Training camp opens on May 4.
Kuet joins Wesmen hoopsters
THE University of Winnipeg Wesmen men's basketball team is getting another boost of local talent this season. The team announced Thursday it had recruited John Taylor Collegiate guard Kuet Kuet. Kuet, who stands 6-2, was a member of the provincial championship all-star team. He averaged 19 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals per game for the Pipers in the last year of his high school career. He plans to study science at the U of W.
Naud named MJHL's top player
AFTER a powerhouse season, one of the Dauphin Kings' best offensive weapons is getting the glow of a national spotlight. On Thursday, the Manitoba Junior Hockey League announced that Kings forward Guillaume Naud, 20, had been named the MJHL's nominee for the Canadian Junior Hockey League player of the year award. He will go up against nine other Canadian Junior A nominees for the top national honour.
Naud, who originally hails from Quebec City, was named MJHL MVP this season after piling up 88 points in 60 regular-season games. He also scored 17 points in 12 playoff games en route to winning the Sher-Wood Division championship. The Kings are now preparing to take on the Steinbach Pistons for the MJHL title.
The last time a Manitoban won the CJHL player of the year award was in 2009, when it was bestowed on Portage Terriers star Eric DeLong.
As the Pistons get ready to battle in their first MJHL final, the team's players are raking in the praise.
On Thursday, Pistons forward Myles Nykoluk was named the league's RBC player of the month for March after collecting 17 points in 12 games. His teammate Richard Olson and Dauphin Kings forward Guillaume Naud were runners-up.
Meanwhile, 20-year-old Pistons goaltender Corey Koop was named the MGEU goaltender of the month after posting two shutouts with a .921 save percentage in his 7-5 playoff record. The Kings' Jeremy Pominville and OCN Blizzard netminder Justin McDonald were runners-up.
Pistons captain Kyle Rous was also named the Sher-Wood Hockey defenceman of the month. Rous, the last player on the Pistons' roster from their inaugural year in 2009, put up nine points in 12 games last month. Honourary nods for that award include Tanner Butler of the Dauphin Kings and 20-year-old Nathan Bruyere of the OCN Blizzard.
Finally, the IBAM rookie of the month honours went to Dauphin Kings forward Tanner Lomsnes, who led all rookies in March scoring with two goals and four assists in 10 games. Piston Brendan Hopkins and Winnipeg Blues rookie Liam Bilton were runners-up.