Jeff Hamilton

Jeff Hamilton

Multimedia producer

After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.

He packed his bags and headed to Ottawa, where he spent the next four years studying journalism at Carleton University. There, he discovered his love for all things media – and late night shawarma – though he prides himself on never writing a single article for the school’s newspaper.

Jeff got his first gig at CBC Ottawa during his fourth year at school, earning a national award for a radio documentary on his very first assignment. He eventually graduated and chose to leave a career in broadcasting for the city, girl and industry he loves (not necessarily in that order).

That summer Jeff joined the Winnipeg Free Press as winner of the Vince Leah sports internship, during which he covered all sports from golf to the Manitoba Marathon, to Goldeyes and the Bombers. He was in good hands right away, spending his first full week alongside legendary sportswriter Ed Tait, who had the daunting task of working the breaking news shift. It didn’t take long for Jeff to realize he’d like to make the Free Press his permanent home one day.

After his internship was up Jeff moved over to CBC Manitoba, where he spent the next three years doing a number of jobs including senior writer for the Winnipeg Jets. He’s currently halfway through his goal of covering a game in each of the 30 NHL rinks, with his favourite stops so far being Madison Square Garden in New York and the Bell Centre in Montreal.

Jeff would finally get his wish, joining the Winnipeg Free Press sports team, this time in a permanent role as a multimedia producer. He now spends his days researching and writing about local sports and building new and exciting projects online.

When he’s not on the clock, you can find Jeff googling the latest software, watching Netflix or at a garage sale on the weekends, where he’s become obsessed with picking and refinishing wood furniture, most notably the two oak library desks in his office.

Recent articles of Jeff Hamilton

Lowry ready to step up

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Lowry ready to step up

Jeff Hamilton 4 minute read Friday, Sep. 23, 2022

Adam Lowry has long been considered a leader with the Winnipeg Jets, despite never wearing a letter on his jersey.

He is respected by his teammates for his contributions on and off the ice, and has committed long term to Winnipeg, in the second year of a five-year, US$16.25 million contract.

So, with new head coach Rick Bowness looking to revamp the club’s leadership group, Lowry seems like an obvious choice to step into a more prominent role. Something Lowry admitted wasn’t always easy last year after his father, Dave, replaced Paul Maurice as head coach.

“Last year was a little different having your father as the head coach. Sometimes it cuts your voice out a little bit,” Lowry said. “It’s just, for me, how I play on the ice. Don’t cheat the game, play hard, do what’s asked of you, what the coach is asking of you, and if there are some uncomfortable conversations that have to happen in the room — that’s something you have to do, you have to be comfortable in different situations. It’s taking on a little more responsibility, a little more ownership of not only your game but the team’s game as well.”

Friday, Sep. 23, 2022

(AP File Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Winnipeg Jets’ Adam Lowry flattens St. Louis Blues’ Oskar Sundqvist during the second period of a game Sunday, March 13, in St. Louis. The big centreman is ready to take on a bigger role with the Jets this season.

Jets bevy of talented D-men a nice problem to have

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Jets bevy of talented D-men a nice problem to have

Jeff Hamilton 6 minute read Friday, Sep. 23, 2022

The Winnipeg Jets have a problem — whether it’s a good or bad one depends on who you ask.

Heading into training camp this week, the biggest storyline outside of all the individual drama involving several players and their futures with the club, was the direction the Jets would go this season with their defence. And who they might look to, to fill the holes.

As it stands, Winnipeg has as many as 12 players with a legitimate shot at cracking the roster, to varying degrees, with only six spots on the blue line up for grabs — along with likely two additional spots in the press box. That’s assuming the Jets plan to keep eight defenders as part of their 23-man roster, which, given the number of bodies, seems like a safe bet.

Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff earlier this week called it a good problem to have, adding: “you can never have too many defencemen.” As for head coach Rick Bowness, who will be responsible for making what will be some tough decisions over the next three weeks, the veteran bench boss noted these things have a way of working themselves out.

Friday, Sep. 23, 2022

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Ville Heinola has been paired with Brenden Dillon early in training camp.

Wheeler still a respected voice as Jets’ leadership group set to expand

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Wheeler still a respected voice as Jets’ leadership group set to expand

Jeff Hamilton 5 minute read Thursday, Sep. 22, 2022

Blake Wheeler is the only captain Josh Morrissey has ever played for during his NHL career. The Winnipeg Jets defenceman broke into the league in the fall of 2016, just a couple weeks before Wheeler was handed the C.

So, when news broke earlier this month the Jets would be shuffling the deck with the leadership group, resulting in Wheeler being stripped of his letter, Morrissey was stunned. Like any good teammate, he felt for Wheeler, while appreciating what he’s done and will continue to do for the organization.

“He’s been a great friend and a great teammate, so it was emotional for myself and for other guys around the room because I have a ton of respect for him. It was tough,” Morrissey said Thursday, following the first on-ice session of training camp. “At the same time, I think (Wheeler), the way that he’s handled everything has been just first class and we’re not so concerned about all of that kind of stuff.

“We’re concerned about bringing our best on the ice and trying to take a step forward from last season. You can read into whatever message that sends, but whether (Wheeler) is wearing the C or not, he’s the leader of our team and he’s a leader in our locker room. We’re trying to have a great camp and really have a great season and become a playoff team again. I’m not really reading into anything too much.”

Thursday, Sep. 22, 2022

Blake Wheeler listens to new head coach Rick Bowness during the opening day of Jets training camp Thursday in Winnipeg. (John Woods / The Canadian Press)

New Jets coach Rick Bowness makes immediate impact

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New Jets coach Rick Bowness makes immediate impact

Jeff Hamilton 5 minute read Thursday, Sep. 22, 2022

He was the highlight of a sleepy summer for the Winnipeg Jets, his addition marking a “seismic change” to the organization as described by general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff.

On Thursday, as the calendar flipped to fall, new head coach Rick Bowness got his first opportunity to see his team hit the ice for Day 1 of training camp. His presence could be immediately felt, as Bowness barked orders alongside his staff — a group that includes assistants Scott Arniel, Brad Lauer and Marty Johnston — and kept an up-tempo pace between two groups that ran 90-minute sessions each.

Afterward, Bowness, who was hired on July 4, following the departures of Paul Maurice and then Dave Lowry, said he was happy with the first day of workouts. He admitted there’s still plenty of work to do over the next few weeks to get ready for the regular season, which kicks off at home against the New York Rangers on Oct. 14.

With new systems to install and a culture in need of revamping, there’s not a ton of time with which to work. The veteran NHL coach is committed to making his mark early by preaching accountability and competition up and down the roster.

Thursday, Sep. 22, 2022

New head coach Rick Bowness got his first opportunity to see his team hit the ice on the first day of training camp. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press)

Tiger-Cats deserve full credit for victory

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Tiger-Cats deserve full credit for victory

Jeff Hamilton 8 minute read Wednesday, Sep. 21, 2022

The CFL's light, three-game schedule last week still packed a heavy punch – literally and figuratively.

The weekend kicked off with the Edmonton Elks (4-10) stunning the Saskatchewan Roughriders (6-8) at Mosaic Stadium, as Sergio Castillo’s 47-yard field goal with just seconds remaining secured a 26-24 win Friday night. What followed Saturday was another shocker, with the CFL-leading Winnipeg Blue Bombers (12-2) falling to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (3-9), who roared to a convincing 48-31 victory at Tim Hortons Field.

That set the stage for yet another nail-biter, as the B.C. Lions (9-3) edged the Calgary Stampeders (8-5) at McMahon Stadium, in a contest that required extra time, with B.C. earning a 31-29 overtime win. The fireworks didn’t stop there, either, as a physical altercation occurred moments after the final whistle blew, leading to an on-field punch and ensuing confrontation between both teams in the parking lot.

Indeed, it was a wild week in the three-down loop. Let’s get into it in the latest edition of CFL Rundown.

Wednesday, Sep. 21, 2022

PETER POWER / CANADIAN PRESS FILES

Hamilton QB Dane Evans led the Tiger Cats to a stunning 48-31 win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers Saturday in Hamilton.

Bombers ‘D’ comes up short

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Bombers ‘D’ comes up short

Jeff Hamilton 6 minute read Sunday, Sep. 18, 2022

HAMILTON — It hasn’t been often this season the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have found themselves outside the winner’s circle, with Saturday’s defeat to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats just the second loss in 14 games this year.

But there’s a noticeable difference between this loss and falling to the Montreal Alouettes in Week 10.

Against the Als, the Bombers were running on fumes, playing a 10th straight game, and yet were still in a prime position to win. Had it not been for a pair of shanked field goals by Marc Liegghio, the Bombers would have remained undefeated; instead, the missteps ultimately sealed a 20-17 overtime win for Montreal.

That wasn’t the case against the Tiger-Cats. Hamilton pulled away in the second quarter and despite a valiant effort by Winnipeg’s offence to keep it close, the Tiger-Cats were able to fight off the brief comeback attempt en route to a convincing 48-31 victory.

Sunday, Sep. 18, 2022

PETER POWER / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

Hamilton Tiger Cats quarterback Dane Evans (9) throws through the defensive effort of Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat (94).

High-flying Bombers swamped by lowly Tiger-Cats

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High-flying Bombers swamped by lowly Tiger-Cats

Jeff Hamilton 6 minute read Saturday, Sep. 17, 2022

HAMILTON – The Winnipeg Blue Bombers got a taste of their own medicine from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who served up the kind of dominating performance that the Blue and Gold have become accustomed to giving – not getting – over the past few years.

The Tiger-Cats were the better team in all three phases, putting forth a prolific effort on offence, a suffocating display on defence and a solid outing on special teams, resulting in a 48-31 victory in front of 22,288 at Tim Hortons field Saturday afternoon.

To call it a shocker would be putting it lightly. Few, if any, had the Bombers, who entered the day with just one loss in 13 games, struggling against a Tiger-Cats team that had just three victories in 12 tries this year, and their playoff hopes in danger of being put on life support.

“I can’t put my finger on it. I would just say, overall, it was just a team loss,” said Bombers defensive back Winston Rose after the game. “Hamilton came out with more energy than us in the first half and just punched us in the mouth. Simple as that.”

Saturday, Sep. 17, 2022

PETER POWER / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Hamilton Tiger Cats quarterback Dane Evans (9) begins to celebrate with teammates after defeating the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in CFL football action in Hamilton, Ont. on Saturday, September 17, 2022.

Plenty at stake as Blue Bombers face desperate Tiger-Cats

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Plenty at stake as Blue Bombers face desperate Tiger-Cats

Jeff Hamilton 7 minute read Friday, Sep. 16, 2022

HAMILTON — The Winnipeg Blue Bombers continue their pursuit of clinching the West Division with a Week 15 matchup against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Tim Hortons Field Saturday afternoon.

The Bombers (12-1) have already clinched a post-season berth and with a victory against the Tiger-Cats — as well as a Calgary Stampeders loss this week — they’ll secure a home playoff game, guaranteed to finish no worse than second in the West. Not surprisingly, the Bombers — who have been the most disciplined team off the field with what they say, as much as they are with their play on the field — have no interest in discussing the various what-ifs of a season.

Instead, all their focus lies on a Tiger-Cats team that has lacked its usual roar in 2022, and are hungry for wins as they try to its their playoff hopes alive.

“It’s going to be a challenge — it always is when we play Hamilton,” Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros said. “It’s going to be a physical football game. They’re a very physical, hard-hitting, disciplined group of guys. So, on our end we’re going to have a clean game, a physical game and see where we end up.”

Friday, Sep. 16, 2022

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

Blue Bombers receiver Nic Demski has four touchdown catches in the last three games.

Plenty of red flags — in retrospect — over alleged behaviour of high school football coach Kelsey McKay

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Plenty of red flags — in retrospect — over alleged behaviour of high school football coach Kelsey McKay

Jeff Hamilton 35 minute read Friday, Sep. 16, 2022

There was no mistaking when high school football coach Kelsey McKay lost his temper.

Whether it was a drill not performed to his notion of perfection or a play poorly executed in a game, when McKay lost it — and he did so frequently — it was apparent to everyone.

His voice would jump an octave. He would have a “crazy” look that frightened players, alarmed parents and troubled his own coaches.

Everyone could see it, sense it, feel it, and everyone knew what likely was coming next — a reckoning on the field, the sidelines or in the locker room.

Friday, Sep. 16, 2022

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS 050906 Churchill highschool football coach Kelsey McKay watches his team practice. Bulldogs Bull Dogs

Prukop a perfect fit for Blue and Gold

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Prukop a perfect fit for Blue and Gold

Jeff Hamilton 7 minute read Thursday, Sep. 15, 2022

There was a moment earlier in the season when Winnipeg Blue Bombers offensive lineman Patrick Neufeld knew Dakota Prukop was a perfect fit for the Blue and Gold.

Neufeld, a key part of the Bombers leadership group, now in his eighth season in Winnipeg and 11th in the CFL, watched as Prukop, in his first year with the Bombers, studied the O-line while the group went through their individual drills at practice. Prukop, who signed over the off-season to be the quarterback in charge of short-yardage, had injured himself in Week 1, assigned to the six-game injured list after just one outing.

Prukop had rushed four times for 10 yards and a touchdown in his Bomber debut, factoring into a narrow 19-17 road win over the Ottawa Redblacks. Now, while nursing an ankle injury, he was studying the various nuances of the O-line.

“He was just taking in what we do, how we communicate. He’s just a constant learner of the game and that goes into the film room and then onto the field,” Neufeld said earlier this week. “He’s a vet, he’s been in the CFL for five seasons now, so he understands what it takes to be a good pro and what it takes to fit into the locker room, and he’s done it seamlessly here. Everyone loves him and trusts him. That’s the biggest thing, is we all trust him.”

Thursday, Sep. 15, 2022

John Woods / The CANADIAN PRESS

Blue Bombers QB Dakota Prukop (centre) runs for the first down against the Saskatchewan Roughriders during the Banjo Bowl.

Banjo Bowl highlights blowout bonanza

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Banjo Bowl highlights blowout bonanza

Jeff Hamilton 7 minute read Wednesday, Sep. 14, 2022

The weather is getting cooler as we inch closer to the fall, but that didn’t stop a few teams in the CFL from heating up last weekend. In a season that’s had a lot of close games, Week 14 saw a few clubs flex their offensive muscles, with three of the four games having a winning margin of at least three touchdowns.

The Montreal Alouettes (5-7) kicked off the week’s slate of games with a convincing 31-10 home win over the B.C. Lions (8-3), a club that continues to struggle in the absence of star quarterback Nathan Rourke. That set up Saturday’s triple-header, which opened with the closest game of the weekend, as the Toronto Argonauts (7-5) edged the Ottawa Redblacks (3-9), 24-19, at TD Place.

What followed were two dominating performances, beginning with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (12-1) stomping the Saskatchewan Roughriders (6-7) 54-20 in the annual Banjo Bowl. The Calgary Stampeders (8-4) also showed no mercy to their biggest rival, doubling up the Edmonton Elks (3-10) 56-28 at Commonwealth Stadium.

There’s plenty to talk about on and off the field from Week 14, so let’s get into it with the latest edition of CFL Rundown.

Wednesday, Sep. 14, 2022

John Woods / the CANADIAN PRESS

Brendan O’Leary-Orange snagged his firts CFL touchdown in the Bombers’ blowout victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Sunday’s Banjo Bowl.

Banjo Bowl beatdown comes with asterisk

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Banjo Bowl beatdown comes with asterisk

Jeff Hamilton 6 minute read Sunday, Sep. 11, 2022

It was a Banjo Bowl beatdown courtesy of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who hit their groove early en route to a 54-20 victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the annual prairie rival clash at IG Field.

The Bombers took the lead on the opening drive and didn’t look back, while the defence cemented the win with a suffocating performance in the second half. Winnipeg improved to 12-1, maintaining its stranglehold on top spot in the West Division.

The Roughriders continued their descent, falling to 6-7, the first time they’ve dipped below .500 this season. Saskatchewan has lost two straight and four of its last six games, after a promising 4-1 start to the year.

Winnipeg heads to Hamilton on Saturday to take on the Tiger-Cats, in what’s also the annual Hall of Fame game in Steeltown. But before we look too far ahead, let’s take a peek back at the Bombers win over the Roughriders in the latest edition of 5 Takeaways.

Sunday, Sep. 11, 2022

Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Jake Dolegala (9) throws against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers during the second half of the game. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Blue hit all the right chords

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Blue hit all the right chords

Jeff Hamilton 7 minute read Saturday, Sep. 10, 2022

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers struck all the right chords, finding their rhythm early before rolling to a 54-20 beatdown over the Saskatchewan Roughriders in front of a sold-out Banjo Bowl crowd of 33,321 at IG Field Saturday.

The Bombers offence was humming all afternoon, earning points on nine of 10 drives, including seven touchdowns. The defence surrendered just 13 total points and shutout Saskatchewan’s offence for the entire second half, finishing the day with four turnovers.

It was about as complete a game as we’ve seen from the Blue and Gold this season. Which is saying something for a club that has lost just once in 13 weeks this year.

“It was a pretty good effort, that’s for sure. We’ll get closer to that. We gave up 10 points in about 40 seconds surrounding the half,” Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea said after the game. “That’s the only thing that maybe stops you from saying it was a complete game. We played really well.” With the win, the Bombers improved to 12-1 on the year, further distancing themselves from the pack atop the West Division. The victory also clinches the season-series against the Roughriders, after Winnipeg defeated Saskatchewan, 20-18, in last week’s Labour Day Classic.

Saturday, Sep. 10, 2022

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Winnipeg Blue Bombers celebrate winning the annual Banjo Bowl win against the Saskatchewan Roughriders after CFL action in Winnipeg Saturday, September 10, 2022.

Desperate Riders seek vengeance for Labour Day loss to Blue and Gold

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Desperate Riders seek vengeance for Labour Day loss to Blue and Gold

Jeff Hamilton 7 minute read Friday, Sep. 9, 2022

After a spirited affair in Regina over the September long weekend, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Saskatchewan Roughriders meet again for the annual Banjo Bowl at IG Field Saturday afternoon.

The Bombers (11-1) rallied from behind in last week’s Labour Day Classic, erasing a 14-0 Saskatchewan lead en route to a 20-18 victory at Mosaic Stadium. The Roughriders (6-6) will look to avenge the loss, and will have to do so in enemy territory, in front of a sold-out crowd of 33,234.

Another week of prairie-rival football, in front of a packed house, with bragging rights on the line. It doesn’t get much better than this.

“The rivalry, how important it is to the CFL,” said O’Shea when asked what makes the Banjo Bowl a special time of the season. “And when you sort of have a moment prior to the game, just taking in the fans, packed house, how loud they’re going to be, along with the anthem… it’s always impressive when it’s that loud.”

Friday, Sep. 9, 2022

The Bombers rallied from behind in last week’s Labour Day game, erasing a 14-0 Saskatchewan lead en route to a 20-18 victory at Mosaic Stadium. (Liam Richards / The Canadian Press files)

Bombers, Riders put on another humdinger of a Labour Day game

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Bombers, Riders put on another humdinger of a Labour Day game

Jeff Hamilton 7 minute read Monday, Sep. 5, 2022

REGINA — The annual Labour Day Classic between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Saskatchewan Roughriders lived up to its hype, delivering a physical and entertaining battle between the prairie rivals.

The game, as it often has over the decades-long tradition, was decided in the final minutes by a lengthy field goal. With contributions from all three phases down the stretch, the kick led to a 20-18 victory for the Blue and Gold in front of a sold-out crowd of 33,350 at Mosaic Stadium.

The Bombers, 11-1, became the first team to secure a playoff berth and have won back-to-back games in Regina on the September long weekend, marking a notable shift after losing 14 of 15 Labour Day games between 2005 and 2019. The Roughriders dropped to 6-6 and have lost four straight games at home.

It will be a tall task for Saskatchewan to make up ground in the West Division, currently sitting in fourth place behind Winnipeg, B.C. (8-2) and Calgary (6-4), ahead of only Edmonton (3-8). It doesn’t help that the Roughriders will have to play the Bombers twice more this season, beginning with a Banjo Bowl rematch at IG Field on Saturday.

Monday, Sep. 5, 2022

MATT SMITH / CFL PHOTO

Winnipeg Blue Bombers offensive lineman Jermarcus Hardrick (51) and defensive tackle Cameron Lawson (99) celebrate after defeating the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the annual Labour Day Classic 20-18 in Regina on Sunday.

Bombers win Labour Day Classic

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Bombers win Labour Day Classic

Jeff Hamilton 7 minute read Sunday, Sep. 4, 2022

REGINA – Up against a packed house in a hostile environment, with more than 33,000 fans cheering for him to miss, and from a distance he’s never before been asked to kick from, Marc Liegghio proved all the doubters wrong.

Trailing 18-17 with three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the Bombers second-year kicker sailed a 55-yard field goal through the uprights for what proved to be the game-sealing points in a 20-18 Blue Bombers victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the annual Labour Day Classic at Mosaic Stadium Sunday night.

“I went out there telling myself ‘I don’t need to rush, I don’t need to do anything different, just go out there and smash it,’” Liegghio said after the game. “As soon as it came off my foot it felt really good, and I saw it just travelling on the line it was travelling and once it went through it was just a great feeling looking at all my teammates. They told me they were walking out before it even went in; they just knew as soon as I kicked it.”

Liegghio had faced heavy criticism in recent weeks after he missed a pair of field goals in a home loss to the Montreal Alouettes in Week 10, including a 32-yarder with no time remaining that would have clinched the win. On Sunday, his teammates were singing his praises, and Liegghio was all smiles after coming through in the clutch in front of a raucous crowd, while also setting a career best for distance.

Sunday, Sep. 4, 2022

Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros (8) tries to get his foot on a loose ball during CFL football action against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, in Regina, Sunday, Sept. 4, 2022. (HO-Saskatchewan Roughriders, Liam Richards / The Canadian Press)

Riders fans will give Blue Bombers an earful in Labour Day Classic

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Riders fans will give Blue Bombers an earful in Labour Day Classic

Jeff Hamilton 5 minute read Saturday, Sep. 3, 2022

REGINA — For a team that prides itself in having the CFL’s loudest fans, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are about to get a taste of their own medicine.

More than 33,000 will take in the Labour Day Classic between the Bombers and Saskatchewan Roughriders Sunday at Mosaic Stadium, with the vast majority of those fans wearing Roughriders green. It’s the first sold-out game of the CFL season and along with promising to be a physical affair, a raucous crowd will surely be present.

“It’s a hostile environment and the fans play a big role in this game,” said Bombers receiver Nic Demski Saturday afternoon. “That’s what you look forward to playing football.”

Regina can certainly deliver the noise. A test to determine just how loud the Labour Day crowd can get was conducted in 2017, with the sound levels reaching as high as 104 decibels.

Saturday, Sep. 3, 2022

MARK TAYLOR / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

Blue Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros believes the best way to combat the raucous Roughrider fans is by using different ways to relay information that go beyond the traditional verbal cues.

Nothing guaranteed when Bombers face archrival Roughriders in Labour Day Classic

Jeff Hamilton 7 minute read Preview

Nothing guaranteed when Bombers face archrival Roughriders in Labour Day Classic

Jeff Hamilton 7 minute read Friday, Sep. 2, 2022

REGINA — It’s a rivalry unlike any other in the Canadian Football League.

The CFL schedule over the September long weekend showcases the league’s best matchups, and there is none greater than the Labour Day Classic between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Saskatchewan Roughriders. It’s also the first meeting between the prairie rivals this season, who haven’t met since Winnipeg eliminated Saskatchewan at home in the Western final last year en route to winning the second of back-to-back Grey Cups.

The Bombers enter the game atop the CFL standings, leading the West with a 10-1 record. The Roughriders got back into the win column with a victory over the B.C. Lions last week, but have struggled much of the year, currently boasting a mark of 6-5.

With that, here are five storylines to keep an eye on in what should be a physical affair between two clubs that really dislike each other — the main ingredient to any good rivalry.

Friday, Sep. 2, 2022

Constant pressure on Roughriders QB Cody Fajardo will go a long way to helping the Winnipeg Blue Bombers secure a victory Sunday in the 58th Labour Day Classic. (John Woods / The Canadian Press files)

Keeping Collaros clean all the motivation Bombers need

Jeff Hamilton 6 minute read Preview

Keeping Collaros clean all the motivation Bombers need

Jeff Hamilton 6 minute read Thursday, Sep. 1, 2022

Scrolling through the CFL’s statistics package through 12 weeks this season and there’s not a lot that pops out when it comes to the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

The Roughriders are 6-5, a result that feels even more mediocre when you consider they opened the season 4-1. In most other league stats, they’re positioned middle of the pack, which you’d think is difficult to digest for a football-mad province like Saskatchewan.

But there is one area that stands out above the rest and that’s the Roughriders ability to get to the quarterback. Saskatchewan leads the CFL in quarterback sacks through 12 weeks, registering a combined 34 this season – one better than the B.C. Lions in second place and 12 more than the Bombers in seventh, despite playing one fewer game than Winnipeg.

“That’s where you need to start with your game plan as a co-ordinator,” Bombers offensive co-ordinator Buck Pierce said following practice Thursday. “They’re physical and they do a lot of movements up front. When they are adding five-, six-, seven-man pressures, they’re still able to get pressure with four. When you can do that and play some zones or different shells behind that, you really make teams earn it.”

Thursday, Sep. 1, 2022

KAYLE NEIS / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive lineman Garrett Marino has been suspended for four games this season for various indiscretions.

Never a dull moment in CFL

Jeff Hamilton 8 minute read Preview

Never a dull moment in CFL

Jeff Hamilton 8 minute read Thursday, Sep. 1, 2022

It’s often said that the “real” CFL season begins Labour Day weekend. Just don’t tell that to the clubs currently clawing for a playoff spot —and there’s a few —after struggling through much of the first half of the 2022 campaign.

Believe it or not, the points still counted prior to the upcoming rivalry weekend, and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (10-1) opened the Week 12 schedule by adding two more following a narrow 31-29 win over the Calgary Stampeders (6-4) at IG Field last Thursday night. The Toronto Argonauts (5-5) continued their four-games-in-five-weeks run against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (3-8) to kick off a doubleheader Friday, earning a convincing 37-20 triumph at BMO Field.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders (6-5) got the first glance of what the B.C. Lions (8-2) look like without star quarterback Nathan Rourke, in what ended with a 23-16 win at BC Place. The weekend wrapped with a couple of teams that certainly wish the standings point system wasn’t in effect yet, as the Ottawa Redblacks (2-8) rode a first half lead into a 25-18 victory over the Edmonton Elks (3-8) at Commonwealth Stadium Saturday.

The coming weekend will be packed with juicy storylines and important matchups. But that didn’t prevent this past week from generating plenty of news on and off the field.

Thursday, Sep. 1, 2022

JEFF MCINTOSH / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

The B.C. Lions acquired quarterback Vernon Adams from the Montreal Alouettes to fill the void left by injuiries to Nathan Rourke and Michael O’Connor.

Bombers checking out of sick bay

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Bombers checking out of sick bay

Jeff Hamilton 4 minute read Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022

After a game in which a handful of players couldn’t finish owing to injury, it looked as though practice this week for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers might start a little thinner than normal.

Instead, the Bombers were greeted by several familiar faces returning from injury. As for the players who were banged up during a 31-29 win over the Calgary Stampeders last Thursday, while not everyone returned to practice Wednesday, it wasn’t all bad news.

Brady Oliveira was back in the mix at practice after missing the second half against the Stampeders. The CFL’s leading rusher was scheduled for an x-ray on Friday, with the results clearly coming back favourable, as Oliveira (thorax) was a full participant looking no worse for wear.

That couldn’t be said about defensive backs Demerio Houston and Patrice Rene.

Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022

ETHAN CAIRNS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Brandon Alexander (left) and Michael Couture both returned to practice with the Bombers on Wednesday.

A rivalry like no other

Jeff Hamilton 6 minute read Preview

A rivalry like no other

Jeff Hamilton 6 minute read Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022

Jermarcus Hardrick will never forget his first time playing in the annual Labour Day Classic game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

It was 2016, and Hardrick was in his third CFL season, first with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, having played for the Roughriders the year before. The game took place in Regina, as it does every year, at the old Mosaic Stadium at Taylor Field, and the Bombers had squandered a 16-3 halftime lead.

Tied 25-25 following a Kendial Lawrence punt return touchdown with just more than a minute remaining in the fourth quarter, the Bombers marched down the field and into field-goal territory, with one final chance to seal the win.

“It was a Justin Medlock walk-off kick,” said Hardrick, his eyes widening with each word, following practice Wednesday afternoon. “You always remember the first one.”

Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022

ETHAN CAIRNS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ Jermarcus Hardrick (right) runs a hitting drill during practice.

Another thrilling victory for Big Blue

Jeff Hamilton 7 minute read Preview

Another thrilling victory for Big Blue

Jeff Hamilton 7 minute read Friday, Aug. 26, 2022

While Thursday’s thrilling affair between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Calgary Stampeders was must-watch TV from start to finish, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit of disappointment waking up Friday morning.

It has nothing to do with the end result — a narrow 31-29 win for the Blue and Gold — and everything to do with the fact that we’ll have to wait until the playoffs, at the earliest, to see these two West Division rivals do battle again. All three games between the Bombers and Stampeders this season have been classics, each decided by a single score, in bouts where shots were traded back and forth throughout.

Thursday was certainly no exception, with a combined 60 points, more than 800 yards of offence and several lead changes, before the Bombers incredibly drained the last couple of minutes with a balance of run and pass plays.

“It’s the two best teams fighting for position in the standings. I love battling with Calgary,” Bombers receiver Nic Demski said after the game. “I know they’re always a team that’s going to bring it. They’re going to play fast; they’re going to play physical and they’re a very smart team as well. It was a very good game for the fans, and I hope they enjoyed it.”

Friday, Aug. 26, 2022

Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ Jackson Jeffcoat (94), right, celebrates his touchdown from a fumble recovery against the Calgary Stampeders during the second half CFL action in Winnipeg Thursday, August 25, 2022. The play was called back for roughing the passer. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Big Blue save best for last

Jeff Hamilton 7 minute read Preview

Big Blue save best for last

Jeff Hamilton 7 minute read Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022

In a game that had a little bit of everything, including lots of scoring, several highlight-reel plays and plenty of lead changes, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers saved their best for last.

Clinging to a 31-29 lead over the Calgary Stampeders with 2:18 remaining in the game — an eternity in the CFL — the Bombers drained the clock with a series of creative run and passing plays before kneeling to victory in front of 30,062 raucous fans at IG Field.

Johnny Augustine rushed the ball four times for 20 yards and Nic Demski (nine yards) and Greg McCrae (six yards) each had a catch in the final minutes, capping off what was another thriller between two of the top clubs in the West Division.

The Bombers, coming off their first bye week, were tested by the Stampeders all night, despite Calgary being on a short week. It was the third victory over the Stampeders this season for the Bombers, who improved to 10-1 and earned their first season-series sweep over Calgary, who dropped to 6-4, for the first time since 1987.

Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022

Nic Demski celebrates his first quarter touchdown against Calgary on Thursday. (John Woods / The Canadian Press)